Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rosh Hashanah 5777

Dip Your Apple In The Honey:  It's Rosh Hashanah! And, as we begin a New Year, please remember - as Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum of Synagogue Emanu-El in Charleston, South Carolina has taught us -

There is hope for the world.
There is hope for your life.
The way it is now is not the way it must be. 

Abq Jew warmly invites you to check out
this now-classic Rosh Hashana hit from 5772:

Dip Your Apple!

No apples, pomegranates, babies, or smartphones
were harmed in the filming of this video.
Please don't feed babies honey.


Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Abq Jew knows (and knows you know), are special times for our Jewish hearts, minds, and souls.

The Ein Prat Fountainheads have touched our hearts. Now, for our minds, here is a video by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks that attempts to answer the essential questions we ask ourselves at this time of year.

How often, Abq Jew asks, do we get to hear Rabbi and Lord in the same honorific? Rabbi Lord Sacks's website fills us in:
An international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and respected moral voice, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was recently named the winner of the 2016 Templeton Prize in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.”
Described by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales as “a light unto this nation” and by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as “an intellectual giant”, Rabbi Sacks is a frequent and sought after contributor to radio, television and the press both in Britain and around the world.
Since stepping down as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth – a position he served for 22 years between 1991 and 2013 – Rabbi Sacks has held a number of professorships at several academic institutions including Yeshiva University and King’s College London. 
He currently serves as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. 
Rabbi Sacks has been awarded 17 honorary doctorates including a Doctor of Divinity conferred to mark his first ten years in office as Chief Rabbi, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey. 
Rabbi Sacks is the author of over 30 books. His most recent work, Not in God’s Name, was awarded a 2015 National Jewish Book Award in America and was a top ten Sunday Times bestseller in the UK. 
Rabbi Sacks was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009. 

But when it comes to speaking directly to our Jewish souls, the divine voice of the shofar far surpasses the human voice. This video shows (oy, please forgive Abq Jew) how our soles connect to our souls.


L'Shana Tova U'Metuka, New Mexico!
A Good & Sweet Year, Albuquerque!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Flamenco and Emerods

Blessings and Curses: Here we are in Week Six of the seven prophetic readings of consolation - all from Isaiah - that comfort us after the Black Fast of Tisha b'Av and prepare us, emotionally and spiritually, for the upcoming High Holy Days.

Abq Jew was delighted to begin his week with friends for a performance of Tablao Flamenco at Hotel Albuquerque. Flamenco, it turns out has (some) Sephardic roots. The New World Encyclopedia tells us
Flamenco is a Spanish musical genre. Flamenco embodies a complex musical and cultural tradition. Although considered part of the culture of Spain in general, flamenco actually originates from one region—Andalusia ...
The roots of flamenco are not precisely known, but it is generally acknowledged that flamenco grew out of the unique interplay of native Andalusian, Islamic, Sephardic, and Gypsy cultures that existed in Andalusia prior to and after the Reconquest ....
Abq Jew will, G-d willing, end his week with friends at Congregation B'nai Israel, when he will be honored but not delighted to read significant portions of the Torah portion for this week, Ki Tavo.

The first part of the parashah describes what will happen when the People of Israel enter their Land of Israel, and ends with (says Abq Jew) the most beautiful prayer in the Torah:

Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the land that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.

We of the Conservative Movement who follow the Triennial Torah-Reading Cycle will not read this most beautiful prayer aloud in synagogue this week.

Instead we will read The Rebuke, for which Ki Tavo is also known: first a series of blessings, and then a series of curses - the blessings if Israel follows the Torah, and the curses if otherwise.

The curses are traditionally read soto voce in the synagogue, and euphemisms are read in place of certain words that are considered too harsh for the congregation to hear.

Unlike when the blessings and the curses were first read from Har (Mount) Gerizim and Har Eval. Respectively.

One of the euphemisms for one of the curses is what the King James translation of the Bible calls emerods.

King James Bible - Deuteronomy 28:27
The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.

Emerods. Or, as we say in Modern English ... hemorrhoids.

And let's not even talk about
"the botch of Egypt."

Now it turns out that noted Jewish author Michael Wex, who you will (you will!) remember from his visit to Albuquerque for A Taste of Honey 2012, has just written Rhapsody in Schmaltz: Yiddish Food and Why We Can't Stop Eating It.

Here, Abq Jew must point out two things:
  1. Although Mr Wex's book is ostensibly limited to Yiddish food, it freely ranges over all sorts of Jewish topics that many if not all will find fascinating. Or at least interesting. Worth the price of the book.
  2. When we read Deuteronomy 28:27 in shul, we read the Hebrew word ובטחרים. The word written in the Sefer Torah, however, is ובעפלים - the original meaning of which has been lost over time. But whatever עפלים were - they must have been awful, worse than hemorrhoids.
But back to Mr Wex. In Chapter One of Rhapsody in Schmaltz, titled Who Says It's Supposed to Taste Good? The Prehistory of Yiddish Food, Mr Wex tells us all about That Old Time Digestion.
Although the Bible mentions hemorrhoids in passing (Deuteronomy 28:27, I Samuel Chapters 5 and 6), it took Western civilization to transform them into the Jewish affliction par excellence. Painful and bloody, chronic but not fatal, associated with sedentary occupations and confined to an indelicate, otherwise humorous, part of the body, hemorrhoids were so common as to have been taken for granted among Yiddish-speaking Jews. 
In fact, says Mr Wex,
The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 describes hemorrhoids as "more common to Jews than to any other people" and goes on to say that "among the Hasidim in Galicia and Poland a Jew without hemorrhoids is considered a curiosity."
And Mr Wex continues
A yid mit meridin, a Jew with hemorrhoids, was once a jocular way of describing  a garden variety, everyday sort of person, a Jewish John Q Public; Joe the Plumber, but with different pipes.

And about that reference to emerods in I Samuel - you don't want to know.

But golden statuettes of hemorrhoids
and golden fetishes of mice are involved.
Really. Abq Jew is not making this up.

So, recapping: Abq Jew started the week watching and listening to glorious flamenco, and will end the week quietly singing about emerods and other curses. After spending a portion of each day practicing emerods and other curses.

And then, Friday through Sunday, lehavdil, there's the first sign of the approaching High Holy Days.

Community Selichot
Scholar-in-Residence Weekend
with Dr Louis E Newman and Rabbi Amy Eilberg

Returning now to the flamenco theme with which we began, Abq Jew must (he must!) point out that Baladino
a Mediterranean folk band that offers fresh, yet deeply authentic interpretations of Sephardic and Ladino melodies and brings this tradition back into full, fresh dialogue with its trans-Mediterranean past
will be also be performing at ¡Globalquerque! 2016 on Saturday night!

Not exactly Sephardic flamenco - but you get the idea!

To a New Year of flamenco and blessings!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Halley Came to Jackson

In 1910: First things first. Below please find a photo of Hallie Jackson, about whom Wikipedia tells us
Hallie Marie Jackson (born April 29, 1984) is a correspondent for NBC News. She has worked in Salisbury, Maryland; Dover, Delaware; Hartford, Connecticut; New Haven, Connecticut; and Baltimore, Maryland before joining NBC News in 2014.

And continues
Jackson was born on April 29, 1984, in Yardley, Pennsylvania, where she grew up and graduated high school. In 2006, Jackson graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. degree in political science.
But what Abq Jew first noticed about Hallie Jackson was neither her good looks nor her intelligence.

It was her name.

You see, way back in 1990, Mary Chapin Carpenter released her third studio album, Shooting Straight in the Dark.

Wikipedia tells us
Mary Chapin Carpenter (born February 21, 1958) is an American singer, songwriter and musician.  
Carpenter was born in Princeton, New Jersey, to Chapin Carpenter, Jr., a Life Magazine executive, and Mary Bowie Robertson. Carpenter lived in Japan from 1969 to 1971 before moving to Washington, D.C. She attended Princeton Day School, a private coeducational prep school, before graduating from The Taft School in 1976. 
Carpenter graduated from Brown University in 1981 with a degree in American Civilization.

Carpenter has won five Grammy Awards and is the only artist to have won four consecutive Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, which she received from 1992 to 1995.
Yes, more good looks and intelligence. As for Shooting Straight in the Dark -
Four of its tracks became Billboard Hot Country Songs hits: "You Win Again" at #16, "Right Now" at #15, "Down at the Twist and Shout" at #2, and "Going Out Tonight" at #14. 
Members of the Cajun band BeauSoleil provide guest instrumentation on "Down at the Twist and Shout". Shawn Colvin provided backing vocals on three of the album's songs.
The eighth song on the album - and the one that caught Abq Jew's ear even way back then - was

Halley Came to Jackson

Abq Jew always wondered

Where did Mary Chapin Carpenter
get the idea for her song (which
eventually became a book)?

About the book (and the song), Amazon tells us
In her second children's book project, internationally acclaimed singer and songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter captures the momentous night in 1910 when a father held his baby in his arms as Halleys Comet streaked across the Jackson skyline. 
Inspired by renowned author Eudora Welty and her stories of growing up in Mississippi, Ms. Carpenters words celebrate the special love shared between a father and a daughter and how life's magical moments remain with us throughout our lives. 
Like an old tattered scrapbook overflowing with remembrances of days past, this touching story and Dan Andreasen's stunning illustrations stand as a timeless tribute to the beauty of life's memories and that night so long ago when Halley's comet soared through the sky.

Ah, Eudora Welty. Wikipedia tells us
Eudora Alice Welty (April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001) was an American short story writer and novelist who wrote about the American South. 
Her novel The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. She lectured at Harvard University, and eventually adapted her talks as a three-part memoir entitled One Writer's Beginnings
Welty was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous awards including the Order of the South. She was the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America. 
Her house in Jackson, Mississippi has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public as a house museum.
In One Writer's Beginnings we find one brief mention of the Halley's Comet incident.
The night sky over my childhood Jackson was velvety black. I could see the full constellations in it and call their names; when I could read, I knew their myths. 
Though I was always waked for eclipses, and indeed carried to the window as an infant in arms and shown Halley's Comet in my sleep, and though I'd been taught at our diningroom table about the solar system and knew the earth revolved around the sun, and our moon around us, I never found out the moon didn't come up in the west until I was a writer and Herschel Brickell, the literary critic, told me after I misplaced it in a story. 
He said valuable words to me about my new profession: 'Always be sure you get your moon in the right part of the sky."
And from that one brief mention, Mary Chapin Carpenter crafted her wonderful song.

Now about Halley's Comet. Wikipedia tells us
Halley's Comet or Comet Halley (/ˈhæli/ or /ˈheɪli/, named after astronomer Edmond Halley), officially designated 1P/Halley, is a short-period comet visible from Earth every 75–76 years. 
Halley is the only known short-period comet that is regularly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. 
Halley last appeared in the inner parts of the Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061.
If you're like Abq Jew (a somewhat terrifying thought to begin with), you are probably saying

I don't remember seeing Halley in 1986 ....

That's probably because
Halley's 1986 apparition was the least favorable on record. The comet and Earth were on opposite sides of the Sun in February 1986, creating the worst viewing circumstances for Earth observers for the last 2,000 years.
But before then -
Halley's returns to the inner Solar System have been observed and recorded by astronomers since at least 240 BC. Clear records of the comet's appearances were made by Chinese, Babylonian, and medieval European chroniclers, but were not recognized as reappearances of the same object at the time. The comet's periodicity was first determined in 1705 by English astronomer Edmond Halley, after whom it is now named.
And yes, there is a Jewish connection!
If, as has been suggested, the reference in the Talmud to "a star which appears once in seventy years that makes the captains of the ships err" refers to Halley's Comet, it may be a reference to the 66 AD appearance, because this passage is attributed to the Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananiah. This apparition was the only one to occur during ben Hananiah's lifetime.

And then there is the Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), "the American Sholem Aleichem (Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich)"  connection.
American satirist and writer Mark Twain was born on 30 November 1835, exactly two weeks after the comet's perihelion. In his autobiography, published in 1909, he said, 
I came in with Halley's comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.' 
Twain died on 21 April 1910, the day following the comet's subsequent perihelion. 

So back to Hallie Jackson (born 1984). Her parents couldn't have named her for the 1990 song. Did they name her for that one passage in One Writer's Beginnings, which came out in 1973? At this point, Abq Jew must respond

Maybe. Maybe not.

But let's (finally!) get to Halley Came to Jackson.

For our children and grandchildren
and future generations!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Face Us in Mercy

A High Holy Day Piyut: As we approach the High Holy Days (Selichot September 24!), Abq Jew is pleased to share with you this beautiful piyut (liturgical poem) that comes to us from the Masorti Movement in Israel.

Hazan Saralee Shrell-Fox, Maayan Fox, Rabbi Eli Peretz, Aviya Attas, Devora Greenberg

It is, Abq Jew must say, a beautiful example of the vibrancy and gifts that come to world Jewry by having an active Masorti Movement in Israel.

This piyut was written hundreds of years ago by a woman, a "bat Joseph", and was put to music by Hazan Saralee Shrell-Fox (Kehillat Ma'ayanot, Jerusalem). It was recorded by her, her son, Rabbi Eli Peretz (Kehillat Sinai, Tel Aviv), and others.

A piyut written by a woman?

Yes. Written by Freha bat Avraham. The Jewish Virtual Library tells us:
A member of the prominent Moroccan Bar Adiba family, Freha moved to Tunis with her father and brother to escape anti-Jewish persecutions in Morocco, probably some time in the 1730s. 
Unusually learned for a woman of her time and place, Freha was said to have been well versed in Torah and to have composed essays and poetry in Hebrew. Some of her poems survive and were first published in Tunis in the 1930s. 
Freha died in 1756 during the conquest of Tunis by Algerians. Her father built a synagogue in her memory, and it became a place of pilgrimage for Tunisian Jewish women who revered Freha as a holy person (kedoshah) and invoked her name in times of distress. 
The synagogue stood until its destruction in 1936, when it was replaced by a new structure that also preserved Freha's name.
And the Jewish Women's Archive adds
While the general educational level of women in the Middle East and North Africa remained low, exceptions continually appeared. 
A late example of a learned woman is Freha bat Avraham bar Adiba, a poet and scholar of the eighteenth century. Born in Morocco, she lived in Tunisia and was killed there when Tunis was attacked and conquered by the Algerians. 
To honor her memory Freha’s father built a synagogue in her name. He located the ritual bath on the site where her bed once stood, while the Holy Ark marked the place of her library. 

Abq Jew hopes that Face Us in Mercy, which may (or may not) appear in the Conservative Movement's Mahzor Lev Shalem, will be fervently sung at his shul, Congregation B'nai Israel, which is adopting Lev Shalem this year.

And at your shul, too! And to help you out - whichever mahzor you're using - Abq Jew has thoughtfully provided the words. Below.

פנה אלינו ברחמים
בזכות אברהם תמים
רחם עלינו ממרומים
האל גואלי

4x בקר ותשמע קולי

רחם על עם סגולתך 
כי הם עמך ונחלתך
מהר קבץ קהילתך
אל הר גלילי

יחיד נשא ונעלם 
פדה בנך כשה נאלם
ובנה דביר ואולם
ותמוך גורלי

4x בקר ותשמע קולי

חוס וחמול עלינו
ולציון העלינו 
והקם דבירך אלינו
 צורי וגואלי

אלי שמע תחינתי 
אדון בוחר רינתי 
האל מגני ומנתי
כוסי וחבלי

4x בקר ותשמע קולי

בת יוסף מייחלת
הטוב ממך שואלת
מהר ארצה תהי נוחלת

2x מיד הישמעאלי
2x בקר ותשמע קולי

אבי ברוב רחמיך
החש מושיע עמך
ועשה למען שמך

2x כל חטא מחול לי
2x בקר ותשמע קולי

בוראי רחם יחידתי
צורי חזק קהילתי
והעלני לארץ חמדתי 
ואקטר כלילי

בתוך רבים אהללנו 
דגלו ירים באהלינו
הפלא חסדך אלינו
ורצה חן זה קולי

4x בקר ותשמע קולי
4x בקר ותשמע קולי

And for the melodies, here is the video.

And an English translation.

Face us in mercy
Because of unblemished Abraham’s merit
Be merciful to us from the heavenly heights
O God my redeemer

Who at morning time hears my voice

Reward your treasured people with mercy
For they are Your people and Your inheritance
Hurry, gather your community
To the mountains of my homeland

Especial One, exalted and unseen,
Rescue Your son like the silent lamb
Rebuild your sanctuary structures
And give support to my cause

Who at morning time hears my voice

Have compassion and be kind to us
And bring us up to Zion
And raise up your Temple for us
My rock and my rescuer

Attend my God to my plea
Lord who favors my song
God who is my shield and my apportioned
Lot and guardian of my fate

Who at morning time hears my voice

Joseph’s daughter pleads
She asks of you all that is good
Quickly may she take possession of her land
From the Ishmaelites

Who at morning time hears my voice

My father in Your great mercy
Hasten along Your people’s savior
And act for the sake of Your own name
Every sin of mine forgive

My Creator have mercy on my unique soul
My Rock strengthen my community
Bring me up to the land I treasure
and I will offer my burnt incense

Who at morning time hears my voice

Among many I praise Him
May he raise His banner among our tents
Make Your kindness toward us be abundant
And may this my voice be received with favor

Who at morning time hears my voice
Who at morning time hears my voice

If and when Abq Jew is privileged to awaken and open his eyes this Friday,
he will have lived one day longer than his mother, Roselyn Lillian (Wise) Yellin,
of blessed memory, who died on January 2 1994, at the age of
66 years and 21 days.

Abq Jew dedicates Face Us in Mercy to her memory.
כל חטא מחול לי, בקר ותשמע קולי

Friday, September 2, 2016

Talking About Diamonds

On the Soles of Her Shoes: On this coming Shabbat, Shabbat Re'eh 5776, Abq Jew will, G-d willing, have the honor of reading the Haftorah that has been read about 159 times since his Bar Mitzvah some 53 years ago.

How is this possible? Abq Jew hears you ask. After all, Abq Jew cannot be (although he sometimes feels) 172 years old. And Abq Jew will tell you.

After he talks about Paul Simon, Graceland, and the 1987 concert in Zimbabwe.

First, Paul Simon, As everyone knows
Paul Frederic Simon (born October 13, 1941) is an American musician, singer-songwriter and actor. Simon's fame, influence, and commercial success began as part of the duo Simon & Garfunkel, formed in 1964 with musical partner Art Garfunkel.
And furthermore
Simon was born on October 13, 1941, in Newark, New Jersey, to Hungarian Jewish parents. 
His father, Louis (1916–1995), was a college professor, upright bass player, and dance bandleader who performed under the name "Lee Sims". His mother, Belle (1910–2007), was an elementary school teacher. 
In 1945, his family moved to the Kew Gardens Hills section of Flushing, Queens, in New York City. 
But more to our point - in 1986, Paul Simon released Graceland, an album inspired by South African township music.
Recorded between 1985–86, Graceland features an eclectic mixture of musical styles, including pop, rock, a cappella, zydeco, isicathamiya, and mbaqanga. Simon created new compositions inspired by the recordings made in Johannesburg, collaborating with both African and American artists. 
Simon faced controversy for seemingly breaking the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against South Africa because of its policy of apartheid. In addition, some critics viewed Graceland as an exploitive appropriation of their culture ....
And most importantly
Following its completion, Simon toured alongside South African musicians, combining the music of Graceland and their own music. 
Hence - the 1987
"African Concert" in Zimbabwe.

Returning to our original topic, Abq Jew would like to tell you, even (especially!) if you already know, that Friday and Saturday are Rosh Hodesh Elul. (Confused? See Nineteen and Twenty-Eight.)

And that we read a special Haftorah (Isaiah 66:1 - 66:24) on Shabbat Rosh Hodesh, which is to say, Rosh Hodesh that falls on Shabbat.

And that we celebrate a Shabbat Rosh Hodesh about three times every year. Which would make this Shabbat's Haforah reading about the 160th since ... since Abq Jew's Bar Mitzvah on June 22, 1963.

Which took place at Sunrise Jewish Center (now Chabad) of Valley Stream, Long Island, New York; Rabbi Theodore Jungreis z"l, presiding. Yes, he was the husband of Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis a"h, founder of the Jewish outreach group Hineni, who died this past week.

Abq Jew knows -

We were all so broken up over the death of Gene Wilder that we missed this.

As it turned out, Abq Jew's  Bar Mitzvah was the last time that Rabbi Jungreis officiated at Sunrise Jewish Center. He was sent into exile at Congregation Ohr Torah in the neighboring town of North Woodmere - where he did very, very well.

Abq Jew did think a while before including that info about Rabbi Jungreis, which might be interpreted negatively. Yet it is part of the historical record - and it shows that what we think is a bad break can lead us to much greater things.

OK. Completely unrelated: Bette Davis (1908-1989), commenting on the death of long-time nemesis Joan Crawford (1904-1977), is reported to have said:

 You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . .
Joan Crawford is dead. Good.

But that's not where Abq Jew wishes to leave you on this Erev Shabbat Rosh Hodesh Elul Labor Day Weekend.

Back to Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes -
a song by the American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. It was the fourth single from his seventh studio album, Graceland ... The song features guest vocals from the South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Mr & Mrs Abq Jew first watched this video, with their son Dov Yellin the Film Editor, in the summer of 1980- or maybe 90-something, taking a break from sightseeing in our cheap motel room on the American side of Niagara Falls. Abq Jew still loves it.

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Happy Labor Day, America!