Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ending and Beginning Again

Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees: Yes, Abq Jew promises: He will talk about Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees. But first, Abq Jew must talk about Bobby Vee.

And, lehavdilDion. And The Day the Music Died.

And Bob Dylan. Amazing how everything comes back to Dylan.

First, Bobby Vee, who died on Monday, Shemini Atzeret, a day when we Jews recite Yizkor - to remember all those close to us who have passed.
Robert Thomas Velline (April 30, 1943 – October 24, 2016), known professionally as Bobby Vee, was an American pop singer who was a teen idol in the early 1960s. According to Billboard magazine, he had thirty-eight Hot 100 chart hits, ten of which reached the Top 20. He had six gold singles in his career.
But even more than the hit records, here is why we remember Bobby Vee.
Vee's career began in the midst of tragedy. On February 3, 1959, "The Day the Music Died," three of the four headline acts in the lineup of the traveling Winter Dance Party—Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper—were killed, along with the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson, in the crash of a V-tailed 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza airplane. (Dion DiMucci, the second headliner, had opted not to travel on the plane.) 
It crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa en route to the next show on the tour itinerary in Moorhead, Minnesota. 
Velline, then 15 years of age, and a hastily assembled band of Fargo schoolboys calling themselves the Shadows volunteered for, and were given, the unenviable job of filling in for Holly and his band at the Moorhead engagement. Their performance there was a success, setting in motion a chain of events that led to Vee's career as a popular singer.
Here is Dion telling the story.
57 years ago the Big Bopper and I won a coin toss to fly to our next gig with Buddy Holly. When I heard the cost of the flight was $36 - a whole month's rent for my parents - 
I gave my seat to Ritchie Valens
And, unlike everyone else in that room that night, I lived to tell about it. 
Bobby Vee showed up that night with his brother to help us out ~ he was 15 years old.  

So where, Abq Jew hears you ask, does Bob Dylan fit into the Bobby Vee story?
Early in Vee's career, a musician calling himself Elston Gunnn (sic) briefly toured with the band. This was Robert Allen Zimmerman, who later went on to fame as Bob Dylan. 
Dylan's autobiography mentions Vee and provides complimentary details about their friendship, both professional and personal. 
In a concert at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota, on July 10, 2013, Dylan said he had been on the stage with many stars, but that none of them were as meaningful as Vee. He said Vee was in the audience and then played Vee's hit "Suzie Baby" with emotion. Dylan said (in a video recording of the concert): 
Thank you everyone, thank you friends. I lived here a while back, and since that time, I've played all over the world, with all kinds of people. And everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna. And everybody in there in between. I've been on the stage with most of those people. 
But the most beautiful person I've ever been on the stage with, was a man who is here tonight, who used to sing a song called "Suzie Baby". I want to say that Bobby Vee is actually here tonight. Maybe you can show your appreciation with just a round of applause. So, we're gonna try to do this song, like I've done it with him before once or twice. 
Dylan also recalled that Vee "had a metallic, edgy tone to his voice and it was as musical as a silver bell."

And now, as Abq Jew promised - on to Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees!
Barry Alan Crompton Gibb, CBE (born 1 September 1946) is a British singer, songwriter and record producer who rose to worldwide fame as a co-founder of the group Bee Gees, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed groups in the history of popular music. With his brothers, Robin and Maurice Gibb, he formed a songwriting partnership beginning in 1966.
Actually, they were singing together even before 1966. Here, for example, are the three Gibb brothers singing ... in 1963, shortly after the song was released  ...

In this clip - which Abq Jew discovered via the multi-talented Sydney Urshan - Barry is 16; and Maurice and Robin are 13.

They already sound like the Bee Gees,
and will for another forty years.

The three-way partnership ended when Maurice died suddenly in January 2003. When Robin died in May 2012, Barry became the sole surviving Bee Gee.

On Simchat Torah, we concluded the annual cycle of Torah readings with Parshat V'Zot HaBracha. And we symbolically began the cycle again, with a reading from Parshat Bereshit.

Beginning again. 

Barry Gibb has a new solo album out, titled - appropriately - In the Now. It's his first album of all new material since the Bee Gees final studio album in 2001.

Jim Farber of The New York Times recently wrote:
“All I think about is yesterday,” sings Barry Gibb at the start of his first solo album in 32 years, in a staccato familiar from his decades in the Bee Gees. “I need you here in the now.” 
His plea appears to address an elusive lover. But, on a deeper level, it alludes to the many family members he has lost over the years. 
That list includes his youngest brother, Andy (gone at age 30, after a history of drug abuse, in 1988); his two siblings in the Bee Gees, Maurice (who died of an intestinal blockage at 53 in 2003) and Robin (of cancer at 62 in 2012); as well as their 95-year-old mother, Barbara, who passed away in August.
Here is Barry Gibb, speaking about beginning again.

Who Wrote Blowin In The Wind?

On final note about Blowin' In The Wind - with an amazing Millburn, New Jersey twist!
A false allegation circulated that the song was written by a high-school student named Lorre Wyatt and subsequently purchased or plagiarised by Dylan before he gained fame. 
This allegation was published in an article in Newsweek magazine in November 1963; while the story left the claims unconfirmed, it prompted much speculation. 
Several students at Wyatt's school (Millburn High) and community (Short Hills and Millburn, New Jersey) reported having heard him singing the song and claiming authorship a year before it was released by Dylan and made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary. 
Wyatt, when asked why he had suddenly stopped performing the song, told his teacher that he had sold the song for $1,000 and donated the money to charity. 
The plagiarism claim was eventually shown to be untrue. Wyatt had performed the song at school and elsewhere months before it was made famous, but not before it had been published and credited to Dylan in Broadside magazine. 
Wyatt finally explained his deception to New Times magazine in 1974. He credited his initial lie to panic that he wasn't pulling his weight as a songwriter in the school's male folk group, the Millburnaires.
Everything comes back to Dylan.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Season of Our Joy

In Spite of Sukkot ... Issues: Yes, this is [still] the Holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which we also call זמן שׂמחתנו, the Season of Our Joy.

For after all, what are we Jews commanded to do on this holiday? Build a sukkah, invite guests, and envelop ourselves in the fragrance of the Four Species.

How hard could that be?

Here is a delightful depiction of a wonderful sukkah, decorated with an obscure reference to The Fallen Sukkah of David and a clear reference to the Western Wall addition to the Al-Aqsa Mosque - part of the Al-Haram Al Sharif, toward which we Jews have directed our prayers since ... the year 1035 CE.

As Wikipedia tells us:
The mosque was originally a small prayer house built by the Rashidun caliph Umar, but was rebuilt and expanded by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik and finished by his son al-Walid in 705 CE. 
The mosque was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 746 and rebuilt by the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur in 754. 
His successor al-Mahdi rebuilt it again in 780. Another earthquake destroyed most of al-Aqsa in 1033, but two years later the Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir built another mosque which has stood to the present day.
But Abq Jew digresses.

Now here in the high desert metropolis of Albuquerque, we've got our own tabernacle issues. First of all - skach, the branches of living trees with which we are to cover our sukkot, is in short supply.

At least on the western side of the Sandias. Skach is not an issue at all on the eastern side (or the East Coast, for that matter) - yet another reason why we Albuquerque Jews pray toward the east.

And where, Abq Jew hears you ask, did the ancient Israelites find skach in the Sinai Desert? Very close, Abq Jew responds, to where they found the legendary תחשׁ (usually translated as "seal" or "unicorn" - you can look it up) - with whose skins they covered the Mishkan.

And then there is the problem of the sukkah falling down.

Apparently David (the king, not your brother-in-law) also had this problem. Which is why on Sukkot we add the plea

May the Compassionate One rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David

to our usual Yontif bentshing (Grace After Meals).

Way back in 2011, Abq Jew brought to you, his loyal readers, Oldest Living Jewish Parrot Tells [Oldest Known High Holiday Joke].

Well, it's five years (!) later, and Abq Jew is proud (?) to bring you the Oldest Known Sukkot Joke. No parrots involved.

A family went to the Rabbi and asked

“Rabbi, how do we build a sukkah?”

The rabbi opened the Talmud to Tractate Sukkot, found the spot she was looking for, and read aloud from the Rashi commentary some very specific instructions for building a sukkah. The family thanked her and went away.

The next week, the rabbi saw them again. This one had a bandaged head, and this one had a cast, and that one was limping …

“What happened?!” cried the rabbi.

“Well, we followed the instructions to the letter, and we were sitting in the sukkah enjoying our meal, and the first big wind came along and blew it down on our heads!”

Oy oy oy!” cried the rabbi. “I don’t understand! Rashi was so clear about how to build it!” So back the rabbi went to the Talmud and opened up to the same page, and re-read the instructions.

Then she read a little further and looked up. “You know?” she said,

“Tosafot asks the same question about Rashi.”

As we head toward Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (with a break for Shabbat Hol HaMoed Sukkot) - Abq Jew realizes that you, his loyal readers, may not get the punch line of the Oldest Known Sukkot Joke.

If that is your case ... Abq Jew strongly recommends that you review his classic A Page (or Two) of Talmud: Part 4. But in the meantime ...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Temporary Dwellings

No Sukkot Required: Now that Yom Kippur and the Days of Awe have passed, Jews all over the world turn to rejoicing.

We complete building our sukkot (booths) - with a brief intermission for Shabbat Ha'azinu - round up our lulav and etrog (the four species), and wait with eager anticipation for the Festival of Sukkot  - the Season of Our Joy - to begin.

We recite the Full Hallel for all the days of the holiday, for our joy is complete. Yet we eat meals in the sukkah - a rickety, temporary dwelling.

Abq Jew hears you ask

How can living in a booth be joyful?

Rabbi Louis Jacobs explained in a My Jewish Learning article:
The sukkah is called a “temporal dwelling,” as distinct from the “permanent dwelling” in which people normally live. 
On the basis of this the idea has been read into the sukkah of a symbolic surrender of too-close an attachment to material things. The Jew leaves his house to stay in the sukkah where he enjoys divine protection. 
Judaism does not frown on material possessions, if these are honestly acquired, but, by leaving his home to stay in the sukkah, the Jew declares that it is the spiritual side of human existence that brings true joy into life.
Here is Abq Jew's view:

The sukkah teaches us that
all our dwellings are temporary.

Here are a few examples. All of us know even more.

Retired racing greyhound Belle survived a Florida kennel fire. She got sick and almost died (and was almost put down) more than once - greyhound breeders do not spend money on more veterinary care than the law requires. Belle made her forever home with Mr & Mrs Abq Jew in 2011.

Retired racing greyhound May-May was found by the side of an Albuquerque road about a year ago; her owner could not be identified or located. She was rescued by New Mexico Greyhound Connection (as was Belle), adopted by an elderly lady who surely loved her - but who recently had to return May-May when she moved to assisted living.

Mr & Mrs Abq Jew are currently fostering May-May, and hope to adopt her soon. (This is known as a "foster fail" among greyhound rescuers.)

Great Grand Mama moved from a large, beautiful home in Brooklyn to a terrific apartment in Manhattan to a nice apartment in Hollywood, Florida to a senior apartment in Livingston, New Jersey, where Mr & Mrs Abq Jew then lived.

After a couple years of pleading, she followed Mr & Mrs Abq Jew to Albuquerque where she lived in a luxurious independent living facility. GGM has just now moved to a (truly) glorious assisted living facility in Rio Rancho.

All of the above transitions were, shall we say, difficult but manageable.

And then there is Haiti and Hurricane Matthew. tells us
When spoken in the same sentence, the words 'hurricane' and 'Haiti' often create cold sweats and an abundance of worry in the minds of the nation's residents, meteorologists and weather observers alike. 
Haiti is one of the most fragile hurricane-prone countries on the planet. 
To be clear, it does not take a hurricane, or even a tropical cyclone, to cause damage and destruction in Haiti. But hurricanes are the worst of the worst for the country ....
Even responding to a natural disaster like Hurricane Matthew - in Haita, in North Carolina - may be, shall we say, difficult but manageable. For the survivors.

But then - as Rabbi Evelyn Baz of Congregation B'nai Israel reminded us on Yom Kippur - there is Aleppo, and all of Syria, a long-term, man-made disaster that is not beyond our comprehension, for we have all seen it before.

Because all dwellings are temporary, we Jews rejoice in our sukkot during our festival.

Haven't built your sukkah yet? Need help? Abq Jew is happy to provide advice from Rebbetzin Rivka Leah Zelwig!

Hag Sameach, Albuquerque!
Good Yontif, New Mexico!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Music for the Soul

After 120: In his newest book, After One Hundred-and-Twenty: Reflections on Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in the Jewish Tradition, Hillel Halkin speaks of medieval Jewish philosophy, division of the soul into three parts.

During the Ten Days of Repentance, each of us is enjoined to conduct a חשׁבּון הנפשׁ Heshbon HaNefesh, a Soul-Accounting, of our deeds - those we did, and those we should have done but did not.

The prayers we pray on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur help us perform this task. Not only the words, of course; the music is also of supreme importance.

Here, for the three divisions of the soul, are Abq Jew's offerings for the High Holy Day prayer  אבינו מלכּנו Our Father, Our King.

נפשׁ Nefesh
Vital Soul

רוח Ru'ah
Passional Soul

נשׁמה Neshamah
Intellectual Soul

And to all of us -