Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Wisdom of Our Sages

Upcoming Class Announcement: Got ethics? Sometimes it seems that few of our leaders do. But our Jewish sages not only had ethics - they endeavored to live ethically, and to pass down to us exactly what that means.

Thus - in the spirit of "it's up to us to turn this thing around" - Abq Jew is pleased to announce the following upcoming class:

Pirkei Avot:
The Wisdom of Our Sages
Starts: Wednesday 11 March 2020
Six Sessions: Wednesdays @ 1:30 pm
Instructor: Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
Albuquerque JCC

Spiritual / Ethical Teachings of Judaism through the lens of Two Great Texts: Pirkei Avot and Avot de Rabbi Natan. What are the enduring values of Judaism as we dig into great Jewish teachings of the Rabbis shared 2000 years ago?

"All Israel have a share in the world to come."

These are the traditional words with which we begin a study of Ethics of the Fathers. They are not part of the Pirkei Avot text; rather, they are a preamble that shows us - from the POV of The Holy One, Blessed Be He - where we stand.

Sort of like that other preamble we all know:

"We the People of the United States ..."

But Abq Jew (big surprise!) digresses. Anyway, you can check out Ethics of the Fathers on page 477 of the HaSiddur HaShalem Daily Prayer Book of Philip (Paltiel) Birnbaum. Go look! It's right there on your bookshelf!

Or - you can check out any of the zillion-or-so editions of Pirkei Avot. Ranging from Jessica Tamar Deutsch's The Illustrated Pirkei Avot: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Ethics to Amanda Monaco's jazzy guitar Pirkei Avot Project to ... well, you get the idea. 

Rabbi Jill Jacobs has written a wonderful introduction to Pirkei Avot for My Jewish Learning.

Pirkei Avot (literally, “Chapters of the Fathers,” but generally translated as “Ethics of Our Fathers”) is one of the best-known and most-cited of Jewish texts. 

Even those who claim to know little about Jewish literature are familiar with maxims such as “If I am only for myself, who am I? (1:14)” and “Say little and do much (1:15).” 

Popular Hebrew songs take as their lyrics lines such as “The world stands on three things: Torah , service, and acts of loving kindness (1:2)”  and “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (2:21).”

Pirkei Avot is so popular that many siddurim (prayer books) include the full text of this book. In many communities, it is customary to read a section of Pirkei Avot every Shabbat. 

And Rabbi Jacobs has also written a cogent introduction to the lesser-known Avot d’Rabbi Natan.

Tucked in the back of Seder Nezikin in most editions of the Talmud is a mysterious series of books collectively referred to as Masekhtot Ketanot, the “Minor Tractates.” 

Though classified as a unit, these minor tractates include material from a variety of genres produced over several hundred years. One of these volumes is Avot d’Rabbi Natan, a sort of companion volume to Pirkei Avot.

Like its better-known cousin, Avot d’Rabbi Natan consists largely of maxims that cover the proper approach to Torah study, common human courtesy, and other life advice. For the most part, the instructions seem directed at those who pursue the rabbinic life of Torah study and discipleship. 

Many of the sayings recorded in one of the books appear also in the other. As in Pirkei Avot, the rabbinic statements of Avot d’Rabbi Natan are ordered by generation, beginning with those attributed to the first rabbis, and continuing through each generation of disciples. 

Unlike Pirkei Avot, however, Avot d’Rabbi Natan rarely simply presents an aphorism, but instead adds long commentaries and expansions on these statements. For example, both books record Hillel’s exhortation, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving humanity and drawing them to Torah.” 

In Pirkei Avot, this statement stands on its own (1:12). In Avot d’Rabbi Natan, Hillel’s comment sparks a multi-page meditation on Aaron’s humility, the power of peace, and techniques for stopping quarrels.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Paul Farnes, RAF Ace, Dies at 101

The Battle of Britain: No, you have probably never heard of him. Neither had Abq Jew. But Paul Farnes, in his youth, did something extraordinary.

Paul Farnes, seated second from left, with a group
of fellow Royal Air Force fighter pilots in 1940.

Central Press/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images

He helped save the world.

Abq Jew's favorite New York Times Obits writer, Richard Sandomir (see Singer Norma Tanega Dies at 80 and Hal Blaine, Drummer, Dies at 90), tells Mr Farnes' story.
Paul Farnes, Last R.A.F. Ace of Battle of Britain, Dies at 101 
He was one of the last of “The Few,” the Royal Air Force airmen who defended Britain against the powerful Luftwaffe. 
Paul Farnes, a Royal Air Force fighter pilot and the last surviving R.A.F. ace of the Battle of Britain, in which he shot down six German aircraft and damaged a half-dozen more, died on Jan. 28 in West Sussex, England. He was 101. 
His death was announced by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust. 
Mr. Farnes was one of the last survivors of the nearly 3,000 airmen called “The Few,” a nickname inspired by Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s tribute to them in August 1940 while the campaign, begun in July, raged on. 
“Never in the field of human conflict,” Churchill said, “was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Mr. Farnes, who qualified as an ace after destroying five enemy aircraft, received the Distinguished Flying Medal in late October 1940 and was the only member of “The Few” to attend an annual commemoration of the Battle of Britain in 2017. 
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,” he said, reciting from a poem by Laurence Binyon in a village near Kent. “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn./At the going down of the sun and in the morning,/We will remember them.”

When, just a short time ago, the US seemed to be stumbling into a war with Iran, Abq Jew began rereading Barbara Tuchman's classic, The Guns of August. Wikipedia tells us that the book is:
a volume of history by Barbara W. Tuchman. It is centered on the first month of World War I. After introductory chapters, Tuchman describes in great detail the opening events of the conflict. Its focus then becomes a military history of the contestants, chiefly the great powers. 
The Guns of August thus provides a narrative of the earliest stages of World War I, from the decisions to go to war, up until the start of the Franco-British offensive that stopped the German advance into France. The result was four years of trench warfare. 
In the course of her narrative Tuchman includes discussion of the plans, strategies, world events, and international sentiments before and during the war. 
The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for publication year 1963 ....
By the time Abq Jew finished rereading The Guns of August (a few days ago), our flare-up with Iran was almost forgotten.

But the book's chief lesson (there are many) - how easy it is to go to war, and how difficult it is to end a war once begun - should be imprinted on our consciences and our consciousness forever.

The Great War website tells us:
Laurence Binyon composed his best known poem while sitting on the cliff-top looking out to sea from the dramatic scenery of the north Cornish coastline. A plaque marks the location at Pentire Point, north of Polzeath. However, there is also a small plaque on the East Cliff north of Portreath, further south on the same north Cornwall coast, which also claims to be the place where the poem was written. 
The poem was written in mid September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. During these weeks the British Expeditionary Force had suffered casualties following its first encounter with the Imperial German Army at the Battle of Mons on 23 August, its rearguard action during the retreat from Mons in late August and the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August, and its participation with the French Army in holding up the Imperial German Army at the First Battle of the Marne between 5 and 9 September 1914. 
Laurence said in 1939 that the four lines of the fourth stanza came to him first. These words of the fourth stanza have become especially familiar and famous, having been adopted by the Royal British Legion as an Exhortation for ceremonies of Remembrance to commemorate fallen Servicemen and women. 
Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist in the military forces but he went to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly in 1916. He lost several close friends and his brother-in-law in the war.
Mr. Farnes, right, with Prince Charles at a ceremony marking
the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in Dover, England, in 2017.

Gareth Fuller/Press Association, via Associated Press

For the Fallen

by Laurence Binyon
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free. 
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears. 
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe. 
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. 
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam. 
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night; 
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain. 
Source: The London Times (1914)
Hawker Hurricane
The Battle of Britain officially lasted from 10 July until 31 October 1940, but the heaviest fighting took place between 8 August and 21 September. 
Both the Supermarine Spitfire and the [Hawker] Hurricane are renowned for their part in defending Britain against the Luftwaffe; generally, the Spitfire would intercept the German fighters, leaving Hurricanes to concentrate on the bombers, but, despite the undoubted abilities of the "thoroughbred" Spitfire, it was the "workhorse" Hurricane that scored the higher number of RAF victories during this period, accounting for 55 percent of the 2,739 German losses, according to Fighter Command, compared with 42 per cent by Spitfires.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Tzadik of Freehold

Yahrzeit Observed: Sunday, February 2, 2020, was a very special day.

First of all, it was an exceedingly rare palindrome date - for those using the Gregorian calendar. The last palindrome date was 909 years ago (11/11/1111), when most Christian folks were using the Julian calendar. The next palindrome date will occur on 12/12/2121, God willing.

And it was, of course Groundhog Day, a popular tradition observed in Canada and the United States, for no apparent reason. Accept climate change evidence from scientists? Nah. Accept weather predictions from rodents? Sure!

Which is not to mention the miraculous event of Super Bowl LIV (that's "life" in modern Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish). The miracle? Well, beating the Santa Clara 49ers is close.

But picking up and moving Kansas City (and the entire Chiefs organization) from meshugenah Missouri to Ken O'Hara Kansas? Pretty spectacular.

Here in the Jewish world, it was Super Sunday for many, if not all, of the Jewish Federations of North America. Did you get a phone call? Time to pitch in to help each other. We're all in this together.

And, in the Conservative Jewish world (and in the special sphere of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs), it was the day of the annual World Wide Wrap - celebrating the mitzvah of wrapping tefillin.

But, as it turned out, Sunday (the 7th day of Shevat), was also the

Grave of Avrohom Itzhak Klugman, The Tzadik of Freehold

Yahrzeit of Avrohom Itzhok Klugman
The Tzadik of Freehold

Please (please!) allow Abq Jew to say a few words about Freehold, New Jersey.

First of all - if you cross the railroad tracks, turn right at the corner, and follow Route 79 as it swings to the left  - in a few short miles you'll get to Aberdeen, where Mr & Mrs Abq Jew et familia dwelled from 1982 to 2000.

Second - yes, Freehold is the hometown of Bruce Springsteen.
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, New Jersey on September 23, 1949. He is of Dutch, Irish, and Italian descent. He spent his childhood in Freehold, New Jersey, where he lived on South Street.

Third - the song. My Hometown is a single by Bruce Springsteen off his Born in the U.S.A. album.
The song's lyrics begin with the speaker's memories of his father instilling pride in the family's hometown. While it first appears that the song will be a nostalgic look at the speaker's childhood, the song then goes on to describe the racial violence and economic depression that the speaker witnessed as an adolescent and a young adult. 
The song concludes with the speaker's reluctant proclamation that he plans to move his family out of the town, but not without first taking his own son on a drive and expressing the same community pride that was instilled in him by his father. 
Some of the song's images reference the recent history of Springsteen's own hometown ... in particular the racial strife in 1960s New Jersey and economic tensions from the same times (e.g., the "textile mill being closed" was the A & M Karagheusian Rug Mill at Center and Jackson Streets of Freehold). 

But back to The Tzadik, of whom Abq Jew had never heard in all the years he lived in New Jersey.

It turns out - there's a plaque! At the entrance to the Freehold Hebrew Benefit Society Cemetery. The above photo of which Abq Jew stumbled upon at the Jewish Genealogy Portal on Facebook. And which reads (in part)


The Lakewood Scoop published a yahrzeit notice for Reb Klugman a few days ago. And a few people wrote in, telling what they knew of The Tzadik.
He was hidden until a journalist discovered him and interviewed him for several hours. He was so impressed he created a four day series of articles about this great man. Exactly one day before the first article was to be published the Tzadik left this world. We are working on translating the original articles from Yiddish to English. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
He was killed crossing over the train tracks by an oncoming train. He had a couple of seforim in his tallis bag, amongst them a Tanya which he was carrying at the time.