Saturday, May 15, 2021

Give and Take

We have been conditioned to thinking that the act of giving is an act of love and taking is to be avoided.

To give is noble, to take is selfish.

I think this is overly simplistic to a dangerous degree.

When children are born they need to be takers in order to survive and live.

They are showered and swathed in love. This is the healthiest kind of taking that there is. Children have no way or expectation of returning or showing appreciation, so they can take with pure love and without baggage. In a healthy environment, where the parents love their children the children absorb and take in a healthy manner.

Taking needs to be in proportion to what's deserved for there to be a peaceful sense of equilibrium. If a child is raised and continues to be spoiled and given to unconditionally even at a later age then it starts bordering on unhealthy taking. Unhealthy taking leads to resentment and the feeling that there is an unhealthy ulterior motive involved in the giving.

I believe that only after someone is the recipient of healthy taking and being loved can they turn around and give to others.

A heart full of love can overflow and love others.

One has never received in a healthy manner would have a very hard time giving in a healthy manner.

This is true in relationships as well. Sexual relations are called "chessed" in the Torah. It can be a tremendous act of giving, but if the giver and taker are not completely connected, if they are not giving and taking in heart, mind and soul then it's molestation or worse.

The act of giving can be an incredibly selfish and even evil act.

People give for all kinds of selfish reasons. People give to control others,

they give because it makes them feel better, even when it's not in the best interest of the recipient.

The first act of human giving in the Torah almost destroyed the world.

When Chava gave Adam to eat from the Eitz Hadass it was the ultimate act of selfishness. 

She had never been at the receiving end of an act of giving.

The Neshama of Adam is that of David and ultimately Moshiach.

The selfish act of Chavas giving and Adams taking was the polar opposite of Ruth's behavior. She learned to live off of others when she needed to. She was the recipient of her mother in law's grace and then caught the attention of Boaz with the manner in which she went out to collect wheat from the field with utmost modesty. Her act of taking led to a sudden abundance in Boaz's crops wherever she went. 

Only then was she able to give back and become the mother of redemption.

On a universal level this is also true.

The world is not yet ready to receive the bounty of redemption. When one receives what one is not ready to take, it is called the bread of shame. It's an uncomfortable taking which leads to resentment. This is precisely what happened after the giving of the Torah. The Jewish people were not ready for that kind of revelation as evidenced by the fact that they passed out after hearing one word from the mouth of Hashem. This eventually led to their rebelling against the one that gave them this sudden bounty while they were completely inadequate in their means of appreciating and taking.

Moshiach will come when there will be a perfect equilibrium. When the collective human experience will earn the ability to accept and receive Hashems reward and bounty in a healthy, deserving way.

On Shavuos we celebrate the revelation on Sinai as well as the life of King David.

The theme of these pivotal moments in the relationship between humankind and the divine is the same that drives interpersonal relationships successfully or otherwise.

I think that this could be one reason why we eat dairy products on Shavuos.

An animal has two ways of giving of its food. One way is through meat. The only way for this to work is if the animal dies. This represents the toxic way of giving, which results in the death of the giver, much like it did by Chava.

Then there's milk. The animal gives of itself and continues living. This represents a healthy giving, which doesn't result in ill effects to the giver.

May we all be worthy of taking graciously with eyes wide open.



Tuesday, August 21, 2018

1665 classifieds. Amsterdam.


A Pearl Earring. 

Please contact J. Vermeer


Friday, September 01, 2017

I mourn

I spent my summer of 1997 at a retreat in a small town some 40 miles outside of Moscow. My wife and I were feeling adventurous and idealistic and so we packed a months worth of kosher food, diapers and our 8 month old firstborn Yehuda. The summer was a one of a kind spiritual experience interacting with and teaching a Russian Jewish population that had been cut off of their Jewish heritage for 75 years. It was also a learning experience for us. It took us westerners to live with bare necessities and to make do with baby baths in buckets and lots of kasha.  There were plenty of memorable moments like when Yehuda started showing symptoms of the flu and a well meaning local called a world war 2 era ambulance that drove us the few miles to the local clinic, its sirens wailing horribly off tune. It turns out that this clinic was the very same that my favorite writer Anton Chekhov used to practice medicine 100 earlier. The doctor told us to boil eggs and place them on his face.
At the end of the retreat we decided to travel to St Petersburg along with another couple and their baby. St Petersburg was beautiful in a jaded kind of way. Like a woman who is still beautiful in her 50s.  We spent a week traveling the Palaces and the playgrounds of the Czars and taking in quintissential St Petersburgh moments like attending a ballet. Our apartment was in a building that looked to be straight out of a Dostoyevsky novel. Looking back from 2017 I marvel at how isolated we were. There was almost no communication with the world at large. No way for anyone to get in touch with us and no way for us to know what was happening in the world as there was absolutely nothing available to read in English. 
Imagine my surprise when we came to Pulkovo Airport on the morning of September 4th 1997 and I happen to notice the headline of the International Herald Tribune "Prince Charles Returns Home for the Peoples Princess' Funeral".
I could feel the color drain from my face as I read that Princess Diana had been killed 3 days earlier in a car accident. 
It's difficult for me to mourn someone I did not know...but I can definitely mourn a world in which it was possible to go 3 days without knowing that Princess Diana was dead.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


I lay back in the grass...

Oh that summer 

70 degree scent...

Gazing up at the night sky...

slowly disconnecting 

from our planet 



past the fleeting fireflies...

...the tired night flights

heading to Europe 



of the night 

My eyes are

invariably drawn

to Vega...

I'm not really sure why....

maybe it's the fact

that at just 25 light years away

it's one of our closest neighbors..

maybe i love the fact that 

the light that I now see

departed during the heady 

summer nights...of '92...

when I was all of 18

a carefree boy....

sitting at a fire

The light

of my unburdened smile....

just reaching vega 



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Monday, November 07, 2016

Is this....where I end?

My fingers 
they trace my skin...
the contours of
my matter....
the borderlands 
of life and air...
or bed....or
clearly defined
Six feet...
one inch
I reach outward...
as far as I can
as if to ask...
is this it?
is this where I end?
and begin
does my consciousness...
storm....the wall
of skin..
are my thoughts
piled up...thousands high
at the ramparts 
yearning to break free?
is this where I end?
does my love

touch you?

do my words 
not send a chill
down your spine?

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Thursday, October 27, 2016


the last leaf…
never seems to fall
always a few
….shivering holdouts
hanging on
all blustery winter

ever since o henry…
and his dumb idea
of hitching
a human life..
to a dying leaf…
no leaf wants to
take that chance…
would you
…...want that
on your


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Monday, April 28, 2014

hazard lights


theres a soft spot in my heart
for that little used button
in every car..with the red
that button
takes me back
to when I was a boy
and I’d play in my fathers car
the old brown impala
where you could roll down the window
with the power off
and the only thing that worked
with the engine off
was that hazard button
gosh…both lights would blink
and my imagination would
take me places…lord knows where
but my smile was ear to ear
as I opened and closed em
and turned the wheel 
a few centimeters
if I pulled 
…...hard enough


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Wednesday, April 09, 2014



like a wild horizon
serengeti…wild windswept
our souls…our egos
…hearts pounding
fear….the bongo beat
of this land(e)scape
rules the jungle
ears perked
….ready to run
head down…
ready to pounce
to sink teeth into 
your neck
…until you submit
completely soothe my hunger
I don’t want to

animal parents abandon their young
as soon as they can walk on their own…
….they cannot bear the shame..)

my antelope ego… afraid
endless running

I live..
I’m afraid
…to die

and they sit there
in their plush chairs
…watching me on giant
Imax screens
and James Earl Jones
is…telling my story
…and it hurts
because I’m right there
in the audience
..and theres no where
to run
…and no one
to tear apart
in the sterile silence

and suddenly
the giant screen..rips open
and the serengeti comes aLIVE
…and the animals are running
everyones running
….for their friggin lives
and I’m in my element
in ways…
no one can understand

fear rules the anima
once again….life
Its all

under all the suits..and smiles
the beauty….and the lipstick
..the ties..and ropes
the buildings and spires
cocky in the sky
lies….the serengeti
of anima

you and me
each other
in the
…tall grass

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Thursday, March 27, 2014



life gets really tiring
..when you're waiting
..and waiting
relentless waiting
only to realize
..that what you're waiting for


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

highway love/hate


a quick 75 mile per hour glance
…tells a tale of faceless camaraderie
our children
..both honor students
we both cheer for the Devils
and love our Apple products
…and we both would like to
restore the shore

But…right now
there’s no one on earth
that I HATE as intensely as you
…how DARE you



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Sunday, February 16, 2014



little words
little messengers
of thoughts, emotions and feelings
so unreliable…

I pack my deepest…
the ones that fill my universe
with light and dark
…with pain
and euphoria
I pack them onto your
syllables and consonants
..your rounded and pointy backs

(how do you pack thoughts...
as large as the universe and as intense
as love..onto such meager little things?)

and deliver them to you
not knowing they’ll arrive
not knowing how 
..theyll be unpacked 
in yours

oh words
pathetic little messengers
of thought
..emotion and feeling

…you’re all I have


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Monday, September 30, 2013



a flower plucked
...from it's source
so beautiful

..fragrant and
every second

another second closer
to wilting

and we
such a beautiful

...plucked from her/his

start the clock ticking






Tuesday, September 10, 2013

nouns are just fillers


..dirty disheveled

avoiding the hot gazes
..of those on high horses
and others resting on their laurels

I turn around
..and yell at the top my lungs

God has no use
.....for nouns


Thursday, August 15, 2013

chasing dreams


the evidence would suggest
I just know I'm awake..
..but I think somehow
that if I keep my eyes closed
...I can somehow go back
to the other side
...where they must be wondering
where I am
But the memory fades so fast
...30 seconds later
I try..and try..I can see a color
a balcony..
..I run down the narrow alleyway
chasing him..or her?
until the cobblestone itself
..starts to disappear
under my feet
..and then the color

and I open my eyes


Thursday, May 23, 2013



the other day
...I took a nap in my hammock
really not sure how long

...but I woke up
coated in yellow dust a mold..everyhwere
grass growing in my throat
....weeds in my eyelids
flowers on my legs and arms

oh how I pity mother earth
...with no fingers to
scratch herself with



Thursday, April 04, 2013

Duped again..


i cant believe i fell for it


the promises etched
..on the beautiful label
perfect font 

the promises 
...and hints
of raspberries
and cherry casket

...oh and the medleys
they speak of
I longed to hear
with dark undertones
silky..full bodied
...and yet balanced

oh... I always fall for that

and promises of journeys tuscany
....silly me

always the same
...pungent taste
puckered grimace
...not a raspberry in sight
nor medley heard

suitcases packed
...nowhere to go


Friday, March 15, 2013

my silver cloud

I took my silver cloud
......into the pawn shop (whistling)

Only to be told
....that it's just the lining

that's real

And that it has no

and now the lining won't
...go back on


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

stop fighting!


children fight all the time...
...and somehow
we manage to pull
..them apart and call
a truce

but the hardest fights separate
are the ones between
our children
...and the inner child


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dubious Rights


2. The right to Bear Arms.

5. The right to remain silent

.....forever silent shhh


Monday, December 17, 2012

I cry....

Sadness...just utter sadness is all I've felt since Friday. The tears seem ready 24/ the mere mention of the word Newtown.  Complete strangers to me. Chances are very good that not one of those killed would have ever crossed my path at any point of my life. And yet..the emotion is so strong.

I cry for the children..but also for the very concept of childhood...that has been so violated.

I cry for humanity. For the soul that inhabits my being...

People love throwing around the world Evil...

Evil is where the boundaries of our empathy end. 

The spot where we are no longer ready to accept human failing..there we create a black curtain, and anything beyond that spot we simply call evil and are satisfied.

Alcoholism and many other conditions used to be evil..but now we've invited them into our side of the curtain for the most part.

I cry for the inability to accept humanity completely..

I cry for innocence..which children represent and deep down we all wish we could find inside ourselves.

I cry for the fact that adults cannot elicit the same tears that children do.

For in adults we see our own failings and fears projected..

But most of all..I cry

for the last horrible moments these angels had to endure

...and for the many years that their parents and loved ones will yet grieve

Thursday, December 06, 2012

my own redemption

According to tradition, the flames of the Menorah are a manifestation of the Ohr Haganuz, the Hidden Light, which is hidden away for the Redemption.

Chanukah is when we take the light of redemption and bring it into the here and now.

It's when the universal redemption becomes personal.

Instead of reacting to adversity with "oy we need moshiach.." we achieve a personal state of mind where the adversity is not overwhelming.

It's rising above..pettiness.

It's putting together the fragmentation that brings duality and unsettledness into our lives.

The Ohr Haganuz the Hidden Light is set aside for the days of universal redemption but on Chanukah we can access it easily, meditate in her ethereal glow  and with it experience personal redemption.

The Bais Yosef asked the famous question, why is Chanukah eight days if the miracle was only seven. 

And now I wonder perhaps it is only seven days, but after seven days of light and having achieved a measure of personal redemption how can one not wish the same on the rest of the world. And so we light one more night and we pronounce Zos Chanukah..This is Chanukah instinctively in our desire for the greater Geula.

Happy Chanukah

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We've had it wrong...

I'm sorry..Socrates
..Plato and Kant
you've had it all wrong
Marx and Voltaire
...completely misunderstood
what humanity has been
...striving for
since the dawn of time class warfare..
..or utopian dreams
none of seems
after one quick glance youtubes top ten
of bitten fingers
...and korean horse dancing men
and you cannot help
but wonder
...if the worlds masses
all this time have been
yearning for the freedom
to make
.....silly videos...

that's all

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I love you Mr. Csikszentmihalyi


I was recently reading a book and I came across this awesome quote from the famous psychologist (I'll assume he's famous if he's quoted in a book) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I've always known it to be true but just seeing it in worlds filled me with such joy. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops and told a thousand times to our children.

In his book Flow he discusses the benefits of having a talent or skill set. People who have talents and skills are generally happier than those that don't. And then he adds..
"It is not the skills that we actually have that determine how we feel, but the ones we think we have."

Read it again and again until you internalize it completely..

What a freeing concept...


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughts on living in the 19th century

It's been an unforgettable few weeks in New Jersey and now that it seems to be behind us I'd like to share a few thoughts on my experience.

First of all I don't think I've ever heard such confusion as to what that thing called Sandy was.
Was it a hurricane? A superstorm ? A frankenstorm? A superfreakinfrankinstorm?

Then it plunged us all into the 19th century. No water, no heat and no power, which meant finding creative ways to get water, like placing buckets under the gutters and using lots of firewood to stay warm.
People back in those days lived on average 30 years less than we did. I get the feeling that they didn't mind at all.
Each day feels like a year when all the things we take for granted needed hard work to achieve.

But on the other hand they must have been happier. If your daily goal is to survive and you achieve that goal then every day is a success.
And the day that you fail, won't be there to feel that disappointment.

Oh and one other thing.
Please don't tell me to stop complaining because other people lost their homes.
Next time you have a toothache I'll tell you to be quiet because there are people's out there with cancer.

Btw I'm not complaining. It was an experience.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Beauty and The Beast

you took away heat
my water
and power
You took down favorite trees

But when I go out
...and look at you
I can't stay mad
.......for long


Friday, November 02, 2012

washed away

must have been about
..8 weeks ago or so
we were walking along
..the pier
on that picture perfect

when I saw my favorite
...roller coaster
the one
...right at the edge
hovering over the waves
...and so I convinced
my 12 year old daughter join me

she was terrified as it climbed
...and climbed
(and so was I)
...and then when it made that turn
above the ocean
before plunging..down and up
..and by the 5th time
we rode that thing
..our hands were in the air
without a care
in the world

..and today I feel
as if
...the memory itself
has been so brutally
...and washed away

Friday, October 26, 2012

Election 12

The Ba'alei Mussar say that a person should be concerned with his own spiritual and the next persons physical well being and not the other way around.

The Republican Party is way too concerned with their own physical well being and the next persons spirituality.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

God is an Existentialist


People think that Sartre is incompatible with religion.

I disagree.

There's s Midrash in last weeks Parsha
V'Ha'aretz Haysa Sohu V'Vohu...eilu ma'aseihem shel resha'im
VaYomer Elokim VaYehi Ohr...eilu ma'aseihem shel tzadikim
Aval eini yodeia b'eizeh meihem chofetz...keivan dichsiv Va'Yar Elokim Es HaOr Ki Tov...bma'aseihem shel tzadikim ani chofetz.....

What is going on here?
Hashem says I see the deeds of the righteous and of the wicked and its not certain which I'd rather have. Until the Torah reveals that He'd rather the deeds of the righteous.

What I think is going on here is that the Midrash is revealing something incredible here.
Hashem is saying. There's nothing objectively right in the deeds of the righteous over the deeds of the wicked. There's nothing intrinsically pulling Him in one direction over the other...after all they're both a manifestation of his kingship (rewarding righteous and punishing wicked).
It's Hashems SUBJECTIVE choice that makes him favor the righteous. Because he wants to.

It's the same with us. We're so used to thinking that our tasks are laid out for us objectively.
We underestimate the power of our choices and we take away our autonomy by viewing the world that way.
We must put ourselves first and give everything in the world subjective value. This means even putting ourselves before God in Choosing to believe in Him. We believe in Hashems because we subjectively want to.
This gives us tremendous power and adds so much more value to our choices.


Friday, October 12, 2012

there's this cheese


there's this cheese always catches my attention
in the supermarket costs $5.99

..and every time I pass
the brightly lit refrigerated
....row of cheeses
I think to myself day when I'm a

I'm going to buy
.....that cheese


Thursday, October 04, 2012

In the Shadow of Faith


We find the Jewish year anchored by two long holidays, Pesach and Sukkos.
The main Mitzvah of Pesach is eating matzah which is called Michla D'heimnusa, the bread of faith while the prime Mitzvah of Sukkos is sitting in the Sukkah which is called Tzila D'heimnusa, in the shadow of faith.
We have two objects representing faith, one is ingested inside us while the other surrounds and enfolds us. Many have already questioned why this is so, but based on my last post perhaps it can be understood as follows.

On Pesach the Jews placed great faith in Hashem by following Him out of Egypt into an intimidating barren unknown desert. All they had was some crustly hastily baked Matzah. Hashem still recalls those days fondly "Ko Amar Hashem..Zacharti Lach Chessed Nearayich..Lechtech Acharei Bamidbar...etc".
So we internalize our faith in Hashem every year by taking the Matzah inside ourselves.

On Sukkos which is right after Yom Kippur, Hashem places his faith in US and in our resolutions.  He grants us a good year because he believes in us.
So when we enter the Sukkah, the Shadow of Faith, Hashem is ingesting US. It's not our faith that we're talking about but Hashems. He internalizes his faith is us by taking us inside Himself.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Double Faith

We stand before the king with our requests and needs.
Please give us health...
And sustenance.
And life...
Our chances our pretty good.

But then we need to ruin it by saying...
Oh god not just for us but for my entire village...nah for the entire nation of Israel.
What kind of idiot does that?
What are the chances of that happening?
When was the last time a full year when by and EVERYONE had life, health and sustenance?
And yet we don't look at that...we have faith that this might just be that year...

God looks down at us asking for forgiveness.
He must wonder.
Gee this sounds familiar.
Didn't you promise me the same things last year?
When was the last time a year went by without you dirtying yourself with the same sins.
And yet He doesn't look at that.
V'chol Ma'aminim SheHu Eil Emunah. God has faith...that perhaps this might just be the year.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

The terror of Din

The reason why we are so calm and collected on the Day of Judgement is because as opposed to regular court cases where the judgement is in the hands of a judge or jury on Rosh Hashana we are in our own hands. We are defendant but we are also prosecutor and essentially we are judge and jury as well. It's entirely in our hands.
So why is it do terrifying?
That's precisely what makes it so terrifying.
Change is such a small thing but you have to REALLY want it.

The fact that we might miss out on this little thing called change and the underlying premise that we don't really want it enough.....that's the terror of these days.