Thursday, December 14, 2017

Light of Torah

Comments and ideas on the parshah of the week.  Let's begin with this week's parshah Mikeitz which always falls on or close to Chanukah.  Please add your comments.

Question:  Why does the Torah tell us Yosef shaved when he is rushed out of prison to appear before Pharoah?  The Torah is very exact and doesn't give a detail for no reason.  Rashi tells us Yosef shaved in honor of the throne.  A further question is that later when his brothers come to Egypt to buy food, Rashi brings that the reason they don't recognize Yosef is that they last saw him when he had no beard, but now he has a full beard.  How  then could Yosef have shaved for Pharoah?  And why don't the brothers recognize him by his eyes, his voice, his whole bearing... ? 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jordan River - photo

Jordan River - Photo How could a river, calm and still - A river I never saw - Speak like a native place familiar to my soul. Beautiful in the photo filling the screen The river's surge and flow - A path of light on its waters kept widening, And I could have touched the wood Of slender trees bent low over its banks. Hour after hour I looked back At the dark-light shift on its quiet waters. "Oh river Jordan - what are you telling me?" Swift as light from its depth a line of verse Rose straight up and I heard: "Deep and still is my love". So I turned to letters of thought and drew out these words from fathoms Down in my heart. "Deep and still is my love - Like a river - miles away yet always Found in its source - I wait for the day when I will sing with you, oh Jordan. When the muddied currents of exile No longer impede and obscure - Then as pure mountain waters, As freshwater streams restored, We will sing and clap our hands, river Jordan -Widening forever towards the light."

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Morning Light

Morning Light Step forth this day Past the yellow fig leaves Enormous and bright at their fall - Past the tall pines Letting down the early sun. Before you turn to go, look back At the leaves in the golden light. You too are in sight of the fall, Holding on each day in the dim chamber G-d has given you. Soon,very soon He will take you out, And for the first time in years That will not matter, The early light of morning Will gild your inner world As - always - it has graced your outer.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Swift Express

, Swift Express A messenger arrived swift express This morning mild October day - It sat on the wire above the fence Having its aerial say. Above the fence that divides my wall From sky and endless space, It sang out for all its worth A full ten minutes away. I stood amazed, unmoving in my place - What a lot of little noise In such a record-breaking stay! It seemed a call flung forth For better skies than ours scored thick With cries in minor key - Why else, when song was further From my life than sound is lost at sea, Did it arrive post haste and sing So long before it flew away?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Going for Broke

Aug. 28, '13

                             Going for Broke

      I always wanted a picket-fence happiness -
      Fluttering white curtains gladly letting in the days -
      Yellow daisies on the sill catching the breeze -
      Neighbors stopping with their 'hi' to express.
      Oh pleasant streets with no outcry night or day -
      You are elusive  -
       I'd have to search in small-town U.S.A. -
       Or live in a suburb gated and exclusive.
       So if the King grants whatever I ask, I'll go for broke!
       Bring on, O King, the vine and fig tree bona fide good -
       In one stroke, the whole world would be
       A picket-fence neighborhood!
       In such event, I might go into real estate soon -
       Supply and demand would give the housing market
                                                a spectacular boom.

Breaking Free

      Aug. 14, '13

                                   Breaking Free

      We're told and I believe it:
      The world every second is being created anew -
      On the atomic level, this is shown to be true -
      But not till 'end of days' will we see it.
      I try to imagine making coffee in the morning -
      (Likely to appear mundane) -
      With cup and spoon constantly dawning -
      Old habits of seeing block and constrain.
      It's shown moving only a milimeter
      Makes a sea-change in the mind as in space -
      I saw things from a fresh new interior,
     When I had my coffee in a different place.
     Who knows! I may break free from the straits of the sonnet,
     Though it's no secret I'm exceedingly fond of it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Reckless Choice

     July 31, '13

                                 The Reckless Choice

                                           "I shall set forth for somewhere.
                                             I shall make the reckless choice..."

                  I saw a woman 'of a certain age', as they say,
                  Riding a bike in  the center of town, -
                  I said to myself - 'write that down' -
                  I also will make the reckless choice some day.
                  I'll travel in style to Tel Aviv -
                  And walk for miles by the Mediterranean -
                  I'll dance in a show with joie de vivre -
                  Or take a class in the artifacts of Mesopotania.
                  I'll spend a fabulous summer in Atlantic City,
                  Where I'll walk the boardwalk and take in the ocean,
                   I may try a casino on a wild notion -
                   Or get my photo taken on the beach "sitting pretty".
                   Whatever I don't do, I'll write in a sonnet -
                   Which is almost as good as acting upon it.

Rap Song of the Sixties

July 31, '13

                             Rap Song of the Sixties

        Ain't no way I'm gonna stay on this no-exit street -
        Move back people  -  I say move back!
        I'm comin' through on a march and high-stride feet -
        I'm takin' a radical new tack.
        People say:  "Sink on down - make no fuss!" -
        I'm raisin' a storm, man, -  I'm gonna act!
        No more sittin' in the back of the bus -
        I'm takin' a right and left new tack!
        Gonna get me some education -
        I'm talkin' 'I-V' leagues - Harvard and Yale -
        Gonna bring more justice to this fair nation -
        Ain't no way - no way! - I'm gonna fail.
        This here is my country too - I also got stakes -
        Don't be surprised if one day I get to be
                                      President of the United States.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Building the Bais HaMikdash

       July 17, '13

                          Building the Bais HaMikdash

      I found today the brand of marmalade I sought -
      The avocado cream I wanted,
      The perfect little towel I had vainly hunted,
      And thanked HaShem for finding me the things I bought.
      Lest you think nothing could add to a felicitous day -
      In a neighborhood where I had rarely been,
      I saw the tallest date-palm I had ever seen -
      Higher than high buildings it held sway.
      Thanks and praise in one day was sufficient,
      But would not have been complete
      Without giving a coin to someone in the street:
      Pleasure in my new things was not deficient.
      Small by small we bring redemption, with our knowledge
                                                              or without it -
      The Rambam himself tells us not to doubt it.

Expecting the Unexpected


    July 10, '13

                              Expecting the Unexpected

     Ever since assigned to write
     On a boon least expected,
     Daily I await something unexpected -
     A gift out of nowhere - a message of light.
     But a fact it is wrongheaded not to face -
     Is that hourly expecting an event
     Is sure guarantee it will not take place -
     Something at all costs I want to prevent.
     So I stopped awaiting a gratuitous gift -
     And I did it without delay -
     Glad I made of my folly short shrift -
     Since nothing was at my door next morning but the day.
     Un-do the Deceiver who obscures the truth with stealth!
     Slay it! Slay it! - the greatest boon is Life itself.

         June 26, '13

                                       'What If ' I Refuse...

       I think you thought I would reject the topic -
      Well I might -  well I might -
      But if inclined to the philosophic,
      I would say providence gave me an opening to write.
      I sought after class and the city's noise,
      The hushed quiet of a library -
      There I sat an hour immersed in poetry -
      Seeing mountains and  the windhover's exquisite poise.
      What if you could bodily enter the place a poem conveys -
      Be in Frost's woods on a snowy evening,
      Or in the garden at Amherst on a summer's day -
      Would your inner self be transformed on leaving?
      A poem is a breathtaking event in language -
                                               not the limning of a place -
      Besides  -  where your mind is  -   is where
                                               you actually are in space.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Consuming Occupation

June 19, '13

                          A Consuming Occupation

    Happy my years of teaching though passing few -
    Ever since I watched my fourth grade teacher stand
    And take the desk keys in her beautiful chalk- dusted hand,
    I have known what I wanted to do.
    But the past has claimed my teaching of the young -
    Newer things beckon ahead in the sun -
    Occupations may differ but all are life's summits,
    At my current peak, you can find me writing sonnets.
    What if I could combine poetry and writing,
    With teaching to a group of peers -
    Call it "a literary summit - hands on - exciting",
    Where choice of work and pleasure adheres?
    Recall Frost who wanted to make his avocation
                                       and vocation one -
    Earth and heaven benefit only when work is
                                       passionately done.

Color Me No Color

      June 12, '13   
                     Color Me No Color

   "I will raise aloft the milk-white rose" -
   I didn't write that but the Poet everyone knows -
   That is why I sit like a fractious little scholar,
   Stubbornly refusing to write about color.
   "My luv is like a red red rose" penned the Scotish bard.
   Why was he the first and last to write it?
   Time's anthologies find perennial delight in it -
   Could such an unadorned utterance have been so hard?
   Genius is a simple thing when all is said -
   It cannot be understood or explained.
   It takes hold of color and lifts it above the mundane -
   White is whiter through its craft - redder red.
   Ask me to write on flowers, I'll take my stand -
   But 'color' alone! - this little poet sits with folded hands.

No Problem - No solution

             June 5, '13

                             No Problem - No Solution

   It's a real dilemma finding a resolution
   To the problem given as an assignment -
   To wit:  'finding a solution'.
   You could call it non-poetic alignment.
   If you scanned all of Shakespeare to Emerson's time,
   (Fairly most poets in the medium),
   I doubt you'd find 'solution' even for the rhyme -
   The word is a non-conductor - too plebian.
   Such words belong to widely different genres -
   Mathematics or behavioral psychology,
   Disciplines not given to subtle entendre.
   If anywhere in verse, perhaps a neo-modern anthology.
   Far be it for me to dismiss ideas out of hand -
   'Solution' might figure in a poem - it just wouldn't be grand.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

                    May 29. '13

                           Sonnet On Line

          To take off with any word through time
          Challenges the sonnet beyond capacity -
          It cannot hold a train of thought and memory -
          How much more if one considers the word 'line'.
          For a line in reality is infinite -
          Even though, like light or a circle, it bends.
          Whereas "hold that line" is a mark most definite,
          An ideal line is something that never ends.
          The 'line' is turning out a long discovery -
          I can take it to the beginning of all things created,
          And show how everything is inter-related;
          A line is essential for the past's recovery.
          The sonnet is limited on detail and fact -
          But for fourteen lines it does 'pretty good' for the abstract.


      May 29, '13


     I wish to make it clear from the start -
     Jerusalem is my spiritual city of birth -
     I love its stones - I love its earth,
     But I have a dual-citizen heart.
     United States of the great American way -
     You have always had your defamers,
     But I was born in Phila. - city of the Framers,
     And I'm proud to be "made in the USA".
     U - endowed by the Creator with life and liberty -
     S - say can you see the stars and stripes -
     A - land of faultlines yet brave and free -
     U.S. of the Constitution and Bill of  Rights.
     Simple would it be if I was a citizen of one nation,
     But the heart if a gracious land, looking kindly
                                                         on annexation.
                                April 24, '13
                        Unseasonable Weather

              When I consider my inner weather -
              How I can ride a string of sunny days -
              And from nowhere grey clouds obscure my skies -
              I say:  weather is nothing if not a metaphor.
              What's the meaning in an April so unseasonable?
              I, for one, don't mind winter months in spring.
              Roses are no worse off for the cold and rain -
              That doesn't make it less unreasonable.
              People say it's a spiritual maelstrom -
              Cosmic forces affecting the oceanic.
              Incidents abound of hurricanes and hailstorms -
              The talk tends to be messianic.
              It's safe to say that outer turmoil and reversal
              Are a metaphor for the inner - and vice versal.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

         May 22, '13     

                                 Standing at the Mountain

        I'm standing in my stroller seven months old
        On the boardwalk of Atlantic City -
        Small and timeless I am, as I hold the handlebars
        And look at the world with an infant's pure simplicity.
        I think we stood at Sinai in such a stance -
        (Newborn nation - nation of newborns) -
        G-d restored us to our primal innocence,
        And with fatherly love called us His firstborn.
        Nothing has ever changed that fact -
        Though twice exiled from our land,
        Our core-essence remains intact:
        The nation who said: We will do and then understand.
        We're told full restoration of our souls is in reach -
        So I keep hold - deep within, waiting to be redeemed,
                                                is the baby on the beach.

   May 8, ,13

                                   Fear Only One

        Nothing in school scared me more than math -
        Multiplication was a monster I could tame -
        I knew its tables and charts by name -
        Fractions were the numerical nightmare in my path.
        Then came problems - (if Frank has three and John nine) -
        On my terrifying list ranked a close second -
        The very sight of them froze my ability to reckon -
        My arrested skill never unfroze with time.
        So great was my fear of a failing grade -
        Once, when teacher went out for a quick meeting,
        I left my seat and asked a friend for aid -
        The closest I ever came to cheating.
        Oh little scholar who dreaded math -
        Subtract all your fears and leave only one:
                           the fear of divine wrath.

                      May 1, '13

                               L'ag B'Omer - Beauty Within Beauty

                 I always thought a single rose,
                 White or red - in a fluted vase
                 Was the height of beauty.  One never knows -
                 It turns out two or more colors is what stays.
                 Viewed in a homiletic way,
                 Qualities that are compounds and blends
                 Relate one to another - interplay.
                 Admixture of color towards harmony tends.
                 Even in the actual flower that grows -
                 I have to stand as one corrected -
                 I saw how loveliness was perfected
                 In the slight-pink petals of the all-white rose.
                 Beauty - unlike the single red flower - is not exclusive,
                 But like the heavenly spheres distinct but inter-inclusive.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


          April 17, '13                      

                                    Independence Day - 5773

I watched the Jewish boy walk the line of traffic
Selling blue and white flags - he walked against the wind
Putting them in his bag like arrows in their quivers.
He did his job as if it was easy - not a hard endeavor.
And today I saw the air show over Jerusalem's market -
Four planes like metal copies of the paper ones boys sail
Soared in close 'V' formations -
Scoring the sky with loud sonic racket.
'Proud moments,' some say, 'but there's a snag -
From a peace that's lasting we're still really far.'
'Not so - when you reach out your hand to buy a flag -
This very day you could hear the great shofar.'
And stock reply though it be, may 5773
Usher in Israel's ultimate victory.


                      March 31, '13

                 On Being Assigned to Write About Preparing              

        I find myself unprepared to write about 'preparing' -
        It's too much the commonplace norm.
        Poetry's disdain is unsparing -
        What have chores to do with the sonnet form!
        No sooner gets uttered so flat a denial -
        A fact appears like an illumination:
        It took nearly a thousand years of thought preparation
        For G-d to make the world a place that is viable!
        Now there's a paradigm without parallel,
        Whereby all mundane acts of preparing
        Become both necessary and invaluable.
        Woe to my mistake so glaring!
        The point is to take life's dull metal proper,
        And small-hammer it into brightest copper.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Spring Spring


   I never liked spring -
   Not that I enjoy holding exotic views,
   Or am a malcontent like the fabled Scrooge -
   My reserve is not a negative thing.
   The blossoming pear and yellow buttercup
   Are dear to me as all who love the season -
   I like the impressionist way the trees green up -
   If not for this, sorry would be my reason.
   The fact is on this beleagured globe -
   March - once here - summer looms ahead.
   Spring's become a passing flash on the road
   And summer a thing to dread.-
   Return the spring that begins in March and through May runs wild -
   Restore those bright June days and summers mild!                         

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Joys of the sonnet

       Feb. 13, '13

                                             Peering Into the Future

                                   Whenever  I think of the thin line
                                    Of infinite light drawn into the void
                                    Before Creation, I have to smile -
                                    It's so visually disposed - so sadly flawed.
                                    The same holds true for the worlds
                                    Depending from the line at their inception -
                                    Verily my mind is a cave that's sealed -
                                    Only material images enter my conception.
                                    Peering through a crevice, however -
                                    I make out a light barely perceivable.
                                    It comes and goes - at times irretrievable,
                                    Destined to shine, I'm told, forever.
                                    Imagine seeing the energy sustaining a table!
                                    I've tried but, of course, am unable.

Feb. 21, '13
                                                         A Great Deliverance    

                                     All the streets I have ever tread
                                     Converge at this shore where I am standing -
                                     The waters will part at instant commanding -
                                     A radically new place lies straight ahead.
                                     Who could know I would have to contend
                                     With such rising waves relentlessy tossing?
                                      Fortunate was I to solely depend
                                      On the One who achieved my miniature crossing.
                                      Almost - almost the passage is made -
                                      But where are the words of my song at the sea?
                                      Must I hold myself back and patiently wait
                                      Till the exact moment prepared for me?
                                      Wait! wait! - no song of salvation was ever sung
                                      Before a great deliverance had actually begun.

Feb. 28, '13

                                                         Joys of the Sonnet

                                       The sonnet is a form most satisfying -
                                       It is to the soul artistic
                                       What a molecule is to the scientific -
                                       Design, in art or nature, is highly gratifying.
                                       Note its prescribed parameter:
                                       The rhyme scheme traditionally Shakespearean,
                                       The rhythm iambic pentameter,
                                       Study there its pattern Petrarchean.
                                       Easy to see how words in formal measure -
                                       And rigidly formal at that -
                                       Are essential to poetic pleasure -
                                       The ear is the only true judge of this fact.
                                       So long live the sonnet! - but let it be noted -
                                       Greatest joy belongs to the one who wrote it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The President Goes to Paterson

The governor and local officials gratefully await
The arrival of the President.
He will greet the area's hard-hit residents
After flooding left them devastated in its wake.
Though he visits only Paterson, with a brief stop in Wayne,
People all along the Jersey shore
Are comforted and reassured
The President is coming himself to see their pain.
"Floodwaters have inundated our soul",
And we too await the arrival of our King.
We yearn for the comfort only He can bring,
The aid and assistance needed to make our lives whole.
It's been a long time coming round -
But we're waiting on the tarmac for His plane to touch down.

The Olive Tree

I'd like to think the olive tree braves the storm,
But that's fond self-projection -
With winter's blows the olive goes along -
Its innate strength the best protection.
Wild winds dash its branches to and fro -
Like silver tresses unloosed by a gale -
You'd think the unleashed forces were its foe -
The small tree emerges hearty and hale.
Take its gnarled diminutive trunk,
Holding firm like mightier trees -
A fictive pen would say it had spunk -
It survives only by Divine decree.
True it is the tree's fruition
Comes with the oil it was created for -
Still I grant the claim of intuition
It was also made to be a metaphor.
So praise the brave olive tree down to its roots -
The embattled olive - yielding its fruits.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Poems on the Seven Species

I never saw a field of wheat -
"Yet know I how it looks" -
Nor had I known a single sheaf -
Except I found it in a book.

Wheat - it said - before it's made
The staff of life -
Must first be broken, crushed and ground -
Like the soul - I thought -
Processed in the mill of life -
Becomes whole and choice and sound.

The barley seed breaks apart
In the dark earth - emerging re-born -
Not unlike the wheat stalk -
Though drab of mien and forlorn.

How can so poor a grain
Count among the seven kinds?
One may well ask the reason why -
But aside from what our wisdom finds,
There may be more to barley than meets the eye.

Gather your clustered grapes
From the autumn vine -
If one falls - but no more than two -
Retrieve them not -
And in the seventh year,
Harvest not your store.

Thus says the Lawgiver in His law Divine -
Praise His compassion for Rich and Poor.

Rejoice in the spreading fig tree -
Its wide leaves fan the sky
And shade the earth below -
Its purple fruit ripens slow.

Anticipate its first-ripe fig -
The one in days gone by
Bound with reed-grass and brought -
With song and flute and drum -
Up to the altar in Jerusalum.

Precious pomegranate -
Red and rotund -
Your seeds run life-giving liquid -
Their numbered hundreds reason defies.

You grow a small apple in size
To that of a globe -
Of all the fruits, you alone
Adorn the hem of the High Priest's robe.

The small olive tree
Holds its own in winter.
Winds toss leafy branches -
Like unloosed tresses to and fro -
Its upturned leaves show silver.

Trees blossom -
The dove sings -
Olives go to presses -
And then the oil comes
That once anointed the heads of kings.

The leaves of the palm tree wave -
Like glistening banners in the sky -
Its fruit grows in a perch windy and sunny.

Praise the beautiful palm
And its sweet fruit on high -
Praise the land of milk and honey.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter-deprived - 5771

It was the wind
Like the crack of a whip -
The kind that goes right through -
It was the old sunlight I knew,
Angled low on stone -
It was the long bright vista
Streets had become.

My soul's writ large
In wintry things -
I love the wind - its howl and roar -
The lash and toss of trees
As if they would uproot themselves
And fly from languid fixity -
The upsurge of every planted entity,
The whirl and flight of leaf and twig -
The light beyond the sandstorm.

That stormday in Teveth
I came alive. I marveled
How long it was that I had been

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Girl on Bus - Jerusalem"

A girl got on the bus today
Who reminded me of
My friend Elaine in our youth -
The same sharp Modigliani nose,
The heavy hair piled high,
The serious eyes.
If I mention her worn grey coat,
Her purple scarf, her brown boots -
It's only because I found myself
Taking in everything about her.
I tried to be discreet
But she had a shy awareness
Of being looked at, so I feigned
Interest in the rain-soaked sky,
The familiar bus route going by.
She was tall and could have been
Imposing - but she looked vulnerable -
Her dark eyes wandering from this to that
Having nothing but a black umbrella
In her lap.

When she got up to leave
I suddenly wanted to tell her
She was beautiful, but my words
Couldn't find their moment,
So I sent them flying out the bus,
Not wanting the streets to swallow her -
Not wanting to let her go
Without some kind of blessing.

-Down and Out in Phila.

"Ain't no way
I'm gonna love what is
When what is adds up
To what ain't.
I got my rent to pay
And on top of that
They're tearing down
The project in a month -
So I could be without a roof.
I ain't even got a decent suit
For the job search -
And I'm twenty-six, man! -
Give me a break -
Sure I believe - I believe
But some folks got dealt
A hard hand - a hard hand.

I'm not complaining -
Just laying my cards on the table.
You say the world's gonna be
A beautiful place - no more hunger -
No more war - count me in, man,
Count me in - but I ain't seen it yet.
It's like saying I shouldn't sing the blues
If the Phillies lose the world series
Because good things are on the way -
If they lose, I got a cold sky, a cold sky
Over my head for weeks -
But count me in, man -
I ain't complaining - just
Telling it like it is."