New York

True Feet

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There is a custom among some Jews to eat foods made from feet on our Sabbath. Okay that sounds gross, but fellow earthlings (and mom), please, let us open our minds to the cultures of the world...

Right then, as we were. So feet. Not human feet mind you. Maybe chicken feet, or cow feet. Some time back I was in Switzerland and had some jelly made from cow hoofs. It was pretty darn good.

One of the reasons given (in the big book of reasons that I've been skimming through) is that Shabbos is the day of truth. All week long we're involved in the world, a world which covers over G-d and makes it sometimes hard to remember and live the truth. But on Shabbos we are able to remove ourselves a bit and look at the big picture.

Now here comes the cool part. The way falseness gets its sustenance is from having a veneer of truth. No one believes straight up lies, there has to be some sort of truth woven in, usually from the part that matters least. The end so to speak. Well not the end end. That is usually a summary. Almost the end. The Hebrew word for falseness is "Sheker", as such:

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Notice how it's made up of 3 of the last 4 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet (Aleph Bet), namely, Kuf, Reish, and Shin.

Truth on the other hand is “Emes”, as such:

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There is Alef (the first letter), Mem (the middle letter), and Tuf (the last). For truth is always true, be it at the beginning, the middle or the end. Now or later, here and there.

“What does that have to do with feet?” you ask. Sheesh, I’m getting there, just because this is the internet, doesn’t mean I have to be brief.

Another aspect of the falseness, is that while it may look imposing and impressive, it’s quite easy to knock over. In Hebrew there is an expression “it doesn’t have legs”. If you look at the first word, all the letters are precarious. Perfectly balanced on a web of deceit, just one breath of truth and all those letters come crashing down. “Emes”, truth, on the other hand “has legs”. Each letter is firmly placed on a plateau of time-tested axioms, principles, and good ol’e facts.

And that’s why we eat feet on Shabbos. Truth, Legs, Feet, Sabbath. You got it.


In our recent move and the life-changes that have come along with it, I’ve been working hard at making sure the truths in my life stay in the foreground. It’s easy to forget why we do the things we do, and to get lost in those things themselves. It’s how many of us just keep on doing what’s done, instead of asking why at each junction. And it’s what I’m been trying to fight.


In an entirely unrelated vein, here are some photos of the truly lovely family.

Peace, love, and sautéed, sustainably-harvested, organic chicken feet.

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This is their “don’t make me get my shotgun from my pickup truck” face.

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Chana & Yehuda Get Hitched!

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So it is. It's been a few weeks since I've officially quit social media (I say officially because I do have an occasional relapse), maybe a month and a bit, I'm not sure, haven't been keeping track. I'd like to say my life is utterly different, but that would be a lie. It is however, getting better, and, honestly, is there anything more one could hope for? Happiness, saddnes, joy, boredom, it isn't a state one is in, but a direction one takes. Better though doesn't necessarily mean better from bad, thank G-d my life is good, but good can always be better.

For those not yet in the know, I've replaced my Facebook family photo postings (which I miss) with a tumblr blog. If for some odd reason, you miss seeing photos of my little ones, feel free (feel free? I'm not even sure what that is supposed to mean) to visit, follow it, bookmark it, type it in each morning, whatever.


A few months back I had the privilege of attending the wonderful wedding of Chana and Yuda in the capacity of a shoot-whatever/however-you-want photographer. I wasn't the main, and I wasn't even a second. It was wonderful. As professionals we must deliver a proven product, yet being in the visual arts field we also must constantly improve our vision, technique, process, etc. But experimenting on the client's dime is risky, and well, not very nice. Unless that's what they want. Which in this case they did. Yipee (spell check would rather two "p"s, which makes sense but looks weird)! I got to try out new lenses, new ways of exposing, developing, and shooting. Some worked better than others. All were fun. Always.

And here is the result. Enjoy!

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Chana is a talented photographer herself, check out her work here.

The state of New Jewish York Music

photo-6.jpg Warning: This might not make much sense to those not in the mainstream Jewish community, I will not be insulted if, when presented with a wall of indecipherable text, you choose to go straight to the photos.

It comes in waves. Sometimes there will be weeks of a sort of blissful non-awareness. And then there are times where I just can't get it out of my head. Like a sound that you're almost sure is there, but it's just beyond, beyond grasp, but definitely, yes positively, it's there. Lurking at the edges of your conscious. It's something I feel very strongly about, but have always had a hard time articulating it (I still do).

"Music is the pen of the soul".

Music being a major part of Judaism for a very, very long time. When the Jews beheld the miraculous defeat of the Egyptians after the splitting of the sea, they burst into spontaneous song.

The Book of Deuteronomy is gloriously filled with poetry, climaxing in the spectacularly worded song of Ha'azinu (Chapter 32).

Reading through the Scriptures, the word of G-d was presented through poetry and song.

We all know about King David and his Psalms. Has there ever before or since been such a book? Overflowing with love of G-d, humility, kindness, and truth? Most only know in its English translation, which contains but a sliver of its original genius. The original Hebrew version is like holding a song in your hand, grasping spirituality.

Throughout the generations great Jews have compiled poetry and music; deep, inspiring, and moving. We have the wonderful Shabbos hymns that are found in many Jewish homes. The Yedid Nefesh, a love song, which speaks of the yearning of the soul for G-d, which we sing every Friday afternoon; the L'cha Dodi, written by Shlomo Elkabatz; the three deeply kabbalistic poems written by the Holy Ari which we sing by each of the three Shabbos meals.

In the chassidic tradition there are "Niggunim". Soulful songs, very often without words, written by masters of spirituality, where every note, every rise and fall, represent a corresponding feeling of the soul. One could sing a niggun for hours, completely losing himself in his yearning.

We have always expressed our emotions towards G-d, the Torah, and our fellow Jews with poetry and music. For how else are we to express what we feel and know? Words are but a limited vessel, capable of transmitting ideas fairly well, but falling very short when it comes to emotions. And the deeper, the truer, the more real the emotion is the harder it gets to squeeze those feelings of the heart into cold and harshly limiting letters. So we sing; we sing high, we sing low. We use words against themselves, and convey meaning through breaking the rules, mixing truth and metaphor, parable with rhyme.

What has happened? Where are the poets, the music, the musicians, the songwriters? Looking at the current mainstream Jewish music landscape we are faced with a desert of soulless music. The songwriting (when it's not just words of Scripture) is embarrassingly shallow, lacking any deeper meaning than what's right in front of you. The Jewish "superstars" in the music world have for the most part nothing to do with their song, or the music involved. They have a pretty voice, and they sing mass produced songs which all sound the same (think bad pop from the 80's). The only depth they may have is stolen from Scripture, marrying the beauty of G-d's word with commercially driven drivel.

On the fringes, trying to get in, are the real artists. And they are there. Many wonderful bands, producing real music, with real lyrics, with a message that actually comes from somewhere inside. But for the most part it's a bleak scene.

"But the numbers work against us", you say. I don't buy it (and that's not because I download it for free). Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkle, Leonard Cohen, just a few Jews that come to mind. Lyrical geniuses, producing music which came from deep inside them. What they are saying is not the point, it's the fact that they are willing and able to. Are you saying that there is no one in the religious community that can express themselves with song? Who is able to, and wants to express his love of G-d? What does that say about us? For a group that is supposed to be deep, that is supposed to be a beacon of truth, we have a remarkably hard time expressing ourselves. We listen to shallow garbage expressing not a desire to become close to G-d but a desire to make sellable music. Is this what our hearts feel? Is our heart's pen being sold out to the highest bidder?

I don't know the reason, but I do know that in the religious schools, and the religious world at large, poetry is laughed at. We smile condescendingly at artists as if they were small children, dabbling in stupidity, wasting their time with narcissistic self expression.

Yes, at a level, obsessing with self expression is dangerous, but if we never learn to express what we feel, how will we ever know what we feel? If we never learn to express ourselves, how will we ever know who we are?

When I was in Yeshiva (religious school) both in Israel and New York I had a wonderfully eccentric learning partner. He had one of those five star notebooks in which he was always writing. He never let anyone see what was going on in his magical notebook.

He was the first person I met that wrote poetry, who actually took the time to express his thoughts and feelings in words an phrase which were distinctly his. People like him give me hope, that no matter what the present peer pressure presents, no matter how much we do things just because that's the way it's done, we can always rise up and be ourselves.

Recently I was in New York and got to roam around Manhattan for a day, meet up with said friend (who should be coming out with a book soon, I'll keep you posted), and find some food perhaps. Growing up I spent many years in New York, but seeing it through the eyes of a photographer was a totally different experience. So much life. So much happening. It's a crazy place, a photographers heaven, a partiers paradise, but thank you very much, I'll do my living somewhere sane.

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