Tuesday, December 27, 2005

How To Be A Slightly Poetic Modern Chassidic Orthodox Jewish Writer

Live in New York, where Jews can be Jews without Judaism. Question, but know when to accept. Be idealistic to a fault. Daven your way - in your own words, in silence. Meet angels in your dreams. Linger near the waters and rocks. Write before sunrise and after sunset. Welcome solitude and laughter. Love films by unafiliated Jews - Ernst Lubitsch's Trouble In Paradise and The Smiling Lieutenant; early to mid-Woody. Hide your kippah under a cap. Be impulsive. Revel in the rain. See truth and beauty in havdallah and lit candles. Find your place in your family. Absorb trivial details. Believe in souls. Watch from the sidelines. Live your fictions. Trust in Chassidic joy. Announce you are an artist to convince yourself. Get lost between the pages. Work in light and shadow. Overanalyze. Sculpt in clay, and wood and glass and food. Wherever you are, be in Jerusalem always. Sing a niggun. Aim for Malamud and Singer and Ishiguro; ignore them all. Save what matters. Note the leaves. Drink in the innocence of toddlers. Hurt easily. Find your kavannah. Move with the clouds. Dance for the moon. Acknowledge your difference. Listen to photographs. Take long walks on tree-lined paths. Make time for hitbodedut. Champion the uninvited. Write stories around lines and curves. Struggle with the burdens of your people. Give up. Start again. Miss friends. Answer to all your names. Languish in the serenity of shabbat. Admit when you are wrong. Re-create your life. Avoid television - not for religious reasons, for peace of mind. Feel yourself fading. Hold fierce to independence. Believe in possibilities still. Write what you know. Feel guilty about it. Expand time. Avoid centers and edges. Swirl with music in the air. Chart something. Wear gray in a sea of black. Search for the impossible. Be reserved and free. Dream. Dream. Dream. Disdain hypocrisy. Keep Torah with you. Remember to breathe. Be drawn to the mystical. Recoil and return. Crave closeness and depth. Avoid definition. Believe in hashgacha pratis. Let "Lecha Dodi" and "Ani Ma'amin" touch you. Smile wide and often. Laugh fully. Acknowledge kindness. Trace the seven strap marks tefillin has made on your arm. Search for precedents. Know your worth. Derive pleasure from the wind in a night sky. Be a Jew. Wish to be a Jew you can be comfortable with.

34 comments:

westbankmama said...

I would add one thing - keep writing like this on my blog. (so that others can enjoy - I certainly do)

Eshet Chayil said...

Such a beautiful post.

'laizer said...

I love it. A beautiful self portrait of a beautiful person.

Some nice movements -
Live your fictions.
Work in light and shadow.
Answer to all your names.

You can also remix to great effect -
Work in Jerusalem kavannah
Drink in the uninvited burdens of your people

Pragmatician said...

I've never felt more comfortable being Jewish than when staying in New York!

MC Aryeh said...

WestBankMama - Thanks for the kind words, I hope you enjoy the reading as much as I enjoy the writing...

Eshet - Thank you!

'laizer - Spoken like a true maggid - it's only a good story if you add to it - or remix it (very DJ Spinbad of you)! You are a very holy soul. Thank you for the compliment. A self-portrait is a tricky thing, usually. Too confining. But I think this has life and flow and movement (as you say) - I wouldn't know any other way to do it...

Prag - How do you feel as a Jew in Belgium? Everything you would need to be an observant Jew is here in NY - but it is made just as easy to be a cultural Jew here too. A double edged sword...

Shoshana said...

It's so not fair that you are able to express in such a beautiful way many of the thoughts and feelings I often have, except so much more eloquently than I ever could.

I really love so many of the statements you include here - the one that I would change though, is instead of wearing gray in a sea of black, I would wear color - blue, purple, green, red.

Btw - I bought Interpreter of Maladies for airplane reading for my trip to Israel - thanks for the suggestion! Oh, and the link on your blogroll. Chanukah Samayach!

Stacey said...

MC: You are the quintessential artist. This was just lovely. You are so genuine and unique. Your words are like candy for my soul.

Elster said...

The belessing to you MC is that you continue to live these very words that you write.

torontopearl said...

What wonderful "thought pictures", McAryeh. (And you are definitely not "slightly poetic"...)

This could be the NY Jewish version of the "JUST DO IT" print ad that Nike used to run.

David_on_the_Lake said...

And then get married......

lol

Chazarmaveth said...

"Announce you are an artist to convince yourself"

perfect! right on the money, MCA!

TKSC said...

love the lines -
love the :
absorb trivial details,
and
answer to all your names...

but wheres the chanting, buying useless gifts, not answering questions, evalauating the benefits of chinese medicine, bath days, telepathy.... theres so much more

MC Aryeh said...

Shoshana- I am glad you can relate. I would love a little color, but a guy only has so much leeway in certain parts of the Orthodox world...good choice on Interpreter Of Maladies. Hope you like it. So wish I were in Israel right now...

Stacey- It's been said before, but you just rock!

Elster- Thanks for the beautiful bracha. I wish you the same. I think David may have it right though...

Pearl- "Thought pictures" is a great phrase! I love it! If only you saw my poetry, you might say that even "slightly poetic" is pushing it! Thanks for the boost...

David- LOL. I know. That's why I want to capture it now. Would be a very different "thought picture" were I married...

ChazMav- I knew you'd be able to relate...

TKSC- Half of those would be on your list, not mine! - the chanting, telepathy, bath days. The not answering questions is only for women who bring bags of dried papaya on our dates. I will see if I can squeeze the other two in somewhere....you got a big laugh out of me...

Jack's Shack said...

As some would say, you done good.

Lvnsm27 said...

Wow, that's really nice stuff.

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I wonder how many people read this the way i did, going down the list and saying, "check," "check," "check."



Supposedly this new Woody is a great movie. As the fisherman's wife said; we shall see.

In many circles it seems that davening is perceived to be about the opposite of silence and peace.

Baseball cap or candriver cap? Logo or blank?

Did you listen to the big photo on the front of the Times today? Wow.

A chasid of Shlomo Carlebach that really knew him during his life told me that as open as Reb Shlomo was he made sure to announce that he was a Jew, so any angle you'd view him from you'd know so.

Leo Buscaglia used to fill his livingroom floor space with the fall leaves (after his neighbor complained that he hadn't cleared them off his lawn).

Today I bought Guster's Keep it together. It's great. Almost meditative. My folksy new agey station is making a big deal about the Decemberists, for my money Guster is a kinder and gentler Decemberists. I checked out the Zambonis, but I don't think i know enough about hockey to actually buy and get very into the album. My looking into the 2 bands confirmed my guess about which of them was the more silly side and which the more harmonic and poetic.

Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear A Whispering Soul,

Absolutely gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!!

I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch

oishkapipik said...

MC!!!
I think if someone printed this one out they would have to ask a question whether they could disgard it in a regular manner or have to put it in geniza??

Not that one would ever want to disgard it, but if they had to for some reason!!

MC Aryeh said...

Jack - What I done do?

lvnsn27- Thank you.

Neil- Not sure about others, but I definitely read it the way you did, with checks. Your comment here would make a lovely post in its own right. I have heard the new Woody is not up to par with the old Woody, but is great in comparison to anything he has put out in the last 6 years. I do not want to be in the circles where davening is not at least partly about silence. Kind of hat and logo or no vary by the day -sometimes it is a straight up kippah. Did not read or listen to the Times today. What did I miss? I think most Jews can't help but announce themselves, even if they are unaware of it. Leaves in the living room sounds a lot like love to me. I am with you on Guster vs. Zambonis, but I also like the Decemberists...

Alan- Thanks for the kind words.

Oishkapipik- You are giving Alex a real run for his money on the funny meter...

Jack's Shack said...

You did well. You do a masterful job of painting a picture with style and grace.

turquoiseblue said...

MC, beautiful insight into an obviously beautiful, poetic soul.

Btw, I had so many similar thoughts in mind when writing a
(9-word lazy version of a) poem on my blog... if you get to visit and read... let me know if you see (even a hint) of what I see...

Freilichin Chanuka!

Sara said...

I know I'm late and that someone for sure said this-- but that was amazing. It was a perfect combination...I loved it. It really meshed the personal and the chassidic, things I always had trouble combining in my mind. Thank you, thank you.

Genendy said...

Beautiful.

Simcha said...

Don't wish to be too comfortable... it isn't compatible with life/growth.
Some of us aren't able to really pull off the Frum guy in disguise bit (mainly due to payis and beard), although there are those who say that no one can really pull it off.

MC Aryeh said...

Jack- You are very kind.

Turquoise Blue & Genendy - Thank you. TB, Heading over to read your poem now...

Sara- You're welcome. You're welcome. And thank you for stopping by.

Simcha-"Be a Jew. Wish to be a Jew you can be comfortable with."

Interesting. That is not what I meant by comfortable. I was thinking more in terms of being a Jew free of compromises and procrastinations, a Jew comfortable in my skin - not a Jew who is complacent. I don't think I could present myself other than as a frum person, regardless of exteriors. I imagine you are the same way. Can we get a picture of the payis on House Of Joy, or better yet, on Darchei Simcha?

Elster said...

Yes, MC, and to get married too. I don't like to say it cause it sounds condescending, but if you bring it up I guess it's ok

Jack's Shack said...

MC,

Not kind, I am honest.

tafka PP said...

Oh my, that's a whopping to-do list if I ever saw one. Keep us informed as to your progress!

Ezzie said...

Wow. Incredible list.

I think I thought "check!" by all but two or three... :)

hKetG said...

Oh, so that's how it's done...Wonderful post!

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

On the Woody question, exhibit A from the NY Times:

In "Match Point," his most satisfying film in more than a decade, the director once again brings the bad news, delivering it with a light, sure touch. This is a Champagne cocktail laced with strychnine. You would have to go back to the heady, amoral heyday of Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder to find cynicism so deftly turned into superior entertainment.

Check it out soon before to have to log in or pay to see it, at

http://movies2.nytimes.com/2005/12/28/movies/28matc.html?pagewanted=print

sistersoul said...

good random musings shmi...interesting to see what goes on in ur head :-)

MC Aryeh said...

Elster- I think David meant that I can dream this way because I am not yet married. But I will take the bracha gladly. Thank you. Why would you think it woould be condescending?

Jack - They are not mutually exclusive, so we will have to go with both kind and honest, I guess...

Purple Parrot- Will do.

Ezzie- So curious - Which two or three did not resonate with you? Would have thought much more than 2 or 3 would not, as the list seemed so idiosyncratic and personal to me....

Hketg- Thanks!! The way it's done? Maybe. But it is definitely the way I do it...

Neil- I have seen some good reviews too, but also:

From Newsweek: Though the tale is told with crisp sangfroid and a wonderful twist, there's hardly a scene I haven't seen somewhere else.

From TV Guide: This thin chronicle of bad behavior among the rich and self-obsessed is above all painfully derivative, borrowing wholesale from Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" and echoes Allen's own "Crimes and Misdemeanors."

From The Village Voice: A modest and mildly pretentious mediocrity in the Woodman canon.

From Salon: Match Point is a fatally neat exercise in detached craftsmanship, and maybe that's the best we can expect from Allen at this point.

Still, nice to see a Woody film getting some good spin. The last one I really liked was "Deconstructing Harry" - 8 years ago!

SisterSoul- Not sure this should be taken as a representation of what usually goes on in my head...but thanks!

Hannah said...

This is absolutely stunning.
Is it alright with you if I print some of it out and paste it in the back of my siddor for those moments when you need to be reminded of how to live, how to pray, how to seek?

It is not easy to be a Jew alone, like a fish in a fishbowl....

Thank you for bringing me back to my own life with stunning clarity.