Thursday, October 19, 2006

New guy on the block

To quote Mick Jagger, "Allow me to introduce myself."

I call myself Kishnevi because my grandfather was from Kishinev, and in casting about for a Hebrew handle, it worked a lot better than anything that approximated my real name. There's already a lot of Yaakovs and Yankels about, and my secular name is a sturdy AngloSaxon thing. Papa Ben (no one ever used Zayde in my family) changed it because he was told Smid was too German sounding, in the aftermath of WWI. So now I get to pull out my ID every so often to prove that I am legally entitled to sign myself J. Smith. My other grandfather was a schliach tzibbur, and since his family name was Shatz, I suspect he was not the first in the family to serve thus. The only time he did not fill that position in some synagogue or other was the year he was in mourning for my grandmother. They came over from "the old country" as children, and were married on July 4, 1911--over sixty five years together. But Grandpa Shatz was as close to a rabbi or scholar as I have (to my knowledge) in the family tree. I was raised Conservative, with a serious secular education that reached through college to law school (although I no longer actively practice law), and only minimal Jewish education. Everything I know on Jewish matters I learned on my own. Over the years, I've tried to make sure I learn a lot, but I'm sure I know less than many sixteen year olds. On the benefit side of the ledger, this means I will not inflict you with Yeshivish. And I certainly will not attempt any profound Rabbinic teaching. My attention will probably be more Musar, Kabbalah, philosophy, and secular politics and culture. I'm a libertarian in terms of politics, so you may expect anti-Bush screeds. But you may also see Bach and Shostakovich and Thomas Kyd, and PseudoDionysius to boot. You may also expect some preaching on the subject of autism, since I'm an aspie--a high functioning autistic. The facts that I have never married and believe in G-d are both intimately related to that fact. I have Crohn's disease, which also has a important role in my spiritual life.

And now, I return you to your regularly scheduled programs...

Blessed is He Who formed me according to His Will;
Blessed is He Who gave us minds to think with.
As He is Perfect Who is the Creator, so are all His creations perfect,
Each in their own way and according to the nature with which He endowed them.
May it be His Will that we come to understand the perfection of all things.
As He is Master over all His Works, so nothing happens which is not according to His Will;
And thus there is nothing which is not good, but only seems bad because of our own limitations.
May it be His Will that we come understand the good that is all things:
May it be His Will that we see the holy and the not-yet-holy*,
And find the way to make the not-yet-holy holy.
May it be His Will that His Will be our will.
--Yaakov Baruch ben Pinchas ben Binyamin ha-Kishnevi

*Based on a saying of Rav Kook, to the effect that we should think not of the sacred and profane but of the sacred and the-not-yet-sacred.

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