Shabbat Shalom! An evening of celebration at Temple Beth El

When did my fascination with world religions start? I don’t really know, but I love learning about other faiths. It was a blessing to have worked with my dear friend Kamel from Egypt who taught me so much about Islam, and about Hinduism through my yoga teacher, Paritosh.

I did not knowingly have a Jewish friend until high school, and since then I have been intrigued by their culture and history. Last year I finally got to experience a Seder dinner, and last Friday I was generously invited to Shabbat services at temple Beth El in Boca Raton. What an experience!

One of our professors, Rabbi Larry Kotok, arranged for a group of students and faculty to visit Temple Beth El for Shabbat, I signed up right away. The Senior Rabbi, Dan Levin gave us a briefing before the service. It was a special service since it was Shabbat Shirah, a musical celebration of the separation of the Red Sea. Singer Elana Arian was brought in from New York to lead the celebrations and she did not disappoint.

The Temple has been recently renovated, and it is beautiful, very, very well done. It is very “homey”, beautifully carpeted, with nooks for chatting, a great bookshelf called Soaring Wisdom, a cute little gift shop, there is even a sculpture attributed to Salvador Dalí.

The whole thing was so beautiful, I must confess a couple of times during the service I was overcome with emotions. After the service, we were invited to a great BBQ dinner in the patio, we chatted with some members of the congregation before saying good-bye.

My first Passover Seder

Coming from fairly isolated early 70s Spain I was never exposed to Jewish culture until we moved to NY in the late 70s. I was fascinated, and have been since. Although many times there has been talk of me going to a Passover Seder it ended up never materializing. It finally happened when the Rabbi who teaches at my school hosted a Passover Seder.

If you think about it, Abraham is credited with spousing a monotheistic religion, making Judaism the root, the origins of Western culture (Abraham is in fact, key in all three modern monotheistic religions (Abramahic religions) as Islam recognizes him as the prophet Ibrahim). Judaism threads a rich tapestry in Western thought and civilization, it deserves our attention, appreciation, and in my case last Thursday, enjoyment!

Rabi Laurence Kotok is a bit of a rock star of rabis: Rabi of a temple for years, scholar, Air Force Chaplain, author, and professor, and his Spanish is quite good! He guided us through the Seder, explaining every step, singing The Ballad of the Four Sons and Chad Gadya, everything. It does take a while before you eat, but it is worth it, it is a very enriching experience which references the history of the Jews.

I can’t wait for my next Passover Seder!

Joseph Roth and Gustav Mahler, brothers separated at birth??

My car is an old VW Golf, it still has a CD player! Not a fancy multi-disk unit, just a single CD at-a-time thing. So I put in a CD and it stays there for months, it is all I listen to. This has been going on for years: Bach’s Goldberg Variations (of course the original Gould recording), Van Morrison’s Born to Sing, no Plan B, the Tous le Matins du Monde soundtrack (which I found in a literal mountain of CDs being sold by some very trashy looking folks in Vermont, which leads me to believe that a, it was stolen or found, or b, I am a bad person who stereotypes people by their looks), Mozart’s Requiem… you get the idea. Well for months I have only listened to Mahler’s symphony No. 5.

Joseph Roth was a turn of the 20th Century German writer. I have read Job, The Story of a Simple Man twice, in 2003 and 2018, The Collected Stories in 2006, and I just finished The Radetzky March.

As I read the book and listened to Mahler, I realized how extraordinarily similar they are in their art. Both artists manage to convey the full spectrum of feelings in a single work, in my example: The Radetzky March and the Symphony No. 5 which is not even considered Mahler’s best work. Of course, his best symphony is a highly debated topic (I would go with No. 2).

This capacity to transmit feelings got me thinking about their similarities, there are a few:

Both lived around the same time Roth 1894 – 1939 and Mahler 1860 – 1911.

Both were Jewish (although Mahler became a Catholic so he could continue working…)

Both lived in Vienna at the turn of the century –although not at the same time- and attended the same university, although neither was originally even Austrian (Mahler was Bohemian, modern day Czech Republic and Roth from Galicia, modern day Poland and Ukraine) but both were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This is critical since both artists reflect the fall of the empire in their work.

Of course, at the end of the day each artist’s capacity to make the receptor of the art feel something is based on his or her craft and abilities. But let’s just say that reading and listening (not at the same time) I was transported from happiness to sadness, from victory to defeat, from walking in a field in Spring to avoiding enemy fire. Thank you Mahler and Roth.

Here is the Third movement from Mahler 5. It is directed by my dear friend and old colleague Benjamin Zander, a Mahler scholar!!

Summer Summary

Well, I have been so busy writing my thesis prospectus all summer that I have not had time to update this old blog! But the prospectus (the first draft at any rate) is now well on its way after my Thesis Director recommended some corrections today at the Daily Grind Café. But now back to my summer.

The month of June I was in Madrid going to the Biblioteca Nacional every day and getting some phenomenal research accomplished. Some highlights of June were: celebrating my father’s birthday, going to Alfredo’s new place (see previous post), going to Pedro Espina’s new restaurant Soy to say hi to my old friend and Spain’s best sushi chef, my old student Jacob’s visit to Madrid (see previous post), and pretty much every moment spent in the city enjoying the smells and sounds and tapas and sights.

In July I went with my family to our beloved Mediterranean island of Mallorca. As you can read in other year’s posts it is a great time. Very low-key: great breakfasts, beach, poolside lunch, siesta, workout, pool time, nice Mediterranean dinner, a lovely evening walk, and a drink and some reading for me, repeat. This year around my nieces and nephew were one year older, so more fun, and we had the World Cup to follow – despite Spain’s early departure we enjoyed all the underdog teams putting in great performances! Unfortunately we were only in Mallorca for a couple of weeks.

Back in the mainland we went straight to my parent’s house in the countryside (see previous posts about La Navata). If Mallorca is low-key, this is even more low-key, my routine here is a pre-breakfast swim to wake up, breakfast on the porch, walking to the village for bread, newspapers and to have my coffee in the old café, helping my niece and nephew with their Summer homework, (which this year included reading Le Petit Prince with my niece!), hanging out, lunch and siesta, punching out a page of my prospectus, working out, swimming, dinner and drinks, cigars and chatting – or reading, if nobody is around for conversation. The only routine breakers are driving my mom to the market, going to church on Sundays, and occasionally hanging out with old friends. One of these traditional outings is dinner at El Escorial with Paco Navarro. We walk around, eat, enjoy a coffee and then walk around some more. It is one of my favorite outings and one we have not missed in years!

Then my sister asked me to go hang out with her and her kids in the North Shore of Spain while her husband stayed working in Madrid. I took the train – and the harbor taxi, and had a wonderful week with them. They stay in this old manor house in this cute old village and the only choices they have to make is which beach to go to and which restaurant to have lunch at! Paradise.

The last week I was in Spain I received a request from my Medieval Literature Professor to take a photo of a painting in the cathedral at Toledo. I jumped at the opportunity and I spent a wonderful day alone walking around the old imperial city. I had not been to “the Jerusalem of the West” (for the Jewish, Arab and Christian cultures that thrived in the city) in four years and it was wonderful to slip into the many churches and museums alone with no schedule. I had a nice lunch and a coffee overlooking the Tajo River. It was a very healing experience. I don’t think the photo Prof. Domínguez asked me for came out very well, but still, the excursion was worth it for me.

But by August 5 I was back in old Chapel Hill wrapping up my prospectus and settling down… And now I am back in school teaching two sections of intermediate Spanish 203 and happy to be in my quiet monastic life.

Dad's birthday lunch!

Dad’s birthday lunch!

Breakfast w Jimmy

Breakfast w Jimmy

Chiringuito Camp de Mar

Chiringuito Camp de Mar

20140629_211219 Camp de Mar

Always reading

Reading in Santander

Dinner at El Escorial OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With the photographer's dog!

With the photographer’s dog!

Camp de Mar

Walking back from the beach

Walking back from the beach

Harbor taxi!

Harbor taxi!

Lunch?

Lunch?

at the Cinco calderas

at the Cinco calderas

Las cinco calderas

Las cinco calderas

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo Cathedral