No need to be brilliant

*Seeking Eureka* It’s Monday as I write this....

Hey Martha

“Hey, Martha.” Less I’m on the phone catching up...

No Rest Just Yet

    For more than 10 years, this...
Hey Martha

Hey Martha

“Hey, Martha.” Less I’m on the phone catching up with someone. Anyone. The conversation agenda goes according to a set outline: Introductions: Greetings and “how-are-you”s Round 1: A few “Hey, Martha”s Round 2: Respective reports on health and activities of self and...

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No Rest Just Yet

No Rest Just Yet

    For more than 10 years, this newsletter, The 77% Weekly, has issued a “non-issue” on the last Monday of the month. (It is both humbling and electrifying to know that many people have been reading my words for even half that long.) Last week, even though...

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All Lives Matter?

All Lives Matter?

  All Lives Matter? Friday, August 28. Afternoon.     I’m sitting at my desk, deftly switching between my emails and the program that allows me to send and receive text messages on behalf of a political party I want to aid to win the 2020 election. I...

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All Lives Matter?

All Lives Matter?

  All Lives Matter? Friday, August 28. Afternoon.     I’m sitting at my desk, deftly switching between my emails and the program that allows me to send and receive text messages on behalf of a political party I want to aid to win the 2020 election. I...

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Learning, Kindness, & The French Horn

Learning, Kindness, & The French Horn

Learning, Kindness, and the French Horn       Me, learning “Brian, do you know what you did well there?” Jen perennially begins questions with my name. “No, Jen,” I reply, playfully, into the zoom camera in my office. Rhetorical questions amuse me....

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Anxiety. Not so bad?

Anxiety. Not so bad?

ANXIETY. NOT SO BAD?   Notes: This material is based on an interview I conducted with Brent Lyons, a PhD candidate at Oxford University studying the intersection of anxiety and religion While this technique provides an intellectual understanding of anxiety that...

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Hope, synthesized

Hope, synthesized

“I’m proud of you. You are taking two whole nights away, just for yourself,” I hear Larry say. I re-tuck the microphone of my headset into my facemask to muffle the wind for when I talk. “Larry, it’s more that they sent me. Is that better? Can you hear me better now?”...

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What I Got

What I Got

Author's Note "You can't send this out," Jane said at the kitchen table, reading as I drank my smoothie this morning. The hours and words I thought you were going to read, now that she's saved me from a very likely error in judgment, gone. "I was afraid of that," I...

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The Program

The Program

The Program Setting Medford, Massachusetts, late fall 1991. My senior year. We forty residential advisors have been thirded from the lecture hall into the two nice and one not-so-nice of Tilden Hall's classrooms for our monthly RA development program. My buddy Brian,...

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Talmud. Enraged and Loved.

Talmud. Enraged and Loved.

  Talmud. Enraged and Loved.     Didn’t see it coming   I’m three classes from the end of my tenure as the substitute rabbi for a local, weekly Talmud class. I’m at the kitchen table preparing for tomorrow and excited to see that this tractate (chapter) of...

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Anti-Racist in-training

Anti-Racist in-training

Biking with Annie   On this, our second day of Camp Spend-the-Morning-with-Dad-Thanks-to-Covid-19, Emmett peels off to bike around the park to complete his exercise commitment. Now it’s just Annie and me pedaling down residential NE Hancock on our way to pick up...

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The Logic Of Love

The Logic Of Love

The Scorpion and the Frog   In the 1955 film, Confidential Report, Orson Wells, in the role as the mysterious tycoon Gregory Arkadin, introduces to the world the following story:  “And now I'm going to tell you about a scorpion. This scorpion wanted to cross a...

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Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

Mess. With intent to douse her brother with water, my 11-year-old Annie tugged on the backyard garden hose. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” I shouted. She didn’t see that the hose, tangled on a garden stake, would damage a portion of the garden if she pulled any further. She...

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It was wrong

It was wrong

  It was wrong We had decided to stain the diminutive cedar fence Minwax 203 — Early American. Two months into Covid-19. We conscript the kiddos into “family time backyard improvement project.” We parents have, at the very least, a different opinion as to the right...

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Not Well Adjusted

Not Well Adjusted

The side-of-the-road experience We are engaged, not yet married. Her white Honda civic climbs the pass between the Angeles National and San Bernardino National Forests. Making our way to a weekend in Las Vegas. And then. Something feels wrong....

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Control or Freedom

Control or Freedom

Freedom My virtual coffee-chat friend says, “I’m not in charge of the universe.” As she and I can’t meet in person, we are having an old-fashioned phone call, not a Zoom. An outside-the-box rabbi and a brilliant, retired, Episcopal priest. I continue the Sisyphean...

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How are you?

How are you?

“How are you?” “It's complicated."   It’s my third year of teaching math full time. I’m early enough to get my favorite parking spot. I make my way to the copy-room slash teacher-break room on the second floor of the converted group home turned school. Phil, a...

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Hope. What we mean by hope.

Hope. What we mean by hope.

Hope Hope It’s Thursday, late afternoon. I sit in my basement home office working on writing this newsletter. I’ve decided that I'm ok with the style of this newsletter being a little disjointed. I'm getting more comfortable with the genre of “pen-pal rabbi."  Through...

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Cov-dad-19

Cov-dad-19

Cov-dad-19 Thoughts   "I don’t know, kiddo. I just don’t know.” The words slip out of my mouth. I am tucking Annie into bed. I’m exhausted. We all are. It’s not a complaint. It’s a fact. I’m tired. Just tired. Extra dad fortitude was required to get out of my bed...

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Kindness. Always.

Kindness. Always.

Two-dird watder. Please, Dad-da.    Yesterday at lunch at our kitchen table, my 11-year-old, Annie, was explaining to me how she deserved more screen time. She was poised. Brilliant in both logic and delivery. Laughing along at the utter brazenness of the request...

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Despite Gallant Efforts

Despite Gallant Efforts

Despite my gallant efforts A noble start     A beautiful fall day. Sunshine. Amazing colors of leaves. Crisp air. I decide to bike—instead of drive—the 2.1 miles to the synagogue where I’ll be teaching a course in a few weeks. We need to finalize some...

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$200SD

$200SD

$200 S.D. (spiritual dollars) From my large, comfortable leather seat, I address the middle-aged man across from me. His eyes are closed. His head is cradled at the intersection of the loveseat’s armrest and back. We are about 20 minutes into our monthly spiritual...

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Fear Notes

Fear Notes

Fear Notes   If my life were a pinball machine, I would tell you the ball is lighting up the letters f.e.a.r.    Fear is widespread. Coronavirus, the US Supreme Court sanctioning border agents to firing shots across the border and killing people in Mexico, the US...

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Be There Now

Be There Now

Be there now.   Do not accept reality as it is. Life can be better than this. You could be more content, more comfortable, and have better thoughts. You could have more. You could appreciate life more. You could breathe better, love more, and be more. You could...

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An Ode to my Son

An Ode to my Son

An Ode to My Son After Accidentally Beating Him in Chess       My boy, I didn't know the incidental check I put you in was mate. You had me. Your first, legit, truly-earned victory was certainly no more than a half dozen moves away. It had been a...

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Becoming

Becoming

Setting the Stage    It is 8:42 am. I’m in the office overlooking NE Broadway and 18th. I have just unpacked my biker-style, faded, powder-blue backpack of: a computer an insulated water bottle a pear a diminutive 7.5 ounce can of Coca-Cola a pencil box a...

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Shauna After Death

Shauna After Death

08/30/1998 Dear Diary,  I met the remarkable Shauna Jean Malone today.  And she is remarkable.  I can even prove it, Dear Diary.  Of course she’s remarkable! I’m remarking upon her right now, am I not? Anyhow, today is her birthday.  We were introduced at the Wren...

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Road Rage and the Rabbi

Road Rage and the Rabbi

After a pause Jon continues:   “Then, I won at road rage a second time.”   I’m at the market shopping for the family Friday night, shabbat dinner.   I respond into my headset:   “A second road rage story? I’m not certain I have space in my psyche...

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Tired From Fear

Tired From Fear

It’s Friday morning. I am sitting in the customer center of my local Honda dealership. There’s been a recall on our 2003 minivan’s passenger side airbag.  I’m waiting.  I’m not going anywhere. Literally.  I don’t have it in me to fight for the promised loaner car. My...

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Annoyance 2 OK

Annoyance 2 OK

I arrived at the 97212 Post Office and there was no line. None. Zero. It was just me and two employees in the large, florescent-lit room. I stood where the line would have ended had there been a line. When Joanna called me up I responded, “Nope. I’m going to wait....

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Meanie

Meanie

  Meanie   I wish she had been nicer. Her comments on my YouTube hurt. And, while I know her petulance made her look bad, it also still really really hurt my feelings.   Let me start with some background.   I am pretty fastidious about quoting my sources. It’s a rabbi...

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Acceptance for the holidays

Acceptance for the holidays

I’ve just intentionally triggered the “not-being-prepared” collective nightmare within a group of adults. I feel their discomfort and defensiveness upon hearing my words: Let’s review our homework from last time. They didn’t have homework. How could they? Many I’ve...

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Voltaire’s band

Voltaire’s band

LIFE AIN’T FOR COWARDS. GRIEF, LOSS, TRAUMAS ANDTRAGEDIES.DISAPPOINTMENT AND ANGST. SCAB OVER AND NOT FEEL?ORPICKED AT AND BLOODY? ME? I CHOOSE VOLTAIRE’S LIFEBOATVOLUNTARY BAND. “COMPTEZ QUE LE MONDE EST UN GRAND NAUFRAGE, ET QUE LA DEVISE DES HOMMES EST, SAUVE QUI...

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Provincial, NYC.

Provincial, NYC.

It’s cold. Erev Thanksgiving. West 77th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, is closed off the night before tomorrow’s big parade. I’m 14 and running in the street with Robert, Dan, Michael, Richard, and John. We are tossing someone’s balled-up...

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Coming of Age

Coming of Age

  My boy, my first born, turns thirteen on Monday. We will have a coming of age ceremony for him this weekend.   He will have a coming of age ceremony like the I had one when I turned thirteen. And like my father and my grandfather had. But unlike.   My...

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Sabbath

Sabbath

Sabbath.   It’s late summer, Friday night dinner. Annie is at a birthday party. Just Jane, our 12-year old boy, and me. We sit on the patio in our backyard. Candles, a wine glass, and a challah I made. Jane made meatloaf.  Emmett and I look at each other knowing...

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Self-Portrait Love

Self-Portrait Love

Spiritual Exercise   Make a self-portrait on an index card, a piece of paper, etc. *** I’m going to assume that you did a drawing, although my spidey-sense tells me that you didn’t. *** I want you to imagine a four-year old hands you a picture, drawn as well as a...

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Being Loved

Being Loved

Being loved  I thought it was going to be a much rougher day for Emmett than it was. I guess it proves that you can’t really predict how people are going to react and the importance of quality time together. More than that, this story reminds me of a quote by Rumi –...

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Lamppost Logic

Lamppost Logic

Lamppost logic A man encircles a lamppost over and over as a police woman approaches. “Sir, can I be of any assistance?” He explains that he lost his wallet, and they both search for some time. Finally, she asks, “Where did you last see it?” “In that dark alley.” “Why...

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Eulogy MJR

Eulogy MJR

A horse walks into a bar; the bartender says "Why the long face?", and horse says, "I have cancer." In our last cogent conversation, Michael asked me to give a eulogy at his funeral. And he asked me to start it with a joke. The aforementioned horse joke is not the one...

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Hello and Farewell, Jews. And, hello, you.

Hello and Farewell, Jews. And, hello, you.

HELLO, JEWS My four-year incarnation as a rabbi in the form most people would recognize began in 1997. I stood in front of 750-plus people to lead High Holy Day services at Temple Judea in Tarzana, California. This wealthy suburb of 40,000 named for the estate of...

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Patience. Dog

Patience. Dog

Walk number one After dinner, before bed. A summer evening. Emmett and I are walking JJ around the block. We are chatting. About Minecraft and magic tricks. We are buddies. > Em, can you help me think something out? > Sure. >People always say that they wish...

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Spiritual Building Block: OFNR

Spiritual Building Block: OFNR

Spiritual Building Block: OFNR  EXPRESS TRAIN Alberta street. A sunny, late summer afternoon. Portlandia boutiques. A sticker shop. A used vinyl shop. A tea and kombucha shop. I find a spot for our 2003 Odyssey and we start walking. I quickly turn back from Jane and...

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Labor Day. Together.

Labor Day. Together.

“You need to give me an overview of which way we are going.” Jane is driving. I am crocheting yet another hat in the seat next to her. Driving makes her feel a little more secure and in control. There are a few sermons in this. About perceived control. About knowing...

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The SIXTH Love Language

The SIXTH Love Language

A NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: Hi. This is Rabbi Brian in 2019. August.  The article below was written in 2014. It's wonderful. But, not how I'm thinking today. The difference is... THE 6th LOVE LANGUAGE There is another love language -- fidelity, faithfulness, doing the...

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Forgive Them (Follow-up)

Forgive Them (Follow-up)

MORE Thoughts about forgiveness Last week, I sent an article about forgiveness–imploring you to forgive people for their transgressions. This week, I wanted to follow-up and share responses with you. Bob S. During my 51-year career, I was often asked, “Bob, how do you...

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Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do

Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do

Making Mistakes “What does it feel like when you make a mistake?” It’s a question that Kathryn Schulz asks people. She’s an expert in mistakes. I imagine many of us are experts in making mistakes. She is an expert is what mistakes are....

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The Thirty-Five Year Gosub Redemption

The Thirty-Five Year Gosub Redemption

October. Portland. Bedtime. Annie’s room. 2018 "But I shouldn't be in that group," my daughter wailed over and over again. Annie was put in remedial fourth-grade math at the start of the school year. She hadn't learned her times tables. Her teacher explained that...

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God’s Laugher

God’s Laugher

And God Laughed Zoe approached me with a funny look on her face. “Rabbi,” she said, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” The setting was Magic Camp last summer, on the beautiful campus of Bryn Mawr college. My boy, Emmett, was in his first year at camp....

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Q
&
A

“Do you need another email?”

No. You get enough emails already. Probably you don’t need one more email. In fact, you probably need to get fewer emails, not more.

“Do I really have time to read a weekly newsletter about spiritual-religious health? Might signing-up for this newsletter make me feel guilt in some way? What’s the catch?

Think about my 10-year old and his guitar lessons. He practices, if I exagerate, 30 minutes a week total. His lesson is 30 minutes a week. So, all told, he touches a guitar fo an hour a week. Now, think about you and your spiritual practice. Might you consider reading the newsletter to be your guitar lesson. What you are getting by subscribing to the newsletter is the chance to spend 5-10 minutes 3-4 times a month to your spiritual practice. Do the math, you have 15-40 minutes of time you are starting at a screen to devote to your spiritual well-being. Also, as I know that people don’t learn in guilt, I am both dogma and guilt-free.

“Why 77% Weekly”

I send it every Monday morning, except the last Monday of the month. 52 weeks a year – 12 last Mondays = 40. 40/52 is 77%.The newsletter got it’s name. I think you work too much. Many of us do. (You probably agree.) So, I want to remind you that you only need a 77% to pass.

“I thank you?”

I really didn’t know what to put in that button. “I thank you” seems appropriate. After all, albeit small, you are trusting me. So, for that I thank you.