The Jam of Thinking

Think about strawberry jam—the sweet, gooey, red...

Kindness

Be kind. It’s more important than being right....

Original Sin

WITHOUT SIN MY PEOPLE My people don’t do the...
Kindness

Kindness

Be kind. It’s more important than being right.  “You can't win an argument. You can't because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People     BEING RIGHT   Let’s say someone says something you...

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Original Sin

Original Sin

WITHOUT SIN MY PEOPLE My people don’t do the original sin thing. We don’t grow up with this doctrine. We know about guilt; we’re Jews. My people create guilt masterpieces. But original sin—a human construct upon which many lives are unduly influenced—is far darker...

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Emotions

Emotions

Emotions 101   Emotions are feelings. They happen naturally. Emotions are our response to being alive. As we are human–alive and awake–we have interactions with the world, and we experience emotions. Expressing emotions in a healthy manner is the...

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Why we don’t fly, a Passover story

Why we don’t fly, a Passover story

Why we don’t fly, a Passover story   Cohen and I chat about once a week, usually on my evening walk with the dogs around my beautifully maintained 1940s NE Portland neighborhood. We chat about life, how we miss our deceased parents, his dating life, my parenting...

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In three words

In three words

Fresh Fish Sold Here Today I remember a magician in the 1980’s unfurling and holding up a paper banner with the words “Fresh fish sold here today” printed on it. The magician would say, “I find this phrase a touch redundant. Fresh? Of course it's fresh fish. The sign...

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Laughing @ Incongruities

Laughing @ Incongruities

Laughing at as many incongruities as possible It's a Tuesday night. We just had tacos. We do Taco Tuesdays probably more than two weeks a month, if we kept track of it. But it could be any night other than Tuesdays. Because we aren't that uptight about stuff. The kids...

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Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Dad and I went on our third father-son road trip in 2002. This one was in a rented RV. We leave LA, drive east, pass Palm Springs, and go south to Niland, by the shore of the Salton Sea—a huge unswimmable lake of salt, rotting fish corpses, and runoff fertilizer. From...

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S’more I don’t know

S’more I don’t know

My friend Michelle sits four feet feet away from the stainless-steel fire pit in my backyard. I’m on the other side, also four feet away. We are having a small, Covid-safe inauguration celebration. We are drinking G & Ts with Hendricks, a fancy tonic, and slices...

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Opt-in

Opt-in

Opt in While it’s not the rousing fun of a kids’ game of hide-and-seek or even a word search, I enjoy the game of looking for the unsubscribe button at the bottom of automated emails. I decided that I don’t need to know about all of the sales from my local craft...

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Chess Lessons

Chess Lessons

*A Few Chess Lessons* The dogs and I are on our evening walk. It’s a longer than usual as my friend Carmel and I are chatting via my wireless headset about the chess lessons we took in New York City in the early 1980s. It’s raining hard, but I’ve lived in Portland...

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What we are really saying

What we are really saying

My classroom. North Portland. September 2016. This week, I will meet five new sets of students. It’s my seventh year as a full-time high school math teacher. Today is our second day and the second day that I’m not doing any mathematics in the classroom. I’m hoping to...

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Believe in Hope

Believe in Hope

Yesterday I was moved by the wise words from CNN commentator and former Obama advisor Van Jones: Some things you have to see believe – like what we saw today at the Capitol. But there are also things you gotta BELIEVE in order to SEE. I believe breakdowns can lead to...

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Two Lessons for 2021

Two Lessons for 2021

Two Lessons for 2021 ### The 77% Weekly. ### Rabbi Brian. ROTB.org ### 40/52 weeks a year in your in-box 1. Good enough is good enough   The second section of this article, the next part, has been upcycled from a 2019 issue.   By upcycling, I mean I'm reusing,...

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Christmas Magic

Christmas Magic

Christmas Magic ### The 77% Weekly. ### Rabbi Brian. ROTB.org ### 40/52 weeks a year in your in-box No Wreath Annie and I are BFFs. Her dance card opened up for me as her pubescent brother prefers to spend more time with his peers. We are gabbing, pretending that...

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Empathy

Empathy

Empathy By Jane B. Mayer   Empathy By Jane B. Mayer         A wise friend and I were discussing the difficult time so many folks are having right now.  We spoke of how extending support and empathy to another often activates...

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Thinking like a push broom—or a leaf blower

Thinking like a push broom—or a leaf blower

Thinking like a push broom—or a leaf blower Jane and I are not engaged in conversation at the moment. We spoke some twenty minutes ago, before I came into the backyard, went to the garden shed, and got the black-moustached push broom that I now push. We are mellow,...

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The Best $20 I ever gave away

The Best $20 I ever gave away

The Best $20 I gave away New York City. Manhattan. 2005. I had a presentation in Philly and extended the trip to visit my family of origin.  It’s a humid Tuesday afternoon, and I’m picking up my niece at her Spanish language summer School slash day camp. Maya is...

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Cancel Culture

Cancel Culture

Cancel Culture—with God  rB:“God, I have some thoughts I need to work out. You mind me using the artifice of an imagined conversation with you?”  God:“Fair enough. Glad to help. Go ahead.”  rB:“OK, so last night, I’m watching Family Guy with Emmett, and...

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True Miracles

True Miracles

True Miracles “So whatever is bringing you from Los Angeles to Lynchburg,” asks the woman with the slight southern drawl next to me on the route from Dallas. “This airplane,” I tease and quickly follow up, “but seriously, a mentor of mine invited me to perform as part...

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Revelation: Love. As is.

Revelation: Love. As is.

Revelation: Love. As is. Not far from the first synagogue where I am working as a rabbi, on Ventura Boulevard, about a mile to the west of Lindsey Avenue, and just east of Balboa, I have a revelation. It happens as Jane and I are eating a sushi dinner. I am a...

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The Embrace of Two Friends

The Embrace of Two Friends

The Embrace of Two Friends Laurence C. Keene   I have two friends who just happen to be friends with each other as well. Amy and Stephanie have been friends for many years but while they agree on many things they do not agree on matters of religion and politics. Their...

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My Day of Atonement 2020

My Day of Atonement 2020

Last week, the non-newsletter usually sent the last Monday of the month didn’t go out as planned. Coincidentally, last Monday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, a day, according to Leviticus 23:27, which is supposed to be a day of strict rest. I...

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Three Vignettes

Three Vignettes

*Running out* Toilet paper. At the start of the pandemic, there was a run on the stuff. Off all shelves. Out of stores. Throughout the land. I never worried about it. And there was no need to worry. I don’t know of anyone who ran out. Peopleshared what they had until...

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No need to be brilliant

No need to be brilliant

*Seeking Eureka* It’s Monday as I write this. (Last Monday, from the perspective of you reading this.) And I don’t know what I’m going to write today! Nothing my kids did recently is calling out to be told as a story with a moral. And usually over the weekend,...

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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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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.