Editorial & Opinion | Musings

06/01/2010 | | Special to the Jewish Week | Musings

Responding to invitations causes both excitement and anxiety. What if I do not show up? Will it be held against me? Do I have to invite them because they invited me? Will they believe my excuse?

The French writer Jean Cocteau solved the problem with a telegram: “Regret cannot come. Lie to follow.”

05/25/2010 | | Special to the Jewish Week | Musings

We are awash with insight. There is no shortage of books, pundits, philosophers, clergy, psychologists and psychiatrists, ethicists and counselors who offer the distilled wisdom of the ages. How much easier to seek wisdom than it is to change!

05/18/2010 | | Musings

The politics of Israel at times leads us to forget what matters most. To remember, let us retell the story of Max Nordau.

Max Nordau became a leader of the Zionist movement, co-founding the World Zionist Organization with Theodore Herzl. In Nordau’s diaries he tells the following story:

05/11/2010 | | Musings

In the Mishna, Hillel teaches, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” Here, “a man” denotes a caring, ethical person. When others are childish, act like a grownup. The phrase might also mean — when no one else is watching, when there are literally “no men” — you must still do the right thing.

05/04/2010 | | Musings

Seeing something I have written in print always evokes the wish that I could snatch the words back, if only for a moment, to correct or change them. Manuscripts of notable novels and poems are almost always indecipherable squiggles, cross-outs, arrows, editing marks. Second, third and fourth thoughts are essential for clarity and elegance of expression. As the great Thomas Mann put it, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

04/27/2010 | | Musings

Have you ever climbed to the top of a tell? A tell is a pile of old civilizations, massed atop each other. Such hills mark the landscape of Israel, reminding us that civilization is less about building than about rebuilding.