I'm Back

I arrived back in Portland a day and a half ago. It’s among the last days of March. It snowed this morning. The snow didn’t seem to stick, but was a little bit odd, nonetheless.

The rabbinical convention was fabulous, and therefore left me a little bit short of sleep. It was great to connect with old friends, make some new friends and generally catch up with colleagues, mentors, teachers and friends. It was fascinating to see some of the directions we’re all heading in. There was some great learning, some thought-provoking sessions and some playful fun.  We prayed together, and it was lovely and spiritual, and I even got a new melody out of it.

It is great to be home, however, and I’m looking forward to having most of this weekend off. Sleep is very high on my priority list.


Gone to the Convention

I’m heading out to Baltimore for a rabbinical convention, and suspect I won’t be blogging between now and Thursday.

I’m hoping to get some good knitting done on the plane, as well as planning the Congregational Seder.

humor Jewish Spirituality knitting Rabbinic

Knitting and Purim

I have a special kippah (yalmuke) I wear for Purim: muppet-kipah.jpg

I made a it a few years back out of some Fun Fur, back when the only thing I knew of to do with yarn was to make a kippah.

Purim is a holiday that makes the most sense if one gives oneself over entirely to its frivolity of spirit. With this in mind, I give you an entirely frivolous post, which may be funny to no one but me, since it is a parody of rabbinic literature on the subject of knitting. The following is an excerpt from masechet seruga:

How long should one knit as a preparation for writing? Rabbi Hillel says one should knit until the words flow smoothly. Rabbi Shammai says, two rows.

“Two rows?” asks Rabbi Abuah, “not all rows are equal. How can it be two rows.”

Rabbi BagBag ben BarBar explains: it is the length of two rows for a scarf.

If it is the length of two rows of a scarf, why did Shammai not say how many stitches? Rabbi HooHaa replies: It is two rows of whatever project you are working on, because it is the turning that counts, not the stitches, as it is written, “turn it and turn it and you will find everything in it.”

Rabbi EZ* say: but I am knitting in the round: how do I know when I am to stop.

The rabbis teach that no rules apply to Rabbi EZ. But for those of us who are not of her merit, how do we know when to stop if we are knitting in the round.

The School of Shammai teaches that one should never knit in the round.

Never knit in the round? What about socks?

Rabbi Heyouse says in the name of his master, Rabbi Heyouguys: When I was young, I would go to the School of Shammai and they were all wearing argyle socks.**

“Are they then to be called Clan McShammai?” scoffs Rabbi EZ.

Anyone may wear Argyle says the school of Hillel.

Only those whose Torah learning is great and whose knitting knowledge is greater says school of Shammai.

Only those of Scottish ancestry may wear Argyle says the School of EZ.

Rabbi Hoohaa taught, “in the days of old, any might wear Argyle, but today, we do not wear it out of respect for the Holy One of Blessing, as it is taught, ‘ah, what a tangled web we weave.'”

Happy Purim Everyone .

*For the non knitters: Elizabeth Zimmerman (who is as Hillel to the knitting tradition).

**For the non-knitters: argyle socks are knit flat, and then sewed up the back: they are persnickety beyond belief are require handling between four and eight balls of yarn simultaneously.


Everyone's Tired

I don’t know what it is today, but everyone seems tired. Not just me and Eva (we’re used to that), but a lot of the people at CubeSpace. Not only that, but there are fewer people than usual at CubeSpace today, making me think that many people just didn’t have the energy to come in at all (it is possible that I’m projecting here).

There is a profound lack of energy today. It’s quiet, as though making noise requires too much work. The phones are ringing less, suggesting that pushing the buttons might be excessive labor for the mood of the day. People are so tired that this is what I’m trying to pass for humor.

It’s sort of a shame that there aren’t more people at CubeSpace today, because we are dying eggs and doing an Easter Egg hunt. I sort of have a feeling I may be spending a lot of time trying to find the eggs which we hid yesterday.

OK, I just tried and failed to add some pictures of hidden easter eggs, but it completely failed. In fact, it crashed my computer. So we’re done with that now.

I apologize for the lack of material in this post. In the meantime, be amused by the idea of the rabbi with a business filled with Easter Eggs which need finding.

Jewish Spirituality knitting spirituality


I am, once again, working on Eva’s socks. And I find myself increasingly confused by how they are turning out. I like them, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t understand how they are doing what they are doing.


Two key issues are confusing me: 1. how is it that when I spiral the ribbing, the purl stitches stick out further than the knit stitches? 2. I reduced needle size to make the calf a touch smaller…why does it not appear to have changed my gauge at all?

I could point out where I changed the needles on the picture, but really, what’s the point? When people looking closely in person can’t tell the difference in gauge, I figure there’s no way to see it from the picture.

So I am left with the knitters final option: acceptance. I accept that I do not control the knitting, but that I am the vehicle through which the knitting flows. The knitting will be as it wishes to be, and I will help it come into being. (It might be worth pointing out, Purim happens later this week; Purim is a holiday of frivolity, joy and humor).

And so, I wait as I knit to find out what is going to  become of these socks.

Jewish Spirituality knitting

Shabbat is Here!

Woohoo…it’s shabbat. I’m done with work for the week. A tequila improves sanctity.

This would be a sabbath of rest (and maybe a little yarn shopping). Abundant Yarn and Dyeworks has a  cool event tomorrow,  and Martin and Larissa Brown will be there in the afternoon for the release of their new book. Very exciting book (I’ve seen the proofs, and Martin reviewed them at CubeSpace.


The Heel is Turned and there are Pictures

At long last (at least it feels that way to me), I’m done with the foot of the first sock, I’ve turned the heel, and I have pictures of Eva’s Birthday Socks: evas-sock-foot.jpg

That is the sock in its current state. It has ribbing on the foot, which is being put into motion (swirling) around the calf. In the photo below you can better see the transition from the ribbing on the foot to the swirl on the calf. You can see the swirl better than the ribbing.


The really exciting thing about this is that I feel like I’ve finally made some real progress on this sock.



Working the Short Heel in Short Spurts

Today I (more or less) had a day off. Admittedly, I wound up doing far more than I intended, but it was mainly fun (the standing around overwhelmed in the grocery store? less fun). In between, I’ve been working on Eva’s socks, and specifically working on turning the short row heel. You know, a few rows at the pharmacy while the pharmacist clears up why the insurance company paid three dollars towards the prescription I was picking up. . .for my cat (it was a mistake and I paid the extra $3, which I suspected I would have to once I pointed it out to him). A few rows while Mycroft had her yarn put on the cone at Yarnia. A few more rows at some other store, I think.

A better blogger than I would have lovely pictures of this heel for you today. In fact, a better blogger would have thought about taking pictures during any of a number of lovely spots of weather today, rather than now, as the sun is pretty much down. And of course, a better blogger would have a way to transfer said picture to the computer on which the post was being composed. This is all a long way to say, “no pictures. I’m sorry.”

Turning a short row heel is sort of interesting. I’m following the instructions in this pattern, and find it relatively easy, but a little disorienting. The odd part about short row heels is that you find yourself knitting fewer and fewer stitches each time back and forth. And as opposed to most ways of doing decreases or increases, where you wait a row between reductions, these happen fast. It sort of reminds me of the end of a game of pong, where the ball is moving faster and faster between the two ends of the screen.

Like most things, however, the short rows are about to start expanding again, and I’m going to have to strive to keep gaps from forming. I have yet to knit a pair of socks without gaps around the gusset type thingy. We’ll see if this goes better. I think the trick has something to do with learning to pick up the “wrapper along with the stitch”, whatever that means. I think I did it wrong last time, so I suspect I will ask some advice from the knitting mavens at CubeSpace.

Speaking of whom, Emily had her pattern published in the new edition of Knitty out today. Yay Emily! Check out her big family tree knitting design project here.


Too Many Projects, Not Enough Knitting

I’m currently working on at least 4 projects:

  1. A pair of socks for Eva.
  2. A pair of socks for me.
  3. A blanket/bedspread.
  4. A shawl.

Two of these projects are “large” (blanket and shawl) and two are relatively small (socks). I figured having projects of various sizes would be a good thing. It would mean that I would have a portable project when I needed it, a project that involves virtually no pattern work when I need brain-dead knitting, and good projects to get buried under when I’ll be sedentary for a while.  But a problem has arisen.

It’s been a while since I’ve finished a project. Like over a month, I think. Which for me, is a long time. I finished one of my pair of socks, but then before I could start work on the mate, I wanted to get Eva’s socks out, because they are a birthday present for her…which was about a month ago. And the big projects are moving, just very, very slowly. All the more slowly because I have other projects going at the same time.

I knit, at a fundamental level, for the joy of the knitting itself. I do it because it relaxes me, because it helps me focus and because it helps me think. Oh, and because I like yarn.

I don’t knit for the finished object (for the most part). So I find it curious that I’m having this sense of wanting to finish an object. Nonetheless, there it is.

I could, of course, cast on a quick and dirty project just to do something I could knock out in under a week, but somehow starting a fifth project as a response to having too many projects going at once seems like the wrong answer. I’m not saying I won’t resort to it, just that I’m not resorting to it YET.

In the meantime, I’m about to the point where I get to make the short-row heal on the first of Eva’s socks, which suggests I’m making real progress on them.

Rabbinic spirituality

Talking about People

 Three times in the last week I’ve had the occasion to speak about people. During a wedding, I described the relationship between the couple: what made them special as a couple, and unique as individuals. During a funeral, I gave a eulogy, describing the life of the deceased and what gave meaning to his life. During a bar mitzvah, I described the special gifts of the young men, focusing on how those gifts may serve them and others in the future. In each case, at least one person came up afterwards and informed me that I’d gotten that description just perfect.

When someone tells me I’ve gotten that right, it feels great. I work hard to try to find the heart of the people I’m working with, and sometimes I’m not sure how well I’m succeeding. I see what I think is the important parts, but do others see them as important? Is it even a side of them that they show to people other than the rabbi? Almost always the answer is, “yes,” but I am nervous enough about it that I find it wonderful to be told I got it right.

What I love most about the process is the ability to reflect  back at people a vision of their loved ones. This is a vision which they recognize, but which highlights people’s best, and hopefully, most central qualities. I help all involved see the person or people I’m describing in a way that is both true and meaningful. I’ve captured the essence of the person, and put it into a context which makes that essence good and important. When I get it right, it is a powerful experience for all involved, especially including me.

What I’ve realized in the last week is that all three of these lifecycle events, wedding, funeral, bar mitzvah, are  fundamentally about love. Wedding is obviously about love of the couple for each other, but it is also about the love of those gathered for the couple. And that is the part of love that is present in all the events. A funeral is largely about the love of the survivors for the deceased (and of the deceased for the survivors). A bar mitzvah is about a family’s love for the young adult. Love tends to be the central aspect of lifecycle events, and part of why they are so much fun, so rewarding and so stressful.

On another topic entirely: Daylight Savings.
I feel like I’m really getting the first morning of daylight savings time experience. I got up this morning at 7 and it was still dark. A beautiful drive down to Salem. Pretty much clear skies, with an occasionally stunning view of Mount Hood in the distance. Very nice sunrise. As I got closer to Salem, there was some scattered low fog (really more like a ground hugging mist), until I was in Salem, and then hit some true fog. A very pretty morning.

I’m getting ready for a full day, teaching Sunday school, teaching adult Hebrew, meeting with some folks about a wedding. I definitely feel like there’s a little less pressure on my schedule now that the Bar Mitzvah is done.