Friday, January 27, 2023

Star Gazing in The Beggar's Bowl

 I love this piece of reality:

The mouth of the alms bowl faces the heavens.
Foguo Gaoquan (1633-1695)

Thanks to Ryosuke Ueda, San Leandro CA.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Homelessness and Begging

An article from the New Statesman:

Why you should give money directly and unconditionally to homeless people

Studies show that "begging emerges in the “middle-late stages” of homelessness, once people have already exhausted other options. The rock bottom has already been reached."

Is there a proclivity among humans to beg? 

Is there a proclivity among human beings to be altruistic? 

To invoke the group as a source of support? 

Where does altruism and begging intersect? 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

$24.69 ... That's what your volunteer time is worth in the USA on average.

One of the earliest inspirations for this blog is to figure out how to get Congress to allow the value of volunteer time donated to nonprofit by all levels of capacity to be deducted along with expenses incurred in that service.

I get the same answer always from the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the US Department of Commerce: "Volunteer hours are not calculable." Here is a link to  their excuse. Basically, because it resembles women's work.

Poppycock! has been my standard reply. It is the replacement value of paying someone to do the work!

Likewise, childrearing, homemaking and housekeeping done in the family  aren't included in the Gross Domestic Product of the USA.

Points of Light Foundation and Independent Sector calculate the average value of volunteerism each year. It's an average, including work in young professionals helping out in soup kitchens, medical specialists who do surgery in war zones, grandparents who do family day care so parents can work, etc. According to the latter:

"(WASHINGTON, April 19, 2018) – Today, Independent Sector, in partnership with IMPLAN, announces that the latest value of a volunteer hour is $24.69 – up 2.2 percent from the previous year. That figure, estimated from data collected in 2017, shows the incredible contributions volunteers make to our communities and our country.

"Currently, 63 million Americans volunteer about 8 billion hours of their time and talent to improve people’s lives and the natural world. With the new value of volunteer time, these Americans are contributing approximately $197.5 billion to our nation."

Just a reminder: Your Holy Beggar works for a living, as meek as it might be. She also volunteers her expertise, time and other valuable resources.

You are welcome.

And remember ...
 No matter what,

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ford Foundation's Darren Walker: Generosity Generation

Darren Walker, president of Ford Foundation, was in Los Angeles recently to hold a public conversation with Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of LA County Art Museum.

Sadly (to those of us working in the arts) they didn't speak about funding for the arts which are (once again)  facing a dismal, dare I say bleak, future with the folks in DC wanting to axe the NEA.

According to Walker, Ford doesn't have programming strength in the arts, health and even education and will not provide grants in this area. Ford seeks to promote its comparative advantage   in the "realm" of social justice with its fully focus on challenging inequality.

What he did emphasize was that he wants people to be more generous, not in that altruistic way. People need to give until the situation changes, not just when the nachas (prideful pleasure) overflows into the ego.

I couldn't agree more. 

When even the most seemingly unimportant situation has a profound blockage that cannot be penetrated, I will often query my inner HB as to whether someone is not being generous. It usually informs the situation.

Your humble Holy Beggar has discussed this in the past, but a refresher is always appropriate. According to Maimonides, the next to the highest form of charity is when the donor and recipient are unknown to each other. The highest form is that support provided until the recipient can move ahead on his/her own. (Note: Most institutional funders are not willing to support a project until the recipient is fully self-sustaining.)

Walker also wants the Foundation be a catalyst (my word) to reverse hopelessness and find ways to enliven, revitalize, kick-start (my words) a situation and let it flourish towards sustainability. He supports the notion that eccentric, even avant garde world views can and must dislodge the legacy of status quo if there is to be change.


Thank you, LACMA, for hosting this conversation.

And Remember ...

No matter what ...

Don’t forget to ASK FOR THE MONEY!


Wednesday, March 1, 2017


Dear Passers-by and FotHB (Friends of the Holy Beggar):

The national election in the USA has zapped all my attention. Instead of improving my begging sign, I have spent much time creating protest signs for the Women's March against the vulgar he-who-shall-not-be-named and his cadre.

I did not abandon my spot, although someone might come along and use it if I'm not working it.

In the meantime, I'm offering this review by Rebeca Solnit.

"From the new book by Sunaura Taylor about animals and disability and intersection, Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation, she writes: Animalization has long been used as a tool to segregate and police disabled people. We can see this in the “ugly laws” legislation that existed from the 1860s to the 1970s across the United States, which made it illegal for “unsightly” or “disgusting” people to be in certain public spaces. These laws were often intended to get rid of beggars, and at times overlapped with laws designed to clean the streets of stray animals. 

In her book The Ugly Laws: Disability in Public, Susan Schweik, a professor of English and disability studies at UC Berkeley, describes how anxieties about disability, as well as poverty, class, race, gender, nationality, and animality all intersected in these laws. In some instances, human beggars were compared to stray dogs or other animals, and Schweik suggests that “the threat of unsightly beggars who might spread disease or bite the hand that fed them got phrased at times as a problem of animal control.”

While I was not consulted about the begging sections, nonetheless, I trust the recommendation and hope that you will find it useful.

Remember, no matter what,

Don't forget to ask for the money.

Yours truly,


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Prince Harry of Wales to Receive 2nd Holy Beggar Award!

It's Nobel Prize season, but your Holy Beggar is not interested in headlines, rather she wishes to give recognition when it's due.

She is deeply impressed by the stamina and personal conviction of Prince Harry of Wales, QEII's grandson, for his courage and clarity in support of wounded military troops who have suffered life-challenging wounds as a result of battle. He'll be walking 1000 miles across Britain with 6 others with a bucket to accept donations from folks along the way.

From the Telegraph:

"He praised the members of the public who've been putting hard-earned money in the donation buckets as the marchers make their way around Britain. 

"The support has been amazing,” he said. “People come out to give money and then when they hear what it's for they put another £20 in."
More here.

 A tip of the Beggar's Bowl to you, Harry.

Remember ... 
No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money!

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Part 1: What to Do When Approaching a Mogol/Mogul

The premise of this blog is, of course, that throughout time and space, every culture has witnessed the presence of a Holy Beggar. Whether individuals or institutions, the beggar is the "canary" in a socio-economic context.

I have introduced you to my begging buddies who provide this function within the context of their cultural milieu.

Now, I'm going to tell you about two situations that will indicate how complex it is to work outside one's own cultural contexts and across generations.

I am immediately reminded of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, the first story, or so says the author, Mark Twain, about time travel in human culture

Young Chinese American Storyteller at a (Predominantly) Jewish Community Memorial  

The first example presented here is based on an occurrence last week at the yahrtzeit (Yiddish: lit. "time of year", annual memorial) of the beloved Theodore Bikel held by family and friends, and accessible (as was dear Theo) to all. The venue was the great community center hall (former Sinai Temple synagogue) of Craig Taubman's multi-cultural but Jewish-inspired Pico Union Project (PUP) ain the Pico/Union section of LA.

The event was not targeted to be "sponsored by" or even to "officially" benefit  anything or one else, but it was mentioned in the midst of some reverential comments that if people wanted to make a donation to Mazon, the Jewish organization that addresses hunger throughout the USA, there were some envelopes on the pews. Nothing more was said about it from the stage for 2 hours.

Toward the end of a very hamish (Yiddish: NOT like "ham" but more like that sweet fellow "Haim") gathering of folks in the folk music community, a few in film and TV, some lefties and an even fewer heads of Jewish community organizations, Peter Yarrow sang songs about hope and inclusiveness of immigrants. He invoked the melting-pot-ness (Bikel didn't believe in it) of our current political dilemma. Folks on the bimah (Hebrew: stage) were taking turns doing solos, and we all joined in on the choruses. Try and stop us!

In the sweet Kum-ba-Yah-nis of the moment, a younger fellow with an Asian face pokes his head through the crowd on stage, takes the mike, and introduces himself as Jason Chu, the PUP Storyteller. "I'm a Chinese kid from Delaware who didn't know Theodore Bikel, but I am moved by what I'm experiencing here today. He spoke first quietly through the humming that honored his words and remained at this level, suggesting "let's all get together, and do what's right", etc.And then ...

Kapow! Nothing.

My friend Linda and I, both of us who have rattled the begging bowls in our professional lives, simultaneously turned to each other and, in astonished soto voce said, "He didn't ask for money! He had 'em!"

As the formal program ended, with people chatting and leaving their seats, one woman strained her voice to be heard ... "If you have those Mazon envelopes, please give them to ..." and named a few people, none of whom were necessarily stationed in a specific spot.

Linda and I were invited to join the Pals-O-Theo as they adjourned to the social hall for refreshments, where we found Jason and brought to his attention this observation. I asked him if he could hear the silence, the anticipation, the power of his voice? "These folks expect / want to give. Jewish people give at times like these."

He said that it was never his intention to ask for money. We explained the missed opportunity, especially since MAZON was mentioned previously. He didn't have to bring it up out of the cold. I plan to meet Jason at another time to discuss this further. He can turn his story-telling prowess into fund raising and to develop philanthropic contributions for PUP.

The great fundraisers are all story-tellers, much as are lawyers. It is at the heart of a great persuasive "argument" ... the difference is that the intention to wield the power is clearly to channel / convert the listener's cache of emotions toward taking some specific action.

In Compelling Conversations for Fundraisiers, authors Laurie Selik and Janet Levine call this the "pivot". In skiing, it's what one must do when approaching a mogul (a bump/hill of snow, usually found in a series, caused by many people skiing in the same area). I call it Hooo-pA! It is impossible to ski through the gullies on those long boards. So, when you're at the top of the bump, while the view may be lovely, for the sake of need to get down the mountain, take the opportunity at hand (actually, foot!) to make a turn, or slow down, or other adjustment. This is a truly powerful place to be if one uses it correctly!

To you, beloveds of The Holy Beggar, please do not forget to pay attention, and.

No matter what ...
Don't forget to 

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Kudos (and a shake of the begging bowl!) to my colleague Laurie Selik and her co-author, Janet Levine, for their "Compelling Conversations for Fund Raisers, one of a series of compelling guides to conversation from Chimayo Press (Los Angeles). They are here to help Holy Beggars "Talk Your Way to Success with Donors and Funders".

The street-side HB doesn't have much time to engage potential donors, about a minute or two while the light is red. You need to meet the donor at his/her terms. If you stand in Beverly Hills (can anyone?), be prepared to take credit cards. If you are near a bank or ATM, have change for a $20.

As discussed, a sign helps a lot, but don't forget to make sure it's right-side-up, facing the windshield. And for goodness sake, make sure your Slurpee cup is empty with the lid off before you offer it as a receptacle.

If you can get to them to the "I'll think about it" stage ... make sure you're at the same spot, the same time tomorrow. Remind them of their kind consideration.

Laurie and Janet provide helpful scenarios for the more managed encounter, looking more toward significant gifts, as well as "planned" gifts. The latter could include appreciated property (such as the Mercedes our street-side donor is driving) as well as life insurance. (Given the way drivers behave in Los Angeles, a HB might do well to take out a policy on a driver his/herself and some day, just some day ... )

Seriously (I was being that!), theirs is a workbook ...

Remember the HB's motto ...

No matter what ...
Don't forget to 
Ask for the Money!

Got Your Hand Out?

Your humble Holy Beggar wishes to demonstrate one of the ways she has been trying to make a living by not directly begging for another entity: ghost writing. 

Yes, I've sold my words so that they come out of another's "mouth". Shame on them.

Here's something I wrote for a translation company ... another person is attributed as the author. Anonymous would have been better.

Since the beginning of time: 2161, or at minimum, over 40 Earth years ago when Gene Roddenberry launched the Star Trek enterprise, the crafty creators of races and galaxies, technologies and tools have been hard at work to transform everyday Earthlings into a Trekkies worthy of citizenship in the United Federation of Planets.

The Star Trek franchise builders have not been content to merely dabble in pop culture and fantasy storytelling. Now over 40 million human fans world-wide have access to powerful tools to cross the media threshold and interact with other weekend wanna-be warriors by learning to speak and read the Klingon language.

The master-mind (and mouth) of the Klingon language is linguist Dr. Marc Okrand, author of Conversational Klingon, the definitive audio book, the Klingon Dictionary, among others. A specialist in an extinct language of a people of Northern California, Okrand was making a living over-dubbing and subtitling for the film industry when he was brought into the Star Trek picture, literally. His first task was to create just four lines of otherwise non-extant Vulcan in post- production of Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan to match the actor’s English language lip movements as an over-dub.

Brought back to work on Star Trek III The Search for Spock, this time in the scriptwriting phase, he decided to formally create an entire new language from scratch, complete with grammar and vocabulary as well as an inventory of sounds, Klingon at once needed to reference the history and current world view of the inhabitants of that distant galaxy. No detail was overlooked.

Since then, new stories and new characters have been blending into those earlier “realities”, necessitating the development of Klingon’s greater linguistic complexity. Klingon further morphed as fans began try to speak and write it in
their ordinary, 21st Century Earth-bound lives. There are also lexicons and grammars created by fans, such as the online program “battle tested” at the Klingon Language Institute that has attracted many adherents and many efforts to compile English – Klingon dictionaries.

While Microsoft’s Bing search engine identifies 1,060,000 entries for “translate Klingon”, now, in cooperation with Paramount and the Klingon Language Institute, Bing offers written translation from many languages into both the “original” Klingon script as well as Roman and Hindu-Arabic characters. It seems that Bill Gates’ team has been considering how to do this for a long time, and released it in time for the premiere of Star Trek Into Darkness. There are no coincidences!
While we at Acclaro have yet to receive a request for translation into Klingon, we salute the Trekkies who have delved into learning the language for themselves. To you, we say majQa’…well done!

 Dearest Holy Beggars by Any (or No) Names,

No matter what ...
Don't Forget to 
Ask for the Money    

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Beggars Make the World Go Round: The Invisible Pan-Hand(ler)

The fundamental premise of this blog is that begging has had a role in every society across time and space. Perhaps it is an organic by-product of human social order, whether democratic or totalitarian, capitalist or socialist.

Adam Smith, the wunderkind studied in microeconomics, knew very well about the significant role that the Beggar plays in society by his signature study of the "Invisible Hand".

Beggars are by nature invisible until they need to come into the public square to search for sustenance. All of a sudden, in a churning milieu alive with friction born of the heat of economic productivity, an empty "hand" intrudes into the usual rhythmic flow. Like a stone dropping into a body of water, the Beggar's presence may or may not send ripples or divert the flow, whether s/he is standing on a traffic island facing the stopped flow or on a subway platform singing operatic ditties well in tune with a boom box.

In a benign form, the Beggar has an air of lifelessness. We may not see her/him, or we do and then carry the burden of ignorance of something before our eyes. We know what s/he is doing: helping us to reconsider whether we have enough, just enough for one's lifestyle and what to do with the excess. If it's a perfect world, we find something of the latter and pass it on.

But this is not a perfect world, as we learn in macroeconomics. Once regulation sets in, there are distortions to what is otherwise a perfectly natural hunter-gatherer environment. To wit, the Houston Chronicle  provides a public service on how to obtain a Panhandler License.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Clinging With an Open Hand

Reading a report about the progress to health of the beloved Thich Nhat Hanh by Justin Whitaker (July 14, 2015), Thich Nhat Hanh comes to the USA for further treatment, funds sought to cover costs, there is an interesting discussion about clinging ... to life, to teacher ... something Buddhism disavows.  To wit: 

"When I have responded to such misgivings, it has usually been to note that all involved are still human, or to question the use of the term ‘clinging’ here. In Buddhist thought, motivation is key, and yet guessing about or supposing to know the motivations of others is a fool’s game. Perhaps those close to Thay are indeed clinging to him as much as devoted followers of any religious leader. Or perhaps they instead see his message that has reached so many people around the world and wish only to see that message continue in the strongest way possible, through his continuing to teach and write.

"My sense is that too many people have seized on the message of non-clinging (which is a good and central message within Buddhism) and tried to apply it here too forcefully. Like all teachings, it should be taken with some nuance. When driving on a windy mountain road, a good Buddhist clings firmly to the steering wheel.

"Perhaps Thay and his students see his journey as not quite finished and so hold on and work to see it through."

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a Japanese Zen monk. I advanced my understanding of working / not working toward emptiness and was basically told that by working or not, my concept of emptiness was severe.

Back to the pillow. Opening the hand. 

And the other hand ...

Image: Geoff Livingston. CC Thanks


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Alwaleed Foundation's Leadership

Finally, someone get's it. 

On July 1, 2015, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaudof Saudi Arabia announced he's giving away his entire $32 billion fortune to charity. Here's the announcement.

His gargantuan gift will go to his own nonprofit, Alwaleed Philanthropies, throughout the next several years. There, the dollars will bolster a handful of causes worldwide, like empowering women, eradicating diseases, assisting in disaster relief, ending poverty, increasing intercultural understanding, developing underserved communities. He says he has been inspired by Bill Gates' generosity.
 The foundation's grantmaking is in several areas: Developing Communities, Empowering Women and Youth, Providing Vital Disaster Relief ... and Bringing Cultures Together. As for the latter, it will

  • Involve a university with proven credentials as a center of learning.
  • Focus on research and outreach to promote interfaith and intercultural relations.
  • Promote understanding of Islam in the West and the understanding of the West in the Islamic world.
  • Demonstrate commitment to foster dialogue and discussions.
That kind of understanding will lay off even the most optimistic holy beggar.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Holy Beggar: Oustanding in His Field!

-->When I first met my HB comrade Monk Gigen Ono worked in computer business in Los Angeles, but he then decided to take monastic vows in the Soto Zen Buddhist lineage and return to Japan for training.

He came back a few years after rigorous training at Eiheiji, the headquarters of the lineage, to L.A., his head now shaved and demeanor somewhat more reserved.

We talked about his new life walking through small villages of rural Japan  engaging in the practice of takahatsu, begging. His work takes him him to the front doors of homes upon which would knock and then wait for someone to open. His clothing and dogu, utensils/props, made it perfectly clear to the residents that he was a Buddhist monk and more often than not, he reports, they welcome him in. His purpose was to offer to chant sutras, Buddhist scripture, at the butsudan, the family altar containing the mementos of recently and distantly deceased, for their benefit in the next life. This short ritual, taking about 10 minutes, earns him a few yen and much appreciation.

"What if no one answers the door, perhaps they are not home?" I asked.

"I chant outside the closed door anyway," he replied.

Our conversation occurred when I  had just come back from a job interview with the L.A. Philharmonic, seeking to join their development team ranks. Job hunting is so frustrating, as this blog notes early into its development. I asked him what he thought I could do to improve my chances, and he hummed "Daiku", the beginning of Beethoven's "Great" 9th. We both laughed.

A few years later, I saw Gigen - san again. He was still out on the takuhatsu trail providing folks with a way to stay in touch with the Buddhadharma. In the course of conversation, he asked me whether I thought he would be more sincere looking if he did not wear his tabi, split toe socks, when going out in the snow. Looking at this photograph (not my pal), it does not seem that the woman is looking at his bare feet. 

Even if no one opens the door ...

Remember the Holy Beggar Maxim:  
Don't Forget to
Ask for the Money ... anyhow!
Happy Solstice in the  
Year of the Green Wood Goat / Sheep / Ox*!   
*If I were he, I'd opt for sox made of wool from a sheep.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Not-So-Non-Profit "Fourth Sector"

Your Holy Beggar may be a candidate to run ... no! to be one of these "hybrid" enterprises.

Remember, the whole premise of this blog is why not cut out the middleman, the nonprofit organization that would pay me a salary to beg for them ... when I can just beg for myself.

Perhaps I can be considered for the Nobel Prize in Economics!

But remember ...
No matter what ...
Don't forget to ask for the money.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Classy ... Classic Holy Beggar

Bravo to this gentleman and HONY's Brandon for capturing the true essence of Holy Beggarhood.

From the Humans of New York FaceBook page October 8, 2914

"I take my meds but I still have bad days. I know the moment I wake up if it's going to be a bad day. I'm really fidgety and distracted and resentful. I can't even sit out here on bad days. I get too resentful when people walk by and don't help. I know it doesn't make sense, and that I don't have a right to be resentful, but I still get angry. I can't keep a job because of the bad days. I just get too verbal when I'm agitated. I don't even realize I'm doing it. I realize it later. But when it's happening, I don't know it's happening. It's like when I'm in the picture, I can't see the picture."

But remember,
No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money.


Has The Holy Beggar come full circle?

Perhaps. You be the judge.

I recently did a pre-year-end accounting of my contributions and my gross income. I have had the urge to make more donations to outcomes-based (e.g. nonprofit) organizations, yet the significant reduction in my own income will really not allow it if I am to remain solvent.

So I thought that perhaps I should stand on a street corner and beg for donations to these nonprofits -- a generic receptacle promoted by a sign that says,

"Your extra change is NOT FOR ME ...
It's for public broadcasting ... the arts ... the enviornment ...
all 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations."

I will do just that and increase my tax-deductable donations.

But remember,
No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dan Pallotta's TED Talk -- The way we think about nonprofit organizations is dead wrong.

I couldn't say it better ...

 Here's the reading list :

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Guest Post: Rabbi David Lapin's "Charity vs. Investment"

Tzeddakah and Chessed are different. They produce different results.
Parshat Eikev 5774                                                                                                    © Rabbi David Lapin, 2014 Permission Granted
Tzeddakah Box
You know the story of The Giving Tree? It’s a charming children’s book [written by Shel Silverstein] about a lifetime’s relationship between a boy and an apple tree. The boy plays in the shade of an apple tree and climbs its branches. When he grows up and no longer wants to play, the tree gives him its apples so that he can sell them and earn money. Later, when the boy wants a house the tree offers him its branches with which to build a home and then its trunk with which to build a boat. Finally, the tree, having given the boy all of its resources, has nothing more to offer him other than the stub of its trunk on which to sit in his old age.
The idea of generosity that the book illustrates it is not the Jewish idea of generosity. The book teaches unconditional generosity, a Christian idea, not a Jewish one. 
The Torah differentiates between two distinct expressions of generosity: Generous donations to a cause or a person, and generous investment in the growth and development of others. Charity is tzedakkah; investment is chessed. Unconditional (and at times even anonymous) charity is generous. Unconditional investment is not.
The boy – and the world – would have benefitted more from the tree had the tree required that the boy replant some of its apple seeds and grows more trees. The tree could have insisted that the boy show gratitude and that he pays the tree’s kindness forward by showing similar kindness to others. This would have been a truly generous investment in another. As it is, the tree simply gave the boy charity and eventually depleted itself. Unconditional giving is not sustainable, which is why the Torah limits it to twenty percent of assets or income.
Investment in others, on the other hand, is not only sustainable it is regenerative and the Torah does not cap it. Olam chessed yibaneh: the world continues to be built and rebuilt through chessed – investment in others. Investors have expectations of those who benefit from their generosity; they expect growth and returns. Not only are these expectations legitimate, they also inspire the very growth and development that was the purpose of the investment to begin with.
In my last essay, “So What Now?”  I wrote about the attractiveness of matnat chinam. You will have noticed that I deliberately chose not to translate this idea as unconditional giving but rather as unearned giving. The reason is because matnat chinam is a gift given to someone not because they had previously done something to earn it but given to someone who has thus far done nothing at all to earn it. However, matnat chinam does not imply a gift with no expectation of gratitude or reciprocation in the future. That would be charity. Charity, a noble midah and necessary social responsibility, does not build society; it simply preserves society. Investment in others, and expecting reciprocal returns on that investment, actually builds a society.
The purpose of the Creation was not so that Hashem could provide us with unconditional charity. Unconditional charity is nahama de’kissufa, as Rabeinu Sa’adia Gaon terms it. Were we to be the recipients of free handouts we could not built our dignity and our stature; our journey on earth would be pointless.  Hashem created the world, the Gaon says, so that Hashem could invest in us expecting us to reciprocate with our Avodah (service) – serving Him and providing a service to one another. In this way we could earn His ultimate generosity in olam habbah and we would not experience it as undignified nahama de’kissufa.
This theme is emphasized over and over again in the Torah and specifically in the parsha. The parsha’s very name, Eikev, implies the conditionality of investment: You serve me properly and deal justly and kindly with others, I will continue to shower you and your land with abundant blessing.
Our nation is emerging out of a relatively peaceful era of some seventy years during the non-Jewish world, shamed by the holocaust tolerated us and the excellence of our accomplishments. Now we are starting to irritate the world again, and their irritation is erupting into flashes of vile anti-semitism not seen since the war. We cannot take God’s protection for granted; it is not an unconditional handout of charity. We have just experienced miracle after miracle in Israel, Hashem expects us to reciprocate with higher standards of avodah, limud Torah and service to others. Some of us can inspire this reciprocation on large scales, others can do it within themselves and their immediate spheres of influence. 

Whatever your capability, what are you doing to reciprocate to Hashem? What are you and I doing to earn God’s continuing protection and blessing as our nation moves into a new era of independence, accomplishment, influence and global resentment? How are we showing ever greater Hakkarat hatov (gratitude) to Hashem for our being given the opportunity to live in one of the most stunning eras of modern Jewish history?
The Giving Tree took more than it gave. It gave the boy shade, and apples and wood. But it took away his dignity and his potential to grow in the most important midah of all: Hakkarat hatov – gratitude, the very stuff of relationship (with God and with fellow men), kindness and society itself.

For more insights from Rabbi Lapin, see his iAwaken website. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


The tradition of joining the world-wide Jewish community commitment to study a page of the Babylonian Talmud (2,711 pages in total) a day in a 7.5 year-long in a specific cycle -- is called Daf YomiSince the custom, minhag, began in 1923, then the entire cycle has been completed 12 times; the last one ending August 2, 2012. The current one is due to be completed in January 2020. 

I've not done it even for a day, but I have been following Jacqueline Nicholls' "Draw Yomi" Project in which she not only participates in the reading, but also she draws images from the passages and offers a short commentary or note about its contents for a decidedly personal,  21st Century feminist eye. It is a bit haiku-ish in that it is not work that is over thought, but definitely impressionistic. We are who we are when we enter the current of the big river.

A prolific artist who lives in London, Nicholls' other works are mostly in the fiber arts that address women's role in Jewish rituals, exploring the forms and intentions of minhagim, traditions, and projecting them on to personal experiences of life cycles of the body and the peoplehood. 

Today, after catching up on her daily impressions, I explored once again her website and entered "rooms" of her many thematic projects. I was struck particularly by her "Kittel" project today. A kittel is a very simple garment that an observant man (usually) will wear at his wedding, funeral and on the annual days of yom kippur in between. It is white, full length and has sleeves. A perfect canvas for such an inspired, skillful artist.

Here is her thought about the “Dignity Kittel” ...

“I used to spend Christmas volunteering at a temporary homeless shelter in London that provided basic services and support. In amongst the medical and dental care, food, hairdressing, there was a large clothing section. The guests could choose an outfit, and my job was to make sure that these garments fitted them properly, so when they stepped out in their new suit, they looked smart and dignified. We were instructed to make sure that they didn’t look like they were wearing hand-me-downs. The shelter also supplied practical warm coats, but by ensuring that there were people there to make adjustments, they recognized that clothing doesn’t just provide protection against the elements."

We have an obligation to help recognize the inherent dignity of all Beggars, Holy or not. Thus, I’m posting this in two blogs: “Trads in Contempo Life” and “Holy Beggar”.

But remember,
No matter what,
Don't forget to ask for the money.