In advance of this year’s Hazon Food Conference I’ve prepared a source sheet packet containing text arranged to elucidate what I’ve called the Mythic Arc of Predatory Desire in Jewish Legend. . . . → Continue reading: The Mythic Arc of Predatory Desire in Jewish Legend: primary sources on the origin and end of predation
For the last several years I’ve become concerned with a movement on the right, an alliance between Christian Zionists in the U.S. and Israel’s Likud party-flavored right-nationalist Zionism. Something I heard Sarah Palin say back in 2009 in an interview with Barbara Walters raised my eyebrow and Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic was quick to . . . → Continue reading: Wherever I live, that is my ‘Homeland’ — a Response to Zionists on the Jewish and Christian Right
A Simplified Summary of Public Domain Status for Creative Works in US Copyright Law (excluding audio works) – Aharon Varady (CC BY-SA)
Among the many things I do in my work for the Open Siddur Project, I create digital copies of works in the Public Domain. These copies then serve as the basis for . . . → Continue reading: A Simplified Summary of Public Domain Status for Creative Works in US Copyright Law (excluding audio works)
https://vt.tumblr.com/tumblr_oawu2os9Pk1rpqzmz.mp4 CONSOLIDATED – “Unity of Oppression”
(1991, Friendly Fa$cism, Nettwerk/I.R.S Records) Adam Sherburne (guitar and vocals), Mark Pistel (samples, sequencers and keyboards/synths), and Philip Steir (drums).
[Bobby Seale:] “We don’t hate nobody because of their color.” — “We don’t hate nobody because of their color.” — “We don’t hate nobody because of their . . . → Continue reading: CONSOLIDATED – “Unity of Oppression” (full lyrics)
About ten years ago, at a Jews in the Woods gathering nearby the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland, I offered my first shiur on biblical mythology and on the Leviathan and the Behemoth. (I subsequently wrote up some of what I talked about in several posts back here and here and here on the Omphalos, . . . → Continue reading: Levi, the Leviathan
I was incredibly honored to have been invited by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati to speak this evening at their 120th Annual Meeting. Long-lived community bodies can seem to be just part of the landscape, as old as the mountains and somewhat inscrutable, so it seemed appropriate to me on the event of an . . . → Continue reading: גְמַ׳׳ח | A Short Reflection on the Roots of the Federation and G’milut Ḥasadim
Banana Writing for Meditation? (credit: Core Jolts)
Wisdom. Shimon ben Zoma taught that the wise learn from everyone. My friend, Pesach, wrote a book of his accumulated life wisdom, Sustainable Bliss, and devoted three pages to pithy quotes he had picked up in the course of his readings and travels. While editing and co-publishing . . . → Continue reading: Tracking down the author of the popular quote, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past”
A poem for Nissan, and an everyday reminder.
מצרים לא יכול לִמצוֹא במפה מצרים לא יכול לִמצוֹא באטלס לצאת ממצרים היא כל יום לצאת ממצרים היא קפיצה נפשית
אנו חיים בעולם של חלומות ועלינו להתעורר את עצמנו למקום חדש פראי ופתוח בתוך רחם פראי לִמצוֹא לא לבד אנחנו ברחמנות בתוך המקום שבו הדשא . . . → Continue reading: where grass can never be called straw
It’s been a long while since I’ve shared any audio experiments. I can’t/won’t admit to any creativity on my part for the material I mix aside from my recognition of something delightful in the juxtaposition. Such was the case this evening when visiting an old blog page of Rachel Barenblat and was surprised . . . → Continue reading: Velveteen Rabbi Mix
When my father wanted to share an album of captioned photos with a colleague, he used to be able to simply send them a link in an email. This no longer works since the captions he saved in Picasa are not displayed in Google Photos! The solution I worked out for my father relies on Google’s Picasa application installed. So if you need this, go ahead, download and install the latest Picasa application. The rest of the solution is as follows: . . . → Continue reading: Preserving and Sharing Photo Captions from Picasa (before Google shuts it down)
Some people ask me about my last name. “Hey Aharon, where does your last name come from?” etc. It’s a question I’ve long wanted to know myself. I know Varady is a common Hungarian last name and I knew that it was probably something else before it became Varady (or Varadi as some living relatives still spell it). . . . → Continue reading: Marcus Weisberg or Weissberger or Veiszberger… (d. 1880)
1913, Regina and Coleman
I look for them in the past and I find their remains, enough to resemble a person, even someone whose passions I can identify more than vaguely with my imagination. Again, I have this feeling that the historical researcher is more than part necromancer. Not only do we create with . . . → Continue reading: Reszi Sunshine (1885-1970)
“A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his . . . → Continue reading: Happy Birthday Philip K. Dick
From 2009-2010, I was a fellow of Yeshivat Hadar in the pilot year of its first year-long program of study. A couple months ago, Rabbi Jason Rubenstein, Dean of Students at Yeshivat Hadar, asked me if I would consider reviewing Mechon Hadar’s new website. At the Hadar reunion earlier this year, Jason had provided a . . . → Continue reading: Mechon Hadar is Open
Since we all live under the current terms of each of our respective nation’s copyright laws, simply making something available or accessible over the Internet doesn’t make it free under copyright for others to use and improve upon. That’s why open content licenses exist: to abrogate the restrictions imposed by copyright law, and it’s why we need to use them. . . . → Continue reading: SHARE WHAT YOU LOVE ♡ A Decision Tree for Choosing Free-Culture Compatible Open Content Licenses for Cultural & Technological Work
American Jewish World Service does important work, so when a site they built for educators and learners to access Jewish sourcetexts on social justice and other important activities disappeared overnight due to what appeared to be a domain registration lapse, I was motivated to write an essay on how organizations can appreciate their websites as more than “proprietary and Copyrighted marketing assets to better leverage their brand.” eJewishPhilanthropy, a well-read blog popular among Jewish professionals published it this morning. Here’s a snippet: . . . → Continue reading: Teach me your Open Source Torah, on one foot
Last year, I was interviewed by Alan Jacobs for the Atlantic Magazine on the potential and promise of an open source Judaism. This year I was privileged to write an essay for the Sova Project, a project that is considering the structures and processes of a sustainable society through the lens of biblical, prophetic, and rabbinic Jewish values and practices. In the essay I try to pose many of the same concerns from the perspective of community professionals: scholars, artists, and educators: “Those of us who make a living as crafters, educators, and servants of the Jewish community: how do we feel about sharing our work? I mean, really sharing? When, in working with Torah, I create a lesson plan or feel like I have some brilliant insight or analysis or make a translation, how do I give it, release it to the world at large so that my work can spread through adoption, adaptation, redistribution (and attribution)? Further, what are my anxieties and vulnerabilities in sharing my Torah? What honestly are my desires, aspirations, and needs? How, through my method of sharing, can I satisfy and reconcile these concerns?” In wrestling with these questions, I wanted to bring attention to an important orientation that guided Talmudic discourse in Torah — that of dimus parrhesia, a Greek term for a cultivated attitude towards sharing ideas, freely and openly. . . . → Continue reading: Making oneself into a Maqom Hefker (an ownerless place): On the Economy of Sharing Torah, Dimus Parrhesia (freely and openly)
A Midrash of the Jews of Yemen dating from the 13th century provides the following explanation for the mystery of the four-branched shin. There is one “head” for each of the following facets: cogitation, imagination, memory, and estimation. Additionally, the midrash provides the following astrological explanation for the three and the four branched shin appearing together on the tefillin shel rosh: together their seven heads make up the seven visible wandering stars (i.e., the planets), whose celestial powers in Jewish cosmology must have one root in the mind of G!d. . . . → Continue reading: All Streams, One Source: Shesha and the Mystery of the Four-headed Shin
Over at the Open Siddur Project, I was looking for a way that users sharing their work could automatically select between any of the three free/libre compatible licenses offered by the Creative Commons. Well known among free-culture activists, not all Creative Commons licenses are “free” according to the Free Software Foundation’s definition of free.By free, . . . → Continue reading: Open Content License Generator: A WordPress Plugin for selecting and displaying an Open Content compatible license for posts
Nigel Savage made public this week his reply to Ben Dreyfus and others concerning Ḥazon’s orthography of ט״וּ בִּשְׁבַט as Tu B’Shvat rather than Tu biShvat. Given the seriousness of the environmental and food justice issues that Tu biShvat gives voice to, it’s important to recognize that this earnest if seemingly comical debate isn’t really about romanization of Hebrew anymore. It’s a question about Siaḥ (שִׂיחַ — discourse), the roles of Jewish education, and the goals of Jewish educators. . . . → Continue reading: “Tu biShvat” vs. “Tu b’Shvat”: Orthography and Presumptions of Authority in Jewish Environmental Education
Petru Moldovan writes, “Idel notices that in “Ghet ha-Îemot,” Abulafia had used for the first time the gematria combination: Elohim = ha-Teva. To Abulafia, Elohim is the act of Creation, and not its agent, as this name is the same with nature, and the gematria combination should not be understood as a simple linguistic pun, but as a way of considering the identity of nature with the divine, just as Maimonides had suggested it in the “Guide.” . . . → Continue reading: Great Nature and the Gematria of Elohim
Jeff Anshalem writes, “On Shabbat Ḥol Hamoed Sukkot we read of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, seemingly a strange choice for Sukkot, but the Maor VeShamesh explains what’s common to both: unity. Unity between us, symbolized by the joining together of the Four Species (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12), evokes unity between us and G!d.” . . . → Continue reading: The Sign of the Twins: On the Reconciliation of the Divine with its Likeness
One of the most delightful things I learned about Judaism growing up was that rabbinic Judaism had not one, but four new year holidays (according to the Mishnah Seder Moed 1:1). There’s the well known and widely celebrated Rosh Hashanah La’Olam — for the World — an annual commitment to maintaining and sustaining creation through the beneficial work of our activities, and through repairing ourselves and our manifold relationships within the work of creation. (This occurs on Rosh Ḥodesh Tishrei.) There’s the fairly obscure Rosh Hashana La’Melakhim — for Kings — an annual commitment to our calendar founded upon a society of justice. (This occurs on Rosh Ḥodesh Nissan.) . . . → Continue reading: Rosh haShanah la’Behemot: A New Year’s Day for Domesticated Animals
While working on some curriculum for the Teva Learning Alliance this summer, I was introduced to the Tseno Ureno, an amazing medieval commentary on the Torah by Rabbi Yaakov ben Yitsḥak Ashkenazi (1550-1625). Here’s Rabbi Yaakov Ashkenazi on Deuteronomy 20:19 — כִּ֤י הָֽאָדָם֙ עֵ֣ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה. This is the verse from which the mitzvah of bal . . . → Continue reading: More on the siaḥ of suaḥ: numinous conversations of trees and other vegetation
I want to share one of the most beautiful Jewish ecology quotes I learned while reading through the curricular material while teaching at Teva Learning Center in (now Teva Learning Alliance) in the fall of 2010. The quote: “The whole world of humans, animals, fish, and birds all depend on one another. All drink the earth’s water, breathe the earth’s air, and find their food in what was created on the earth. All share the same destiny.” It was so beautiful I wanted to do some fact-checking to determine if this was a literal or a more creative translation and also to understand its context. Some detective work was in order. The source on the sheet I found it said it was from Tanna Debe Eliyahu, an early collection of midrash completed in the 10th century. . . . → Continue reading: On the Interconnectedness of All of Life: An Ecology of Oneness in the Tanna d’bei Eliyahu
Last year, while preparing the text of Gale & Goodman’s popular seder for Tu Bishvat, The Trees are Davvening, I came across an important and fairly modern story that testifies to important Jewish values of bal tashḥit (not needlessly wasting or wantonly destroying) in the context of our relationship with non-human life and nature. The problem I immediately encountered was one of attribution — the story featured Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook (1865–1935), the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine, while the story as I remembered it featured the fifth and sixth rebbes of ḤaBaD. The story in The Trees are Davvening quoted verbatim the story as recounted by Rav Aryeh Levin (1885-1969) in A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, p.107 by Simcha Raz (Feldheim 1975). . . . → Continue reading: Variations on a pedagogy for teaching bal tashḥit: on the mindfulness of plucking leaves
Given that one important aspiration of the Open Siddur Project is the development of a web application for anyone to edit, maintain, and share the content of a personal prayerbook that they can craft online, I’m very concerned at how well web browsers today display the Hebrew language with all of its diacritical (vowels, cantillation) . . . → Continue reading: Testing Web browsers as Platforms for Hebrew Text Publishing
2011 Gregorian. Such a quiet year for the Omphalos.
Even before New Year’s a year past, this blog had begun a mostly uninterrupted slumber beginning in 2009, what with most of my activity focused on directing the Open Siddur Project (2009-present), studying at Yeshivat Hadar (2009-2010), teaching with the Teva Learning Alliance (2010-2011), studying . . . → Continue reading: What Happened‽ So what‽ Now what‽
Varady's Fabulous Flying Keyboard (Level 1)
Behold my Flying Keyboard!
Ever want a keyboard configuration you could switch to for odd characters‽ You know, so you could add an Ḥ in Ḥanukah without copying and pasting from this page (or your favorite “Character Viewer” program).
Well I made such a keyboard configuration that you . . . → Continue reading: Varady’s Fabulous Flying Keyboard
Lately, for the Open Siddur Project, I’ve been putting together a font package for more easily distributing extant free/libre licensed Unicode Hebrew fonts. These fonts tend to be licensed with SIL’s Open Font License (e.g., EzraSIL and Cardo), or the GNU General Public License (GPL, e.g., Maxim Iorsh’s Culmus Project fonts). Because of the differences between fonts and other software code in their usage, there arose some conflicts which necessitated an exception to the GPL specifically for fonts. Unfortunately, the GPL font exception statement is somewhat buried in the Free Software Foundations GPL FAQ. Because important information on the GPL+FE is nowhere on the Internet included in one single post, I’ve reformatted it and shared it below. . . . → Continue reading: GNU General Public License + Font Exception
A few weeks ago I was asked on the (Star) Trek Jews list what the Jewish concept of t’shuva means… here is what I wrote for someone who might know very little about Jewish thought and philosophy. I think I would have liked it to have more quotes from sources, TaNaKh, Talmud, and other scholars, . . . → Continue reading: On Potters and Potlings (or On turning forward with one’s head turned backwards)
When late last year my friend Dr. Allan Tulchin asked for my help preparing two maps for a book on the history of the Protestant Church in medieval France, I was so happy to oblige. I love maps and I love historical research. Preparing these maps would exercise my mapping skills using GIS software and . . . → Continue reading: Beyond the Omphalos: Three Maps of Late Medieval France
This is something of a guest post by proxy. My father, Dr. David Varady, is on his sabbatical and working at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. My mother, meanwhile, is working on visiting in person all the Dutch art she scanned from books during her tenure as the visual . . . → Continue reading: Professor Varady in the Netherlands
According to one ancient Jewish tradition, the custom of not eating meat on Shavuot celebrates the vow God made with Noaḥ and his children on Mt. Ararat. Although the vow was witnessed by Noaḥ on Ararat, because Noaḥ’s descendants continued to eat the flesh of an animal with its blood, a suitable partner to the . . . → Continue reading: Let the mountains sing together with joy!
At 161st Street and Grand Concourse in the Bronx, there is a highly ornate fountain named Lorelei located in a rather lonely park dedicated to dead poets. Inscribed at the base of Lorelei is the name and visage of a man — once upon a time, Germany’s favorite Romantic poet. Hitler tried his best to . . . → Continue reading: With Heine at Lorelei
A few days ago Engadget blogged a story originally reported in the Israeli print media that a local family was surprised to discover that their Roomba had ingested a dangerous poisonous snake (Vipera palaestinae). (Within a few days, the story was echoed by Gizmodo, Boing Boing, and Jewschool.)
In so far as . . . → Continue reading: The Talmud on the Virtues of Robots and Cats
Fellow Omphalos gazers might wonder what I’ve been doing. And not just in the sense of, “Hey I’m wonder what Aharon’s been up to lately.” Well, after two months of productive work on the Open Siddur Project as a fellow with the PresenTense Institute in Jerusalem this summer, I spent a month in Philadelphia before . . . → Continue reading: Post-PresenTense
Regular readers (hi mom!) were disappointed when I didn’t post the last two months. Forgive!! Drama was afoot. I got involved in a relationship with a lovely young woman and I began to find a foothold in the world of Jewish social entrepreneurship.
Happenstance the first: a creative project I proposed to the summer bootcamp/workshop . . . → Continue reading: Open Siddur at PresenTense Institute Workshop
In October 2008, my friend Will posted on his blog, A Journey Around My Skull, his discovery of a Japanese illustrator, Rokuro Taniuchi. The image of a looming figure on the horizon by Taniuchi reminded me very much of the cover art for a book I read in 5th grade titled Creatures . . . → Continue reading: To Stand on One Foot
In his 1978 essay, “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later“, Philip K. Dick wrote, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” This ontology is challenged by a syndrome recently brought to my attention in a recent post on boingboing.net, “Hallucinations . . . → Continue reading: Reality and Hallucination: Towards a Talmudic Ontology of Consensus (by way of demons)
In the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), after Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) proudly describes that in his lickable wallpaper “The snozberries taste like snozberries!”, an exasperated Veruca Salt snidely objects, “Snozberries? Who ever heard of a snozberry?” Willy Wonka grabs her mouth and explains “We are the music makers, and We are . . . → Continue reading: We are the music makers
credit: George Steinmetz
Amplified Harmonic Resonance, Playlist for Monday morning, 2009-01-26, programmer: dj Magical Adventures of Duffy Moon, Mondays 7am-10:00am EST Year Artist Album Track Title 1979 Kitaro Oasis 7 Shimmering Horizon (Hikari To Kage) 1979 Kitaro Oasis 8 Fragrance Of Nature (Shizen No Kaori) 1979 Kitaro Oasis 9 Innocent People (Mujaki) 1979 Kitaro . . . → Continue reading: Amplified Harmonic Resonance: Playlist for Monday morning, 2009-01-26
Amplified Harmonic Resonance, Playlist for Monday morning, 2009-01-19, programmer: dj Magical Adventures of Duffy Moon, 7am-10:30pm EST Year Artist Album Track Title 1993 Deeper than Space Earthrise 3 Earthrise 1957 Marcel Duchamp The Creative Act 1 The Creative Act (Houston, TX, April 1957) 1975 Franco Falsini Naso Fredo (Cold Nose) 1 Naso Fredo (Cold . . . → Continue reading: Amplified Harmonic Resonance: Playlist for Monday morning, 2009-01-19
From Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Cat’s Cradle (1963). Found on the internet, and rearranged chronologically. . . . → Continue reading: The Collected Calypsos, Sayings, and Songs of Bokonon
Amplified Harmonic Resonance, Playlist for Monday morning, 2009-01-12, programmer: dj Magical Adventures of Duffy Moon, 7am-1pm EST Year Artist Album Track No. Title 1989 Philip Glass 1000 Airplanes on the Roof 1 1000 Airplanes on the Roof 1989 Philip Glass 1000 Airplanes on the Roof 2 City Walk 2007 Christopher DeLaurenti Favorite Intermissions 2 . . . → Continue reading: Amplified Harmonic Resonance: Playlist for Monday morning, 2009-01-12
Just a few notes on the film Defiance. My housemate and I caught a free screening courtesy of gofobo.com and the Ritz East. The film is based on the 1993 book by Nechama Tec, Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, and it is an excellent story told well. Had it been a fantasy written by Tolkien it . . . → Continue reading: Hobbits, Jews, and Romantics in the Woods
Amplified Harmonic Resonance, Playlist for Monday morning, 2009-01-05, programmer: dj Magical Adventures of Duffy Moon Year Artist Album Track No.
Title 1970 John Cale & Terry Riley Church Of Anthrax 1 Church of Anthrax 1970 John Cale & Terry Riley Church Of Anthrax 2 The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles . . . → Continue reading: Amplified Harmonic Resonance: Playlist for Monday morning, 2009-01-05