When I was young (I’m thinking 8 or 9), I had a book of Jewish stories. They were retellings of biblical stories in modern language. My parents, both first generation American Jews, had left all the religious trappings in their youth, for various reasons; nonetheless, they felt it was important that my brother and I be exposed to the cultural history of the Jews.

So, we lit candles at Chanukah, had special treats (like hamantaschen at Purim) and would get off school for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I also remember going to a couple of Passover Seders but it wasn’t a yearly thing. We would have matzoh in the house but we wouldn’t keep the Pesach, as it were.

Anyway, back to this book of stories. As I said, they were re-tellings of biblical tales in modern American English (well, as modern as 1969 secular Jewish books were). For some reason, although I do remember the stories of Chanukah and of David and Goliath form this book, the one story that sticks out for me was the story of the Passover matzoh.

In the story, a rabbi was sitting with his students (all boys, of course…) and they were about to begin their weekly religious class. The rabbi took a piece of matzoh, broke it in two, and broke off a smaller piece from one half and ate it. He then passed it around to the boys and they each took a small piece.

“What does it taste like?” the rabbi asked.

One of the students replied, “It tastes like matzoh.” The other students agreed.

The rabbi then told the story of Moses and the Pharaoh, the suffering of the Israelites and the escape from Mitzrayim (today we say Egypt but, literally, “the narrow place”) and the release from bondage and slavery.

After the story, he took the other half of the matzoh and passed it around. “What does this taste like?” he asked.

One of the boys said, “It tastes like freedom.” The other students agreed.

Tonight is the Festival of Freedom. I’m hardly an observant Jew; although I have a belief in a power greater than us (some choose to call it G-d). Tonight I may go to a Seder and take part in the 6000 plus year old ritual; tomorrow I will be joining some friends for a public Seder.

But this is the heart of my story, today:

Today, I am grateful for the freedoms I have and I wish that others could share in them. I do not forget that I am lucky. I hope and pray that one day all men and women will no longer be judged on their appearance, their race, their religion, their creeds, but instead will be treated with merit towards their behaviors to others and to the planet.

Today, I am looking at the places in my heart where things are narrow, where I am judgmental and unforgiving.

Today, I am tasting the bitterness of not just my degradation and suffering at the hands of others, but also at the pain and sorrow I have caused in my narrowness.

Today, I am rejoicing in the sweetness of my good relationships and the joyful things I have been able to experience. They are many and, in that too, I rejoice.

Tonight, when I eat the matzoh, I will be reminded of the poverty and affliction, but also I will be reminded of the taste of freedom.

Chag Sameach!

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I heard today about the passing of John Cephas from natural causes. Upon hearing of his passing, I was reminded of the times I encountered John. He was always kind, always pleasant, and always willing to show a lick or a technique to an eager student. I had the pleasure of mixing him and Phil Wiggins sometime in the early 90s (at the student union in Madison, WI) and I would always see him at the NAMM show.

One year, at the Hohner booth, he sat me down and gave me a finger picking lesson. “Now do this,” he said, showing me the rhythm of the thumb and two fingers. “Take you two weeks at most…”
I thought about that and, later that night, in my hotel room, I was working at it. Then I did the math. Two weeks =14 days, at 24 hours/day, that’s 336 hours. That’s an hour a day for a year!

I went back to the Hohner booth the next day (where he and Phil were playing) and said, “Mr Cephas, I’m on to you!” He looked at me curiously and I explained the math I’d done and he just laughed and laughed and laughed…

I can fingerpick (a little) now, but I’ll never get the feel of the mountains that John Cephas had.
Meeting him brought a lot of joy to me and folks like me over the years. He will definitely be missed.

New home for the blog.

February 4, 2009

Hi y’all. Welcome to my blah-blah-blah-blog; which will be anything but blah. I got fed up with the approaches of yoo-hoo-three-something and mice pace and faced-buk doesn’t really allow for blogging so here I am. If you’ve read my rants and such before, well, you know what to expect. If you’re new to my p.o.v., welcome. Hope you read something here that moves you, one way or the other.

I’ll just say that for now; I’m sure things will take shape over time.