Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22), Shabbat Chazon, Tisha B’Av

Somehow, I ended up accepting requests to chant three texts at two synagogues on one day, i.e., tomorrow.  My daughter (who has safely returned to Brooklyn after 13 months in Asia – Yay!) finds my occasional bursts of over-activity amusing, comparing me to a high school student trying to build/pad her resume with extracurricular activities.

Anyhow, this week, we start reading the book of Deuteronomy, “Devarim” in Hebrew, literally “words,” and there are a lot of them.  (My first assignment: chanting about 10 verses of the reading at Synagogue A) It’s basically a month-long series of talks given by Moses to the people, his last chance to educate/plead with/harangue them before he dies and then enter the Promised Land.  [Pretty impressive for a man who’d whined he wasn’t a good speaker 40 years before] He starts with a retrospective of the 40 years, but he skips a lot, omitting the Exodus, the Red Sea splitting, Revelation at Mt.Sinai, the Golden Calf, to zoom in on the episode of the spies.  Why?  The situations are parallel: the slave generation was on the verge of conquering the land as the free generation is now.  The slave generation blew it, and Moses is  using them as an object lesson.  He focuses on that generation as a whole, assigning them responsibility for asking for men to be sent to scout out the land (that’s not how the account reads in Numbers).  He does not name the 12 men, or note that they were tribal leaders, or even go into detail about their report, but instead talks about the reaction of the people – sulking and refusing to have faith in the Lord or in themselves.  Moses then talks about the recent past, the military victories and the land apportionment on the east side of the Jordan for the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

This Sabbath, immediately preceding Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), is known as Shabbat Chazon.  “Chazon” (vision) is the first word of the haftarah, Isaiah 1:1-27, which is about the vision of Isaiah (and my second assignment, also at Synagogue A), .  It’s the third of the three Haftarot of Rebuke and is traditionally chanted at least in part using the mournful trope used for chanting the book of Lamentations (“Eichah,” Chapter 2 of which is my third assignment, at Synagogue B).  This year, Tisha B’Av is actually observed on the 10th of Av (starting Saturday night), since, except for Yom Kippur, we don’t fast on the Sabbath.  Tisha B’Av, the “black fast” (mournful, versus the solemnity of the “white fast” of Yom Kippur) commemorates the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and is connected with various other disasters in Jewish history.  In addition to chanting Eichah at night and the following morning, Tisha B’Av has its own Torah and Haftarah readings: morning, Deut. 4:25-40 (which we’ll read again next week) and Jeremiah 8:13-9:23; and afternoon, Exodus 32:11-14; 34:1-10 and Isaiah 55:6-56:8. For more information, see, e.g., .  I recall, right after the Six Day War, because of the reunification of Jerusalem, there was some encouragement to lessen the observance of Tisha B’Av, for example, by fasting only until midday or not fasting at all except for not having meat or wine.  That doesn’t seems to have taken hold, though.

Shabbat shalom,
Last year, I wrote, regarding this portion, “I love words.  I’m sick of words.  I drown in words all day and get tripped up by pipsqueak patent examiners who insist what I wrote is not what I wrote.  But I love wordplay.”  All that is unchanged.  And so, once again, I include some items from the weekly Washington Post Style Invitational:

Style Invitational: Report from Week 976.
in which we asked you to combine the beginning of one word or name appearing in that week’s Style Invitational or Style Conversational with the end of another word to make a new term

The winner of the Inkin’ Memorial:
Ignorial: A monument that nobody visits. (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)
3. Enthusala: A 90-year-old man on Viagra. (Christopher Lamora, Guatemala City)
4. Bristen: To welcome an infant boy into the Jewish and Christian faiths simultaneously; also known as “Snip ’n’ Dip.” (Larry Gray, Union Bridge, Md.)

Selected honorable mentions:
Disc-gust: The reaction of every generation to the next generation’s music. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)
Atchoo: The inevitable direction in which someone else sneezes. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.) 
Face-fax: An office prank in which the perpetrator tends to get caught. (Rob Wolf, Gaithersburg, Md.)
Badmired: Ill-behaved yet still respected. — Bill C., Chappaqua, N.Y. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)
Jeleton: The internal strength of a politician. (Brad Alexander; Sarah Gustafson, Vienna, Va., a First Offender)
Charport: A house’s garage after its owner tries out that new turkey fryer on a cold Thanksiving day (Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf, Md.)
Crockney: A comically bogus East London accent, like Dick Van Dyke’s in “Mary Poppins.” (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)
Poopier-mache: Really scratchy TP. (Chris Doyle)
Exwards: Where most celebrity marriages are heading. (Andy Bassett, New Plymouth, New Zealand)
Ousty: In the mood to remove someone from office. “Wisconsin voters weren’t as ousty as previously thought.” (Jeff Contompasis)
Erot-ish: PG-13. (Elva Salcedo, Williamsburg, Va., a First Offender)
Gradualate: Take seven years to get a BA. (Chris Doyle)
From 2008 – dead link
Need to impress someone quickly?

0 integrated management options
1 heuristic organisational flexibility
2 systematized monitored capability
3 parallel reciprocal mobility
4 functional digital programming
5 responsive logistical scenarios
6 optional transitional time-phase
7 synchronized incremental projection
8 compatible third-generation hardware
9 futuristic policy contingency

The procedure is simple. Think of any three-digit number [actually, you can use any integer up through 999, as long as you use leading zeroes below 100, like “011” for eleven. IGP]; then select the corresponding buzzword from each column. For instance, number 257 produces “systematized logistical projection”, a phrase that can be dropped into virtually any report with that ring of decisive knowledgeable authority. No-one will have the remotest idea of what you’re talking about, but the important thing is that they are not about to admit it!

Book-A-Minute Classics (just a few examples.)

The Collected Work of Wilfred Owen

Ultra-Condensed by Mike Isaacson

War sucks. Sometimes it sucks in iambic pentameter.


Death of a Salesman

By Arthur Miller

Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard

Willy Loman

Every time something bad happens, I go back in time to happier occasions.

Biff Loman

I’m a bum.

Willy Loman

Here I go again.

(Willy Loman goes back in time. Then he runs out of times to go back to, so he DIES.)



The Collected Work of Edgar Allan Poe

Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard and David J. Parker

Some Guy

Oh no. I’m buried alive.


I died.





Book-A-Minute Sci Fi/fantasy

The Collected Work of Isaac Asimov

Ultra-Condensed by David J. Parker

Stock Asimov Character #1

          I’m a suave, witty, brilliant, good-looking scientist. I am everything Asimov thought he was.

Stock Asimov Character #2

I am the same, except the opposite sex.

Stock Asimov Character #1

Great! Let’s do some science stuff, save the world, and make out.

(They do.)



Book-A-Minute Bedtime Stories


Goodnight Moon

By Margaret Wise Brown

Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard





The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett

Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard and David J. Parker


I’m sick because I think I’m sick.


Then let’s reawaken our spirits by going to this garden and discovering the healing power of love inside us all.


Sounds good to me.



Anne of Green Gables

By Lucy Maud Montgomery

Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard

(Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert send for an orphan boy to help out at Green Gables.)

Anne Shirley

I’m here.

Marilla Cuthbert

Anne Shirley, you are not a boy. Go back to the orphanage.

Anne Shirley

If I work really hard, stay out of trouble, enrich your lives with my buoyant spirit, rescue you from the doldrums of your pragmatic ways, and touch the hearts of the townsfolk…then can I stay?

Marilla Cuthbert

Well, ok.

(Anne does all these things except stay out of trouble.)



Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (aka: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

(printed version)

By J. K. Rowling

Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard

Harry Potter

I thought I was a lowly child; instead, I’m wizard.


Harry, here are some secrets I’m not supposed to tell you.

Harry Potter

(saves the world)


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