Saturday, February 24, 2007

Y0u Jew Sure Do Talk Phunni!

I guess the current politically correct usage would call this a "rant", but there are a few things some of us say in the observant community with such frequency that you just "wanna" strangle somebodywhile shouting at the top of your lungs:
Okay let's start from the top. Without question of the three expressions I'm going to discuss, regrettably the most abused, and I say " regrettably" because it is easily the most important two word expression I can think of is ... come on! You know which one it is! You abuse it too, don't you? Uh huh! Thought so! Yep, it is ...

BARUCH HA SHEM" ... stylishy trimmed to "BH" in the Jewish chatrooms. It means simply yet profoundly "Blessed is The Name." and we all know whose name we mean! It's the unutterable name, the ineffable name! No matter that we no longer know how it might have sounded in the days of the first Beis Ha Mikdash! Even if we knew how to say it, we couldn't. So, what do we do? We go overboard in its quasi-enunciation! Here's what one commentator said:

"Baruch Ha Shem! Baruch Ha Shem! colloquially meaning "Thank God!" but which can mean anything from "Great!" to "Don't even ask. My enemies should have my troubles!" Often, upon hearing a dubious sounding Baruch Hashem, the questioner will respond with, "Gee, what's wrong?"

Surely you have heard the adage about the dangers of too much of a good thing? You know like eating chocolate and chopped liver everyday. I might even propose that the use of "BH", like chopped liver, be restricted to Shabbat exclusively! I'll tell you why ... because after too many "B'H(s), they start to sound routine, rote, mechanical and, arguably worst of all ... insincere. After all, if you are going to say "May God's name be blessed!" the very least one should do is to be sincere about it and not spout it out in hope that pitiably gullible folks might think you a tzadik.

"Oy! Such a tzadik. Answers "Baruch Ha Shem!" to everything! Now, mind you there is another question here. From whose mouth is the "Baruch Ha Shem" coming?" If from someone who is genuinely shomer mitzvos and has a goodly amount of yiras shamayim, well that's one thing altogether. On the other hand, if it comes from an insincere mouth, well ... you know who that is, and if you don't, pay attention next time you're in shul.

Lend an ear. I'm sure you have heard these or something similar:

1. Sam, uh ... your fly is open."
Baruch Ha Shem!" (Read: 'Oh my gosh!)

2. "The pizza hasn't arrived yet."
"Baruch Ha Shem!" (read: 'Damn delivery guy. I'm gonna kick his a**!" )

3. "Zalman, you look terrible! Are you ill?"
"Baruch Ha Shem!" (read: 'Yea, I am. I feel like sh*t!" )

A quick suggestion ... try saving your next "Baruch Ha Shem" for the next time you receive good news, like when you have become an uncle/aunt for the first time or if and when a close friend walks away from a traffic accident completely unscathed. You just may be pleasantly surprised! :)

Okay. Moving on. What is it with the use of the preposition "by" in place of "with"? I mean what is
going on there? Witness:

1. "Yea. Moshe is staying BY us!"

2. "So, what's new BY you?"

3. "No. I can't. I'm having lunch BY the rabbi."

What if we said ...?

1. "Would you like fries By your hot dog?" (Picture fries lined up parallel to a hot dog.)

2. "Dear, please take the baby BY YOU to the bowling alley. I wanna get my hair done."

A few more thoughts about "by me" as in: "He stayed BY ME." ... which implies that he was "at your side", "alongside of you" which he probably was not. Now see what happens when we switch "by me" to "me by" and change the verb from "stayed" to "passed": "He passed me by." ... which is to say that he neither stayed with you or by you for that matter.

Lastly, just a few remarks about "Be well!" Now I do like this one very much. Has a nice and caring ring about it. Obviously it is very different from "Get well" (soon)!" which implies that the person whom we are addressing is ill to whom we should wish a "refuah shlema". If we say "Be good!" we imply the other is prone to mischief and that he needs be mindful of his ways lest it happen that we have to say "Get well!" the next time we speak to that person.

There you have it. I've said my two cents worth.

Baruch Ha Shem! :)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dear Readers,

I am pleased to announce that my poem From Your Room will appear in the 2007 summer edition of Living With Loss. Featured in the same edition will be my article Musings of A Bereft Father Six Years Later.

From Your Room
By Alan D. Busch

From your room, Ben,
On this sixth year’s eve
I write these words
alone I grieve.

From your room, Ben,
never, to let go.
Where we wrestled in morning’s darkness
the merciless diabetic and epileptic foe.

Where by your bedside
I sat many the night
afraid to leave you
lest return it might.

Be sure Ben to remember,
neither doubt nor need,
our love for you was always agreed.

So, accept these few words,
your blue eyes to see ...
o’er these six years,
mournful without thee.
Musings of a Bereft Father Six Years Later

“Why the death of a child?”

How should we respond when all that we have is the language of prose and poetry? Our memory’s perspective narrows as the years pass. Awaiting us is a grave danger …
We each grieve differently when a child dies. Citing this truism to a recently bereaved mother, she responded to me angrily as if to ask:
“Is that the very best you can do?”
Now, I disclaim professional expertise in matters of death, dying and grief management. On the contrary, together with other bereft parents, our only common relevant credential is membership in the club to which nobody wishes to belong.
I became bereaved on Wednesday, November 22, 2000 when my son Ben died.
It is a wonder how well most parents hold up in the aftermath of their tragedies and successfully recast their lives into stronger, more productive and creative shapes. By infusing pathos into love and loss, bereaved parents have even authored chronicles of their tragedies
By reading these works, we discern meaning in our children’s lives while healing ourselves.
Still … despite all we did, our unconditional love, our willing sacrifices, we could not save them.
Though we must return their bodies to the dust, we commit ourselves to sustain the lives of their spirits, of their souls if you like.
It’s somehow right and fair, isn’t it?
And it is for this reason that we build shrines to their memories.
Six Years Ago
I wonder if I will glimpse Ben’s face after the passing of 2,190 days?

A memorial leaf appears on the Etz Chaim in my synagogue.

It reads:

“In Memory Of Benjamin Busch
Whose Good Deeds, Kind
Nature & Gentle Manner
Will Forever Be An Inspiration To Us”

Though it may seem paradoxical …

“Why do we affix a memorial leaf to a Tree of Life?”

Though the leaf serves as a poignant reminder of the end of Ben’s life, its purpose is to remind us to celebrate the time of his life-no matter that it ended prematurely, abruptly and painfully!

Eternally optimistic, even in the darkest moments, we say …


each time we lift a glass together whether it be in remembrance or celebration.

Jewish custom holds that a mourner recite the Mourner’s Kaddish[2] when, following the burial of his loved one, he is most vulnerable. Neither a lamentation nor a dirge, the Kaddish is a reaffirmation of life that makes no mention of death whatsoever.

At such time when the immediacy of death is still near enough to be overwhelming, one may choose to renounce his faith. Though perhaps understandable, our tradition regards this as a misguided approach to grief.

Still the very worst part remains the deposition of the attending paramedic that Ben was both conscious and able to speak for a brief while before finally losing consciousness forever, and that he understood what had happened while he suffered horrendous pain and bespoke his fear that he was dying.

As Ben’s dad, the certain knowledge that my son’s last waking moments were consumed by such trauma and fear leaves me cold and quiet, my thoughts inchoate …

As a Jew, I am thankful my faith is one of eternal optimism and teaches us that life is inherently miraculous and, therefore, holy.

We serve as guardians of its sanctity.

This belief sustains me when all that tangibly remains are a dress shirt and suit, a pair of old boots, a bicycle badly in need of repair and the unexpected discovery of his boyish signature while turning the page of a scrapbook.
The loneliness of grief overwhelms the solitude of my Sunday morning.
The absolute eternity of a child’s death leaves one feeling so insignificant, so powerlessly tiny. To have to navigate these treacherous waters daily is no simple task as we are invariably reminded how vast is God’s ocean while we remain adrift in such a small boat.

The only antidote to the pain of our loss lies in the tenacity with which we remember our children. It is incumbent upon us that we refuse to allow their memories to die.
Though their bodies are gone, their physicality ended, our linkage to them becomes one of remembrance, dedication and rededication, all of which remind us how fortunate we were to have enjoyed our time with them for as long as we did.
[1] To Life
[2] A declaration that sanctifies the Name of God.