(Beyond 39)

“With social media, people were no longer talking. The [contemporary storytelling] movement really began because people missed people. That’s what storytelling does: It connects people.” So Syd Lieberman told Sam Payne of “The Apple Seed” radio program some time back.

After news this week of Syd Lieberman’s passing, the Apple Seed today re-broadcast the conversation as well as some of Syd’s stories.

“As James Bond” from sydleiberman.com

Syd was an internationally acclaimed storyteller, an award-winning teacher, and an author. This photo appears, along with several in far more casual dress, in the “for the press” section of his website, with the caption: “As James Bond.” It seems a fitting companion both to my favorite of his stories — The Wise Shoemaker of Studena — and to the piece on having schnapps with God (below).

Several educational groups suggest The Wise Shoemaker to teach about hospitality — the wise man is not welcomed to a celebration when his clothes are muddy and he’s assumed to be a beggar — a worthy use of the tale. But the point is really about appearances and honoring packaging over substance: “You didn’t want me here at all. You wanted my clothes,” the shoemaker declares when he changes clothes and is welcomed. Available free of charge in audio format — scroll down to “Joseph the Tailor and Other Jewish Tales” — and in print format.

His “A Short Amidah” offers a powerful alternative to the imagery of the Standing Prayer as a kind of royal audience with God:

But what do we really know
of castles and kings?
My kitchen faucet constantly leaks
and the kids’ faces
usually need cleaning.
If a door opened to a real palace,
I’d probably forget
and carry in a load of groceries.

But in that small chamber,
for just a few moments on Sabbath,
God and I can roll up our sleeves,
put some schnapps on the table,
sit down together, and finally talk.
That’s palace enough for me.
— from “A Short Amidah,” by Syd Lieberman
Kol Haneshamah: Shabbat Vehagim. (Wyncote, PA: The Reconstructionist Press, 1996)

May his memory be for a blessing. And may our journey away from oppression always endeavor to keep people connecting to people.

We counted 39 on the evening of May 12. Tonight, we count….

Making the Omer Count

from On the Road to Knowing: A Journey Away from Oppression
A key element in the journey from liberation to revelation is understanding the workings of oppression, and our part in them. We cannot work effectively to end what we do not comprehend.

So this year, moving from Passover to Shavuot, I commit to learning more about how oppression works and how liberation is accomplished. I invite others to join me:

Let’s work together, as we count the Omer, to make this Omer count.

Thoughts and sources welcome.


Share this graphic to encourage others to participate.

A Meditation

Aware that we are on a journey toward knowing God — from liberation to revelation — I undertake to know more today than I did yesterday about the workings of oppression.

I bless and count [full Hebrew blessings in feminine and masculine address]:

Blessed are You, God, Ruler/Spirit of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to count the Omer.

Today is forty days which are five weeks and five days in the Omer.
Hayom arba’im yom shehaym chamishah shavuot vechamishah yamim la-omer.

In the spirit of the Exodus, I pray for the release of all whose bodies and spirits remain captive, and pledge my own hands to help effect that liberation.

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Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages WeLuvBooks.org, blogs on general stuff a vspatz.net and more Jewish topics at songeveryday.org and Rereading4Liberation.com

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