Thursday, September 17, 2020

"Cheater's" Stovetop Tzimmes: My simplified tzimmes recipe

I always make this for Rosh Hashanah, for a sweet new year.
Feel free to call me a cheater--one of my fellow congregants once did--but I don’t use the oven because using the stove-top is safer—there’s less likelihood of me spilling hot pineapple juice (or other ingredients) on myself when I’m using a pot rather than a clumsy roasting pan.


~1 fresh apple, with core removed 
(Do not peel, or you'll end up with applesauce--the skin keeps the apple from falling apart during the cooking process.)

~1 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks in unsweetened juice (no syrup allowed!)
(Since you want to be able to taste the pineapple, chunks work better than crushed pineapple or pineapple tidbits).

~1 and 1/2 pounds of baby carrots 
(Easier on the wrists and fingers than cutting full-sized ones, and there's no reason to cut them at all except for Rosh HaShanah, when you might want to slice at least one carrot because the sliced carrots are supposed to represent the coins/currency in your future), or 1 and 1/2 pounds of full-sized carrots (sliced or cut into chunks). [If you use 2 pounds of carrots, the tzimmes won't be sweet enough, but if you use only 1 pound, you'll wonder where the carrots disappeared. :)]
~ground cinnamon to taste

[I eliminated the sweet potatoes, which are a pain to cut and which I don't like anyway--you can serve the tzimmes with noodles or rice. I also eliminated the orange juice, which is bad for my acid reflux.

Possible health alert: This recipe contains neither honey nor sugar, but it may still not be good for diabetics because of the high natural-sugar (glycemic?) content, especially from the carrots and fruit juice. That said, it's an improvement for those of us who have trouble with refined sugar and/or honey (both of which give me leg cramps), but not with juice.]

Place the cored apple in the center of a three-quart pot. Sprinkle the interior of the apple with ground cinnamon, stuff it with pineapple chunks, then sprinkle the exterior of the stuffed apple with cinnamon. Alternate layers of carrots and pineapple chunks. Pour the remaining chunks of unsweetened pineapple and at least half the pineapple juice--I haven’t figured out the correct proportions yet--over everything. Sprinkle cinnamon on everything. Mix a bit, if possible, without dislodging the apple from its pride of place. Bring to a boil, then cook on low-medium heat until the carrots are soft, which should take approximately forever (over an hour?) .  Have a good and sweet year!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Al chet sheh-chatati l'fanecha: A plague of prejudice(s) :(

Al chet sheh-chatati l'fanecha--for the sin that I have sinned before You.

You might as well start here.  Seriously, is it even possible to be white like me and not be a racist?  

Here's what I read on Facebook (unfortunately, I can't copy and paste, so give me a minute to copy by eye):  Ijeoma Oluo said, "The beauty of anti-racism is that you don't have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist.  Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself.  And it's the only way forward."

I'm working on it.

Then there's, well, I guess for me a few lessons needed regarding sexual and gender diversity.  When I was a teenager in the 1960s, there was no such thing as being "out of the closet''--you could loose your job, your home, your family, and even your life if anyone found out that you were gay.  (Unfortunately, I'm not sure the "losing your life" part ever went away.)  I was literally in my twenties when I first heard the word "bisexual," and roughly 68 before I first heard the term "gender non-binary."  And there was that interesting time about 15 years ago when a friend and long-ago ex-boyfriend came out as a transgender woman.  At his her recent Zoom memorial service, all of his her New York friends agreed that none of us had handled the transition very well, and that he'd had to leave New York State to become a she.

Really, Shira, did you have to stare at that trans woman for the several days of that group study session last December?  She didn't ask to be born in that body.  You owe her an apology.

I'm working on it.

This one is so new to me that I don't even know what to call it.  The closest I can get is "fat shaming."  It's a bias against people who are, um, heavier than average.  (?)  

Again, I'm copying by eye from Facebook (

"Stop moralizing food.  Stop demonizing food groups.  Stop worshiping diets.  If you're missing that inner calibration that tells you what you need to eat and when to stop, talk to an eating disorder specialist.  It astonishes me that I experienced decades of this madness before I was referred to someone qualified to help."

Honestly, it never occurred to me that will-power was not the problem, that being overweight might actually be a genetic glitch.  Does anyone blame anyone for having been born legally blind?

If you have access to Facebook, I strongly recommend that you read the entire post.  Many thanks to Eliana Light for sharing this on her Facebook page.

We shame people who are above average in weight, and sometimes even those who are under the average weight.  Why do we pay attention to such things, and allow ourselves to get distracted from what's really important?

Again, I'm working on it.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Book review: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (by Robin DiAngelo)

I read this book several months ago and couldn't quite figure out how to review it here.  But I really have to talk about it during this Season of Repentance, so here's a copy of the review that I posted on the Goodreads website:

From page 100 of the paperback:

"several reasons why whites are so defensive about the suggestion that we benefit from, and are complicit in, a racist system:

Social taboos against talking openly about race
The racist = bad / not racist = good binary
Fear and resentment toward people of color
Our delusion that we are objective individuals
Our guilty knowledge that there is more going on than we can or will admit to
Deep investment in a system that benefits us and that we have been conditioned to see as fair
Internalized superiority and sense of a right to rule
A deep cultural legacy of anti-black sentiment

From page 121 of the paperback:

"Racism can only be intentional; my not having intended racism cancels out the impact of my behavior."

Ouch. I guess I can only say that accidentally running over a child with a car can kill them, so the fact that you did it accidentally is of no help to the grieving parents.

"Racists are bad individuals, so you are saying that I am a bad person."

See above--if your brakes fail and you run over a child and kill them, you may not be a bad person, but the child is still dead.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Multiple harmony-singers in one room! It's a miracle!

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic ate the entire human species, it's been almost impossible to find live multi-part harmony.  So imagine how delighted I was to read this announcement on Facebook:

Facefriends. I want to invite you to a special zoom service I’m leading tonight (and again on the 28th and sept 11th). I’ll be leading a small group of singers distanced and live from our sanctuary in Atlanta, and my hope is that it will be both meaningful and uplifting.
If you’d like to join us, you can find the link at for Friday night services.
Mincha will begin at 6:30est Friday, and services will be done by 8pm at the latest.
Wishes for a sweet shabbos

Back in the good old days pre-pandemic, when such things weren't potentially deadly, my husband and I attended Hadar's Rising Song Intensive.  That's where I met (now-Rabbi) Sam Blustin.  He was among those presenting short d'vrei Torah (words of Torah/Jewish learning) after dinner, and since he mentioned an independent minyan that he was involved in leading, I went up afterward to ask his advice on choosing tunes for our then-in-the-planning-stage lay-led minyan (which finally took place on Shabbat Shira in February 2020).  His advice was very helpful.  But unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, we never got to visit the Shira B'Dira Minyan before COVID sent it online and before Sam received his rabbinical ordination and left New York City for an Associate Rabbi position in Atlanta. So this zoom service was our chance to see a bit of what we'd missed.
What a delightful service!  There was Rabbi Sam up on the bima, leading several invisible singers in harmony.  Multi-part harmony, live, done safely in the middle of an airborne pandemic!!!!!  The senior rabbi joked that the sanctuary looked like a recording studio, presumably because of all the wiring needed to power several microphones scattered around the room.  But it was well worth it to hear a "sweet singer of Israel" and his accompanying meshorerim (choristers, harmony singers).  We hope to join Ahavath Achim again on September 11.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Adventures in online shul-hopping :)

Shul-hopping = visiting a synagogue other than the one to which one usually goes

Shul-hopping used to require one to actually enter a synagogue, but these days, virtual visits are the safest, and, except among the halachically observant, often the only, way to go.

The manner of presenting a virtual service can make one's visit interesting.

Some synagogues, minyanim, and other prayer groups provide a Zoom link to members only, while directing other pray-ers to a livestream.  That creates something of a "spectator-sport" effect for non-members, as we livestream viewers watch the members greet one another on the Zoom screen(s).

Other prayer groups open their Zoom link to all pray-ers.  This can result in some interesting moments.  There we were, doing our usual Friday-afternoon running around--finishing the cooking and getting all the food onto the hot-tray, setting the table for Shabbat, taking out the papers and the trash*--when it suddenly registered with me:  "Eek, this is a Zoom, not a livestream--we have to wear 'real' clothes!"  A quick wardrobe change ensued, with my husband switching from shorts to long dress pants and me exchanging my rolled-up jeans for a skirt.  :) 

Zooming into someone else's worship space can feel as odd as entering someone else's shul in real life--you don't know anyone, and no one knows you.  But we have been welcomed by members and/or clergy on several occasions.  Do go.

Then, of course, there's the "two rabbis, three opinions" problem--do ten Jews on a Zoom constitute a halachically-acceptable (acceptable by Jewish religious law) minyan or not, and what is the halachic status of a livestream?  Some rabbis make no bones about their opinion that the livestream that they're presenting instead of a Zoom (to avoid activating anything electrical on Shabbat/Sabbath) is *not* a minyan, and they simply skip all parts of the service that can't be done without a minyan (d'varim sheh-bi-k'dushah).  They may or may not count their weekday Zoom services as halachic minyanim.  Others take the exact opposite approach, and, counting their Zoom as a minyan, run some semblance of a standard Shabbat service (shortened to prevent "Zoom fatigue" and/or eyestrain).

And, naturally, there are the folks who can't make up their minds.  We were quite pleasantly surprised, when attending Friday night services online recently, to see the baal tefillah (prayer leader) begin with Mincha, the Afternoon Service.  That's a first for our online Shabbat "attendance"--we're never before seen a congregation pray the Mincha service before praying the introductory Kabbalat Shabbat service in any virtual visit. But the baal tefillah also surprised us by chanting the first and second paragraphs (Avot and G'vurot) of the Amidah prayer, then continuing silently.  For lack of a better description, that was the first time in all my 71 years that I've heard someone lead a heicha kedusha without chanting the kedusha.  Adding to the confusion, they then led the Mourner's Kaddish (Kaddish Yatom).  Huh?  Make up your mind--do you or don't you consider this Zoom minyan a halachic minyan, and, if not, why are you leading Kaddish?  Thoroughly confused, my husband and I stood up for the Bar'chu call to worship, only to have the baal tefillah skip it and go directly to the first b'rachah (blessing) of Maariv, the Evening Service--and then lead the Mourner's Kaddish again after the Aleinu prayer.  What gives???

Oh.  Okay.  I get it.  This would never happen in an Orthodox (or consistently halachically-observant) minyan, but I've encountered this before among my fellow "renegades"--even if you're willing to omit everything else that can't be said without a minyan, you just can't bring yourself to deprive mourners of the comfort of reciting Mourner's Kaddish, whether your prayers are taking place online or whether you're all in the same room with only seven Jews.

These are some of the interesting experiences that we've encountered while praying with groups online.  For those who accept online prayer services and attend them, I'd love to hear about some of your own experiences.

*Link for those too young to get the reference.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

*Of course* the Trump acceptance speech took place on White House property

This may be obvious, but where else could Trump have gathered hundreds of people who weren't wearing face-masks and who weren't socially distanced without running afoul of local or state governmental regulations?

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Central Park (after seeing my dentist across the street--again)

Inscope Arch
Shira's Shot, August 19, 2020

Bridge with geese (large) and ducks (smaller)
Shira's Shot, August 27, 2020
Click on the photos for a close-up view. 

The crown will cost me a fortune, but at least I'll have one more excuse to visit Central Park before the next wave of COVID-19 hits.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Central Park (courtesy of a trip to my dentist across the street)


Bow Bridge & fancy apartment building on Central Park West
 Lake view and another snippet of Central Park West (further downtown)

View from over the wall at the entrance to the R subway train

Shira's Shots, Monday, August 10, 2020
I haven't been to Central Park since at least March, before New York State went on "shut-down" due to the COVID-19 pandemic--social distancing on a subway train or bus can be difficult, if not impossible, so I just avoid public transit unless necessary, and we don't have a car.  I don't expect to be back there until my next dentist appointment.  Unfortunately, that will be in about two weeks--I need another crown.  There goes the family budget.  :(  But at least I'll have an excuse to get on a subway that will take me straight to Central Park.  :)


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"How the Child Care Crisis Will Distort the Economy for a Generation"

You can read the rest of this article here, but here are some of the main points:

"Stevenson: I’ve been really struck by how much the federal government scrambled to save the airlines — “Oh, wouldn’t it be terrible for our economy if we lost all our airlines?” I guess it wouldn’t be great. But how terrible would it be for our economy if we lost all our child care and our schools? That would be way worse than losing our airlines! That would leave not only the current working generation unable to go back to work in the same way, it would mean that we are not preparing the next generation so that they have skills. I mean, it is so substantially worse than losing your airlines. And yet we gave less money to the entire child care sector than we gave to one single airline, Delta. I don’t mean to pick on Delta, but it seems crazy that we care more about saving Delta Airlines than we do about the entire child care industry.

Child care is one of those issues where we still really think it’s a personal problem: ‘You made the choice to have those little rugrats. You deal with them.’ Compare that with elder care. We recognized it was a social issue. We built a series of nursing homes and institutional care, and we have societal grants to cover some of that through Medicaid. But with child care, we’ve said this isn’t a social issue. And I think the pandemic has revealed that it is a social issue.

. . .

. . . You’re seeing child care centers that can’t stay in business. They can’t figure out how to reopen. They can’t keep their employees on staff. They’re letting people go. I see a world where we’re all vaccinated by next spring, and we’re ready to have every kid back in child care, back in school, back at camp — but now they’re starting from scratch, recruiting workers because all their workers have sort of disappeared or moved on. Some of them have gotten other jobs and are never coming back. Others have decided that they’re retiring early. Others have moved physically — ‘Yeah, maybe I worked with children before, and I’m ready to do that again. But I’ve never worked with this employer.’ So how do they make that match? That’s a slow process."

The lack of child care will take away "choice" from so many parents, mainly women, forcing many mothers back into full-time (or at least part-time daytime) parenting for lack of an alternative. As a consequence, much of what my generation fought for in the Women's Liberation Movement will be lost. 😢 Is "kinde, kuche, kirche" (children, kitchen, church--pardon my rotten German spelling) going to be women's only option all over again? Must anatomy be destiny? And if the continuity of the human species is so important, why do the people who perpetuate humanity get so little respect and have so little to show for it in our old age? Must parenthood make one poor?

Saturday, July 25, 2020

"What Covid-19 Long-Haulers Want You to Know"--one doesn't always recover from COVID-19 :(

One of the scariest things about COVID-19 for me, as a 71-year-old, is not only that I might die from it, but that I might have to *live* with it for the rest of my life. 😢

I've heard rumors and read tales of trouble from former COVID-19 patients, and now I've seen this article.

Here's more evidence:

"In a Facebook post on July 4, Glosser said: “This morning my mother, Ruth Glosser, died of the late effects of COVID-19 like so many thousands of other people; both young and old. She survived the acute infection but was left with lung and neurological damage that destroyed her will to eat and her ability to breathe well enough to sustain arousal and consciousness. Over an 8-week period she gradually slipped away and died peacefully this morning.”

Some people think that COVID-19 is just another mutation of the flu, but I'm not aware of any version of the flu that can cause lung and neurological damage, not to mention heart damage, chronic fatigue, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, and heaven only knows what else. An old friend's son suffered from headaches for several months after having had an allegedly-mild case of COVID-19. At this point, I not sure whether there's such a thing as a mild case. A Facebook friend of mine never had to go to the hospital, but suffered from the aftereffects of COVID-19 for several months.

Friday, July 24, 2020

CDs vs. downloads

A few months ago, I ordered a CD.  When a few weeks went by without any sign of my purchase, I sent an e-mail to the artist.

They told me that they'd been afraid to go to the post office.

Ouch.  How inconsiderate of me not to have thought about that.  :(

So I asked them whether they could send me a link to a download instead.

I got the download link within minutes.  The artist assured me that they would send me the CD later, but I asked them to stay out of the post office because they have a kid to raise.

Imagine my surprise when I found the CD in my mailbox a few days ago.

I confess that I felt both guilty--I certainly hope they didn't go to the post office just for me--and glad.  

Sure, downloads are easy, and you don't need a special player or computer drive.

But downloads are missing a few things.

Like cover art.  This CD is *gorgeous.*

Also missing:  what we older folks call "liner notes."  Where are the lists of back-up/harmony singers?  Who's playing which instrument?  Were any of the songs co-written?

Some of this can sometimes be found on YouTube.  Spotify?  Maybe not, unless I just don't know where to look.  Bandcamp seems to be good at showing both the art and the info (and I can even play an entire album in order--that "shuffle" business drives me nuts).

But what a shame that technology sometimes seems to insist on reinventing the wheel.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Less a book review than a rant: Here All Along, by Sarah Hurwitz

Here's my so-called review of Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life-in Judaism (after Finally Choosing to Look There), by Sarah Hurwitz:  It's a pretty good, and pretty frank, introduction to Judaism, with no apologetics or apologies.  I recommend it to anyone, particularly those with little or no Jewish education and/or background.

I'd like to write more, but that's all I can remember.

It's not that this book isn't good, it's just that I got stuck on one particularly point, and it bugged me so much that I forgot everything else.


When I first learned about this Jewish meditation practice, I was thoroughly offended as a feminist.  Here's this guy who spends all day working and/or studying,and also prays three services every day; then, instead of coming home, he spends yet another hour talking to Gd, while his semi-abandoned wife makes the dinner, helps the older kids with their homework, changes diapers, bathes the toddler . . .  An old friend and I were talking about hitbodedut and remembering what motherhood was like for us when our children were still very young--we couldn't even go to the bathroom without a crying kid banging on the door, much less spend an hour in the woods talking to Gd.

You might think that the fact that women are now practicing hitbodedut would solve the problem, but women's participation solves only half of it.  Even putting aside the logistical challenge of practicing hitbodedut when one has major care-giving responsibilities, such as taking care of tiny tots or aging parents, hitbodedut still upsets me, for a more fundamental reason--the entire point of hitbodedut is to take the pray-er out of the synagogue.

Full disclosure:  I've been a "synagogue regular" every Shabbat (Sabbath) and holiday morning for decades.  The synagogue that I've been attending for most of those decades "downsized" over a decade ago--our current building is so small and we have so little outdoor space that there's literally not enough room to hold a socially-distanced service.  That same shul is now in serious danger of becoming an institutional victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So yes, reading a book written by an author who spent several years trying to catch up on her Jewish education and still won't set foot in a synagogue more than three times a year just plain ticked me off.

There, I said it.  Let the chips fall where they may.

Book review: The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today

There are many research findings in Dr. The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today that are worth mentioning, but two stand out in my mind.  One is, if I remember correctly, the possibility that the Conservative Movement, in trying to maintain a "big tent," has issued halachic rulings (rulings on matters of Jewish religious law) that accept so many opposing viewpoints that individual rabbis are left to "pick their p'sak" (choose a ruling), as it were.  The other is that the Reform Movement may not have given sufficient consideration to the implications of accepting non-Jews as full members of synagogues.  How, exactly, is one supposed to deal with a Jewish house of worship of which probably a quarter, if not more, of the members aren't Jewish?  Wertheimer tells the true tale of a person showing up for a Hebrew School committee meeting on the day of the Roman Catholic observance known as Ash Wednesday with an ash cross on their forehead.  No one had the nerve to say anything.  Really, once you've accepted non-Jews as full members, what is there to say?

I was also quite taken by Dr. Wertheimer's finding that many contemporary Jews, like many contemporary Christians, simply don't find Gd in "sacred spaces" and/or sacred texts anymore--to put it in my own terms, it's all about "spirituality," rather than synagogues and/or siddurim (prayer books).  Also, two-earner families are trying to shoehorn Judaism into their busy schedules, rather than arranging their schedules to accommodate Jewish practices.  Heaven help you if your synagogue service is "too long," or if a holiday falls on a workday--many non-Orthodox folks will attend synagogue only when it's convenient, and will nonchalantly observe a holiday on the nearest weekend.  Then there was the rabbi who asked how a generation raised to delete and unfriend can be persuaded to "discover a spiritual practice that actually requires practice."

My parents gifted me and my siblings with enough of a Jewish education to be able to read Hebrew (with vowels) and to know about almost all of the Jewish holidays, not just the High Holidays, and they taught us that synagogue membership and attendance were very important.  Everything else, I learned as an adult, through my own efforts and with the help of many teachers.  My neighborhood is full of Jews who know nothing about either traditional prayer or the weekly Torah readings, and have little interest in learning.  How can any of them be persuaded to set foot in a synagogue  without being "bribed" by, for example, food, or even drink?  (There's a synagogue in Manhattan that offers a cocktail hour before services.)  If people won't come to synagogue either for prayer or for community, and a small synagogue such as ours doesn't have either the facilities or the funds to offer a nursery school, what other "bribe" can we offer?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

*Not* in hot water, so to speak--we can't find a new urn to keep water hot over Shabbat

Thus far, we've bought and returned 2 new urns--one wouldn't keep the water hot enough to make instant coffee or heat up our tea essence, and the other emitted so much steam that all the water evaporated overnight. Suggestions?

Zoom clothing vs. Livestream clothing :)

I'm sitting in front of a screen studying divrei kodesh (sacred texts) when I notice something odd--my light-pink T-shirt doesn't seem to be very visible.  So I start fussing with the top, yanking the sleeves, because, y'know, um, let's just say that there are no sleeves on one's "birth-day suit."  That's the last time I wear a light-pink shirt with neither a collar nor buttons on a Zoom!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Stop that dancing up there! :( And try something else :)

It goes without saying that we can't go Israeli folk dancing one-four times every week in the middle of a pandemic.  :(  And that was our main form of exercise.  :(  We didn't know whether we should even leave the apartment.  But our old friend the Physician Assistant said that getting some "sunshine Vitamin D" was essential to our health, so out we went, all masked up.  At first, we walked along the local highway because it isn't the main shopping street and the sidewalks are relatively uncrowded.  More recently, though, New York City, in cooperation with local volunteers, has closed a 26-block stretch of a local street to vehicular traffic every day from 8 AM to 8 PM--the volunteers move the barriers onto the street every morning and remove them every evening.  When the weather is nice, we've been known to take a stroll as long as 34 blocks round-trip on the pedestrian street.   That's more exercise than I've gotten in years!  And my husband sometimes leaves me at our corner to walk further at his own much-faster pace. Much to his surprise, my husband has actually lost weight within the last month or so!


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A weird dream. Or maybe not

There I was, standing at a cash register looking at my receipt when I realized that I'd done something backwards:  I'd already paid for my groceries, but I didn't actually have them--I'd have to go down the aisles and find my groceries on the shelves.  End of dream.

After I woke up, I realized that that weird dream actually made perfect sense--since our son has adamantly insisted that we do all of our grocery shopping online to try to avoid catching COVID-19, we haven't gone to a supermarket since March.  So we are, in fact, paying for our groceries without actually going through the aisles to find them.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Privatization, or life on the "pay-for-service" plan, according to my havruta

I've been taking Project Zug's course in Intro to Social Justice with Tanya, who lived in a number of countries before ending up in the Pacific Northwest, and saw firsthand how different economic systems worked.  This is roughly how she described privatization:

"You sign up for fire insurance.  If you have a fire, you call the fire company, and the fire company asks, "What kind of coverage do you have:  Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C?"  In other words, if you have only Plan A, the firefighters will put out the fire in your garage, but they'll let the rest of the house burn down.

That's the way Donald Trump and his supporters want to run this country--they want the entire nation run on a pay-for-service basis.  Either they see no connection between taxes and services, or they just don't care whether or not services are provided to anyone who isn't rich.

Parashat Pinchas: B'not Tz'lofchad--the elephant in the room

Numbers , Chapter 27:


א  וַתִּקְרַבְנָה בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד, בֶּן-חֵפֶר בֶּן-גִּלְעָד בֶּן-מָכִיר בֶּן-מְנַשֶּׁה, לְמִשְׁפְּחֹת, מְנַשֶּׁה בֶן-יוֹסֵף; וְאֵלֶּה, שְׁמוֹת בְּנֹתָיו--מַחְלָה נֹעָה, וְחָגְלָה וּמִלְכָּה וְתִרְצָה. 1 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.
ב  וַתַּעֲמֹדְנָה לִפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה, וְלִפְנֵי אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן, וְלִפְנֵי הַנְּשִׂיאִם, וְכָל-הָעֵדָה--פֶּתַח אֹהֶל-מוֹעֵד, לֵאמֹר. 2 And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, at the door of the tent of meeting, saying:
ג  אָבִינוּ, מֵת בַּמִּדְבָּר, וְהוּא לֹא-הָיָה בְּתוֹךְ הָעֵדָה הַנּוֹעָדִים עַל-יְהוָה, בַּעֲדַת-קֹרַח:  כִּי-בְחֶטְאוֹ מֵת, וּבָנִים לֹא-הָיוּ לוֹ. 3 'Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not among the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons.
ד  לָמָּה יִגָּרַע שֵׁם-אָבִינוּ מִתּוֹךְ מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ, כִּי אֵין לוֹ בֵּן; תְּנָה-לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה, בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אָבִינוּ. 4 Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he had no son? Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father.'

They were no fools, these women:  They knew that they couldn't ask for what they really wanted--the right not to be left destitute just because they had neither a father, nor brothers, nor husbands to support them--because, apparently, one simply didn't discuss the welfare of females. With property of their own, they would be in demand as wives.  But the only way they could get that property was to claim that they were simply seeking to preserve the memory of their father.  This wasn't just a matter of respect--it was a matter of survival.

If you want proof, just look at the Book of Ruth.  When Naomi returned to Bethlehem, everyone knew exactly who she was, yet no one offered her any help.  The only reason why she didn't starve to death was that Ruth went out to glean like any other beggar.  The same fate awaited the daughters of Tz'lofchad--any male relative would simply have taken their father's property and ignored them.

Sunday, July 12, 2020 second thought

It's not so much that "one simply didn't discuss the welfare of females."  The problem--the elephant in the room--is the patriarchal system, under which most women without men were simply consigned to poverty.  If B'not Tz'lochad had protested the system itself, insisting that they, too, not just their father, deserved to be shown respect, they might have been expelled from the camp as heretics.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Some lighter reading: "Happy Trails to You" was a great surprise to me

I actually wrote this post several months ago, but I wasn't sure how appropriate it was to publish such light fare in the middle of a pandemic.  But at this point, I could use a break, and maybe you can, too.

Hear here.

Yes, I'd listened to my father's recording of Marian Anderson, a contralto, many times.  But somehow, it didn't register with me until I heard this tenor and alto couple singing together that what I'd always been taught as a child--that women's voices are higher than mens'--simply wasn't always true.  In this song, Dale almost always sings lower than Roy.

It took a good while for me to realize that my own voice was closer to Dale's than to the voices of most other female singers whom I'd heard.

I started improvising harmony when I was about 11 or 12 years old.  Basically, it was--and still is--often the only way that I could/can sing with other people.  I've been known to joke that harmony is one of the things that HaShem created right before Shabbat, :), and that I sing harmony in self-defense.  :)

One of my biggest challenges in leading just about any singing at our synagogue [back in the good old days]--be it tefillah (prayer), z'mirot (Sabbath songs), or Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals)--is singing lead.  Wish me luck finding a key that both I and the other congregants can sing in. (Yep, there she goes, "singing in the subway" again.)  I try to take cues regarding what key to choose from my tenor husband, but we've been looking for a key that's good for both of us for over 42 43 years and we haven't found one yet.  :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Divided States of America

It wasn't enough that Trump deliberately sought to divide whites from blacks by "accusing" President Obama of having lied about being born in the United States and refusing to refute the racist rioters one of whom killed a protester in Charlottesville, Virginia as well as other racists threatening or perpetrating violence.

It wasn't enough that Trump's first election "rally" deliberately sought to divide Mexicans from others by accusing them of being rapists and murderers, and that he's since imprisoned thousands of Latin Americans at our southwestern border for the "crime" of seeking asylum.

It wasn't enough that Trump deliberately sought to divide people of other religions or no religion from Muslims by accusing all Muslims of being terrorists and seeking to ban Muslim entry into the U.S.

It wasn't enough that Trump deliberately sought to divide heterosexuals from the LGBTQIA+ community by banning transsexuals from the military and and depriving them of medical coverage.

It wasn't enough that Trump deliberately sought to divide women from our own lives by taking away funding for women's health care.

Now, Trump has pulled the previously-unthinkable stunt of weaponizing a pandemic, turning people who believe in science against those who prefer to cling to the fantasy that COVID-19 will simply disappear without any effort on the part of anyone.  In the process, he has divided the states even more than they were divided during the Civil War, forcing individual states to compete against one another and/or to band into regional groups to try to protect their own residents.

As if all of that weren't bad enough, Trump has done everything within his power to turn the police and the armed forces against American civilians, encouraging the use of weapons against peaceful protesters, and has made every effort to turn Americans against the truth itself, insisting that any journalist who disagrees with him is a liar and that any news organization that disagrees with him is promulgating "fake news."  Trump has made it clear that he has no interest in supporting the First Amendment.

"Divide and conquer" seems to be Trump's chief, or perhaps only, strategy in seeking to gain and stay in power.

Trump is destroying his own country from both within and without, and he doesn't care.

I am a 71-year-old American citizen born and raised in the United States, and despite having lived in the U.S. my entire life, I've never experienced anything like what is happening to my country.   In the roughly three and a half years since Trump's election, my country has gone from being a world leader and one of the great democracies to an international laughing stock and a candidate for dictatorship, from a leader in the fields of science and medicine to a death trap.  I'm in shock and in mourning for what we once were.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Pandemic turns people into movie actors against their will

Comedians complain that it's weird to work without an audience.

Musicians lament that they're exhausted after giving an online-only concert.

Even some educators can't give an online-only lecture without their spouse in the room.

So many people went into their current line of work at least partly because they enjoy the response of a live, in-person audience.

Now, all of a sudden, and through no fault of their own, all they can do is talk/sing/etc. into a camera.

If you get energized by a crowd, how do you cope when there's no crowd?

I imagine that it must be a real challenge to avoid "phoning it in" when talking to a camera, or recording a video of just one part of a multi-person song on a cell phone, is all you can do.

And yet, somehow, they manage to put on a real show.  Kol hakavod/my respects to all the fine folks who are keeping our spirits up.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

Much to our surprise, we got to participate in a "Defund the Police" protest

First, we heard loud chants that sounded as if they were coming from the park down the street.  But then the chants got louder and louder, and we realized that the protest was passing directly below our windows!  By the time we put on our facemasks and walked downstairs, the protesters had moved on, but they hadn't gone very far--it turned out that their "target" was a city councilperson whose apartment was only a block away.  And since there were parked cars that funneled the protesters right down the middle of the street, folks who wanted to participate while maintaining social distancing just stayed on the sidewalks.  One woman was even banging a pot lid out of her first-floor apartment window, while a man stood on the stairs at a building entrance holding a baby.  The police themselves had the good sense to put plenty of distance between themselves and the protesters.  I'm happy to report that the protest was very peaceful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Pandemic causes pause in some prayers

Pity my poor husband--he's been leading P'sukei D'Zimrah for probably more than a decade, yet no matter which Zoom or Livestream service we "attend," this section of the morning prayers is scarcely to be found.  Some synagogues/minyanim/prayer spaces choose a "greatest hits" approach, reading or singing only a psalm or two, while others skip all or almost all of this section.  We finally realized that, if we really wanted to pray the early parts of the service, we had to get up early enough on a Shabbath (Sabbath) or Yom Tov (holiday) to pray everything (or almost everything) from Birkot HaTorah through Yishtabach by ourselves before the service started.

A woman I met in a Zoom break-out room last week pointed out that there was a good reason for this omission--long Zooms hurt people's eyes.  Consequently, baalei tefillah (prayer leaders) and/or rabbis are cutting services to the bone to spare the worshippers' vision.

Even when congregations open their doors again, I think that many will continue to keep their services short to reduce the exposure of the attendees to possible infection.

What will this precautionary measure do to the piyyutim (liturgical poetry) on the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays)?  I think that many of them will temporarily disappear.  :(


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