Sunday, January 30, 2011

How snowy was it?

Tree getting trimmed in white
(See also New York, sugar-frosted)
Shira's Shot, Wed., Jan. 26, 2010

Frozen meatloaf on wheels, anyone?

Peek-a-boo, car sees you
Shira's Shots, Thurs., Jan 27, 2011

VIDEOS OF LANZBOM & SOLOMON CONCERT!

VIDEOS!Lanzbom&Solomon concert,Jan. 22, 2011

A grand time was had by all at the C Lanzbom and Noah Solomon concert at the Carlebach Shul last Saturday night. The videos are dark and shaky, but at least they sound good. :)

You're forewarned: I now shut off the camera when I want to dance. :)
Wednesday, January 9, 2012 update:  I regret to inform you that the links above no longer function--YouTube informed that they'd received a "privacy  complaint," and I had to delete the videos.  Sorry.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Susan B.: Humans are hard-wired to need ritual

New York, sugar-frosted

Frosted fence
Shira's Shot, Wed., Jan. 26, 2010

Slippin' and slidin', my feet went a-glidin'
on snow in my city
But it sure was pretty

See also Sun., Jan. 30, 2011 photo update, How snowy was it?


Informal label: Poem

Monday, January 24, 2011

Parsha catch-up: Parshat Yitro

Start here, and read through chapter 20, verse 22.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Having been born and raised in the 20th century, I can't help but be irked by the fact that the text depicts Moshe/Moses apparently spending hours yacking with his father-in-law, but doesn't say a single word about his reunion with his wife and kids.
  • Nowadays, we certainly wouldn't let a non-Jew lead a Jewish service, but it seems to have been common for a person of one religion to make sacrifices to the god(s) of another.
  • Funny, G-d never said anything about "not coming near a woman" while await the giving of the law. Moshe's a sexist.
See DovBear's Yitro post here, and Techelet's take here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A pile-up of my posts from this past week(+VIDEOS!)

Limmud NY--a view from a 4th-floor window

Straight from morning minyan, we grabbed our breakfasts, packed them, and munched through Rabbi Riskin's talk on prospects for peace with the Palestinians

VIDEOS!!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quote of the day, and food for thought

From Philo's own comment to his guest post on a planned Orthodox Gay Shabbaton:

Philo
On the one hand, I have a hard time understanding why anyone who's gay would want to stay affliliated with Orthodoxy, given the strong bigotry towards gay people in the vast majority of the Orthodox community. After all, you don't need to be "Orthodox", which is really only a social contruct, to be shomer mitzvot.

But I suspect that there's a parallel to the way I feel. I don't really agree with the Orthodox community on many points of hashkafa, and am comfortable in an egalitarian environment. But I affiliate with Orthodoxy, more or less, because I want to be part of a shomer shabbat & kashrut community. Outside of some places like JTS and some other (rather expensive) neighborhoods in NYC and Boston, it's almost impossible to find a heterodox, yet observant community.

Gay Orthodox Jews probably want the same thing - an observant community. A shabbaton like this may be a good start.
2 days ago, 12:10:19 PM


[ ¶ ]That's the question: I prefer an egalitarian environment, but do I also "want to be part of a shomer shabbat & kashrut community," and if so, will I find it necessary to conclude that being in an observant community, which is almost impossible to find among Conservative Jews, is more important to me than being in an egalitarian one?

[ ¶ ] And would becoming "culturally Modern Orthodox," as opposed to "philosophically Modern Orthodox," really be such a terrible thing?

[ ¶ ]The jury's still out. Stay tuned.

Inconsistent

During one of his presentations at Limmud NY, Rabbi Riskin commented that he'd needed his wife's assistance in preparing to host the local Palestinian mayors in their home because he couldn't even make a cup of coffee. That reminds me of an article that I read recently about Rabbi Avi Weiss that said that he was incapable of cooking a simple meal.

Rabbis Shlomo Riskin and Avi Weiss are among the leading supporters of expanded opportunities for learning, leadership, and, where halachah/Jewish religious law allows, active roles in religious services for Orthodox Jewish women. Yet neither one can do much more in the kitchen than boil water. I don't get it.

I don't get it

See here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Limmud NY: Some observations and reactions

Limmud NY compared to the National Havurah Institute

The advantages of the Institute are:
  • It lasts a week, enabling more in-depth study--each participant takes one morning and one afternoon class for the entire week.
  • With a longer get-together, and with multiple-session classes, it provides more opportunities to spend quality time getting to know people.
The advantages of Limmud NY are:
  • It's closer to New York City, and easier for someone from the NYC area to get to, especially with charter buses leaving from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Aside from providing shuttles from the airport and a ride-seeker's message board online, the Institute leaves transportation arrangements to the attendees.
  • It's all under one roof, rather than in half a dozen different buildings scattered around a college campus, and I'm lazy--I'd rather save my energy for dancing. :)
  • It's less ideological, and, therefore, attracts a broader spectrum of attendees. The NHC is, on principal, egalitarian, and, to the best of my knowledge, still won't officially organize any service that doesn't allow equal participation by women in leading services and reading Torah, though there has been much discussion, over the years, about changing this policy. Consequently, Orthodox attendees have to pray with a non-Orthodox minyan, by themselves, or in informal services that they organize themselves, and no Torah scrolls are provided to Orthodox minyanim. [Tues., Jan 25, 2010 correction: Commenter BZ said "The NHC policy is actually that Torah scrolls would be provided to non-egal minyanim if organized by participants (though I'm not aware of any such minyanim actually happening since I've been involved with the NHC)."] Limmud, on the other hand, provides for a broad spectrum of observance in planning their minyanim. Check out the Shabbat (Sabbath) morning line-up of services here. The printed program specified not only which services had mechitzot and which mechitzah minyanim allowed some female leadership, it also specified which services would use amplification and/or musical instruments on Shabbat. As a result of their commitment to pluralism, inclusiveness, or whichever term you prefer, there were many more Orthodox attendees than I remember having seen at the Havurah Institutes that we attended in 2008 and 2009.
My reaction to seeing, and hearing, Rachel and Matti leading the singing at the Seudah Shlishit

What a pity that many in the Orthodox community observe the rule of Kol Isha that prohibits a man from listening to a woman sing. They miss out not only on the sound of women's voices, but also on the beauty and joy of mixed-gender harmony singing.

(Sun., Jan. 23, 2011 update: here's a video snippet of Rachel's and Matti's Sunday-night performance)

A shout-out to my new friends

Shoshana Jedwab, who attended Rabbi Hammer's Miriam the Priestess class with me, apparently appreciated my comments enough to ask me whether I was a writer. Holy Moses, who, me? I just write for my blog, I told her. So she asked for the URL. I figured it was an even trade, since I enjoyed her drumming as much as she enjoyed my yacking. Shoshana, you rock, figuratively and literally!

I also made a new friend at the shuk ("market")--Chaya Adler-Poretsky was selling kippot (yarmulkes, skullcaps) as a fundraiser for the school in which she's a student, Yeshivat Maharat. In between discussions about how I wanted her to make my new beribboned raspberry-red and white kippah about an inch bigger, I mentioned my opinion that there was no good reason for a woman with grown children not to observe the time-bound commandments, such as wearing a tallit (prayer shawl), since "B'nei Yisrael/The Children of Israel" (mentioned in the third paragraph of the Sh'ma quote) includes women. The Torah certainly includes women when it says "V'shamru V'nei Yisrael et haShabbat, the Children of Israel will observe the Sabbath," and when the Torah wants to specify males, it does--"Shalosh p'amim bashanah yeiraeh kol z'chur'cha, Three times a year shall all your males appear . . ." Chaya reminded me that the rabbis distinguished between B'nei Yisrael, the Sons of Israel, and Beit Yaakov, the House of Jacob, traditionally interpreted as referring to the women. I'm looking forward to having additional interesting conversations with Chaya in the future.

Speaking of time-bound mitzvot . . .

I just had to mention to a woman whom I saw at Monday morning minyan that, while I'd seen many women wearing a tallit but not tefillin, I'd never before seen a woman wearing tefillin but not a tallit. She confirmed my guess--she doesn't wear a tallit because she's not married. This is a minhag/custom observed by many unmarried Ashkenazi Orthodox men, but I'd never seen a non-Orthodox unmarried woman follow this minhag before.

And speaking of garments . . .

I was struck by the fact that a number of the married women davvening/praying with the egalitarian minyan were indistinguable in their head-coverings from Orthodox married women, wearing head-scarves and "engineer" caps, head-gear that I don't generally associate with egalitarian women. There seems to be a return to more traditional attitudes toward head-covering among traditional egalitarian women than the approach with which I was raised (which held that everyone should cover their heads in synagogue), with a clear distinction between bareheaded single women and covered-headed married ones. I'll have to get used to that.


Photos and videos to follow--I haven't even had time to upload them.

Riskin discusses controversial topics at Limmud NY

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founding rabbi of Ohr Torah Stone, made a number of presentations at Limmud NY on matters of grave concern. The first was on the subject of the conversion crisis in Israel. Rabbi Riskin surprised me, and probably other attendees, by stating that Judaism is, in fact, a proselytizing religion--or was, at least, until the Hadrianic persecutions made conversion a crime punishable by death. He asserted that converting non-Jews is actually a mitzvah (commandment), and that, therefore, one should be welcoming to conversion candidates once one has established their sincere desire to convert despite our history of being persecuted. He's none too happy about tales he's heard of conversion candidates being turned down simply because they hadn't yet learned a particular b'rachah (blessing). He also stated that rabbinic tradition holds that a convert remains a Jew even if he/she ceases to be observant--to revoke a conversion retroactively just because a Jew by Choice is no longer Orthodox is against rabbinic tradition. He's none too happy about the extremely strict conversion requirements on which the more right-wing Chareidi rabbis seem to insist.

The short version of his presentation on whether peace with the Palestinians is possible was that many of the "regular" Palestinians want peace, but their leaders don't. Nevertheless, as a settler who's made a point of developing good relationships with the Palestinians of the villages near Efrat, he's hopeful that there will be peace, albeit in the long run.

The short version of his presentation on what went wrong with Israel and how it could be fixed was, surprisingly for an Orthodox rabbi, that religion should be separated from the government, so that Judaism can serve as a counterbalance, as it did in the case of the prophet Nathan confronting King David.

Rabbi Riskin is a good speaker, but you should probably be forewarned that all of his presentations seem to begin from the beginning--Tanach/the Bible--and work their way up to the present. So it takes him roughly 45 minutes to present the background, leaving him about 15 minutes to get to the actual topic. :) But the lead-up is well worth the wait.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Limmud NY--more courses, more fun

After all of my blogged protests against the Kol Isha rule (observed to a greater or lesser extent by many Orthodox Jews) forbidding a man to listen to a woman sing (for my newer readers, here's one of my better Kol Isha posts), I couldn't resist going to a class named "Kol Isha" that was taught by a woman and dealt with the subject of women's songs. Noted Yiddish singer Adrienne Cooper presented, and encouraged us to sing, quite an interesting assortment of Yiddish women's songs, including songs of Chalutzot (Pioneers--early residents of what would become the State of Israel). I didn't even know that there were any "Chalutzi" songs written in Yiddish. Not only did the young woman revel in coming home after a day of work in the field to eat "kasha, specially burned by Masha," she also slept in a hay-filled wagon with . . . well, not just herself. I wasn't expecting such frankness, either.

Sarah Aroeste presented a fun session on the history and culture of the Sefardi community. She led us in singing a number of Ladino songs from different eras and areas, explaining that the songs of her Greek ancestors didn’t sound the same as those of the Sefardi Jews of Turkey, for instance. We learned a few interesting things and enjoyed ourselves at the same time. Sefardim fleeing the Spanish Inquisition ended up as far north as Krakow?! Ladino-speakers in Poland?! Who knew?

Sunday night found us at the obligatory thanks and fundraiser mixed with performances by just about every musician present. Afterward, we were greeted outside of the Manhattan Theater by a young teenage boy playing guitar quite well, with his guitar case open and a sign therein saying "busking for Limmud." Yep, even the kids got in on the act.

We went from there to hear a concert by Arnie Davidson, whose contemporary Jewish music, accompanied by his own piano-playing and his old friend EJ Cohen signing some of the songs in American Sign Language of the Deaf, was very nice, indeed. I would describe his style as straight-up folk music with religious lyrics, much of it intended for liturgical use ("I stand before this congregation . . .").

In a total change of pace, Davidson’s concert was followed by that of Darshan, a much-younger Jewish hip-hip group featuring Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit on guitar and Ethan Perlstein, a.k.a. Ephryme, as "lead rapper." Shir Yaakov introduced the percussionist, Shoshana Jedwab, as his former day-school teacher (!), and Davidson was invited to join the group onstage, as he’d invited them to join in his own performance. (The whole gang played until the musicians were practically falling over—they said that they’d winged the last 20 minutes or so. I, myself, was given a free ride to the dance floor in a chair by one of the younger women after my bad foot gave out and I started dancing sitting down. How I managed to drag myself out of bed in time for Shacharit (Morning Service) the next (?) morning, I have no idea. :) (Actually, I reminded myself that being able to pray with a minyan without even leaving the building, much less hopping on a subway, was a privilege and opportunity that I shouldn’t throw away.)

More to follow, but posting now, while the coast is clear.

Update, later in the day:

Okay, now I've had an opportunity to edit and to add some more links.

I can't remember when some of my classes took place, so let me just mention them.

The class on alternative interpretations of Akeidah Yitzchak/the Binding of Isaac didn't quite put me as much at ease with the story as I had hoped, but Raziel Haimi-Cohen was a good teacher anyway, and the class had a good discussion. My husband may have a good point--he thinks the person really tested was Yitzchak, who had to be willing to sacrifice himself for HaShem in order to prove himself worthy of being the ancestor of the Jewish People.

Joe Rosenstein's class on the evolution of the liturgy of Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) was fascinating. Apparently, the big holiday--"HaChag"--of ancient times was Sukkot (Feast of Booths), not Pesach (Passover). RH served as a sort of announcement that Simchat Beit HaShoveivah--the water-drawing ceremony and celebration during Sukkot--was soon to arrive, and, for that matter, Yom Kippur provided an opportunity to purify oneself and be forgiven of sin before the big holiday. With the change of RH from a joyous celebration to the beginning of the Penitential Season (according to my notes--and this was the only class in which I took notes --the term "Aseret Y'mei T'shuvah, Ten Days of Repentance" came even later than the lifetime of the Rambam/Maimonides!), the Hallel psalms disappeared from the RH liturgy, since we couldn't very well rejoice and pray for forgiveness at the same time. We're left with a home ritual that looks like a festival ritual--candle-lighting, kiddush, fancy dinner--and a synagogue ritual that's mostly gloom and doom.

Joe finds the U-N'Taneh Tokef prayer way too gloomy and not representative of the usual attitude that HaShem is a forgiving G-d, and wishes that it could be downplayed. I think that he underestimates the role of music, and memories thereof, in the preservation of Jewish liturgy. I've heard rumors that, in the early days of North American Reform Judaism, the Reform Movement tried to drop the Kol Nidrei prayer from the Erev Yom Kippur (Eve of the Day of Atonement) Service and found it impossible because everyone missed the music too much--what was a "Kol Nidrei Service" without the chanting of Kol Nidrei?

Okay, getting out of here so that I'm not late for the Tu BiShevat Seder at the Carlebach Shul.

Our wonderful weekend at Limmud NY (part 1)

They were playing “Jewish Geography” before the charter buses had even arrived at the JCC in Manhattan to take us to Limmud NY—two women combing their hair in the Ladies Room discovered that they were both from Michigan and one knew the other’s cousin.
It only got better from there.
The opening ceremony ended with a short but delightful performance by Joshua Nelson and the Kosher Gospel Choir. They really got everyone clapping and singing.
Following the opening ceremony, we lit Shabbat/Sabbath candles, then went to davven (pray) in a traditional egalitarian minyan being run by Yeshivat Hadar, where we and a few other older folks collectively raised the average age by about 25 years. :)
After a communal Kiddush and table-by-table motzi (prayer praising G-d for bread), we had a very nice dinner of Moroccan fish. (Communal meals at both Limmud NY and the National Havurah Institute are always dairy [April 6, 2014 update--at Limmud, Erev Shabbat dinner is now b'sari/fleishig/meat or poultry, with vegan options], almost always with vegan options, to accommodate the many vegetarian attendees.) Then we bentched (prayed Birkat haMazon/Grace after Meals) at our table and headed off to our first classes.

Unlike the National Havurah Institute, with its entire week of classes, the Friday afternoon-Monday afternoon Limmud NY presents a smorgasbord of one-time-only classes and other activities lasting 1 ¼ hour each. So I’ll give you just a sample.
Out of pure curiosity, I just had to check out Rabbi Ethan Tucker’s class reconsidering the mechitzah—what on earth would a hard-core egalitarian like Tucker have to say about the mechitzah, of all things? Here’s the Hillel (that is, the standing-on-one-foot) version:
  • Women are a distraction.
  • Maybe that used to be true, but we’re so used to being in mixed-gender settings these days that it’s no longer an issue.
  • You shouldn’t kiss your child in synagogue.
Say what?
Maybe sexual distraction isn’t the only issue. Maybe another issue is that we should have a space in which we’re focusing on our relationship with G-d rather than our relationship with our spouses, families, and friends.
Or maybe we just need a place that’s clearly differentiated from secular space. In an Orthodox synagogue, a mechitzah creates that differentiation. Non-Orthodox synagogues might create a differentiation by other means, such as a higher-than-usual level of decorum.
Very interesting.
On Shabbat afternoon, after services and lunch, Rabbi Jill Hammer gave a course on Miriam the Priestess. She said that there’s both archeological evidence—of which she showed photos—and textual evidence that the role of women as ritual drummers was quite common at the time of the Exodus. She also came up with the very interesting idea that the banishment of Miriam for having criticized Moshe’s (Moses’s) marriage resulted in her receiving the same purification rite as that undergone by a kohen/priest being anointed—the purification for a “leper” consisted, in part, of having blood from a sacrifice smeared on the right ear, thumb, and big toe. Unfortunately, Miriam disappears from the story after this. But her leadership role sneaks in through the back door, as the rabbis, in their midrashim (interpretations of biblical stories) credit her with having been the reason for the Israelites receiving water in the wilderness. It might reasonably be assumed that the rabbis were sufficiently uncomfortable with her disappearance from the story that they felt the need to “bring her back.”

I put my two cents in, saying that I'd always found it interesting that Aharon/Aaron seems to have been Teflon-coated: He was never punished for his part in the Egel HaZahav/Golden Calf incident or for joining Miriam in complaining about Moshe's/Moses's marriage to a Cushite. I also picked up on Rabbi Hammer's comment that it was ironic that G-d told Miriam and Aharon that He/She never spoke directly to anyone but Moshe, and, in the process of thus rebuking them, He/She was, in fact, speaking to them directly for the first and only time! So I mentioned the similarity between that incident and the one in which the only time G-d spoke directly to Sarah was to rebuke her for laughing when He/She told Avraham that he and Sarah were going to have a baby despite their advanced ages.

I went from Rabbi Hammer's class to Mincha, and from there to a delightful Seudah Shlishit (Third Sabbath meal) with the singing couple Rachel and Matti. After Shabbat, we bought their CD, and we can’t wait to listen to it.
(Sun., Jan. 23, 2011 update: here's a video snippet of Rachel's and Matti's Sunday-night performance.)
Saturday night brought a beautiful Debbie-Friedman-style havdalah service marking the end of Shabbat, followed by lots of singing and dancing. We then attended a Lights Ignite Change performance by Naomi Less, Sarah Aroeste, and Chana Rothman, singing as a group and individually, alternating among Less’s “rocker chick,” Aroeste’s Ladino, and Rothman’s folk-rock Jewish music. Naturally, I was dancing in the back of the room. Same on Sunday night. No wonder I'm exhausted enough to wish that I could have a vacation to recover from my vacation. :)
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a bed to fall into. To be continued when I'm awake.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Parshat Bo link, slightly belated

Here's an interesting political take from Rabbi Barry Leff. Hmm, it sounds familiar.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tactile memory

A month or two ago, a commenter mentioned (maybe by e-mail) that she sticks to open-ended scarves as head-coverings because she likes having her hair open to the air. Well, I've tried just about every other female head-covering other than a sheitel/wig, so I figured I'd try that, too.

Oddly enough, I found that wearing a scarf tied behind my head but left open at the back made me feel feminine. I couldn't figure out why. After all, all of my baseball hats are pink (deliberately), and I'm now the proud owner of four hats designed for women.

It finally dawned on me that I've previously worn scarves tied the old-fashioned way (under the chin, which was very common when I was a child in the 1950's), and with the back tucked in and the sides pulled up front and wrapped around one another, turban-style--I haven't yet succeeded in creating the currently-popular bun-in-back style. But when I tie a scarf behind my head, leave all of the "ends" dangling down my back, leave it open in back instead of tucking it in, and pull the scarf above my ears, the way I like it, it feels very similar to wearing my then-long hair pulled back with a barrette, as I often did in my twenties.

I'm 61 years old, and I haven't had long hair since I was 28. Apparently, tactile memory goes a long way back.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Parshat Beshalach

I've been known to read the parsha online when between assignments at the office. Here's another parsha comment that I sent to my husband after an online reading:

כא וַתַּעַן לָהֶם, מִרְיָם: שִׁירוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-גָאֹה גָּאָה, סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם. {ס}
21 And Miriam sang unto them: Sing ye to the LORD, for He is highly exalted: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. {S}


Note the grammatical construction of the Hebrew:  "lahem"
Last I heard, that would be the masculine form of the third person plural.  In other words, Miriam sang to the entire camp, not just to the women.  So much for Kol Isha.*
[ ¶ ]
Update: DovBear chimes in. I recommend that you follow his links.

  • *Kol Isha (literally, "a woman's voice): the prohibition against a man hearing a woman sing, observed to varying degrees within the Orthodox community.
  • Mechitzah (too lazy to format this link for the comment section.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Not going there, literally :(

This information that I received via e-mail explains why I'll be skipping Tehillim (Psalms) Group tomorrow:

PARSHAT(S) HAMON THIS TUESDAY JAN 11-2011.READ IT- WWW. OUJOBS.ORG


Tuesday Parshat(s) B'Shalach, is a Segulah [can't find a good link--an action that brings good luck?] for Parnossah [a livelihood]. [Ah, here's a segulah link. Not sure I like it, but . . .]


Please go to this link for the Teffilah (prayer) http://www.ou.org/pdf/hamon.pdf


May we all experience much Parnossah and Hatzlocha [luck]


Watch for Parshat(s) Mishpatim-Now designated Parhat(s) Parnossah. Get involved.


More information to follow!


Srulie Rosner


jobs@ou.org

[ ¶ ]

As I said here,

There seems to be a minhag/custom among some folks to read the whole section twice, either both times in Hebrew or once in Hebrew and once in the Targum Onkelos Aramaic translation, as if segulot--as much a form of superstitious belief and/or behavior as throwing salt over one's shoulder, in my opinion--aren't bad enough when performed once.” (DovBear agrees. Complete with sarcasm.)

[ ¶ ]

(Question: What on earth is happening to the Orthodox Union, that they’re suddenly so gung-ho on such a superstition-based practice?)

[ ¶ ]

The only good thing I ever got from participating in a recitation of Parshat HaMan is that I learned this:

[ ¶ ]

“Some non-Ashkenazim refrain from saying HaShem's name when reading the biblical passage of Parshat HaMan, saying "Amunai (my faith?)" instead of the Ashkenazi version, "Adoshem." I like that version much better, if for no other reason than that it rhymes with the original and would sound much better when one is singing sacred songs.”

[ ¶ ]

[ ¶ ]

Wed., Jan. 12, 2011 update: E. Fink shares a different perspective.

[ ¶ ]

Thurs., Jan. 13, 2011 update: Here's an oldie but goodie from ADDeRabbi.

Tragic & sad: The wounded & deceased

First, there was the attempted assassination of a Member of the United States Congress, Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, which left Rep. Giffords in critical condition, along with 13 others wounded and U.S. District Judge John Roll and a nine-year-old girl among the six dead. Much of the commentary has stressed the principle that Americans choose leaders with ballots, not bullets.

Then, on Sunday night, I heard news of the all-too-early death of Jewish singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman, remembered by Techelet here.

That's too much bad news. :(

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Video! New Year's Night Israeli Folk Dance Party

Here's a video from Tamar's New Year's Night Party (first mentioned in my recent post re Parshat Vaera). Enjoy!

Eventually, I'll figure out how to "shrink" my videos so that they don't hide my sidebar when I "embed" them. Until then, sorry about providing links only.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday fun: Watch your language :)

Spoken American English is full of all sorts of interesting words and "non-words." Here are two of my favorites:

  • humongous--(hue-mahn-gus) presumably a mixture of "huge," monstrous," and "enormous."
  • ginormous--presumably a mixture of "gigantic" and "enormous."

Now my B.A. in French kicks in--it seems to me that every language has "substitute non-words" for things of which we can't remember the name. Here are a few:

  • English--thingie, thing-a-mabob, thing-a-majig, doohicky, what's-it, what-da-ya-call-it, what-cha-ma-call-it
  • French--bidule, machin, truc
  • Hebrew--ma-sheh-hu (?--this may be a real word). Any takers?
  • Spanish--sorry, never learned Spanish well enough. Any takers?

What are some of your own favorites?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Oil, schmoil: Another kind of spill

If I ever had any crazy notion that our microwave was pareve, finding the turntable coated with a massive melted-cheese spill from baked ziti disabused me of the delusion.

Bassless bummer

I just realized today that there's no way to turn up the bass on my iPod Nano. :(

Parshat Bo notes

Sent to my husband, to help give him d'var Torah [Bible discussion] ideas, now that he's "playing rabbi":

"Check out Parshat Bo, Exodus Chap. 10, v. 8-13: Moshe tells Par'o [Pharaoh] that they're taking the whole gang to make a sacrifice, but when Par'o objects, saying that only the men should go, HaShem sends another plague! So we women are indispensible for worship!

Said it before & I'll say it again--the blood on the doorposts was for us, not HaShem, who would surely have known which houses were home to B'nei Yisrael [the Children of Israel]. We had to be willing to "out" ourselves as B'nei Yisrael. It turns out that p'shat [the literal meaning of a biblical text] supports me: Chapt. 12, v. 13 specifies "the blood shall be a sign for you (v'hayah hadam lachem l'ot) . . . " The blood wasn't a no-tech GPS, leading HaShem to the houses of B'nei Yisrael--it was HaShem's way of forcing us to make a commitment. HaShem would spare only those who were willing to "out" themselves."

Hmm, been there, wrote that.

More notes (with Sh'mot [Shemot] and Vaera [Vaeira] thrown in for good measure).

Thurs., Jan. 6, 2011 update, courtesy of her comment: Here's Techelet's take.

Sat. night, Jan. 8, 2011: Better late than never, here's DovBear's Bo post.

Thurs., Jan. 13, 2011: Really late--my link, not the post--a political view from Rabbi Barry Leff .

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Parsha catch-up: Vaera

Here's DovBear's current Vaera post, with more links than you can shake a stick at.

Here's Techelet's take.

Here's a previous post of mine on Parshat Vaera (Vaeira, whatever), with a little Sh'mot (Shemot) and Bo thrown in for good measure.

We spent New Year's night, Sat., Jan. 1, 2011, at Tamar's Israeli Folk Dance New Year's Marathon (from 8:30 PM until . . . well, they were still dancing when we left at around 2:30 AM) at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, New Jersey. (I'll try to get some videos uploaded.) This would be of no relevance to the subject at hand, had not one of the passengers in our rented car assured my husband, the driver, that we'd be out of the fog as soon as we left Tenafly, commenting that Tenafly is at a sufficiently higher altitude than the surrounding area that it seems to have its own microclimate. Hmm, says I to myself, is it possible that the area then known as Goshen has or had a microclimate different from the area of Ancient Egypt that was, according to Torah, struck by the plagues, thus accounting for it having been spared most of the plagues? To mix this theory with a more traditional perspective, could HaShem have chosen shepherds to be our ancestors for the purpose of ensuring that, when we went down to Egypt, we'd end up in Goshen and be spared?

A rather startling conversation for an Am Haaretz

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