Thursday, February 28, 2013

Parshat Ki Tisa, 5773/2013 thoughts

Basics here.

Last year's post, with links to previous oldies, here.

This year's thought, re Exodus, chapter 34:

פְּסָל-לְךָ שְׁנֵי-לֻחֹת אֲבָנִים כָּרִאשֹׁנִים; וְכָתַבְתִּי, עַל-הַלֻּחֹת, אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ עַל-הַלֻּחֹת הָרִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר שִׁבַּרְתָּ.

1 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first; and I will write upon the tables the words that were on the first tables, which thou didst break.

אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לַיְלָה--לֶחֶם לֹא אָכַל, וּמַיִם לֹא שָׁתָה; וַיִּכְתֹּב עַל-הַלֻּחֹת, אֵת דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית--עֲשֶׂרֶת, הַדְּבָרִים. 28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten words.

[I tried not to copy G-d's Hebrew name into this post, so yes, the first parts of verses 1 and 28 are missing in the Hebrew.]

This looks a bit ambiguous to me.  I don't think it's entirely clear who wrote the second tablets.

I recommend that you check out my old posts, which are more interesting.

And I think that Conservadox (or Sarna, whom he's quoting) is onto something, here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Limmud NY 2013: Eat, Pray, Learn

How can I squeeze four days of learning and fun into one (rather belated) post?  I suppose I could start with a list of the featured presenters, several of whose presentations I saw and several of whose presentations I would have liked to see.  One of the challenges of attending a Limmud Conference is that there's always so much going on and so much overlap on the schedule that it's impossible to get to every presentation or activity that one wants to get to.

Some highlights:
  • A wonderful Kabbalat Service with lots of singing.  The baal tefillah/prayer leader invited those interested to come to the middle of the room with him and form an impromptu choir.  I was there in a heartbeat!  I love singing harmony.  And the baalat tefillah who took over for Maariv added more singing than usual, as well.  (There were plenty of other options for Erev Shabbat/Sabbath Eve services in addition to the Traditional Egalitarian one that I attended, ranging from "Musical" to Carlebach Orthodox to Contemplative to Renewal, and morning minyanim included Hashkamah/early-risers Orthodox; "Slow-Down;" Orthodox with male leaders; Orthodox with male and, when permissible, female leaders; trad-egal; and Reform, since Limmud makes it a point to be inclusive.)
  • Daniel Gordis' presentation on  The Promise of Israel and Its Underappreciated Message to Humankind, which drew a substantial crowd.
  • Steven Bayme's presentation Reason & Faith: Contemporary Biblical Criticism and Its Impact Upon Traditional Belief, from which you could have made a minyan with just the people sitting on the floor in the too-small room.
  • Daniel Gordis' presentation on Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: What Does Conversion to Judaism Really Represent?, which also drew a large crowd.
  • Deborah Dash Moore's presentation American Jewish Identity Politics, wonderful in itself (sample:  the American Jewish community loved the UN after World War II but became disillusioned after the passage of the "Zionism is racism" resolution), but also enhanced by the very-much-welcomed and relevant comments of Lilith founder and editor Susan Weidman Schneider and Deborah Lipstadt, presenter of Holocaust Denial: A Clear and Present Danger? from the second-to-last row.  I told the two of them that we should always be blessed with such a "back of the beis (bet midrash/study house)."
  • Shlomit and RebbeSoul's performance, The Seal of Solomon: The New Wave of Jewish World Music, a delightful combination of Yemenite singing paired with balalaika playing.
  • An impromptu and informal "jam session" after the above concert, when a bunch of regular folks got together outside of the dining room with guitars, a banjo, a saxophone, a drum, a drum-set cymbal, a violin, and a lot of voices and sang, from what we later heard, into the wee hours of the night.  (My husband and I turned into pumpkins and left just after midnight, following a rousing round of "Hey Jude!" in which yours truly sang harmony.)
  • Ethan Tucker's presentation Can You Do a Quick Transgression For Me? , a discussion of where and why we draw the line regarding committing one sin to avoid having another person commit a greater one.
  • Last but not least, having been re-scheduled for Monday after lunch, Brian Gelfand's performance, Sundays in June: A Cabaret by a Jewish Wedding Singer, provided a wonderful sample of his talent as a singer/songwriter and keyboard player and a fun ending to a fine weekend.
And those are just the presentations that I got to!  I missed probably six or seven that I wanted to attend due to scheduling overlaps or hanging out too long after meals.

If you can attend a Limmud conference--Limmud started in the UK, but it's worldwide, these days--I would strongly recommend it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013, 9:41 PM update:
My apologies to Andrew Silow-Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, for having unknowingly borrowed the title of his own Limmud NY 2013 Conference article.  I just saw the link a few minutes ago on the Limmud NY 2013 In the News page.  I assure you, Mr. Silow-Carroll, that no copyright infringement was intended, and I hope that none is perceived.

Purim report (slighly belated): Two out of four

The four mitzvot/commandments for Purim are:
  • hearing Megilat Ester/the Book of Esther read/chanted aloud
  • mishloach manot--sending packages of food to one another (some say that one must send at least two kinds of ready-to-eat food, preferably requiring two different b'rachot/blessings, to at least two people) on Purim day
  • seudat Purim/(eating) a festive Purim meal (on Purim afternoon)
  • matanot la-evyonim/(giving) gifts to the poor
Well, we fulfilled two mitzvot out of the four.  But at least we did a good job with the two that we fulfilled.

We not only heard the Megillah, we helped chant it.  Years ago, I was given a choice of chapters, and chose chapter 7, in which Queen Esther springs her trap on the villain Haman and causes him to be hung by King Achashverosh.  I enjoy the challenge of chanting the reading as dramatically as possible while staying strictly within the traditional cantillation.  My husband also chants a chapter, which challenges him in a different way--good luck trying to find practice time during tax season if you're a CPA.

Our mishloach manot delivery was a "two-fer," two mitzvot for the price of one--we delivered mishloach manot to some congregants who had recently undergone surgery, and stayed for bikur cholim/(a) visit(s) to the sick.  We were happy to be able to cheer them up.

The bikur cholim visits delayed us enough that, by the time we got to the seudat Purim, it was no longer Purim.  Oh, well.  Sometimes, one mitzvah trumps another.

As for forgetting to donate matanot la-evyonim . . . oops!  No good excuse.  So we made a donation the next day, on Shushan Purim, instead.  It didn't fulfill the mitzvah of donating on Purim, but hey, tzedakah/charity (literal translation:  righteousness) never hurts.  My personnal favorites for matanot la-evyonim are Mazon:  A Jewish Response to Hunger and/or American Jewish World Service.

Slightly after the fact, I hope that all of my Jewish readers had a Purim Sameach/Happy Purim.

Speaking of tzedakah, next up is Maot ChitimHappy housecleaning, everyone.  (Oy.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Parshat Tetzaveh, 5773/2013 thoughts

Basics here.

Sigh--yet another vocabulary parsha.

And I still don't know exactly what an ephod is, but that makes an ephod analogous to carbon paper--just as the term "ephod" didn't have to be explained to the ancients, so, too, the term "carbon paper" didn't have to be explained to folks of my generation.  Our descendants will have to do an internet search (or the future functional equivalent thereof) to figure out what carbon paper was.

Conservadox points out that our ancients liked their Mishkan well-lit.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jewish fiction?

So if I'm not entirely convinced that the events recounted in Megilat Ester/the Book of Esther ever happened, why am I fasting today?  (Sigh.)  Because that's what Jews do.  See here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My 40th anniversary

This past Monday night, at Mechon Hadar's 90 @ 190 Open Beit Midrash, I participated in Dr. Anne Lapidus Lerner's discussion of the influence of religious Judaism on the poetry of secular Israeli Yehudah Amichai.  One of the poems that she and we analyzed was an untitled poem about how one who wore a tallit/prayer shawl when young never forgets the tactile experience.  I commented that it's really no wonder why women want to wear a tallit.  "Since I was 24, for the record."  Only later did it register with me that, now that I'm 64, I've been wearing a tallit for 40 years.  Happy Anniversary to Me.

When I first began wearing a tallit, I was the first adult female in my egalitarian synagogue to do so.  (A Bat Mitzvah girl had beaten me to it.)  This was far from a common practice 40 years ago, even in egalitarian synagogues.  Given my dubious record with technology, my decision to start wearing a tallit will probably turn out to be the only time occasion in my life when I was an "early adopter."  :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parshat T'rumah, 5773/2013 thoughts

Basics here.

I've got nothin'.

I'm sticking with my previous assertion that T'rumah (Terumah, whatever) is good only for vocabulary-building.

Monday, February 19, 2013 update (see Sh'mot/Exodus, chapter 26):

ג חֲמֵשׁ הַיְרִיעֹת, תִּהְיֶיןָ חֹבְרֹת, אִשָּׁה, אֶל-אֲחֹתָהּ; וְחָמֵשׁ יְרִיעֹת חֹבְרֹת, אִשָּׁה אֶל-אֲחֹתָהּ. 3 Five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and the other five curtains shall be coupled one to another.

That's what I get for doing my initial reading in English--I didn't spot the interesting vocabulary until I heard this in Hebrew during the k'riat haTorah/reading (aloud) of the Torah on Shabbat/Sabbath. What the Hebrew says is that the curtains should be coupled "a woman to her sister." This is like current electricians' usage of the terms male and female parts, one plugging into the other, or, to be more poetic, like women circle-dancing together.


  • Parshat Terumah, in one word: Blueprints (Wednesday, February 02, 2011)  And I'm not too happy about the haftarah, either--Shlomo HaMelech/King Solomon seems to have built the Bet HaMikdash/Holy Temple using slave labor.  :(
  • Parsha puzzles: Out of the blue (Thursday, February 03, 2011)  The standing-on-one-foot version:  What's an ephod?
  • Parshat Terumah/T'rumah, 5772/2012 notes (Thursday, February 23, 2012)  HaShem gave two totally different sets of instructions regarding the material out of which the mizbeach/altar was supposed to be constructed?

Check out this guest post by David A. on DovBear's blog.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A difficult balancing act

The take-away from this Tablet article:

"Ben Sheetrit has become the newest focal point of one of Israeli society’s oldest and most bitter struggles, the ever-growing rift between an increasingly stringent Orthodoxy and a combative secular majority wary of religious extremism. Caught in the middle of this culture war is a large swath of religious Jews who feel at home in both worlds and who want to live a traditional, observant life without subscribing to the strictest of rabbinic interpretations. To these Israelis, Ben Sheetrit is a heroine."

Inquiring minds want to know, so here are the lyrics to the song that Ophir Ben Sheetrit sang on "The Voice."

"Papal" Rabbanut questions another Ortho conversion

The validity of yet another Orthodox conversion done decades ago in the U.S. has been questioned by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate/Rabbanut.  I've been writing about the "conversion crisis" for years.  Just how many times am I going to have to say "been there, blogged that?  I agree with those who've said that the real question is not "Who is a Jew?, but rather, "Who is a rabbi?".  And I will continue to assert that this crisis is a sign of the evolution of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate into a new "papacy."  If you don't have time to check all the links, I recommend that you click on just the first and last ones--they're depressing enough all by themselves.  :(

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Parshat Mishpatim, 5773/2013 thoughts

Basics here.

Sh'mot/Exodus, chapter 24:

ו וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה חֲצִי הַדָּם, וַיָּשֶׂם בָּאַגָּנֹת; וַחֲצִי הַדָּם, זָרַק עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. 6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he dashed against the altar."

Remind me:  Is this the only place in the Torah/Bible in which Moshe himself officiates as a priest?

9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel;

י וַיִּרְאוּ, אֵת -לֹ-י יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְתַחַת רַגְלָיו, כְּמַעֲשֵׂה לִבְנַת הַסַּפִּיר, וּכְעֶצֶם הַשָּׁמַיִם, לָטֹהַר. 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet the like of a paved work of sapphire stone, and the like of the very heaven for clearness.

יא וְאֶל-אֲצִילֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֹא שָׁלַח יָדוֹ; וַיֶּחֱזוּ, אֶת-הָ-לֹ-ים, וַיֹּאכְלוּ, וַיִּשְׁתּוּ. {ס} 11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand; and they beheld God, and did eat and drink."

Along comes the Rambam/Maimonides (if I remember correctly) and insists that G-d has no form.  So nu, what did they see?  It's interesting, how much our beliefs have changed over time in a religion that, allegedly, doesn't encourange change.
יח וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה בְּתוֹךְ הֶעָנָן, וַיַּעַל אֶל-הָהָר; וַיְהִי מֹשֶׁה, בָּהָר, אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם, וְאַרְבָּעִים לָיְלָה. {פ} 18 And Moses entered into the midst of the cloud, and went up into the mount; and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights."

When I exaggerate, my husband finds it amusing.  When the Torah exaggerates, a good chunk of the Jewish people takes it literally.  Some folks have no sense of humor, others have no sense of proportion.


Here's a word from Conservadox re charging interest.


While doing a search of my blog for "Mishpatim," I found my ancient post series “Na-aseh v’nishma”?: Why this Conservative Jew trying to become more observant could probably never become Orthodox (Sunday, February 26, 2006).   What I find most interesting about that series is the tone of the comments.  I was politely taken to task--and quite rightly so--for tarring the entire Orthodox community with a Chareidi/"Fervently" (very-right-wing) Orthodox brush, and I apologized.  But none of my commenters told me to mind my own Conservative-Jewish business, and none threatened to stop reading my blog, as has happened on more than one occasion in the past three and a half years.  Has the Orthodox community made such a sharp turn to the right since 2006, or are some of my current commenters less tolerant of differences of hashkafah/religious perspective?  Given the fact that I'm not that fond of having my head handed to me on a silver platter, it's become more challenging for me, as a member of the loyal opposition, to express a frank but respectful opinion that differs from that held by those with a more traditional point of view.

"Wardrobe malfunction" :)

I was complaining to my husband that the pharmacy chain from which I've been buying pantyhose for years has suddenly stopped selling the style and color that I wear, so I'm having trouble finding pantyhose.  His response was that I'm running into this problem because "You make holes in them faster than they can manufacture them."  Another wiseguy heard from.  :)

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Sh'ma b'kolah(listen to her voice):Ophir BenSheetreet

I think that Ophir Ben Sheetreet has a gorgeous voice, and is a credit to her family and to her Dati L'Umi/Religious Zionist community.  You can hear her in the video posted by DovBear here, and also in the video posted on the Jewish Daily Forward here.  From the Forward:  "Ophir has said that in her family it was never considered a sin to sing in front of men."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 update:

Here are the lyrics to the song that Ophir Ben Sheetrit sang on "The Voice."

Sunday, December 22, 2013 update:
The video link on DovBear's blog doesn't seem to be available anymore, so let's go straight to YouTube.

Note to self--Just to make future searches easier, I'm listing various transliterations that I've seen, and any others that I can think of, of this young lady's name: Ophir Ben Shitrit, Ophir Ben Shetreet, Ofir Ben Shitrit, Ofir Ben Shetreet, Shetrit, Sheetrit, Ofir Ben-Shitrit.


Friday, February 01, 2013

64--just one year more . . .

. . . and I'll be eligible for Medicare, not to mention a half-priced MetroCard.  I never thought I'd look forward to getting older, but I've been counting the months since my last birthday.

" . . . I'll be med-bill free"

No such luck--apparently, not even my husband's medical insurance (from his former employer of 30 years) combined with Medicare will cover long-term hospitalization and/or nursing-home, rehab facility, or skilled-care facility stays.  And long-term care insurance is way too expensive for us.  We're trying to stay healthy, instead.  :)  So far, so good.  Aside from the kidney stones, we seem to have lucked out in the genetic lottery.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going down the hall to raid the candy machine for my birthday dose of Oreos.  :)
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