Wednesday, December 29, 2004

They SURFING (a survivor's account of the Sun., Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami)

Thanks to Allison Kaplan Sommer, of the blog "An Unsealed Room" at, for providing this link on her blog:

Here's the amazing story of Delian and Ran, a couple who was in the water taking a surfing lesson in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit. They are friends of Lisa's"

When you're done reading, donate. Those wishing to donate through Jewish organizations can contact the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee ("The Joint") at or the American Jewish World Service at, among others.

Bah Humbug! or Fear & Loathing On Santa Claus Lane (by Reva HaShotah)

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Lest you think that I’m a *complete* cynic, here’s my balanced look at B’nai Yaakov/the Sons of Jacob

. . . and yes, I do mean sons—the only thing we know about any of his daughters is that one of them was raped. (It’s interesting that Parshat Vayigash, Genesis chapter 46, verse 7 mentions that Yaakov’s/Jacob's “sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters and all his seed he brought with him into Egypt, ” despite the fact that there’s been no previous mention of any daughter except Dina. Hertz, naturally, explained this away as referring to his daughters-in-law. Who knows?)

So Yaakov did such a good job of favoring Yosef/Joseph (whom my husband described as “a brat”) over his brothers that they wanted to kill him. On the positive side, both Reuven/Reuben and Yehudah/Judah each tried, in his own way, to save Yosef’s life, and, between the two of them, they succeeded.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch house (as the old saying goes), Yehudah was sufficiently comforted after the death of his wife to visit an alleged prostitute, namely, his disguised daughter-in-law Tamar, who’d decided to take matters into her own hands when Yehudah refused to let his third son perform the rite of levirate marriage. (Long story.) He got her pregnant, then accused her of sleeping around and threatened to burn her alive. But when she proved that he was the father of her child, he ‘fessed up and called her “more righteous that I” (Parshat Vayigash, chapter 38, verse 26.)

In Egypt, Yosef resisted the advances of his boss’s wife. On the other hand, even after he became vizier of Egypt, when there was no possible way that his brothers could ever harm him again, he never once tried to contact his father to let poor Yaakov know that he was still alive. He played a revenge game with his brothers when they finally showed up looking for food, rather than revealing himself right away. It could be argued that he showed less kibud av/honor to his father than Esav/Esau had shown to Yitzchak/Isaac. But then again, he did fulfill his promise to bury his father in the Kever haMachpelah/the Cave of Machepelah in K’na-an/Canaan.

Yehudah offered to serve as Yosef’s slave rather than break his father’s heart by coming home without Yaakov’s beloved youngest son Binyamin/Benjamin. This is, in my opinion, one of the finest moments of the entire Torah (and, given the way the parshiot/weekly readings are divided, the Torah’s finest cliff-hanger, too). Yosef, finally having had his revenge, rose above it and revealed himself and took his family in, providing for them throughout the famine and for the balance of their lives.

The end of Yaakov’s life is instructive. First of all, carrying on ye olde family tradition, he blessed Yosef’s younger son, Efrayim/Ephraim, over the older, Menasheh/Manasseh, making all sorts of interesting predictions about their respective futures that traditionalists will ascribe to HaShem’s guidance and non-traditionalists such as me will point to as proof positive that these words were written down long after the events that Yaakov predicted had already taken place. Ditto for Yaakov’s blessings of just about all of his sons. How could he have known that the tribe of Judah/Yehudah would end up being the family of the kings of “Judea”/Yehudah? How could he have known that the tribe of Z’vulun/Zebulun would be seaside dwellers? As for Yaakov’s cursing of Shim'on/Simeon/Simon and Levi for their slaughter of all the men of Shechem in revenge for the rape of their sister Dina by one of them, a lot of good that did—the tribes of Shim'on and Levi ended up divided and scattered, all right, but the tribe of Levi became the tribe of the future Mishkan/ Sanctuary’s and Mikdash/ Temple’s priests and “assistants.” Some punishment.

After Yaakov’s death and burial, the brothers sent Yosef a message that their father had asked him to forgive them. Naturally, this statement is nowhere recorded previously in the text. What a surprise . . . not. But Yosef, possibly figuring that he’d already had his revenge, assured them of his forgiveness and continued support. The “brat” didn’t turn out so badly, after all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A look at Chanukah's historic origins from Mis-nagid (by way of DovBear)

In a December 12, 2004 post, DovBear at provided a hyperlink to a fascinating explanation of Chanukah, "Frum Fantasy or How a Legend Spawned an Industry," posted by Mis-nagid at . Sorry I didn't think to post this earlier.

While you're visiting DovBear, check out another of his December 12 posts, "HATS FOR WHO?" with a hyperlink to Rav Aharon Abadi on hats and jackets: "This whole uniform thing is a huge sin" . That DovBear just loves posting hyperlinks to stuff that many folks don't want to talk about.

Enjoy your last latkes and/or scarf up those sufganiyot.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Passed Over on Chanukah (Oy, Chanukah)

So I show up this morning at my usual temp. job and discover a new person working in the job that I had hoped would become mine. In other words, I’ve been passed over for the same permanent position three times in the past year and a half. My boss sure has a way with Chanukah gelt.

I’ve been looking for a permanent position ever since I earned a certificate in word processing in January 1997. Unfortunately, there’s no market, especially in this rotten economy, for women over 40, unless you know someone (which, judging by this new employee’s abysmal computer skills, is probably how she got “my” job). Maybe that accounts for some of my cynicism.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Vayishlach: A family of con artists benefits from a rape

Avraham Avinu/Abraham our Father twice passes off Sarah Iménu/Sarah our Mother as his sister for fear that the locals will kill him to take her, and is rewarded with “compensation” for any possible damage to his “property” (wife). Yitzchak/Isaac does likewise with Rivka/Rebecca. Yaakov/Jacob first cons his brother Esav/Esau out of his birthright, then he and his mother, Rivka, conspire together and deprive Esav of the blessing of the firstborn. Yaakov pays for his deviousness when Lavan/Laban substitutes Léah for his beloved Rachel at their wedding. Then Yaakov pulls a switcheroo on Lavan, depriving him of his most productive livestock through good husbandry practices and what sounds like some interesting hocus-pocus. Finally, Yaakov returns to K’na-an/Canaan, where he has to face the possible wrath and revenge of his brother, Esav. That doesn’t go as badly as expected, but . . .

Dinah is raped. (There’s a Midrash/rabbinical interpretive story that says that Dinah was raped because Yaakov hid her from Esav, as he didn’t want his brother getting any “ideas.” Terrific—Yaakov makes the wrong decision and his daughter pays the price.) Her brothers Shim’on/Simon and Levi avenge her rape by conning the entire community of Shechem, her rapist, into becoming circumcised so that they can intermarry, then slaughtering all the men while they are still recuperating. My rabbi says that they had to slaughter all the men in order to prevent a cycle of revenge. But isn’t it a bit too convenient that, yet again, the family benefits from a woman’s difficult situation, in this case taking with them all the women, children, and spoils?

There are still far too many questions unanswered. Was the massacre a hostage rescue, or did Dinah stay in Shechem’s home voluntarily? In terms of historical context, it's instructive to check out Megillat Rute/the Book of Ruth—with her husband and sons all dead, Naomi might have starved to death if Ruth hadn’t, essentially, volunteered to take care of her; Naomi, in turn, set up a “shotgun wedding” between Ruth and Boaz to ensure that Ruth would have someone to take care of her. In those days, would there have been any possibility that any other man would have taken Dinah as a wife, given that she was no longer a virgin, or would she have preferred to stay with Shechem so that she would have a husband to support her and children to care for her in her old age?

Sorry, guys, but the story of the rape of Dinah simply cries out for “kol isha,” a woman’s voice. For me, as a committed Jewish woman, this is one of the most difficult texts in the Torah/Bible, not only because Dinah was raped, but, even worse, because, while we know how her father and brothers felt, we have no idea how she felt (or, for that matter, how her mother felt), nor do we know what, ultimately, became of her. Unfortunately, we can only speculate, because the voice of this woman named Dinah was silenced.
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