Monday, January 30, 2006

Girls’ Night On," an open-mike performance night by and for women only, at Makor in NYC, Wed., Feb. 1!

Thanks to Esther for posting this on Jewlicious. I originally read about this event in Hadassah Magazine (thanks to my mother for making me a life member), and have already discussed a possible dance performance ("Ki V'Simcha") with organizer Leslie Ginsparg via e-mail. So if you're of the female variety, live and/or work within hailing distance of Manhattan, and want proof that a middle-aged mom can move, come on over and join the fun as I celebrate my 57th birthday in fine company.

Wed, February 1st
An open mike night for women, by women.
Act, sing, dance, play, read, joke, filibuster or come watch.
Sorry guys, this event is only open to those with two X chromosomes…
Doors open at 7:30. Event begins at 8:00pm.
35 West 67th Street
Admission: $10
For more info: call Leslie at 212-865-0085 or visit (and tell her you heard about it from Esther at Jewlicious!)

Monday in the Park with Shira

It was ridiculously warm in New York City today--60 degrees Fahrenheit, 15.55 Celsius. (I can hear the grumbling from the Milwaukee and Toronto Jewish blogging contingents from here. Sorry.) What beautiful weather for Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Jewish month (in this case, the month of Sh'vat)! So I bestirred myself from my desk and went out to the park a half block from my office, draped my raincoat--it was too warm(!)--over the fence at my favorite spot in a relatively obscure corner, plunked Shlock Rock's "Shirei Boker, Songs of the Morning" into my CD player, and got to "work." I'm happy to report that I now have all of "B'Yado" choreographed, except for the "bridge." Sigh. This is the fourth dance that I've choreographed,* and without fail, I've found the "bridge"--the part of a song that's different from the rest--the most difficult part to choreograph. It's always "a bridge too far." Go figure. Anyway, my hijinks were enjoyed by the squirrels, the pigeons, and the few souls enjoying the sunshine on nearby benches. I actually got some applause and a couple of compliments, which was nice (and a bit surprising, now that I'm using a CD player without external speakers and my "audience" can't hear the music). So now you know where a New Yorker with no extra money for rent gets a dance "studio."

In case you're curious, these are my favorite cold-weather "studios":

1. The synagogue sanctuary/all-purpose room (where the never-on-Shabbos audio equipment is installed) after weekday-morning services/Shacharit;

2. The stairway landing leading to the roof in my office building--I've never seen anyone else up there, though I have, occasionally, had to take a "pass" on practicing upon encountering someone else davvening Mincha (praying the afternoon service) on the landing just below it.

*The first three were "Ki V'Simcha," "Modeh Ani" (both of which you can find by scrolling along in the radio blog here)," and "Aniyah."

Chodesh tov: The Women of the Wall davven as a group at and/or near the Kotel

This is slightly after the fact, but, nevertheless, I thought some of you might be interested in reading about Nashei Hakotel from a participant in their Shacharit (Morning Service) of Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat, the first day of the new month of Sh'vat.

Shifra guest-posts on pre-Shabbos madness

Oh, brother, does this ever sound familiar. I should have linked to this post when I first read it. A word to the wedded: Print this one before Shabbat and help improve your marriage!

Cross-cultural cluelessness: Well-meaning whites miss the point while teaching black children

The Balabusta in Blue Jeans has a Saturday, January 21, 2006 post, "Blame It On The Griots," that's well worth reading. Thanks to Eliyahu for recommending this blog.

Swept away: Eliyahu on the untimely demise of New Orleans

See Eliyahu's Monday, January 30, 2006 post, "Mourning New Orleans," as well as several posts prior to this one that consist of discouraging quotes from the Washington Post.

Friday, January 27, 2006

All puffed up (a subway story) :)

There he sat
Across from me
Cloaked in a parka
His arms on his knees
His head on his arms
His hood on his head
Taking a snooze
As if in bed
Here's the weird part—
No face could I see
He looked like the Michelin Man to me


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How not to impress your future in-laws :)

This joke may be old as the hills and twice as dusty in some circles, for all I know, but here it is, for your amusement, courtesy of my uncle.

Torah Scholar

A young woman brings home her fiancé to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother tells her father to find out about the young man. The father invites the fiancé to his study for a drink. "So what are your plans?" the father asks the young man. "I am a Torah scholar," he replies." A Torah scholar. Hmm." the father says. "Admirable, but what how will you provide a home for my daughter to live in, as she's accustomed to?" "I will study," the young man replies, "and God will provide for us." "And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?" asks the father. "I will concentrate on my studies," the young man replies, "and God will provide for us." "And children?" asks the father. "How will you support children?" "Don't worry, sir, God will provide," replies the fiance. The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father asks a question, the young idealist insists that God will provide. Later, the mother asks, "How did it go, honey?" The father answers, "He has no job and no plans, but the good news is, he thinks I'm God."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mobile madness: Psycho Toddler's cell-phone sore (or sour) spot

Check this out for a good laugh.

If you'd like, stop by here and see my version.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Keep Mark's/Pycho Toddler's father in your prayers--Update

Eliezer Aryeh ben Perel has been in better health. Oy.

Please click on the link and lend Mark your support.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

In which I discover "back links" and get a few pleasant surprises

As those of you who followed my travails in attempting to set up a blogroll are aware, I'm not the most technologically-adept person ever to participate in the blogosphere. So now that I've finally gotten that blogroll set up, with considerable help from Sheyna Galyan, I'm trying to determine what the heck I did that caused those thingies for setting the date and time to disappear from my "create-a-post" window.

In the process of poking around, I was looking in the Settings windows, and discovered, in the Comments window, that I could set my blog to tell me when someone else had linked to a post of mine in her or his own blog just by clicking "Show" for a function called "Back linking."

Imagine my surprise when I checked my, er, "front page" (?) (the posts that one can read without going to the archives) to see the results of my tinkering and discovered that ". . . A woman’s place—if any—in the siddur" had been cited by Elie in the Sunday, January 15, 2006 edition of "Haveil Havalim" (a weekly round-up of interesting posts)! In addition, Ezzie had linked to ". . . Shlock Rock was here!," and "Shlomo Carlebach and company show me the way—a milestone in the life of a late-learner."

Wow! I guess I'm not quite as unknown as I'd thought! Thanks!

Thanks, too, to Jack of the Shack for including my post of this past Friday, January 20, 2006, "On a tear . . . or not: “Flippin’ out,” Conservative style?" in the latest edition of Haveil Havalim.

It's really nice to know that there are folks who are interested in what I have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

Laugh links

It’s not that I have no sense of humor. I crack people up all the time because I love to play with language. For example, I told my hubby that I need new pajamas because my pajama shirt “sprang a leak.” That’s a bit more interesting than just saying that the pj shirt is sufficiently well worn to have a hole in it. But it doesn’t work quite as well in print. I specialize in spoken one-liners.

So, in the interest of not boring my readers to tears with my usual stream of serious posts, I’ve decided to link you to some good laughs.

Without further ado:

"My Wacky Wife"

Check the comments—apparently, the “wacky wife” took my advice about doing more writing.

So here are some of the further adventures of Mark's/PT’s “wacky wife,” a.k.a. Mrs. Balabusta.

Thursday, June 16, 2005
The Electric Company

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Here's another new trick I can do

And the most recent winner:
"Winter Olympics my foot"

Meanwhile, back at the ranchhouse . . . well, here’s some of Mark's/PT's funny stuff:

(My favorite is the Dentist Sketch, which made me laugh so hard I got tears in my eyes.)

Take one Meshugeneh Man (hey, he’s the one who named his blog Psycho Toddler), add one Wacky Wife, mix vigorously, wait nine months, then another 16 ½ or so years for effort, and what do you get?

Here’s the sneak preview:

More Tales of Crime and Treason on the High Seas

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
wednesday nights at the skiers' house

And now, ladies and gentleman, I present the “Froot-Looped” (see the comments) Adventures of Fudge the Freshman:

"when your iq reaches 50, sell"

"the promised cab driver story"

"must sleep"

This blogger may not be related, but he’s a friend of the family, having played in the same band as Mark/PT (see "What was he thinking?" and read the comments to this post and the one to which it refers—just follow the link). Here’s a funny one from him, hyperlink courtesy of the JIB Awards:

"Daddy Syndrome"

And so concludes this blogger’s Saturday Night Laughs. Enjoy!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Keep Mark's (Psycho Toddler's) father in your prayers.

On a tear . . . or not: “Flippin’ out,” Conservative style?

The oddest thing happened to me last Shabbat (Sabbath). Seeing a scattering of challah (Sabbath bread) crumbs on the diningroom table, I went into the kitchen to get a paper towel with which to wipe the table. I was very surprised indeed when I found myself unable to tear off the paper towel.

It’s a classic in Orthodox circles, known as “flipping out”: A young person, sent off for a year of Jewish studies in Israel, leaves as a Modern Orthodox Jew and comes back as a Chareidi.

I've known for many years that it's forbidden to tear on Shabbat. (Some say that one is permitted to tear open packages that contain food for immediate consumption.) But that hadn't stopped me before. The prohibition against tearing on Shabbat or Yom Tov (Festival) was just one of those negative mitzvot (commandments) that I hadn't chosen to observe yet.

It gets better, folks.

Within the past three years, I've:

1. learned the brachah (blessing) recited after certain snacks ("al ha-michyah") in honor of a former rabbi;

2. added something like half a dozen psalms to my Shacharit/Morning Service (on those occasions when I pray the morning service—I haven't made a commitment to daily prayer yet);

3. gone back to saying "Elokai Netzor," which I knew but used to skip most of the time;

4. added "Ma Yakar" every time I put on a tallit (prayer shawl);

5. added "Modeh Ani," the first prayer recited upon awakening, to my daily routine.

And, speaking of snacks, I've found myself saying the brachot (blessings) "shehakol" and/or “borei minei m’zonot” just about all the time lately. At first, I thought it was just because I usually hang out at my Modern Orthodox buddy's desk for lunch, or because I now sit within visual range of my boss's junior assistant, who's also Orthodox. But then I began to notice that I was making those brachot in shul (synagogue), at home, even while munching during the walk home from the subway. Hmm.

Just last Shabbat, I asked my rabbi when would be the next time to say kiddush l'vanah, the sanctification of Hashem for giving us the moon. I've only said it once in my life before, and have no clue as to the timing or the method.

For the past few days, I’ve done something that I haven’t done in ages: I’ve found myself a nice quiet isolated spot and davvened (prayed) Mincha (the Afternoon Service) at the office during my lunch hour. Apparently, I’ve been davvening long enough at this point that it doesn’t take my whole lunch hour: If I skip the Tachanun prayer, I can davven Mincha in about 10-15 minutes.

Working in an organization founded and heavily "populated" by Orthodox Jews has probably had an influence on me. Hanging around with all the friendly frum (Orthodox) folks in Olam HaBlog, the Jewish blogosphere, has certainly made me think twice about traditional observance and learning. I got so tired of being the resident am ha-aretz (Jewishly-illiterate Jew) of Olam HaBlog, the World of the Blog, that I'm now studying Hebrew for the first time in about 25 years, in the hope that, eventually, I'll be able to do some serious studying. Should I study Chumash Rashi, once my Hebrew is up to the challenge? Or should I study the works of Nechama Leibowitz, who has the twin advantages of being both female and far more contemporary? Could a person who's as easily distracted when davvening (praying) as I am possibly survive in a bet-midrash (study-house/study hall) environment, in which chevrutot (study partners) study aloud, or had I best stick to regular classes? Would I do best at the programs offered by The Skirball Center at Temple Emanu-El or at Hebrew Union College (Reform)? Is the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) more for me? Or should I take the plunge and study at Drisha Institute for Women (Orthodox)? Believe it or not, I'm leaning toward Drisha.

What about the future? Where do I see myself, a few years from now? I'm a tad more observant now than I was five years ago, but far less observant than I was 25 years ago. Do I see myself reversing that trend? How far am I willing to go?

How far will the music move me? I listen to Neshama Carlebach singing the words of her late father, Shlomo Carlebach, "Return to who you are, return to what you are . . . ," and I'm torn.

Scarier still is this: "Gotta take that first step . . . make that committment . . . move along the path, move along the path . . ."

I'm moving, but I just don't know how far I want to go.

"You know the time is right." No, I don't, and I'm not sure I ever will. I'm already a misfit in a Conservative synagogue, far more serious about davvening than those members of the shul who talk through the Kedusha prayer, the haftarah reading (usually from the Prophets), and birkat hamazon (grace after meals), far more "liberal" than the many women who won't set foot on the bima (er, prayer stage?). What place could there possibly be behind the mechitza (a partition separating the men from the women in an Orthodox synagogue) for a hard-core egalitarian woman who wears a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries) and loves leading services and chanting haftarot? Would I even be capable of sitting shtum (silently) at a Shabbat dinner table while all the males sang z'mirot (Sabbath songs), afraid to open my mouth for fear of offending them with my kol isha (woman's singing voice), or would I just end up leaving the table out of sheer frustration at having to stifle my natural urge to sing (and, noch besser, even better, harmonize and sing loudly)? Must I give up going folk-dancing with my own husband, which is one of the joys of our lives, because many in the Orthodox community hold the opinion that it’s forbidden for men and women to dance together, or even to touch in public ? How do I resolve the conflict between the commandment forbidding turning stoves, ovens, and/or electrical devices on or off on Shabbat, on the one hand, and the prohibition against bal tashchit, wastefulness, on the other? And will I ever truly be ready never to travel except by foot or watch television on a Sabbath or Festival again?

I can only hope that, whatever choices I make, these other words of Lenny Solomon, still from the song "First Step," will prove to be true of my buddies from the Jewish blogosphere: "We won't be very far."


"Kol atsmotai tomarna, Hashem, mi chamocha . . . All my bones will say, 'G-d, who is like You . . . ?" (Psalm 35:10)

[Written Thursday, January 19, 2006]


Just listen.

Let the music carry you along where it will.



Do the rabbis not tell us to praise Hashem "asher yatzar et ha-adam b'chochmah . . .Who formed the human in wisdom . . . "?

Then let us use what G-d gave us.

"Hashem s'fatai tiftach, u-fi yagid t'hilatecha, G-d, open my lips, and my mouth will tell your praise."

"Ivdu et Hashem b'simchah, bo-u l'fanav bi-r'nanah, Serve G-d with joy, come before Him with singing."[1]

". . . v'ragleinu kalot ka-ayalot . . . and (if) our feet were as swift as the deer. . ."

"Y'halelu sh'mo v'machol, Let them praise His name in dance." [2]

Off I go to Israeli folk-dancing, to let my bones praise Hashem.

[1] Psalm 100
[2] Psalm 149


Gone in a flash: Our new digital camera is off to college in upstate New York—and in Japan!

Our son told us that the camera in the lab was dreadful, and that he needed a good camera to document his physics projects. How could we refuse?

Furthermore, if all goes according to plan, our favorite Physics major and Japanese minor will be taking the camera with him when he leaves for Japan for a six-week summer course in Japanese scientific and technical terminology.

I told my husband that the next time we see our camera will probably be August.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch house, it looks as if mom and dad here are stuck with the cheapies again. Oh, well, easy come, easy go. I can think of far worse ways to lose a good digital camera.

*Huge* "shout-out": *Many* thanks to Sheyna Galyan for helping me set up a blogroll!

Without Sheyna's help, I would never have gotten my blogroll up and running. I just have a few more details to work on. For one thing, how do I add a title to my blogroll? For another, why are most of the hyperlinks purple, while a few are blue, nu? But I'm just glad to be able to acknowledge other people's blogs as they've acknowledged mine.

Check out Sheyna's blog. And while you're there, have a look at her book.

Now to publish the already-written posts that have been waiting patiently for their 15 minutes of fame.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The obligatory JIB Awards post

I am not worthy.


I didn't get a single nomination, either this year or last year.

I've concluded that the Jewish blogosphere is trying, ever so gently, to tell me that I'm too rude to be nominated. After all, other people link to my blog, but I don't link to theirs. Having a blogroll is just derech eretz, common courtesy.

So I have a sincere—not to mention desperate—request: Please help me qualify for next year's Jewish and Israeli Blog (JIB) Awards by telling where in the bleeping blue blazes in my template I'm supposed to paste the code for the blogroll that I just spent four hours trying to set up.

And do surf over to Israellycool to check out all the hyperlinks to really cool blogs and posts that were nominated for JIB Awards. "Oh, the places you'll go." :)

Monday, January 16, 2005

Rav todot, many thanks, to Sheyna Galyan, who e-mailed me instructions describing exactly where to paste the "BlogRoll Me" link code:

"just after this entry:

!-- Begin #profile-container --


!-- End #profile --"

As you can see, it worked!!!

But every time I've tried to paste the blogroll code into my template, I've ended up (in the "Preview") with about three times as many "Previous Posts" showing up on my sidebar, which makes for an awfully long sidebar. I'm afraid to save the change for fear that I'd never be able to figure out how to "undo"/edit it.

I regret that I'll have to bother some of you kind folks again via e-mail. Thank you for your offers of assistance. I hope to get my blogroll up and running shortly, but I'm obviously going to need more help. For lack of an alternative, I freely confess to being technology-challenged. Sorry to make such a pest of myself.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"Hem u-n’sheihem (them and their wives)" . . . : A woman’s place—if any—in the siddur

I’ve been thinking about this for a good while and debating whether to blog on the subject. I was rather hoping that I’d get a chance to continue to discuss this and related issues at GoldaLeah’s blog, Go West, Young Jew, after she published her Wednesday, November 09, 2005 post, Standing Again at Sinai I (Feminist Judaism). Unfortunately for the Jewish blogosphere, GoldaLeah decided to retire from blogging, and therefore, her series on Feminist Judaism was never continued. So I guess I’ll just have to pick up where she left off.

Therefore, without further ado . . .

First of all, let’s get the obvious out of the way. The prayer recited by men thanking Hashem “who has not made me a woman” has, frankly, been beaten to death already. Besides, one of my unfortunately anonymous commenters from my Thursday, October 14, 2004 post, "Men in Halachah—Shirking their responsibilities," already answered the question, in my opinion:

“The trio of blessing God for not making "me" (e.g. a Jewish man) a woman, gentile or slave may well have been instituted to directly contrast with Pauline Christian theology, wherein there exists "no man nor women, Jew or Greek, free or slave, for ye are all one in Jesus Christ" (my own paraphrase of the verse). In other words, the purpose of these blessings is to asssert that there are differences between groups which Christianity, then on the ascent, sought to abolish. And we are not all "one in Jesus Christ". The beracha women recite, "she-asani kirtzono" is nearly a thousand years newer than the other berachot, which date to the 3rd or 4th century. So you cannot ask why the formula for men did not read "she-asani ish". It would have necessitated other affirmative declarations for consistency, such as "for making me a Jew" and "for making me free". Then the point that this was in contrast to Paul's doctrine would not have been apparent. You can surely ask why the woman's formula was written as it was. But that is not a question on Talmudic sages, it is a question on whomever it was that composed that blessing in the 11th or 12 century.”

Okay, that’s enough of that. But that still leaves us with this beauty (from the Torah-reading part of the weekday Shacharit/Morning Service): “May it be the will of our Father who is in heaven to preserve among us the sages of Israel, them, their wives . . .”

The writer of this prayer obviously takes it for granted that there’s no such thing as a female scholar. Otherwise, why would he bless the wives separately, as if it were unheard of for a wife, or an unmarried woman, to be a scholar in her own right? (Beruriah [the scholarly wife of Rabbi Meir] and the 20th-century scholar Nechama Leibowitz are both turning in their graves.) The solution is to skip the word “u-n’sheihem,” “their wives,” leaving the word “them.”

And here’s another beauty, from the Torah-reading part of the Shacharit/Morning Service of Shabbat (Sabbath): “He who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—may He bless this entire holy congregation along with all the holy congregations; them, their wives . . .”

Since many of us are of the opinion that wives are already included in the term "holy congregations," the solution, again, is to skip the word “u-n’sheihem,” “their wives,” leaving the word “them.”

However, I pose this question to my Orthodox readers: Given the fact that women are not counted for a minyan (quorum needed for certain prayers and ritual actions such as reading from the Torah scroll) and that they do not participate in a public way in the prayer service, neither leading any part of the service nor participating in the reading of the Torah scroll, the Prophets, or the Writings, are women, halachically speaking from an Orthodox point of view, part of the congregation? I’m trying to understand whether, from an Orthodox perspective, mentioning the wives separately includes those who would otherwise be assumed to be excluded or excludes those who would otherwise be assumed to be included.

Then there’s the question of which individuals should or should not be mentioned in the first paragraph (Avot/Fathers/Ancestors section) of the Amidah prayer. On GoldaLeah’s aforementioned post, David commented, "Hazal say several times that we would have no right to daven if not for God teaching us how. By all right, we should not be allowed to address God at all. The only reason we may say 'God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob' is that God calls himself 'God of Abraham...'

GoldaLeah replied, “This might explain why people aren't willing to change things, but it doesn't explain why it's right for it to be that way. Look again who you are relying on...Hazal...male sages. I wonder if a woman sage would have come up with an equally tennable reason for including the matriarchs in our prayers, had she been given the chance to do so.”

Finally, as a native speaker of English who’s not fortunate enough to be fluent in Hebrew (yet—that’s why I’m in an Ulpan Hebrew class), I run square into the unavoidable problem that the Hebrew language has no “neuter”—even the words for “parent” and "ancestor" are masculine. Under the circmstances, I’m forced to ask myself whether I might not be seeing sexism where it wasn’t necessarily consciously intended. Does ish, man, automatically include woman? Does ben, son, also include daughter? Does avoteinu, our fathers, automatically include our mothers?

Years ago, I made the following decision: When davvening (praying), I would consider any quote from anywhere in the Tanach/Bible to be sacrosanct, but any prayer written by the rabbanim (rabbis) would be fair game. So I’ve been adding the words imoteinu (our mothers) to avoteinu (our fathers), and b’noteinu (our daughters) to baneinu (our sons), in prayers written by the rabbanim, such as the blessings after the Sh'ma quotations and the blessings in the Amidah prayer. Ish, man, has become adam, human (which is, as I was saying, also masculine, but about as neuter a word as Hebrew can provide). The problem is that, of late, I’ve come to wonder whether I’m excluding people who might otherwise be assumed to be included. What’s your opinion? Should I drop the extra words and assume that the original text includes them? Or should I continue along my present path on the assumption that the text was written by and for men and that, therefore, the masculine terminology can be assumed to have been chosen thoughtlessly at best or deliberately at worst?

Was the standard traditional prayer book written for all Jews?

Or this a classic case of “Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain?”

January 10, 2006:

1) I neglected to mention that I'm leading a discussion on this subject at a chavurah (layperson-led) service this coming Shabbat. So I'd appreciate all the input I can get, as it helps me clarify my thinking. Thanks for your support.

2) I forgot this beauty, from Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals)—Nodeh l'cha . . . al britcha she-chatamta bi-v'sareinu, We thank You . . . for the covenant that You sealed in our flesh. As GoldaLeah was saying in her post, there are some texts that simply don't apply to women. I'd be happy to give credit to the person from whom I picked up this one years ago, if I could remember who the person was: To the phrase "al britcha she-chatamta bi-v'sareinu, We thank You . . . for the covenant that You sealed in our flesh," add the word "u-vi-l'vaneinu, and in our hearts."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A shameless request for an invitation

Er, um . . .


Well, it’s not entirely shameless.

And it’s sort of embarrassing, too.

But the simple fact of the matter is that what I said in my last post is absolutely true:

I'm 56 years old and I've have never been to a s'udat Purim.

Could any of you kind folks from the New York City metropolitan area spare a couple of places at the table for the Punster and me?

"Gesher tzar m'od": Thinking *inside* the box

"Kol ha-olam kulo gesher tzar m'od, all the world is a very narrow bridge . . ."

One of my co-workers came to me a few weeks ago saying that she'd found some change in the candy machine and wondering whether it was okay for her to take it, because it probably came from a goy (non-Jew). I gotta tell ya, my jaw dropped. I gave her what for, telling her that it didn't matter from whom one stole, g'néva is g'néva (theft is theft). It wasn't the petty change that bothered me, it was the principle of the thing. In the end, after I guilt-tripped the heck out of her, she decided to put the change in a pushkeh (tzedakah/charity box).

A few weeks later, I was complaining to a co-worker that it was a disgrace that we don't recycle paper in our office. I said that it was "bal tashchit." (That's the name of a rule that the rabbis promulgated forbidding wastefulness. I think it's based on D’varim, Parshat Shoftim, Deuteronomy chapter 20, verses 19-20, in which we were forbidden to cut down fruit trees for military use during war.) My co-worker's only comment was, "Well, it least it isn't "shémos." ("Shémos," or "shémot"="names": We're forbidden to destroy or dispose of anything that has one of the Hebrew names of G-d written on it—we have to either store the item or literally bury it.) I replied that it's still bal tashchit, wastefulness. Seriously, folks, is it any less forbidden for us to break the halachah (Jewish religious law) against bal tashchit than to break the halachah against destroying shémot? A halachah is a halachah. (Okay, okay, I'm not Orthodox—yell at me about my inconsistent observance later. I'm trying to make a point here.)

I'd encountered this kind of attitude before. Back in the good old days before he was transferred to another office, another co-worker used to give a shiur (study session) for the Jewish women who work in this building. If my memory, such as it is, serves me correctly, we were studying a book called Sefer HaChinuch (?), by Luzzato (?). After a few weeks of having to miss the shiur due to the demands of work, I came in in the middle of a chapter about the soul, and couldn't believe what I was hearing. Apparently, this particular author posited that there were several types of souls (nefesh, neshamah, etc.)—and that the kind of souls that Jews had were superior to the kind that non-Jews had.

And I've encountered this kind of attitude since. One of the most shocking things I saw while editing a manuscript that one of the many rabbis on our organization's staff gave me to work on was a statement by a rabbi that Jews are automatically more ethical than non-Jews just because they're Jews and need not trouble themselves to behave ethically because everything a Jew did was automatically ethical.

I was always taught that Jews were the chosen people not because of any innate superiority, but simply because we were the ones to whom G-d gave the mitzvot (commandments). Has this attitude, too, been lost with the increasing "charédization" of Judaism, along with an openness to such things as a good secular education (possibly including such a thing as, heaven forbid, college), television, the Internet, Jewish rock music, and men and women actually participating in enough activities together that they might, heaven forbid, meet and marry one another?

On a lighter note, I was taken aback considerably when a co-worker told me that she'd never been to a Chanukah party. On the other hand, I suppose she would be equally taken aback if I ever told her that I'm 56 years old and I've never been to a s'udat Purim. Which brings me directly to my next post . . .
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