Sunday, April 30, 2006

The "Missing Child" Formation--for Elie and Debbie, Aaron's parents, on his unveiling

Aaron's story is here.

In the U.S. Air Force
sometimes, when someone dies
A squadron of fighter jets flies
over the cemetery during the burial
in the "Missing Man" Formation
A squadron flying as if with five fighter jets
but with a gap in the formation,
one fighter jet conspicuously missing
in honor of the deceased

Aaron's family is now flying in the "Missing Child" Formation
and always will be

It was just a headache
or two, or three, or four,
or more
And he couldn't hold his head straight
Time to see a doctor
It was just a pinched nerve and a little scoliosis
Later, after a trip to a chiropractor
Into a neck brace went the 18-year-old

But the neck brace didn't help
The pain didn't abate
Okay, this is serious
Let's find out what this is all about
So we can have it taken care of, right away

A brain tumor?
What do you mean?
How could that be?

A trip to the hospital for an MRI

And finally, after an awful night
the dreaded, dreadful news from the doctor



How do you tell your other children
That their brother,
who just went in for an MRI
is already brain dead?

Shock, denial, grief


and over

But please, please
No guilt

Not even the doctors had a clue
And, in any case, there would never have been anything that they could do
You did everything that good parents should, or would, or could possibly do

I would offer words of consolation,
but what words could possibly console?

HaMakom y'nachem etchem
May "The Place" comfort you

as I cannot

"The Place"

and the place

that Aaron holds in your hearts, your souls,
your memories,

that you hold in your hearts for your other children,
and that they hold in their hearts for you,

that people who care hold in their hearts
for Aaron
and for his family, too
People who tried to help you get through this
People who are there for you

HaMakom y'nachem etchem

That's the best that I can hope to do


Early burn-out predicted

I think I’m addicted

I come straight home, exhausted, planning to fall right into bed
And end up staying up late--again--to publish two new posts, instead

(Last week alone,
I e-mailed home
three posts from work
(And “wrote” part of this post on Shabbos, in my head)

I must be nuts!
(What else is new?)

I’ve come to writing rather late in life, it’s true
But that’s the case with much of what I do
At 56, I got the first job that I truly love
(My skills fit its requirements like a glove)
And choreographed my first folk dances, too
(Not to mention dances number one, and three and four
I’m kind of stuck now—don’t know whether there will be any more
But it certainly was a kick while it lasted, that’s for sure!)

The problem is that I’d rather blog than go to bed
What lack of sleep is doing to my health,
I dread
to think
It really does stink
that I cannot do all-nighters anymore

Not to mention
That I’m not getting any work done at home
The number of checks I have to write today could fill a tome

I must get off this blog and get to work
I have responsibilities that I can't shirk

But first, to sleep, perchance to dream
Of all the work I've put off--
please, no meme! :)


Just received from the OU: Torah classes in Sign Language

"New! New! New!
Jewish Videos in ASL [American Sign Language. Note to my readers: Sign language is not the same worldwide, and, in the larger countries, there may even be regional variations.]
It is with thanks to Hashem that Our Way/NJCD [National Jewish Congress of the Deaf?] is proud to announce that we have set up Torah classes in Sign Language (and voice) through the internet. The first two classes are about the 10 Commandments and Pesach by Mordechai Weis (NY). Go to and find "Jewish Deaf" on the left side and then click. You'll see the blue hyperlink to click and watch the video. Comments, suggestions and ideas should be emailed to"

Update: The Orthodox Union (OU) is fiddling with its website, and the link doesn't seem to be working at the moment. Try this link to the OU's Jewish Deaf website instead.

And no, the irony of a website for the Deaf being linked to a radio website has not escaped me.

Paint stripper :)

The Sabbath day can be sublime
But this is what happens every time
we strip the tape off the switch to the bathroom light
after Havdalah on a Saturday night

The same with the kitchen and our bedroom, too
Well, just one stripped spot wouldn't do :)

It can be hard on the paint job when you're a Jew

May 22, 2007:
Hay, check out the antidote,
just in time for Shavuot!

For the record, these switch protectors have magnets on the back--they just magnetize themselves to the heads of the nails that fasten the switchplates to the wall. Perfect for a low-tech klutz [clumsy person] like me. :)


Friday, April 28, 2006

Minyannaires and Regulars--on the life and death of a synagogue

[Note: This should have been posted yesterday,
But I didn't finish writing it 'til today.]

I said a brachah for the blossoming tree
on the corner by me
and another brachah
for the blooms that were under the tree

Way cool
I've made two brachot already
And I'm not even at shul


Speaking of which, speed it up, lady!

I'm always the last one standing,
in the middle of the Amidah.
That's partly because I'm the world's slowest davvener
and partly because I'm always late
But even though I know that they can't wait
I go anyway, in the hope that, at least,
I'll help them have a minyan for Mourner's Kaddish at the end, at any rate

Over breakfast, while I was still praying
they were saying
that, in the past seven years or so
we'd lost enough guys to make a traditional minyan
S. must be in seventh heaven
up in heaven
No more early-morning phone calls
Now, he has 10 men on call
Just hanging around all day
ready to pray
Waiting for him to lead Barechu
As he always used to do

They were talking about the ones who are gone
because we'd just lost another one
and the funeral was after the minyan

I used to call him Raash Gadol, Big Noise(maker)
He was an incurable yacker
But with a heart of gold, always there when he was needed

Hey A., say hi to S.
and the rest of the minyannaires up there
And the Shabbos crew, too
like C., whom we used to walk home from Mincha-Maariv
every Saturday night
We told her we needed her for protection
since she was the one with the cane, good for clobbering would-be muggers :)
And Ms. 82, another member in good standing
of the Shabbos and Yontif Regulars

Notnim r'shut zeh lazeh l'hakdish l'Yotzram
They give one another permission to sanctify their Creator,
Whose glory fills the earth
in which they now rest

While we, earth-bound but still "on this side of the grass,"
remember them in our thoughts and prayers
as we watch our community dwindle,
one by one,
lost to the Mal'ach haMavet, the Angel of Death
We lost 10 members last year alone

Pretty soon, there won't be enough people
to support the synagogue that we call our own


"The Gap" :)

Inspired by these two posts by Mark/PT.

Hey, Mark
you think you have it bad?!
You should see the lady's room in my office!
(Or maybe you shouldn't, but anyway . . .)

The stall is literally right next to the sink, to the right
So while I wash my hands or comb my hair
I can look straight ahead or left, but certainly not there
It's really embarrassing, one doesn't want to stare

It gets worse

Not only is there a gap by the stall's door
and not only is the layout poor
The lady's room is so small
that if someone opens the lady's room door
you can look through the gap straight into the hall

And, heaven help us, vice versa!!!!!!
"In or out, ladies!"
Please close the door!
We'd like to have some privacy in here!"

So much for tzniut, modesty
in the design of a facility
of an Orthodox Jewish agency
And now, if you'll please excuse me,
I'm trying to stand on what's left of my dignity

The men's room next door is even worse
The urinals are right next to the door!
If a woman happens to glance left on the way past at the wrong time
Well, let's just say she can see enough to tell whether the guy has had a bris!

You need to wear blinders to work in this place!


Culture clash

It was some kind of Asian stringed instrument
He held it vertically, one end resting on his knee,
and played it with a bow
This was on the subway platform, down below
While up above, somewhere on the mezzanine
Someone was playing a cello
The two most certainly didn't go

They weren't even tuned to the same scale

Earlier that day,
I'd had a similar problem, too,
At J 2
The pizzeria
I'd grabbed a laminated card
with Birkat haMazon, Grace After Meals, printed on it
Well, so many words were different
that I'd ended up stumbling my way through it
mostly from memory
Afterward, I'd checked the card
Sure enough, it said
Sefardi/B'nei Edot HaMizrach
at the top of the front page, in plain Hebrew
(heaven forbid they should provide a translation for beginners)
Talk about culture clashes,
I only know the Ashkenazi version

Maybe sometime, I'll try doing Birkat HaMazon
in accordance with the Sefardi/B'nei Edot HaMizrach tradition
just out of curiosity
I'm curious to see
whether my Hebrew has improved enough
to be up to the challenge


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Congratulate me: I'm now a published, er, something-or-other

After months of e-mails, phone calls, fact-checking, Spell-Checking, updates, corrections, editing, and finally, literally several hours of reformatting, my (boss's) masterpiece was finally sent out for informal printing (3 spiral-bound copies from Staples) and published on our website yesterday. Yay! Hooray! (Not to mention, considering how long it took, Baruch Shehecheyanu.) As the Project Director said, "Let's crack open the grape juice." :)

I'm so proud. I began temping for this organization in late 2001, and was heavily involved in the word-processing of two previous major publications. I was the chief formatting expert for one publication, and co-wrote the uniform-formatting guide for the other one, spelling out many of the instructions on how to create the required formatting. I also worked on several other major projects. One former supervisor, after initially resisting my efforts to organize her computer files (by putting them into folders and putting date and time stamps in the footers on each file) later thanked me: My organization system made the project run much more smoothly, as I knew it would. (Sometimes, the difference between administrator and support staff is that the administrator sees the forest while the support staff sees the trees--the administrator knows what, but doesn't always know how. Some administrators have only a vague idea of what the support staff has to do to complete a project and/or how much effort goes into our work.) Another former supervisor told me that I was the best copy-editor she'd ever had. But this is the first project that I've completed as my boss's full-time permanent Secretary for Special Projects.

Naturally, someone found a few mistakes in the document already. (Thus far, I've spotted three formatting errors myself, I'm embarrassed to say. I'm amazed and dismayed that, despite several hours of my best efforts, I wasn't able to catch all of the formatting problems. On the other hand, all those tables that I recreated from scratch on my own initiative because they were hard to read are easier to read now. My tables are purrty :) And the massive tab-reformatting project left the sections in question looking much more consistently formatted. ) But I've been told not to make any further corrections. The file is now out of my hands, both figuratively and literally: A staff member from another department is in charge of taking a CD of "my baby" to the print shop (probably early next week, after getting the necessary approvals) and getting it transformed into a softcover book. The printer(s) will add photos, probably change the font, and perform any number of other necessary procedures that will completely override and pretty much rip to shreds about 90% of my formatting in the process of turning my 8-1/2-inch- by-11-inch copy into a 6-inch-by-9-inch paperback. Sigh. I can only hope that the final product is, well, as impressive as we can afford to have them make it.

I call this "my" baby, but it's really my boss's baby, and besides, sometimes it seems as if half the organization was involved in its publication. In my humble opinion, my hard-working boss and I owe a special thanks to The Wiz, our resident computer science genius and technical advisor, who, among her many contributions to this project, had this document published on our website within hours of its completion, and to the organization's Project Director, who went over this file with a fine-tooth comb again and again (checking English, formatting, and facts), worked the phones for updates and accurate information, and ensured that the job got done and done well.

P.S. In case you were wondering what's with all this poetry that I've been publishing lately, mine is a feast-or-famine job: Either I'm reformatting files 'til 8:14 PM, or else I'm sitting around reading blogs all day between answering the boss's phone calls. :) Since finishing this colossal project yesterday afternoon, I haven't had a darn thing to do. And my poetry being a sometime thing, if I don't write it down right away, sometimes I forget what I was going to say. So, assuming that the inspiration strikes, you might see more poetry from me when I'm between projects.

But next week, we'll probably go back to working on that other project. Oy. Well, that's why they hired me. Besides, I feel kinda funny twindlin' my thumbs: I prefer to work for a living and earn my pay.

A true story, to the best of my knowledge

You remember that old story?
A guy went to talk to his rabbi
He was going meshuggeh
because he had plenty of family
but not enough house
So the rabbi said, "Bring all your animals into your house."
"Trust me.
"Bring all your animals into your house,
then come back to see me in two days."
So the man brought his goat inside
and he brought his chickens inside
And . . .
Well, you can imagine the chaos!
Two days later, he went back to see his rabbi.
"You can let the animals out now."
All of a sudden, the house looked big.

Same here.

What a juggling act, always with all those balls in the air
and both of us employed (thank goodness, given the size of our yeshiva tuition bills)
Luckily, I had some back-up from my resident catcher, What's-His-Name (remember him?)
Good for getting kids to music lessons and the like in what passes for a car
(No wisecracks, please: All of our new-car money is invested in tuition)
while I whipped up dinner
(including mashed potatoes made with real boiled potatoes--
you know, the kind you have to peel)
And good for bathing the baby, whoever that happened to be at the time
while I helped the other kids with their homework.
We couldn't have managed without my mother, either.

Now, our oldest is off at college, trying her wings
Two of the boys are in boarding yeshiva
with one more to go
In a few years, the Bearded One won't have a soul to davven with
(or, at least, not one of our sons)
on his side of the mechitza

Nowadays, it's just him and me and those other three characters,
the ones we're still raising

And all of a sudden, there's room.


A blessing on his head

It's a custom
To put one's hands
On the heads of one's children
And bless them
On Erev Shabbat, Sabbath Eve

Even our son,
not terribly "into" being Jewish lately
Complains if we forget to bless him (neither of us grew up with that custom)
When he's home

But how often is he home, these days?

An empty nest
Means no child to bless

It feels weird

Something's missing
And always will be
Because he's grown

And now, on Erev Shabbat
It's just the two of us alone


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

B'chatzrot Elokeinu yafrichu, In the courtyards of our G-d they will blossom

One day, tiny chartreuse leaves, teeny flower buds appear
Soon, the tree is in full bloom
Then the blossums fall from the tree, the leaves turn dark green

One day tiny, crying
Soon, crawling, walking, running, talking
After a long winter, the child is finally in full bloom

Okay, teenagers are a lot more argumentative than trees

But are our children not "reishit tz'michat g'ulateinu", the beginning of the sprouting of our redemption"
for their parents?

When dark green,
leaves are full-grown.
When full-grown,
the child has flown.

Finally, the whole place to ourselves again!
Peace and quiet, at last!

But sometimes,
I miss the joys
that went with the noise

This poem, whose title can be found in Psalm 92 (Mizmor Shir l'Yom haShabbat, A Psalm, A Song for the Sabbath Day), is dedicated to our son, a Physics major and Japanese minor, who, in his copious spare time (cough, cough), writes for his college's student magazine. It's also dedicated to all those college and high school students whose blogs I so enjoy reading, and to their parents.


Turn that #$%^&!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thing off!: A serious case of noise pollution

Whoever designed the new subway stop/bus terminal near where we live should be taken out at sunrise and shot! ("Set phasers on stun.") In all my life, I've never before heard a ventilation system that made so much noise that it came very close to hurting my ears. And it doesn't provide either heat or air conditioning, just air. As I was saying, #$%^&!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Granted, the bus-terminal end of the station has elevators, but I'm half tempted to go down to the other end and haul my wheeled backpack up the stairs anyway, just to avoid the commotion. Whenever I take the elevator, I can't wait to get out of that bleeping building. It's almost as noisy in there as it is outside under the elevated subway tracks!

Not so common

Sense. It's not as common as one would hope.

The tale is told of a staff member who needs to have so many seemingly obvious things explained to him/her that her/his office mates are tearing their hair out.

Then there are the staff members who think nothing of bringing their own work to someone else's secretary for typing.

Then, of course, there was the glorious occasion on which I got Friday (a half-day for us) off for working until 9:19 PM on a Thursday night because someone from another office had a so-called secretary who wasn't capable of doing the job.


Okay, end of rant.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

“Too Jewish,” or “you gotta represent”

Last Friday night, over Shabbos dinner, I told my husband that it had finally dawned on me that we face a particular challenge as a Jewish couple: In our own crazy ways, we come from opposite backgrounds, and we’ve spent most of our nearly 29 years of marriage trying to meet in the middle.

My husband was taken under the wing of the rabbi who was training him for his Bar Mitzvah celebration because he noticed that my future hubster was pretty good at learning songs. Consequently, by the time I met him, my hubby-to-be had skills far superior to mine in Hebrew reading (in terms of both speed and comprehension), Hebrew grammar, knowledge of the siddur (prayerbook) in general and knowledge of nusach (traditional prayer tunes) in particular, having been the only member of his class to lead the Musaf service on the day of his Bar Mitzvah celebration.

On the other hand, he came from a family that was almost completely non-observant, with a mother who was practically paranoid about him becoming “too Jewish.” He and his brother had to practically beg their parents to start lighting Chanukah candles and having a Seder.

My family, by contrast, while far from observant by any movement’s standards, still observed all of the major holidays, and many of the minor ones, in their own fashion. Both of my parents observed the full twenty-six-hour fast on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). My mother boiled the silverware for Pesach, and my father led the reading of the entire Haggadah, albeit almost entirely in English, from cover to cover, no matter how many of our guests left after the Seder dinner.

But my Hebrew reading skills were barely adequate, my vocabulary was poor, my grammar skills virtually non-existent, and, though a regular synagogue-goer, I’d never learned to pray in Hebrew much more than the Sh’ma and the sections of the services that are read aloud.

I should have known that a trip down the aisle was in our future when we not only starting eating Shabbat dinner together, but also undertook, on our own initiative, to learn Birkat haMazon (Grace After Meals) together.

And that’s the story of our lives. Over the years, I’ve become vastly better acquainted with the siddur, depending on the Punster to help me with the vagaries of Hebrew vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (“Sweets, is it rashei chadashim or roshei chodashim?” “It’s rashei chodashim.”), and to show me when I’m supposed to say which prayer. (“Okay, do I have this straight: On Chol HaMoed, we say the weekday Amidah for Shacharit, but we add Yaaleh v’Yavo?” “Yes.” “But we say the holiday Musaf whether it’s the chag or chol hamoed.” “Right.”) And over the years, the Punster has become vastly better acquainted with kashrut, with going kosher for Pesach, and with all the home rituals that his parents neither observed nor taught him, learning from me to chant the Kiddush for Shalosh Regalim that I learned in Hebrew School and the Havdalah that I learned from my first cantor in New York.

Now, we find ourselves in a bit of a bind. The tradition that I learned from my parents’ rabbi was to cover my head whenever I was praying or reading divrei kodesh (sacred texts). What I never counted on was becoming traditional enough, due both to having worked in an Orthodox organization for the past few years and to hanging out in the Jewish blogosphere with some fine frum folks, that, for the first time in my life, I’m saying prayers semi-consistently outside of the synagogue. I’ve already taken to wearing my beret or baseball cap in the subway so that I won’t be listening to music written to divrei kodesh with my head uncovered. But what do I do about listening to the same music or reciting Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) at the office?

“Is it time for me to start covering my head? How can I do that? Everyone will think I’ve gone frum (Orthodox). But how can I say brachot achronot (prayers after food) with my head uncovered?”

“You can’t cover your head at work.”

“Why not?”

“Because if you start wearing a hat to work, I won’t be able to drop by your office (my husband works part-time for the same organization in a different capacity) without a kippah on my head, and I won’t be able to eat in a non-kosher restaurant if I’m wearing a kippah.”

As Shlock Rock bandleader Lenny Solomon and his sidekick, Etan G., the Jewish Rapper, usually add to this song,

“You gotta represent
with your yarmulke.”

Score one for the Punster’s late mom. Because neither of us is ready to be that Jewish. And neither of us is ready to “represent.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 update:
Yosele's comment about the halachic sources of the tradition that married Jewish women cover their heads has prompted me to add to this discussion some links that I should have included both here and in my Kisui Rosh post. For a thorough discussion of the subject of women and head-coverings, I strongly recommend that you read these two posts by Shifra, which include material already posted elsewhere by Dilbert on his previous blog and a link to this post by Godol Hador (which has comments by the score, despite the fact that the comments counter says "0.")

Here's the "money" quote, for those of you lacking the time to read all those comments, by an anonymous commenter responding on 09.14.05 to Godol Hodor's post :
""Women may have begun full head covering for tznius [modesty] reasons, but the purpose to the takana [ a provision of Jewish law that originated as a temporary measure?] is to prevent married women from trying to pass for single for nefarious purposes. It's meforush in gemara that common law marriages of bnei noach are ended when the woman uncovers her hair - that was the way to signify availability. For a married woman to uncover her hair was the equivalent of taking a wedding ring off in a bar. "


Division of labor, Pesach-style

Best news of this recently-passed Passover: After over 20 years in this neighborhood, we finally found a decent cleaning person (thanks to a member of our synagogue's Egalitarian Services committee, which runs an egalitarian minyan a few times a year). I've been looking for someone reliable (having been "stood up" less than 48 hours before Pesach at least once) and good (having once had to re-clean the kitchen for Pesach after the cleaning person left) for so many years that I was half tempted to say a shehecheyanu!

Latest organizational efforts:

1) Shopping
There's nothing near here anymore, and I'm getting too old, sore of shoulder (must call physical therapist), and prone to carpal tunnel problems in the wrists to be schlepping (dragging, carrying) packages from thither and yon on my back (in a backpack) or using my wrists (with one-two grocery bags in each hand). So, effective last Pesach, we settled on taking a subway and bus to the nearest Orthodox neighborhood, cleaning out the kosher supermarkets and stores, and bringing the loot home by taxi. Works like a charm.

2) He pays, I prep.
With Pesach falling at roughly the same time as the U.S. tax deadline, Punster, CPA is a bit busy preparing tax returns to be of much use in preparing for Pesach, though the extra money certainly doesn't hurt in paying for the extra shopping. So I do most of the pre-Pesach preparation. Oy, don't ask. :(

3) He cleans up afterward, I recover. :)
The poor soul has done almost all of the putting the Pesach things away and taking the chametz things out.

Which accounts largely for the fact that I was able to spend most of the day cleaning the apartment, writing checks, and (you guessed it) blogging and/or catching up on my blogging archives. (There were six posts that I hadn't had time to copy into my Word file. I can't remember the last time I got that far behind.)

Unfortunately, this division of labor works best only in those years when the tax season is over at about the same time that Pesach is. Otherwise, it takes a lot more time for the apartment to get put back together, as the poor man is still buried in tax returns.

I hope that the rest of the work will be finished by next Sunday. The Punster still has a few things to put away, and I have to do my annual inventory of non-perishables stashed on the Pesach-storage shelf. When we went shopping, I forgot to take my list of what we already had in storage, which is why we now have enough kasher l'Pesach white vinegar and tuna to last us roughly another two Pesachs.

Hope you had an easy time getting your homes back together.

Fed up with Conservative Judaism's attitude toward Observant Conservative Jews

Here's a copy of the e-mail that I just sent to the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism:"
To: <>

[October 10, 2007: Let me try updating that link, now that I'm somewhat more adept at it:
Day 10 and still counting: Mark's/PT's Sefirat HaOmer reminder, complete with explanation]

Why do we Conservative Jews have to go to an Orthodox website to get daily Sefirat HaOmer e-mail reminders? Why is it that I have to do a special search of our website to find any mention of Sefirat HaOmer--and why is it that the most recent mention thereof dates back to 2003? Does our movement support observance, or doesn't it? Am I wrong to believe that there's such a thing as a traditional egalitarian? What happened to the "traditional" part?

[real name], an egalitarian trying to become more traditional

P.S. Since our website won't tell me, I'll tell our website, courtesy of the Orthodox Union: Yesterday was the 10th day of the Omer."

Oops--that should have read "Last night and today until sundown is the 10th day of the Omer."

Over the past year or two, I've gotten the distinct impression that the primary purpose of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's website is to keep Conservative Judaism organized, and that helping Conservative Jews be or become observant (by Conservative definition) runs a distant second. Where does a Conservative Jew go for information on what's kosher for Passover? To the Orthodox Union, of course, ignoring any possible differences in interpretation between the Orthodox and Conservative approaches to keeping kosher for Passover. (For example, are stringbeans kitniot or aren't they? As a child in a Conservative synagogue, I was taught that they are not. Orthodox folks generally say that they are.) Where does a Conservative Jew go for a live webcast of the reading and explanation of the kinnot (dirges) on Tisha B'Av? To the OU, of course.

Frankly, I'm fed up. Sometimes I wonder just how small a minority those who consider themselves Observant Conservative Jews (and I'm not one of them--yet) are, within the Conservative Movement as a whole. As was commented elsewhere in the Jewish blogosphere a few months ago--I wish I could remember where, as I'd love to link to that post--the Conservative Movement simply doesn't seem geared to ordinary laypeople who are, or wish to become, observant.

Day 10 and still counting: Mark's/PT's Sefirat HaOmer reminder, complete with explanation

Thank goodness for the daily e-mail reminder from the Orthodox Union. (Naturally, we Conservative Jews have to rely on the Orthodox for everything, says she, issuing a challenge to her own movement to put our website where our mouths are). It also helps to stick a post-it note in the siddur (prayerbook) and to move it down one day as soon as one has finished the nightly count.)

For the explanation of Sefirat haOmer, see Mark's/PT's post here.

Bleary-eyed at this ridiculous hour, I sit down & write a post, like an idiot, as comic relief, after spending 2 romantic hours with Norton GoBack

. . . playing m'chayei meitim (resurrecting the dead) with Word--since Friday afternoon, I hadn't been able to save to my hard drive the Word files that I'd e-mailed from my office. I'm happy to report that, after "going back" twice and finally restoring the hard drive to the state in which it existed last Tuesday (pre-Yom Tov), I was able to get the blooming thing working again. A blessing on my husband for having installed Norton GoBack and for knowing how to use it.

So here are a few laughs, before what's left of me collapses into bed.

A guy walks into a 7th-Day-of-Pesach get-together and introduces himself. Lightbulbs go on in my head. "Is your father a cantor?" "Yes." "Is his name ________?" "Yes." "I used to babysit for you." To be filed under the category "Long time, no see"--the last time I saw this fellow must have been close to 30 years ago. While we're at it, file it under, "Man, I must be gettin' old, or somethin'." :)

Warning for those easily embarrassed--skip this next one.

Bail-out space.

Don't say you weren't forewarned.

Okay, here goes.

A former colleague of mine, roughly the same 30 years ago, and roughly, at that time, the same age that I am now, commenting on the appearance of a man she'd seen on the way to work: "His pants were so tight, he looked like he had a six-piece set." (You can't make this stuff up, folks.) Fast-forward 30 years. I'm sitting in the subway directly opposite a standee, male, whose pants are so tight . . . And to make matters worse, he has a silver-metal button fly. Sheesh, talk about "X marks the spot," why don't you just mark it with a bullseye? One of the things that I hate about going swimming is Speedo bathing trunks. Please, spare me the blatant advertising and save it for the bedroom. They don't call 'em "private parts" for nothin'. Personally, I find such public displays embarrassing. Wherein is it written that tziniut (modesty) applies only to women? I would really appreciate it if I could ride the subway without having to spend 10 minutes looking everywhere except straight ahead.

End of embarrassing whatever.

The coast is clear.

You can come back now.

The following is G-rated.

Family togetherness in the Jewish blogosphere: Part 1 (see Mark's/PT's comment, and follow his link), Part 2 (see Mrs. Balabusta's comment, keeping in mind that she and TuesdayWishes are sisters), Part 3 (see my response to Mark's/PT's comment), and Part 4 (in which two brothers and their first cousin mix it up in the comments :) ).

Friday, April 21, 2006

I ain't nothin' but a hound dog, cryin' all the time*--Bedikat Chametz in reverse

(*With apologies to the late Elvis Presley.)

Sigh. It's the same thing every year. Sure, it's easy to put things away for Pesach (Passover). (Or at least it's easy as long as we put the things in slide-bolted closets so they won't fall out all over the floor.) But go try and find them again thereafter. Good luck. It just took me half an hour to locate the dairy Pyrex dishes for the microwave. More "searcher's tzuris (trouble)" to follow after Shabbat, no doubt. Stay tuned. On second thought, don't. Too boring.

Nu, so where's that bleepin' hound dog when I need her? (Sniff, sniff. "Good dog! Now go find that chametzdikeh pareve cutting board, girl!")

One of the funniest Pesach photos I've ever seen

Go here and check out Ralphie's Wednesday, April 12, 2006 post, "Passoverdoing it." Hat-tip to Ralphie, not only for the photo, but also, for all the effort that he put into creating it.

Laya doesn't want to know

Let's put it this way.

My advice to you for next Pesach is to eat lots of fruit, or don't, depending on how your body handles matzah.

And that's all I'm gonna say.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I've been "outed"--as an "Egalitarian Evangelist" Jew :)

"Egalitarian Evangelist — noun, a Jew who dedicates their life to spreading the 'good news' of non-gender-specific roles in Jewish ritual activities." (Hat-tip to Steg.)

Oh my heavens, is that what I am?! :)

It probably is, but I've mellowed enough with age to try not to offend people any more than necessary on the subject. There's nothing quite like serving on the Ritual Committee of a non-egalitarian synagogue to teach one that one doesn't accomplish anything by being offensive. Compromise has been the name of the game here for decades. As a result, we women can now serve as p'tichah (Ark-opener), (though, for some incomprehensible reason, not as g'lilah at a Shabbat or Yom Tov morning service) lead Ashrei (from the bima, if we wish), chant a haftarah (albeit with a male getting the aliyah and chanting the blessings), lead Ein Kelokeinu, Aleinu, Adon Olam, Kiddush, and Birkat HaMazon, chant from Megillat Esther and Ruth, lein and have aliyot in the Sanctuary (back when we were in our old, bigger building, we used to have aliyot in the Chapel/Bet Midrash) on Simchat Torah, and, in the absence of a qualified male, lein for and/or lead weekday morning services, all things that were strictly forbidden to women when we first moved here. On rare occasion, when both the cantor and rabbi have been ill, we've even had our resident between-jobs cantor (female) lead Musaf on a Shabbat morning. It sure beats being absolutely forbidden to set foot on the bima except to pour the Kiddush wine at a Kabbalat Shabbat/Friday night Welcoming-the-Sabbath service. Still, I won't deny that I feel much more comfortable davvening (praying) in a minyan in which gender is a non-issue and I don't stick out like a sore thumb as a woman wearing a tallit (prayer shawl).

Wedmesday the Rabbi Slept Late, round 2

Here's round 1, in which the rabbi couldn't be bothered checking the Passover Guide in the synagogue bulletin (of which I'm the editor) because he was too busy studying. "Okay, so let me get this straight: A congregational rabbi is too occupied with his own personal studies to answer sh'eilot (questions concerning Jewish religious law) that affect the entire congregation. How odd. I thought that answering sh'eilot was one of the principal responsibilities of a rabbi."

After the controversial lecture concerning the communal chanting of Birkat haMazon (Grace After Meals), I go up to the rabbi and ask him why he didn't attend the Siyum Bechorim, the meal celebrating the completion of a study of sacred text that supercedes the Fast of the Firstborn.

A) It's not in my contract.

So what? Our last rabbi, whatever his flaws may have been, schlepped (dragged) himself all the way here from his weekday home in the suburbs to lead the Siyum, and he was a part-timer, too. You live only a few blocks away, in the apartment rented by the congregation for our clergy. What's your excuse?

B) I'm not a firstborn.

So what? You're still our rabbi, aren't you? You're the congregation's only scholar-in-residence. Exactly who else should be expected to lead a study session?

For lack of an alternative, and on no notice whatsoever, my husband grabbed a Chumash and lead us in a study of the Torah reading for the first day of Pesach.

C) You didn't have a minyan anyway.

So what? Are you only obliged to serve as rabbi to this congregation when we have a minyan?

Okay, so let me get this straight: A congregational rabbi who lives within four blocks of the synagogue can't be bothered coming to Morning Minyan to lead the Siyum Bechorim. How odd. I thought that teaching the congregation was one of the principal responsibilities of a rabbi.

I was so disgusted at that point that I walked out of the Seudah Shlishit and went home to davven Maariv (pray the Evening Service). I am seriously concerned that my disdain for this rabbi, who can't discern what constitutes appropriate sermon material, has no respect for the Conservative Movement, and treats the congregation with such contempt is leading me to violate Hillel's injunction "Al tifrosh min hatzibbur," Do not separate yourself from the community." (Pirkei Avot [Verses of the Fathers], Chapter Two, Saying Five.) It's getting to such a point that I'd rather pray at home or travel to another synagogue than pray at my local synagogue and have to deal with the attitude of this rabbi.

Birkat haMazon/Grace After Meals, round 2

Remember this one?

Well, fast-forward a few months, and the rabbi's decreeing that we shouldn't be doing a communal Birkat haMazon/Grace After Meals at all.

A) It's a halachic requirement to use Mayim Acharonim/Last Water (which, as you can see, I'm not even sure how to spell, much less how to translate, and even less how to do), and our congregation doesn't do that.

Okay, here's the "money" quote from Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried's (translator Hyman E. Goldin) edition of the Code of Jewish Law (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch): "1. Many people are lenient regarding the washing of hands after meals, but the God-fearing should be careful to observe it scrupulously." Hmm, sure sounds like a chumra (extra stringency not absolutely required by Jewish law) to me.

Will someone please explain this Mayim Acharonim to me? How does one do this? What kind of vessel is required? Etc., etc. Please respond.

B) We're coercing people into saying Birkat haMazon even when they haven't eaten bread.

Who's coercing?

C) We're rushing people into saying Birkat haMazon before they're finished eating.

Okay, true. Once I'd calmed down from giving the rabbi my not-so-humble opinion that he was interfering with a long-standing Conservative minhag (custom), I had to admit that he had a point, there.

For lack of an alternative, we'll probably have to make a big announcement before Birkat haMazon in the future that those not finished eating or those who haven't eaten bread should not participate in the chanting of Birkat haMazon. Let's hope that that suffices to appease the rabbi.


The ADDeRabbi links us to the story, or stories, of Y'tziat Mitzrayim/the Exodus from Egypt

Good reading for tomorrow afternoon, if you have time before Yom Tov.

יום שישי, אפריל 07, 2006

צא ולמד

"This year, with the permission of the hosts of the Sedarim I will be attending (i.e., my in-laws), we will be doing something a bit different for this part of the Seder. Each person will receive a compilation of several different summaries of the events of Yetziat Mitzrayim, all of which have the central features of a story with a plot (or, in the words of the Mishna, that ‘begin with degradation and end with praise’). We will then compare and contrast these different summaries, look for subtle meanings and turns of phrases that lead the reader in a particular direction, look at the particular context of each summary, to try and gauge its general purpose, etc. Here are the texts from which I’ll be compiling. I’ll use Devraim 26 and 2 or 3 others (I’ll provide links, rather than clutter this post up with full texts). I’d recommend having a full TaNach :
Devarim 26:5-8
Joshua 24:2-7
Ezekiel 16:2-14
Nechemia 9:7-15
Psalms 78:42-53
Bereishis 15:7-21(hat tip: Yehupitz)"

Two Jews, three opinions, part 2: DovBear's survey of preferred ways to run a Seder (after the fact)

Free sample:

"A seder is primarily a teaching tool. Eveyone present should be prepared to learn and to teach, to share something brief but brilliant, and to listen patiently when it's the other fellows turn. So long as this rule is followed, the more snippets the better. This chatter is part of the charm of the seder. I couldn't imagine doing without it."

Tze u'l'mad, go and study.

And don't forget to check out the comments. There's interesting reading there.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Tale of Two Seders (er, Sedarim)

Okay, so I was off by about 10 years when I posted a comment to Mark/PT’s post “The Seder: Which do you prefer?”: Our host for the first Seder was someone we’ve known for closer to 30 years rather than 20. Her Sedarim are always a joy. There’s tons of singing and, as the assorted children have gotten older, tons of commenting, as well. As I commented to Mark’s/PT’s post, “at one of our sedarim, the host/leader, who designates other readers, always gives everyone at least 2 haggadot--1 that matches everyone else's and one other one--so that people can read the various commentaries and discuss them as we go along. Obviously, this works better with older children and/or adults.” I ran into a bit of an Attention-Deficit-Disorder problem with the Lehman Haggadah that ended up at my place: I’m afraid that I tend to get a bit overwhelmed by any book that has 1 inch of text and 4 inches of commentary. (Shira to self: Are you sure you want to study Chumash Rashi when your Hebrew improves? Er, maybe a different text would be better for you.) The hubby, on the other hand, found a jewel in his Haggadah: Apparently, the Vilna Gaon’s minhag (custom) was to break the top matzah. I learn something new every year.

The best comment of the evening was made by the creator, as far as we know, of the phrase “user-resistant packaging.” He’s of the opinion that the Wise Child is just a kiss-up telling his/her parents what they want to hear. He much prefers the challenge of the so-called Wicked Child. “What is this service to you? All year round, you don’t keep kosher, you don’t go to synagogue. Now, all of a sudden, this Jewish ritual stuff is a big deal? And/or, all year round, you don’t feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick, give tzedakah (charity), pursue justice. So why now?” Much discussion and many rounds of singing Hallel and everything else that you can sing in the Haggadah ensued, we stuffed ourselves silly, sang Birkat haMazon/Grace After Meals, many more rounds of Hallel and everything else that you can sing in the Haggadah (included our host’s adult children’s favorite from their childhood, Chad Gadya with sound effects—baaah, ka-ching [for the two zuzim], woof-woof, me-ow . . .), and we went home a pair of very tired but very happy campers.

For the second Seder, we went to Ansche Chesed, where Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky did the honors. This one was more of a Haggadah Highlights version of the Seder. We did all the big stuff—for the kids, Ma Nishtanah and the redeeming of the Afikoman, for all, the Four Cups, the two central paragraphs of the Maggid/Telling of the Story of the Exodus from Egypt (“We were slaves” and “My father was a wandering Aramean”), the central symbols (“Pesach, Matzah, u-Maror"), etc. But mainly, the younger kids ran around the lobby and the next-door playroom while the older kids and adults engaged in serious discussions of the text and of current social-justice issues. As I said to my husband, our second Seder was Rashi to our first Seder’s Chumash.

I'd love to hear what you discussed and/or tales of what your kids were up to at your Sedarim.

Moed tov.

Two Jews, three opinions: PT's survey of preferred ways to run a Seder (& while you're there, check out the Four Bloggers)

Mark/PT asked:

"Which do you prefer:

Does one person read the whole thing?

Do you say it all together?

Do you go around the table and take turns?

English, Hebrew, or Aramaic?

I ask because for 18 years now this has been a clash of cultures at our Seder table. My wife's family reads the whole thing together, in Hebrew, without translating (or taking breaths).

In my family, maybe because my Father can't read or understand Hebrew, my Mother and I (and the sisters) would take turns reading and translating. And I've always prefered that method. It does take a little longer though. Is there any source to back up one approach vs. the other?"

He got 31 answers. "T'ze u-l'mad: Go and study" (says she, quoting directly from the Haggadah :) ).

And while you're there, check out his post "The Four Bloggers." :)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pre-Sefirah music madness

As I was saying a couple of posts ago, I promised not to listen to my Jewish rock CDs from erev Pesach until Lag b'Omer. So I’m taking this final glorious opportunity to walk around the apartment with my CD player blasting all the stuff that I’ve bought in the last month or so. Nine CDs. Yep, count ‘em. Nine.

Well, first, I went back to the albums I’d bought even before them.

Matisyahu is not for me—I have a problem with both rap (my apologies to Etan G., the Jewish Rapper) and reggae in that I like to be able to understand the words without a lyrics sheet. (Cheer up, Etan—I have the same problem with opera!)

Moshav Band, on the other hand, is really a pleasure to listen to. I confess to having gotten a particular kick out of their single-guy’s lament “If someone falls in love with me, please let me know about it,” though you should be forewarned that there’s a major “shomer negiah alert” on that one.

The next time I went into West Side Judaica, I brought a copy of this post, as I wanted to get exactly the Piamenta album that Mark/PT recommended. Naturally, the store had half a dozen Piamenta albums, but not that one, so I figured, well, if Mark’s gripe is against overproduced studio recordings, I’ll just get a “live” album. I’m now listening to the 2-CD set “Piamenta, Live New York Performance.” Yossi Piamenta is one wild and crazy electric guitar player, and I mean that in the best possible way. As a singer, he’s more of a shouter, but man, can he play! (The other players in the band are no slouches, either). Only Piamenta could figure out how to do a medley that includes Sefardi/Mizrachi music in Hebrew and Arabic along with the extremely Ashkenazi “U-shavtem Mayim.” Wow, unbelievable!

I already wrote about seeing Aaron Razel in concert and buying his CDs (all four for $40—what a m’tziah/”find”!). More later.

Exactly one week after the Aaron Razel concert, I went to a Latino-Jewish music concert at Makor and saw Smadar Levi and Yoel Ben-Simhon’s Sultana Ensemble. Smadar and Sultana both perform in the Sefardi/B’nei Edot haMizrachi (Children of the Lands of the East?) tradition. Their beautiful music is occasionally in English, but mostly in Hebrew, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish, a combination of the Spanish and Portuguese spoken by the Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492 or thereabouts, plus Hebrew), and Arabic. Some of us Ashkenazi Jews tend to forget that a large segment of the Jewish community lived in Arabic-speaking lands for many centuries, and this type of music—“Sultana music aims to preserve and promote Judeo–Arab and Middle Eastern music, creating a dialogue between Eastern and Western music traditions”—is the sort of gentle and extremely enjoyable reminder that we need. By the way, the Sultana album is a two-fer—you get two for the price of one, in that Yoel Ben-Simhon’s back-up singer is none other than Smadar Levi. Check out the Yigdal that they sing together—I love it!

Several days later, I headed back to Makor, this time with the Punster, to catch a little night music after Shabbat (Sabbath). We saw Neshama Carlebach, who’s a wonderful singer, singing both her father Shlomo’s songs and her own. Then we were entertained by Blue Fringe, whose music I love enough that I bought their first album the minute I saw it on the table. (I already had their wonderful second album, 70 Faces.) I have to admit that, seeing Avi Hoffman play an electric-guitar solo in person and close-up for the first time (the stage was about three blocks away when I saw them at the outdoor Jewzapalooza concert last September), I had a slight case of, for lack of a better description, website flashback. (See the clip of the February, 1986, Kabbalah performance at Yeshiva University in which "wacky dueling soloists perform "Yismechu." Here's yet another skinny guy who looks as if he can barely carry an electric guitar, much less play one, but then he starts to play, and all bets are off :) ). Anyway, bein’ me, I danced and sang through the whole show (as usual :) ), and had a wonderful time. It was a particular joy and honor to meet Dov Rosenblatt, who wrote "Hineni" and responded by e-mail to my post thereon, and also to meet Avi Hoffman, who posted a well-thought-out comment to that same post. And their first album, My Awakening, is good stuff, especially their wicked "Flippin' Out." Try both albums.

And now, as promised:

So I put the CD player on hold because I’ve left the subway train and am standing on the platform, with trains entering and leaving the station, and I can’t hear a thing. I turn it on again as I’m waiting for the elevator to the street, and turn it off again when I realize that the elevator is right next to a noisy ventilation shaft. I leave the station, turn on the CD player a third time, then realize that I’m standing under the elevated subway tracks and still can’t hear the music. Darn. I’ll have to wait ‘til I’m a block away from the station to be able to hear the music. Then, just as I’m about to put the CD player on hold for the third time, I finally realize what I’m hearing.

And I practically shout, right there in the middle of the street, “Is that what he’s singing?!”

Mizmor l’David
Hashem roi, lo echsar

A psalm of David
The L-rd is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

The Twenty-Third Psalm.

To a bossa nova beat.

Say WHAT?!

And yet, somehow, it works.

Aaron Razel.

How do I describe him?



MOChassid described him this way:

MoChassid said...
I think Aron Razel is new under the sun
Friday, August 20, 2004 9:44:51 AM

And this way:

“Aron's music is very funky and very much not your typical Jewish music”

And this, from he who knows, having recently played back-up for him:

“I am again in debt to MOChassid, because he turned me on to a great musician with some amazing compositions and I am really looking forward to this show.Aaron writes and plays his own music, which already puts him one level above most of the drek which eminates from the Jewish Music world. His music is complex but deceptively catchy. It works its way into your brain and refuses to leave. As part of my preparation for any backup project, I listen to the artist's music over and over in my car. Within one or two listens I had already assimilated the melodies, and it was driving me crazy, because I was hearing his live album in my head NON-STOP. In fact, several times I woke up in the middle of the night realizing that I was dreaming about one of his songs! This has not gotten much better over the past two months.

Mendel, my guitar player, who is, by the way, usually not too impressed with any kind of Jewish Music (at least not compared to the likes of Steve Vai or Jimi Hendrix), reports similar effects. In fact we have become so intimately familiar with Aaron's excellent Live album that we have memorized all of his ad-libs, grunts, and even his band introductions (I think half of the band is named Doni).”

That was just the warm-up, folks. Here's the rest.

“Aaron's music is fun to perform. It's complex, not because it's difficult to play, but because it goes in unexpected directions. And yet it still has solid pop hooks that keep it listenable. It reminds me of many of my favorite bands, including Squeeze and Billy Joel.”

“Unexpected.” Yeah. I mean, seriously, how many songwriters could take a set of lyrics like this—“Leave the Ark, you, your wife, and your two sons, and the wives of your sons with you”—and actually make them sound catchy?

Don’t miss his delightful “Shir HaMaalot, B’shuv Hashem.” It works even better when you have a bentcher/birkon (Birkat haMazon/Grace after Meals book) in your hands—I still haven’t been able to match the words to the music, ‘cause they're accented in crazy places, but, boy, am I ever having a blast trying! :) ) Don’t miss Aaron Razel, the next time you have an opportunity to buy one of his CDs or, better yet, to see him live in concert.

Pesach kasher v'saméach—A kosher and happy Passover.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a stove to kasher.


Friday, April 07, 2006

No longer living in Boro Park, not a pyromaniac, & not a dinosaur :) : A close encounter, blogger-style, with Steg

I'm slapping myself in the head for not having had the foresight to make sure I'd read Steg's latest rant before he and the Punster and I got together on Tuesday night. My official duty was to hand over a cassette of Fudge's radio interview of that guy she knows :) who used to have a band called "Kabbalah." Well, a fine time was had by all, anyway. We talked about our respective posts re clothing and the interpretation thereof. Steg ranted about people assuming that jeans-wearers support Britney Spears instead of shmirat mitzot (observance of the commandments). (Yep, that's pretty much what the other guy said--read Steg's post.)

We also yakked about some problems that I've observed among non-Orthodox Jews in terms of understanding the "rules." The Haggadah speaks of the child "sheh-eino yodeah li-sh'ol," who doesn't know to ask. I've found that to be a real problem in the circles that I haunt. For example, the most well-meaning people make mistakes in the area of kashrut (the laws of keeping kosher/Jewish dietary laws) because they literally don't know that there might be a problem, and that, therefore, there's a question that they have to ask. (Problemo Numero Uno: Many non-Orthodox Jews don't know that not all non-dairy creamers are parve, so they serve any old one with fleishig/meat or poultry, assuming, with the best of intentions, that what they're serving is kosher.) Steg and I talked about the problem of well-meaning but perhaps not-so-well-informed people bringing food from home into, for example, a synagogue or Jewish day school and creating kashrut issues for those partaking of a kiddush, or "treifing" a micowave unintentionally.

Now if only he can figure out how to snag himself an invitation to the WYUR studio on a Thursday night . . .

Go read Steg's rant. And listen to his new songs, too. Very nice, indeed!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I saw my first tulip today

My G-d, what a beautiful day!

(Sometimes, this is how I pray.)


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A knight in soaking armor

[For the life of me, I can't find the post that inspired this in the Seraphic Secret archives, but here goes, anyway.]

This wasn't the way he wanted it to be
This wasn't his fantasy
What he really wanted was a good old-fashioned duel
A fight to the death between two swashbuckingly swordsmen
To win the heart, and hand, of the woman he'd loved since he was ten years old
But alas, 'twas the twentieth century
So, instead, he proved his love
by braving a blinding thunderstorm
to visit the woman of his dreams

Coming in from his walk home, he heard his phone ringing off the hook
It was his belovèd, calling to make sure that he'd arrived home safely
Taking his fate in his hands
He dared to say the words
that had filled his heart for so many years
"I love you, Karen"

Long silence

"Didn't you know?," asked a commenter
"I'm just a clueless male," he said
"I. Was. Dying."

Little did he know
that, at the other end of the phone line,
His radiant Karen had just had her breath taken away

Congratulations to Robert and Karen Singer Avrech on their daughter Leda's wedding!

April 4, 2006 update: Thanks to Robert for supplying the link to his original post.


Pokéach ivrim

It's the same thing
every spring

I tell myself that sometimes
I think too much

"Stop daydreaming
Stop worrying
Or the whole spring will pass you by
and you won't even notice it

Shut your mind

And open your eyes

Look at the crocuses, yellow and purple
Look at the daffodils, regular and mini, yellow, yellow-and-orange, white
I think those are called lilacs, in shades of purple
Look at those gorgeous mauve flowers
I'm pretty sure they're called azaleas
And my favorite minyannaire says that the yellow flowers on the bushes are forsythias

Look at the trees blossoming on "the Avenue" in our neighborhood, on the way to the subway
Look at the tiny leaves, bright green
Stop, look at that bush!
If you don't stop, you'll miss the teeny leaves, still chartreuse, and the teeniest barely-budding flower buds

Enjoy the sun, shining on your face

Look, before you miss the opportunity to see that "milo chol ha-aretz kovodo," the whole earth is full of His glory"
before you miss a chance to say
"Baruch sheh-kacha lo b'olamo," Praised is the One who has such things in His world

"Baruch pokéach ivrim," Praised is the One who opens the eyes of the blind

Thank You for giving my this season, to open the eyes of someone as blind as I


A life on hold

She's been living in her current residence for over half a year. She has a permanent, full-time job. Yet, she thinks of her current residence as temporary. Not because the residence is not in her name. But because, to her, any residence is temporary until she gets married. I know this because she told me so.

Compare that to the attitude of the woman who was kind enough to invite me to her home for Shabbat (Sabbath) lunch last Saturday. She and one of her guests are both single women looking for new apartments. Yet neither one of them talks about their current, or future, residences as if they were just temporary stopovers en route to an "mrs degree." Maybe it's because they're both older. But frankly, I doubt it.

It's not as if she has no life at all. She loves rock music. She goes to movies. She spends Shabbat with friends. But I can't help thinking that, in her mind, to a certain extent, her life is in a holding pattern, waiting for "permission to land" in a marriage to a "bashert" (destined spouse) who may or may not ever appear. I hear the way she talks about decisions that she wouldn't have to make, holiday observances that would be "taken care of," in a manner of speaking, if she were married.

Her attitude reminds me of one that I encountered in my own single days. Someone at a party asked the host whether he had any potato chips. The host replied that he never kept potato chips in his place because he didn't have a wife to clean up the crumbs. I left as soon as I could do so with a semblance of courtesy, and never went back.

I know that I was right to teach our son to "bentsch lecht" (light Sabbath and holiday candles), and to plan on teaching our daughter—whom, as it turns out, we never had—to make kiddush (the blessing over an beverage other than water that praises Hashem for give us that special day). Never did I wish to raise a child who felt that s/he couldn't be a complete Jew without a spouse.

I'm not saying that being single and Jewish is easy. Far from it. Judaism is very much a family-oriented religion It can be pretty lonely out there even for married people without children, and all the more so for those who aren't married.

But reality is reality, even when "reality bites," as the saying goes. Nobody asked me whether I wanted a child with hearing loss, delayed social-skills development, delayed emotional maturation, and delayed learning, either. Tough. You play the hand that life and/or Hashem, depending on your point of view, deals you.

I can't help thinking that putting one's life on hold while waiting for Hashem to drop a spouse in one's lap is a chillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d's name. He gave you a life. So praise His name by making the most of it.

CD insanity

I just realized last Thursday that I'd bought 6 CDs in the past two weeks and that I'd have only about a week and a half to listen to them, as I'd promised not to listen to my Jewish rock CDs from erev Pesach until Lag b'Omer. Oy! Not to mention "Eek!" Guess I'm going to be doing a lot of CD listening and not much reading on the subway this week. :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Heights of folly: In which I treck northward to YU’s uptown campus for a concert

It’s all Fudge’s fault. :)

There I was, calmly minding my own business and listening to Fudge on her Thursday radio show, “Isle of Manhattan,” on WYUR, when she happened to mention that she was having trouble finding a place to do her aerobic dance exercises.

Did she say, “dance?!”

Holy Moses, here I had videos of three dances that I’d choreographed to her father’s music, and she’d never even seen them!

So I e-mailed her to ask whether she’d like me to hand over a DVD over pizza, or whether she was too booked between radio-host bookings and hitting the books and would rather wait to see the DVD that I’d sent to her family.

We agreed to meet last Wednesday night. But the very next day, she asked whether we could meet the night before, instead, because she’d promised her father that she’d go see the Aaron Razel concert on Wednesday.

“Whoa--where's there an Aaron Razel concert this Wednesday?!!!”

A careful perusal of Gili Houpt’s Friday, March 17, 2006 “NYCJewishMusic” e-mail (to subscribe, go here) led me to the following:

> Wed, March 29 at 8PM free concert to kick off the Yeshiva> University Arts Festival, featuring Aaron Razel with Nochie Krohn and> band, and Jeremy Gaisin with Midnite Remedy (in Hebrew Tikkin> Chatzos) band. At Lamport Auditorium in Washington Heights:> Amsterdam Ave btwn 186 & 187 St. Info: email> or see

(He forgot to mention C. Lanzbom and Noah Solomon in his e-mail!)

And so it came to pass that, the evening after Fudge and I had regaled one another other with tales of shidduch shuttles and the search for the perfect head-covering, I headed off to the 8th Avenue subway line (after a brief stop at Duane Reade to pick up earplugs, just in case) for the long ride uptown to Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, a trip of over 150 blocks from my office. As I’d told Fudge, she had the last laugh—in over 30 years living in New York City, I’d never gone there before.

I got off at 181st Street, and made a huge mistake—remembering that Washington Heights didn’t get that name for no reason, I took the elevator to the street. Walking uptown/north on Ft. Washington Avenue, I knew that I’d have to turn right to go east to Amsterdam Avenue, and kept looking for the first available crosstown (west-east) street. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that Washington Heights and the Bronx are famous for pedestrian stairs leading from a street on one level to a street on another. Apparently, instead of taking the elevator, I should have taken that ramp leading to Overlook Terrace : When I got to 187th Street and turned right, I was stunned to find myself staring at a series of flights of stairs that was easily equal in height to a building four-six stories high. Overlook Terrace is so much farther downhill than Ft. Washington Avenue that maybe it should be called Overlooked Terrace. Cursing my lack of foresight, I took a deep breath, grabbed the handle of my backpack (putting it on, backpack-style, turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth, 99% of the time) and started the long descent, having solemnly promised myself that I would not count the number of flights of stairs.

It gets worse, folks. Two blocks later, I had to drag the wheeled backpack right back up yet another steep hill.

The neighborhood was actually much nicer than I'd expected—I’ve since been told that it’s becoming gentrified—with three-or-four-story houses and six-story apartment buildings, most well-maintained. No one was hanging out on the street holding a beer can—or worse—and no one was walking the street looking for a pick-up. But, as I approached St. Nicholas Avenue, I heard a group of men shouting. Boy, did I feel stupid when I realized that, rather than arriving just in time to witness a mugging, I’d caught a bunch of guys in the middle of a touch-football game.

After all that schlepping, I finally arrived at the concert, and took a seat in my favorite spot, the last row, the better to get up and dance at the back of the room. Aaron Razel was as good as Mark/PT had said he was. He had us dancing in the aisles (males and females separately, of course). I caught him on the way out the door, and told him, “Thank you! Mark Skier recommended you, and boy, was he right!” Without missing a beat, he returned the compliment: “And I recommend Mark Skier.” What a nice guy! I left with all four of his CDs. It was really too bad that a certain studious student, who’d already said hi to her father's new musician buddy Aaron Razel, had to leave before two of the guys from Soulfarm, C. Lanzbom and Noah Solomon, played—they were awesome! I had a wonderful time, even though it it was followed by a two-hour trip home on two subways and a 1:30 AM arrival home. Boy, I'm gettin' too old for these late nights—I think I sleep-walked through work the next day. But I now know how to get to YU's Lamport Auditorium, just in case there happens to be a future performance that interests me enough to make me want to lose sleep over it, literally. :)
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