Friday, June 30, 2006

Between a (Qassam) rock(et) and a (political) hard place

Here’s a copy of a letter that I e-mailed to my Israeli brother and ex-sister-in-law (with copies to my sister in NYC and my other brother in California, which accounts for all the English translations) on June 26:

“This is some of what I've been reading on the Internet lately.

"An Unspeakable Choice"

"Support Us Even When We Don't Bleed"

Call me naive, but I really hoped that the hitnatkut (withdrawal from Gush Katif in Gaza) would work. I hoped that, if Israel gave the Palestinians a chunk of land, a) they would stop shelling the hand that had fed it, and/or b) that, if that didn't work, at least the Israel Defense Forces could go back in and blast the heck out of 'em without worrying about settlers getting caught in the crossfire. Neither hope has come to fruition. The Palestinians have taken Israel's withdrawal as a sign of weakness rather than pragmatism, have shelled the bleep out of S'derot, etc., and have now tunneled their way into a few murders, woundings, and one kidnapping (thus far). And the Israeli government has not allowed the IDF to go back in force and beat the bleep out of the terrorists and/or their leaders.

I have said, consistently, ever since Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza, that the territories should never have been settled, but should have been reserved as bargaining chips, that the only part of the conquest that absolutely had to remain in Israeli hands was the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Ir Haatika/Old City and whatever other parts of Jerusalem had to be under Israeli control in order to guarantee access to the Kotel/Western Wall. But the deed is long done. As with the U.S. in Iraq, so, too, with the Israelis in the West Bank: Once you're in, how the bleep do you get out?

Half of me says that it's only right for Israel to withdraw from much of the West Bank because Israel should never have settled it in the first place. The other half says a) How the bleep can anyone trust the State of Israel to resettle all those people when even the much-smaller contingent of ex-settlers from Gush Katif are still, in many cases, poorly-housed and unemployed? b) Why should the State of Israel literally kill itself, given that the Palestinians would just use the vacated territory as yet another missile-launching site?

That's my view. But I'm here. What's the view from there? Those are your kids going into Tzahal/IDF. Are the settlers right, are the Shalom Achshav-niks/Peace Now folks right, or is the truth (or some reasonable facsimile thereof) somewhere in the middle?

Politics aside, after reading the Monday, June 26, 2006 post, "One Soldier's Life" at "The Muqata" ("Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael "), I'm including the name of kidnapped Israel soldier Gilad ben Aviva (Shalit) in my prayers (during the brachah "Sh'ma Kolenu" in the Amidah).

I hope to hear from you soon.”

I haven’t heard from my Israeli family yet. I assume that they’re too busy worrying about what’s going on under their noses to reply to someone still living in the relative safety of the Galut/Diaspora.

In the meantime, my words—“one kidnapping (thus far)”—were, sadly, more prophetic than I had hoped—Jameel’s Thursday, June 29, 2006 post recounts some tragic news:

“IDF forces recovered the body of Eliyahu Asheri, the 18 year old kidnapped Israeli from Itamar. He was murdered (shot in the head) shortly after his abduction on Sunday evening, and hastily buried near Ramalla by Palestinian terrorists. His funeral is scheduled for 2:30 PM today at the Sanhedria "Beit Levayot" -- the procession will continue on to Har HaZeitim, the Mout of Olives for burial. Hashem Yikom Damo.”

Jack of the Shack is also having second thoughts about the hitnatkut, and also some thoughts on what should be done now, especially after the death of Eliyahu Asheri.

David Bogner, of Treppenwitz, has harsh words (important, albeit difficult, reading), as well as hopeful words, concerning the current state of war in the State of Israel.

Friday, June 30, 2006 update:

Ms. Lost-in-(Cyber)-Space hasn't yet figured out how to delete a comment from her own blog. Fortunately, that's because I've never felt the need to do so, before. Unfortunately, I do feel the need to do so now. I can't moderate comments because I'm afraid to log on while at the office, as I'm still "in the closet" there as a blogger. So, I gather that my only option is to play with the template again (heaven help me).

To make a long story short, the one rule for my blog is that all comments must be respectful. Fern Sidman has gone beyond the pale by stating that "the blood of Eliyahu Asheri is on the hands of those who control the government of Israel." Any commenter is free to agree or disagree with anything that I or another commenter posts here, be it of a personal, religious, and/or political nature, provided that she or he does so in a respectful manner. But no one is free, on my blog, to accuse the Israeli government of murder. Fern's comment will be deleted as soon as I can figure out out to delete it.

Shabbat shalom, and let's pray for shalom this Shabbat.

Sunday, July 2, 2006 update:

Thankfully, the "trashcan" icon, which, for reasons unknown, was simply not there when I tried to delete Fern's comment on Friday, has reappeared. Having copied her comment to my Word archive, I will re-post the non-offensive portion thereof.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Chodesh tov, part (and day) 2

This being one of those months with a two-day Rosh Chodesh--is that only in the Galut/Diaspora?--yesterday was really the last day of the month of Sivan and today's the first day of Tammuz. So Chodesh tov--(have a) good month.

Well, I finally did it--I asked the hubby to take my tefillin (phylacteries) home after minyan yesterday morning. (I don't know how that's going to work out when he has a 9 AM class to teach in another borough and my backpack is too stuffed with a winter sweater to have room for tefillin, but, for the time being . . .) It's been a good long while since I davvened (prayed) the weekday Shacharit (Morning Service) at home. I don't think I've done that on a regular basis since I was first trying to teach myself the weekday Amidah pray close to 30 years ago. But, now that I'm trying to davven Shacharit at home on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (just can't manage to wake up on on Sundays), it just felt way too weird to davven with a tallit (prayer shawl) but without tefillin.

At what passes for an almost-reasonable speed for me, I was able to davven:

1. all the brachot (blessings) of Birchot haShachar/the Morning Blessings section (Torah-study blessings through Morning Blessings through gomel chasadim tovim l'amo Yisrael, then from Ashreinu, ma tov chelkeinu through m'kadesh et shimcha barabim),

2. a decent chunk of P'sukei d'Zimra /"Verses of Song" including Baruch Sheh-amar, Ashrei, and about 4 other psalms before and after, closing with Yishtabach,

3. the entire matbeiah shel tefillah (required core of the service), including Hallel,

4. Ashrei again, U'va l'Tzion Goel, followed by a two-minute break to remove my tefillin before Musaf, as required,

5. the Musaf (Additional Service) for Rosh Chodesh,

6. Aleinu, Shir shel Yom (Psalm of the Day), and the Psalm for Rosh Chodesh (though I ran out of both time and focus on that last one and had to switch to English halfway through--my heavens, is that ever a long psalm!)

in about an hour, including putting on and putting away tallit and tefillin.

Okay, granted that that rock-bottom minimum required Shacharit that a former rabbi of mine (Conservative) proposed was probably based on Mincha (the Afternoon Service), which is a pretty bare-bones service, but still, it might be worth trying to get up 15 minutes earlier to davven a fuller Shacharit.

Yes, Virginia, there *are* nice New Yorkers--such as the guy who returned my lost wallet

. . . with all the credit cards and cash still in it!!!

And he had to look up my phone number first and call my husband to arrange a get-together, too.

For once, I'm speechless.

A long wait for someone waiting impatiently (poem)

There he sat, on the subway, across from me
with his little girl, who looked about 3
A sippy cup of apple juice
Cheerios in a bag, so they wouldn't get loose
And a bag of fresh blueberries--I was glad
to see her share them with her dad
(And I was also glad to see
No junk food or soda for this girl--yippee!
Just two small cookies, or one big one
Or half a bar of chocolate daily for our son
to keep the "forbidden-fruit blues" away
while keeping rotting teeth at bay--
And so, today, at 23,
he's never had a cavity
And calls us from the university
Saying, "Don't buy any junk food for me
I've been eating far too much of it lately."
It really, truly warms my heart
to know I've raised a son so smart)

He sat with a notebook, pen in hand
and drew a letter A, big and grand
to entertain his little girl
then asked her to draw for him, so she drew a swirl
Absentmindly, he stroked her hair and back
And I was transported many years back
To the days when that was my husband and son
Reading together, playing baseball, having fun
When we watched "Star Trek" as a family
And rode the subways together, we three
On the way home from visiting friends
Where parents talked and children stayed
growing up together, and laughed and played
Then, on the subway, Mom--yours truly,
entertained the boychik with a Bible story
("Reuven, poor soul, just stood there in shock.
Stunned and shaken, taking stock.
'I thought the only thing we'd find here was bread!
What do you mean, "Sold into slavery?"
And all these years, I thought he was dead!
How could you do that? You never told me!")
We thought those days would never end

Now I look at the little ones
And want the same for, and from, my son

It's true, just as the young lady said
in that conversation that I overheard

There's a drawback to having waited for kids 'til I was ready
When you're an older grandparent, your legs aren't so steady
I was 34 when we had our son
His father, poor soul, was 41
(That wasn't his choice, I really must add--
he wanted to be a younger dad
But I was chicken, yessiree
So the poor man had to wait for me)
If the young'un waits 'til his dad's age, too
His poor old pop will be 82!
At that age, what can a "gramps" still do?
I guess we're going to specialize in reading books
(Well, with my skills, I sure can't teach them to cook!)
Maybe Saba CPA will teach them to add
Now there's an idea that's not half bad!
And I'll retell all my Bible stories
To the next bunch of little morning glories
To a little growing girl
who's her parents' precious pearl
To a little growing boy
who's his parents' pride and joy
Someday, a long while down the line
I hope, eventually, it'll be our time
I'm ready now, I don't want to wait
But I started late, so that's my fate


Monday, June 26, 2006

Chodesh tov, in more ways than one

To the best of my recollection, this is the first time we've had a minyan on a weekday Torah-reading day since A. died. What a delight, to be able to have a Torah reading from a scroll, rather than just reading it out of a book, on Rosh Chodesh! It was, indeed, a Chodesh tov, a good (way to begin a) new month.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I’ll probably get dirty looks for this post, but . . .

There’s an old saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Sometimes I wonder whether my more traditional brethren and sistren “hold by” (Yeshivish for “accept as binding”) that opinion.

Picture this.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon. The parents are rushing around, preparing for Yom Tov (a holiday, especially a Pilgrimage Festival), which starts at sundown. The father barely has time to shave, and one can only hope that either of them has time to shower, not to mention get the kids cleaned up.

No baths, showers, or shampoos are permissible, to the best of my knowledge, on a Pilgrimage Festival.

Brushing one’s teeth is a matter of controversy. Conservatives say, if I understand correctly, that one is allowed to brush, even with toothpaste, because toothpaste is not really solid, so one is not changing it from a solid state to a liquid state. Orthodox opinions vary, if my understanding is correct. Some say you may brush, but without toothpaste, on Shabbat or Yom Tov.

Some say that you’re not allowed to comb your hair, either.

Thursday and Friday (and Saturday, of course—if it’s not permissible on a holiday, that goes double for Shabbat/Sabbath) pass with neither bath, shower, nor shampoo, and the teeth are likely not to be too clean, either. Everyone, after three days of sleeping on unwashed and uncombed hair, is having a “bad hair day.”

So let me get this straight: You go to work squeaky clean, but you stand before G-d with stained teeth and greasy, knotted hair, unwashed, and consequently, somewhat, er, shall we say, fragrant?

Call me an am-haaretz-dikeh apikorus (a Jewishly-illiterate heretic), but, from a purely outsider’s perspective, it seems to me that you’re showing more respect to your boss than to The Boss.

Isn’t there any way to get clean for Elokim without breaking the halachic law?

Put a lid on it :) :) :)

Swiped from Adam Ragil's sadly-long-dormant blog, Baynonim:

Monday, October 04, 2004
The old man last seen here received just deserts on the second day of Sukkos. It was rainy, and a few of us were wearing baseball caps to keep our heads dry on the walk back from shul. The old man spotted a teen in a Yankee cap, and growled, "Can't you wear a hat that says you support Torah?" The teen pointed to the grump's dripping Borsalino and said, "When you were my age, all a hat like that meant was that you were a gangster or a hoodlum. Times change, I guess. May the good Lord grant you years enough to see the day when a Yankee cap also represents Torah." The grump was speechless, the teen triumphant. The rest of us grinned and chuckled.
# posted by Adam Ragil : 8:34:14 PM

Naturally, I can't find it, but I know that, somewhere on Mark's/PT's blog, there's a post on the subject of black hats. (I believe he'd just bought two for his two older sons, whose school dress code requires all boys over 13 to wear black hats.) My comment, at the time, was that it was ironic. Years ago, Orthodox men wore hats, rather than kippot (yarmulkes, skullcaps), in public because a kippah was considered "too Jewish." Now, Orthodox men wear hats because kippot are consider not Jewish enough.

So the right-wing guys are walking around in "gangster hats" that, in accordance with the current Jewish "dress code," classify them as "frummer-than-thou" (the "thou" being, of course, guys who wear leather kippot, black kippot s'rugot (knit or crocheted skullcaps), or--gasp!-- multi-colored kippot s'rugot).

Meanwhile, many Orthodox women are dashing about in wigs so gorgeous that their own hair doesn't look half as good.

I hate to break it to you fine frum folks, but the Jews most likely to be seen wearing head-coverings that are identifiably Jewish not only to all Jews but to non-Jews, as well, are us non-Orthodox Jews! Walk into the average Conservative or Reconstructionist (and, increasingly, Reform) or non-affiliated non-Orthodox synagogue, minyan, or chavurah and you'll find a sea of kippot and very few hats.

To paraphrase the "grump" in Adam Ragil's post, "Can't you wear a head-covering that says you support Torah?" :) :) :)

Friday, June 23, 2006

A rebuke against myself for not being sufficiently involved in g'milut chassidim (the doing of good deeds)

I can only hang my head in shame at this reminder from the Renegade Rebbitzen that all Jews are responsible for one another (and others, as well). Be sure to read the comments.

"How do frum doctors do it?," asked DovBear

There's quite a fascinating and informative discussion taking place here concerning how Orthodox observance and the halachic mandate to save lives sometimes interact. My non-medical opinion is that you should check yourself in to this post. :)

(Link>) "Jewish roulette": An unspeakable choice

I was going to write something light, after all those heavy-duty posts, but I'm afraid that this post by David Bogner (Treppenwitz) is a must-read for anyone who cares about Israel and Israelis, not to mention anyone who cares about human beings in general. Imagine having to make a gut-wrenching decision such as this one every single night.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A deprived child

[Inspired by an e-mail conversation with a friend.]

I don’t even remember how many years ago this took place.

I was still singing alto in my former synagogue’s choir. Fortunately, I still have the music for the lullaby that we were learning, so I can tell you that it’s called “Hitrag’ut” (lyrics by Y. Karni, choral setting by P. Ben-Chayim). I can also tell you, based on my memory (I can barely read music, and I can’t sight-sing at all—thank heavens for tape recorders) that it’s gorgeous.

I understood almost none of the words, except for these two, which weren’t even on the same line of lyrics:

Savta . . .

tashir . . .”

"Grandmother . . .

will sing . . . “

In all the years that I sang in choir, this was the only time that a song brought tears to my eyes.

Because I realized that neither of our son’s grandmothers had ever sung him a lullaby.

My husband’s father died when our son was about 10 months old. His mother was never a well woman, and, though my husband and his brother helped her as best they could, she was always too preoccupied with her own problems to develop any real emotional connection with any of her grandchildren.

My parents made aliyah (moved to Israel) when our son was less than three years old.

For all intents and purposes, my son never really had grandparents. Long-distance phone calls just can’t compare with having Grandmom walk in the door and tell you and your siblings to go help Grandpop unload the packages of homemade goodies from the car. Long-distance phone calls just can’t compare with being able to take a car or bus and have your kid at Savta’s and Saba’s house within a couple of hours.

And that’s why I sat in the choir box fighting back tears.

My parents left me many years ago. But I’m not the only one whom they left.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Mad Non-Hatter considers the Orthodox view of the difference between the girls and the boys—links to this series

An “experiential Jew” contemplates “sensory deprivation”

My husband recently came up with a rather interesting description for my approach to Judaism: He dubbed me an "experiential Jew."

I'm not sure that that's exactly the correct term, but I know what he means.

Here's part of my own comment, originally posted at The Jewish Connection, in response to the question, "Why is Judaism Relevant to You?" (Please excuse me. One of the hazards of blogging, in my experience, is that I tend to repeat and/or quote myself. That's largely because I put a lot of thought into my posts and comments. So why start from scratch every time I'm discussing the same subject? I can only hope that I don't get too boring in the long run, assuming that I'm not boring already.) "For me, Judaism is tradition and poetry, a "dance" around the synagogue with a lulav and etrog in my hands. For me, Judaism is beauty, a sukkah open to the sky, reminding us to be grateful for what we have. . . . For me, Judaism is song, an opportunity to raise our voices in joy. For me, Judaism is blessing, putting our hands on the heads of our children, hoping that they will follow in the ways of our ancestors and inherit all that I have just mentioned."

I've heard this described as the "smells and bells" approach to religion, and while the "bells" thing is more appropriate to Christianity, the "smells" bit fits havdalah pretty well.

What my husband was trying to say was that I come to Judaism through what I experience, that is, through the senses.

(His own approach is more intellectual--he's far more studious than I. When I see a page of text that's two lines of "original" text followed and/or surrounded by two pages of commentary, my eyes tend to glaze over. He has no problem reading commentaries, albeit in English.)

I wonder whether that's one of the reasons why I, personally find the traditional role of women in Judaism limiting: From my own personal perspective, most of the "smells and bells" seem to be on the other side of the mechitza.

In an Orthodox environment:

The men get to wear the ritual garments—tallit and tefillin, kippah, and, in some communities, a kittel at the Seder.

The men get to handle the ritual objects—the sefer Torah (scroll) with its binder, simla ("dress", cover, or the hard case used in some Sefardi and/or B'nei Edot haMizrach congregations), choshen (breastplate), yad ("hand," pointer); the kiddush cup, spice box, havdalah candle. (The lucky ones with good "chops" get to blow the shofar, too.)

The men pray on Sukkot morning (except on Shabbat) with lulav and etrog in hand. Women may or may not take the lulav and etrog (and may or may not make the brachah over them), probably depending on one's community. The men eat in the Sukkah; whether or not the women do so probably also depends on one's community.

The men get to sing in public without repercussions. (Anyone who's been reading this blog for more than a few months has already read, ad nauseum, my opinion on "kol isha," the prohibition against a man hearing a woman singing, observed [to varying degrees] by many within the Orthodox community. For readers who came aboard after February 26, 2006, here are the links.)

The men get to dance with the sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls) on Simchat Torah, while, in many Orthodox communities, the women simply watch, as if Rejoicing in the Law (Simchat Torah) were a spectator sport.

And there, folks, is the crux of the problem, from my own personal perspective.

I can’t accept a Judaism that treats me as a spectator.

What's there for us? We women have three mitzvot, commandments, specific to us. Challah—technically, that means tearing off a piece of dough the size of an olive and burning it in the oven so that it can't be eaten, because that's what used to go to the Kohanim/priests. Mikveh—going to a ritual bath after one's "monthly" so that one can be ritually clean to resume having marital relations with one's husband. And candle lighting/hadlakat nerot/bentching lecht on Sabbath and Festival evenings 18 minutes before sundown.

We have no ritual garments that are identifiably Jewish to the outside world—only among knowledgeable Jews is the wearing of a wig a sign of Jewish identity. And only married women cover their heads, in traditional circles. Muslim women and nuns wear clothing that’s at least as modest as that of most Orthodox Jewish single women, so it’s not as if tzniut, modesty, is an exclusively Jewish identity-marker.

Depending on the community, we rarely get anywhere near a sefer Torah. We are forbidden to blow the shofar, to the best of my knowledge. We may or may not take a lulav and etrog and/or eat in a sukkah. There are questions concerning whether a woman may sing in the presence of a man, and, if so, what type of music. And how many Orthodox synagogues let the women dance anywhere near the sifrei Torah (scrolls) on Simchat Torah, assuming that there's even enough room (or, in the case of a balcony, enough flat floor space) in the women's section for dancing?

If I understand correctly, the operating premise of an Orthodox woman's observance seems to be that her relationship to Hashem is more internal. ("Kol k'vodah bat melech p'nimah, All the glory of the king's daughter is within." [Psalm 45, verse 18 (March 6, 2010, 11:48 PM correction--verse 14)]). That doesn't work for someone whose Judaism is more "experiential" than, er, you should pardon the expression, "faith-based." My Judaism is very much based on what I can see, hear, and touch. Put a mechitza in front of my eyes and between me and the sefer Torah, and tell me that, if I must sing, I'd best do it quietly, and half of my Judaism goes up in smoke.


Things that I learned from “Hide & Seek: Jewish Women and Hair Covering,” edited by Lynn Schreiber

(Thanks to Lillian for recommending this book.)

1. I had heard that some in the Orthodox community are of the opinion that halachah (Jewish religious law) requires a married woman to cover all but a tefach of her hair. I learned from this book that the word " tefach" means "handbreadth." This accounts for the fact that many Orthodox women who cover their hair deliberately leave some of their hair (such as their bangs) visible.

2. The reason why some Chassidic women shave off all their hair is to make their monthly visit to the mikveh (ritual bath) easier. According to halachah, a woman must immerse herself completely in a mikveh seven days after the end of her menstrual period before being permitted to have sex with her husband again. Complete immersion includes the hair. If the hair floats, one must re-emerse oneself in the mikveh water. If one has no hair on one's head, there's nothing that can float, so the process is easier. This is not an approach that I would take—in my opinion, it makes one ugly in the eyes of one's own husband—but I hope that I'm explaining it properly.

3. Apparently, there is an opinion that, once a woman has begun covering her hair because of marriage, she is no longer permitted to uncover it, even in the event of widowhood or divorce. The principle seems to be that one is permitted to increase one's level of observance, but not to decrease it. Personally, I find this confusing. If the whole point of a Jewish woman covering her hair is that doing so is a signal to other knowledgeable Jews that she is already married, and therefore, unavailable, then why on earth should a no-longer-married woman not be permitted to make her status clearly visible? And if the purpose of covering one's hair is tzniut, modesty, why does the tradition of covering one's hair apply only to married women? From my own perspective, this makes no sense.

4. Page 136: " . . . there are important authorities which strongly encourage single women to cover their hair when they are praying or involved in sacred matters." Footnote: "See, for example, Ovadia Yosef in Yechave Da'at 5:6; Hilchot Baita, Machon Sha'ar Ze'ev, Jerusalem, ch. 6, sec. 10, footnote 33, p. 50; Halichos Bas Yisroel, Targum." So my parents' rabbi didn't just make this up!

5. As the old saying goes, "Two Jews, three opinions"—there seem to be as many opinions as to what constitutes the proper way for an Orthodox woman to dress as there are Orthodox women! At one end of the spectrum, there are woman who wear pants (but only if they're designed for women—it's forbidden to wear the clothing of the opposite sex), cover only their shoulders, wear V-neck tops, and go bareheaded despite being married. At the other end, there are woman who wear only skirts (and skirts that are long enough to cover their calves, at that), who wear stockings even on the hottest days of summer, whose sleeves cover not only their upper arms and not only their elbows but their wrists as well, who wear only tops that cover their collarbones, and who wear wigs with scarves on top (as if one or the other doesn't suffice!). Though many of those who contributed chapters to this book clearly favor a maximalist approach—no tefach of hair will ever be seen peeking out from under my scarf or fall!—the editor did take some pains to show that there is halachic support for the lenient approach. In terms of hair-covering, there is an opinion that, in times and places in which exposed hair is not considered indecent, a married woman is permitted to go bareheaded.

Here's where I ran into trouble:

Page 64: "When I first began to really learn about Judaism, I thought everything that was interesting to do was masculine. With the help of heaven, I persevered through that painful year until I discovered that the role of the Jewish woman in approaching God is more subtle. I want to feel closer to God in my own way, not by copying the ways of Jewish men.

By requiring me to make an unmistakably feminine, explicitly Jewish decision every morning of my life, covering my hair helps me stay connected to my identity as a Jewish woman, yearning for holiness."

" . . . the role of the Jewish woman in approaching God is more subtle. "

In connection with the above quote, I'm adding this one as of June 21, since, if my memory serves me correctly, it's mentioned at least twice in this book (page 171 and ?): "Kol k'vodah bat melech p'nimah, All the glory of the king's daughter is within." (Psalm 45, verse 18)

What can I say?

Actually, lots. For openers, on the subject of Jewish women’s head coverings, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s absolutely nothing explicitly Jewish about a wig, hat, scarf, or snood. Any woman can wear any of them. A married Jewish woman's decision to wear a head-covering may be "explicitly Jewish," but the head-covering itself is not"explicitly Jewish" in the least. That's the principle reason why I don't wear a hat to synagogue: I'd vastly prefer to wear something that looks at least a little Jewish. For closers, why must all the "glory" of the Jewish woman be "p'nimah, within"?

To be continued.

My mother’s 11th commandment: You must not “outdo.”

About 30 years ago, my mother, having attended a bridal shower and gotten a good look at the clothing style of the mother of the bride-to-be, took the dress that she’d bought for the wedding straight from the delivery van and returned it to the store without even opening the package. In its place, she bought a much plainer dress. “You don’t outdress the mother of the bride,” she said.

A few weeks ago, I was faced with a similar situation with regard to my girlfriend’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah celebration. True, I had given up wearing a kippah (yarmulke, skullcap) because I couldn’t decide whether it was or wasn’t beged ish, a man’s garment, and had switched to wearing a kisui rosh. But, remembering my mother’s words, I decided to switch back to my beribboned woman's kippah for that day, because you don’t “out-frum” the mother of the Bat Mitzvah girl.

When I mentioned this to someone at Ansche Chesed this past Shabbat (Sabbath), she asked, “Why didn’t you just wear a hat?”

Funny you should ask. I just finished a book about Jewish women and hair coverings . . .


(link>) “What do you think I am, a GPS tracking unit?”--On the drawbacks of modern telecommunications

This is nothing new to college graduates: No matter how hard you try to catch your mistakes, you will miss a few, so it’s best to have someone else proofreader your term papers.

The same thing is true in the “real” world: No matter how carefully I read over a document that I’ve typed, I’m bound to miss a thing or two. (Isn’t it amazing, how the brain automatically “sees” a word that I’ve somehow managed not to actually type, in my haste, and how I “read” the letter “s,” even though it’s not actually on the page?) It’s always a good thing when a boss scrutinizes a document before allowing an assistant to (e-)mail it.

I don’t deny that I make mistakes, and, sometimes, they’re whoppers. I try always to apologize for my errors, as well I should.

But I have my limits.

“Get me so-and-so.”

“Yes, sir.”

I dial the number, and am “entertained” by one of the longest Voice Mail messages I’ve ever heard. I leave a message.

Knowing my boss, I go immediately to the next phone number listed for the same person in my homemade database—over 450 entries, and I’m still adding to it almost daily—and start dialing.

Once upon a time, you dialed one phone number. If the person didn’t answer, there was nothing you could do, and that was the end of it.

Then came answering machines, then Voice Mail, then cell phones (not necessarily in that order). Now, when the boss wants to speak to someone, I have to track him/her down like a bloodhound seeking a suspect. I dial the numbers for three different offices, then the cell phone number, then the home number. It never ends. And the boss has no sympathy. He wants who he wants when he wants him/her.

“Where’s so-and-so?”

“I left a message.”

“That’s not enough.”

“I’m dialing the next number, sir.”

“I want so-and-so.”

“I can’t conjure him out of the air, sir!”

“Don’t raise your voice.”

“Then don’t insult me.”

If it’s my fault, I’m perfectly willing to apologize. But if it’s not my fault, don’t you dare imply that I’m not doing my job!!!!!!!!

Permission to munch that crunch (yum!)

Working for a black-hat Orthodox organization has made me think twice about what I wish to be seen eating within hailing distance of the office. As a result, I had been hesitant to eat one of my favorite candy bars because it had only a K hechsher (rabbinical seal indicating that a product is kosher), which is not accepted by most Orthodox Jews.

Tonight, for the first time in a few months, I bought one of those candy bars, figuring that the odds of anyone catching me in the act on the way home from folk dancing were roughly zilch. When I went to double-check the hechsher, just to be on the safe side, I got a pleasant surprise.

In case there's any kashrut-observing Jew on the face of the planet who doesn't already know this, I'm happy to inform you that Planter's Original Peanut Bar now has an OK-Dairy hechsher.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Transitions: A mom comments on Father's Day

I think we made a mistake when we were raising our kid. (Actually, we made considerably more than one mistake, but anyway . . . ) We never made a big deal out of birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day, or Father's Day. So our kid doesn't, either. And now, I'm sorry.

"Don't you have a calendar? Don't you know what day it is? Aren't you going to wish me a Happy Mother's Day?"

"I was gonna do that at the end of the conversation."

[Suspicious.] "Why wait 'til the end?"

"Well, what do you want me to say, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom, send money?"

(Score one for the son. That's the smartest rejoinder to a nagging mother I've ever heard. And yes, we were talking about how much money he needed.)

One of the weirder things about having an older child is having your husband take you out for Mother's Day without your kid anywhere in sight.

Today, we get to do the same for sonny-boy's Dear Olde Dad. I asked the hubby about it, and he feels as weird as I do, going out to celebrate on such a day with no child in tow.

My own father? I don't know how much longer he'll be around. Or, perhaps worse, what good it'll do me even if he is, as dreadful as that sounds. For the time being, he's reasonably sound of body, all right. But as for his mind, it's just a matter of time before he doesn't know who I am anymore.

Transitions. They're not always fun, and they're not always easy. Ask Mark. He'll tell you all about it.

Dwarfed (a poem-turned-memoir)

[This started out as a poem, but it seems to have morphed into more of a memoir, capturing a moment in time. The incident in question took place shortly after Lag B'Omer this year. It just took me forever to write it down.]

Down, down, down the ramp I go, until I stand, dwarfed, gazing up at two of the gorgeous chandeliers of Grand Central Station, glittering high above my head.

I keep walking. Now the ceiling drops dramatically, and I’m in the “vault,” a small space at the intersection of three ramps, all curved beams and arches covered with glazed brick. To my right, behind a glass wall, is one of the most famous restaurants in Manhattan, but one that I’ll never enter—the Oyster Bar. (Oy.)

I continue down the second ramp into the food court (or whatever they call it at Grand Central). To my right is a “sit-down” restaurant (unlike the fast-food places to my left) called The Zócalo. Allegedly, a zócalo is "A town square or plaza, especially in Mexico.” But for me, it will always be the commercial area of a space station presided over by the visionary Captain John Sheridan, ably assisted by his Executive Officer, one of my all-time favorite television characters, the brave, brilliant, blunt-spoken, and beautiful Commander Susan Ivanova, with a wonderful sense of humor drier than the Gobi desert. Dedicated and fearless, she will nearly lose her life in an effort, fortunately successful, to save the planet Earth from certain destruction. “The year is 2261, the place, Babylon 5.”

Did I mention that Ivanova is a Russian Jew? Did I mention that my grandmother, aleha hashalom (roughly, rest in peace) was also a Russian Jew?

Well, even so, I didn’t come here to go to The Zócalo. Turning left, I buy myself a soup and half-sandwich from Mendy’s Glatt Kosher Deli stand.

And that’s when it hits me.





I’m not always this good.

But somehow, I just know that, this time, at least, I have to wash.

No, not quote wash unquote. I’m not speaking euphemism.

N’tilat yadayim. The ritual version of “wash.”

I learned a new phrase recently. Hashgachah pratis (pratit?). “Divine intervention.” No, I don’t believe in it. But right there in the food court, almost directly across from Mendy’s, there’s a water fountain.

With years of practice under my belt, I take off my wedding ring and slip it over the earpiece of my glasses. I fill a plastic drinking glass, pour water twice over my right hand, then twice over my left, and recite the brachah/blessing under my breath. There are no towels, and I haven’t thought to get napkins, so, as usual, I end up wiping my hands on my skirt. I crack open the sandwich box, make a motzi over the bread, and take a bite.

Twenty minutes later, I’m reciting Birkat haMazon/Grace After Meals from memory, because I don’t have the nerve to whip out my “baby Birnbaum” siddur/prayer book and read it. Did I miss a phrase in nodeh l’cha? I always think I’ve missed a phrase in nodeh l’cha when I’m doing it from memory. I probably did.

And there you have it. This is the first time in my life that I’ve ever done n’tilat yadayim, recited the motzi blessing over bread, and recited Birkat haMazon in a public food court.


By tradition.

Something gorgeous, glittering high above my head.

Try not to fall off your computer chair laughing: See Mark/PT's post on "immigration policy"

Yet another one of Mark's posts that made me laugh so hard I got tears in my eyes. Here, here! :)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Half-a-book review: "Jewish Liturgy and Its Development"

Abraham Idelsohn's Jewish Liturgy and Its Development was recommended to me by NaomiChana of Baraita. Maybe I should have taken notes while I was reading it, because I can remember only four things that I learned:

1. The likely reason why the hymn Yigdal does not appear as the final prayer for Erev Shabbat or Yom Tov (the evening of a Sabbath or Festival) in either the Birnbaum or Artscroll (Orthodox) siddur (prayer book) is that singing it as the final hymn is not a custom of Ashkenazi origin. It's either Sefardi or Yemenite (I forget). However, the Conservative Movement, in which I grew up, has always used this for the end of services on Erev Shabbat or Yom Tov. So that's my minhag (custom), and I'm stickin' to it.

2. The phrase “Or chadash al Tzion tair, v’nizkeh chulanu m’heirah l’oro, May You shine a new light on Zion, and may we all speedily merit its light” was a controversial addition to the brachah (blessing) “Baruch . . . yotzer ha-m’orot, Blessed [is the One] who fashions the luminaries.” It’s a good thing those words made the cut, because, if they hadn’t, Mark would have been short the lyrics to one of his songs! (No free link this time, folks—this one’s only on the album.)

3 “There are two series of blowing of the Shofar. One is called tekioth myushav—The blowing while seated, i.e., after the Scriptural reading; the other is called tekioth meumad—the blowing while standing, i.e., during the Amida of the Musaf service.” (Page 211). I’m astounded. For the life of me, I can’t remember ever having remained seated for a Shofar blowing!

4. I purchased this book on March 27. When I realized that I was still only 2/3 of the way through the book over two months later, I concluded that, apparently, not only was I not going to be able to finish this book, I was also not cut out for a degree in Liturgy from JTS after all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Before I forget to post this, check out Jameel's Monday, June 12 "How the Torah was really passed down." :)

Click here and enjoy. :)

My apologies to those who don't read Hebrew, but a translation would spoil the fun for those who do. Here's a hint, though:









Check out Paragraph 1, Chapter 1, Pirkei Avot (Verses ["Ethics"] of the Fathers.)

The olde dancin' fool makes a fool of herself again at Makor

Monday, June 12, 2006—What a way to spend my 29th wedding anniversary. But my husband was already threatening to divorce me if I missed yet another Ulpan class—"Do you want to learn Hebrew or don't you?!!" So, with the two of us agreeing to go out and celebrate together this coming weekend, I went my way and he went his (to an Israeli folk dancing session, now that the semester is over and he's no longer teaching on Monday evenings). Which means that I showed up at the Girls' Night On (a performance by and for women only) at Makor almost an hour and a half late. Eek! But organizer Leslie Ginsparg was kind enough to save a performance slot for me toward the end of the second "act."

I'm always afraid I'm going to break my neck when I'm onstage at Makor because I'm not allowed to move any of the equipment, and I'm dancing around the microphones, amps, music stands, and the occasional guitar stand, complete with guitar. Consequently, I do feel a bit constrained, and I think that probably showed up in this last performance. Even so, dancing at Girls' Night On is a kick, because the audience is so appreciative. I'm just not used to having literally screaming fans. :) It's a great ego boost to have so many women approach me afterward and tell me they enjoyed my performance. Fortunately, the audience is very forgiving, too: Dancing to Shlock Rock's "B'yado," by Lenny Solomon, I completely botched my own choreography to roughly the last 16 beats of Lenny's piano solo, not to mention the eight beats thereafter. Luckily, I got back in step before the end of the dance.

But you should have seen the other dancer. Wow, she really knows how to dance!!!

Speaking of which, since I'm incapable of standing still when someone's rockin' out onstage, I was having such a grand time dancing my feet off in the back of the room to a pair of rock singers that I ended up dancing with a couple of the other women, one of whom happens to work for the same organization that employs yours truly. We were joking that, if my boss ever caught us dancing away like that, he'd have a heart attack! :) And this was before my performance! I guess it was a good warm-up exercise. :)

A big shout-out to Tzipporah, who introduced herself to me after the show, and to her husband, Hasidic Musician, of Blog in Dm, who gave me a mention after my previous performance :

“Thursday, February 02, 2006
Blog in Dm's Girls' Night On! correspondent reports that Wednesday's edition was incredible with a SRO crowd. Shira was one of the performers and her performance got great reception, we're told.”

I’m glad I finally got an opportunity to meet the aforementioned “correspondent.” :)

See you in September—if memory serves me correctly, the next "Girls' Night On" is scheduled for September 12.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Timing is everything

Recently, I read a true story of a man who, enjoying a quiet moment alone with his wife ("yichud") after their wedding ceremony, finally told her that he'd actually been in love with her for over a decade.

Pragmatic soul that she is, she responded, "What took you so long?"

Odd as this may sound, I think there's actually an answer to that question.

When I was 21, I was no prize. With benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I think I was probably strikingly immature for my age. (Was??? For years, I've harbored the opinion that immaturity is a family trait. Oy, I could tell you tales . . . but I won't.)

I was also still going through my rebelling-against-Judaism phase. It wasn't until I was a few months shy of 24 that I set foot in a synagogue service again voluntarily for the first time in several years.

My husband was, likewise, working out the details.

The story goes like this: We met in synagogue. Period. That's all there is, there ain't no more. 'Cause the truth of the matter is that we'd known each other for so long before we started dating that we have absolutely no idea when we actually met for the first time.

"What took you so long?"

The timing wasn't right.

It's not enough for two people to be in the same place at the same time: Each of you has to have something worthwhile to offer. At 21, I had nothing to offer that would have been of interest to my now-husband. It could only have happened when it happened. For a relationship to succeed, each person has to be ready for the other.

Each of us brought a newly-rediscovered love of synagogue-going to the relationship, he with his knowledge of the siddur (prayer book), me with my knowledge of home ritual. And he brought me to folk dancing at a point at which I was interested in learning it.

That's how it came to pass that we've been married 29 years as of today. Happy Anniversary, sweets.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Haftarat Naso: Manoach—a sexist without seichel (common sense)

Manoach’s wife encounters an angel who tells her to avoid strong drink and unclean things (both forbidden to a Nazir), because the son whom she will conceive will be a Nazir from birth. When she tells Manoach, he asks Hashem to send the angel again, and asks the angel how they should raise the child. Why, pray tell? The angel tells him, “Sh’ma b’kolah—listen to her voice.” Okay, I’m quoting from another parsha, but Manoach's wife has already told him that the child is to be raised as a Nazir. Why does he not trust her word?

Then Manoach offers a sacrifice, and the angel ascends in the flame. Manoach freaks, out: “We saw Hashem! We’re gonna die!” His sensible wife responds, “If Hashem hadn’t wanted us to see this, He wouldn’t have let us!”

Personally, I’m not very impressed with Manoach.

Parshat Naso: Sotah—the “trial by ordeal" of the wife suspected of adultery

From the ADDeRabbi’s 6/6/2006 post, “A Miraculous Ordeal,” and the comments, concerning the “trial by ordeal” of the Sotah, the wife suspected of adultery.

“A man suspects his wife of infidelity. However, he has no real evidence that she's done anything, and might just be going on a whim; in the language of the Mishna, a little bird told him. Should he take her to court, his case would be thrown out but his jealousy would not be assuaged. He needs to know what happened.

The woman is then subjected to a terrifying and embarrassing procedure which is designed to get her to admit if she was unfaithful. If she confesses, then the husband's fears are borne out, and they must divorce (and she forfeits the rights to her ketubah). The Talmud assumes that in nearly all cases, the unfaithful woman would confess before drinking the cursed water.

But let's say she drinks. And let's be hyper-rationalist and say that no miracles ever really took place, but that these superstitious folks believed that one would if she was truly guilty. So she drinks and survives. Her husband now believes that she's been faithful (even if she really wasn't), and they can live happily ever after. Thus, the ordeal itself will always yield a peaceable outcome even if it's never a miraculous one, as long as either the husband or the wife believes that the miracle may occur. The threat of a miraculous death is designed to appease his jealousy or force her conversion.

Thus, the true purpose of the Sotah ordeal is, as Rashi tells us based on the Gemara Sukkah 55b, to create peace between husband and wife. For that, God is willing to have His Name effaced.”

Two of the comments:

ummm...'create peace between husband and wife'? would you be able to 'live happily ever after' with someone who accused you publicly, and made you go through such an ordeal?

if the torah wanted to do that, it could have also said 'trust your wife' or 'listen to both sides of the story'

i admit this may be my modern sensibilities getting in the way, but i fail to see how a woman treated this way by her husband and her community would be so happy as to go back to have a wonderful marriage and relationship with said husband.
chanie 06.07.06 - 12:07 am #

i think it is modern sensibilities getting in the way. i can't imagine subjecting a woman to this today, let alone her going back to him. i also can't imagine that forcing a rapist to marry his victim is a pleasant solution for her, but apparently women didn't or couldn't expect all that much from a marriage.
adderabbi Homepage 06.07.06 - 12:36 am #

On the same subject (from this post):

“According to Parshat Naso, Numbers, chapter 5, verses 11-31, any man who was afflicted by so little as “ruach kin’ah, a spirit of jealousy,” could bring his wife before a Cohen (a priest), and have her condemned to public disgrace as an alleged adulteress simply by subjecting her to a trial by “ordeal.” Not being blessed with a good Jewish education, I ask this question of those more learnèd than I: Is there another single instance, in the entire corpus of Jewish law, in which a person could be tried and condemned with no witnesses whatsoever and only, for lack of a better description, circumstantial evidence?”

A further thought (from this post):

"One need only read the law of the Trial by “Ordeal” of a wife accused of adultery ("Sotah"?) also cited in the previous post, to notice the glaring absence of any similar ordeal for a husband suspected of cheating on his wife."

I read the law this morning, in Naso, and found this interesting tidbit: If the woman were found guilty, she would be held accountable, but if she were found innocent, there’s no mention of any punishment for her husband for having subjected her to a false accusation and public humiliation. And another thing: The woman is promised fertility if found innocent. Therefore, it would appear that it’s not enough for the suspected wife to survive the ordeal unscathed: If she doesn’t have a child within a reasonable amount of time thereafter, her husband still has grounds to suspect her. An innocent but infertile woman, or one with an infertile husband, could never clear her name.

Comments, please?

Ambivalence (on more subjects than one), part 2

After all that kvetching (complaining), I had a wonderful time at the Bat Mitzvah celebration. My girlfiend S.K.’s daughter, whom I still can’t believe is actually that old, acquitted herself very nicely, leining (serving as baalot korah for/chanting from the Torah scroll) her own maftir portion and chanting the haftarah/“Prophetic portion,” with the brachot/blessings for both the maftir and the haftarah recited by her (not her father or brother, which is what they’d do in my local synagogue), then giving a d’var Torah (a “word of Torah/Bible discussion). I’m very glad we went.

The party afterward was great fun. We saw old friends and danced our feet off. Yes, the music was electrically amplified. Yes, a photographer was making the rounds, and we ended up in at least one photo. No, the food wasn’t kosher. (Considering the fact that my girlfriend and her husband keep a kosher home, I was particularly taken aback that one of the choices was chicken. We both had fish.) And I was just flat-out annoyed that they just had to have one of those stupid candle-lighting ceremonies, even though it was Shabbat. (One lights Sabbath candles before Shabbat—it’s forbidden to kindle a flame on Shabbat.)

On the way home, I commented to the Punster that it’s times like this that remind me of just how much we would have to give up to become Orthodox. Intelligent soul that he has, he replied that, if we became Orthodox, we’d have to find a whole new circle of friends. Oy. Making friends is not a strong suit for either one of us.

As for S.K, well, granted that everything hasn’t also been peachy-keen between us, but still, I guess there’s still something there (see the first two paragraphs here).

Word Verification, for your amusement: dzknynik. Well, considering how easily I get light-headed, I've been telling my husband for years that he married a dizzy dame. :) But how did Blogger know that? As for (most of) the rest, I suppose it's just as well that I've already "outed" myself as a "NYnik." :)

Friday, June 09, 2006


Once upon a time, S.K. and I were good friends. We went to synagogue, folk dancing, movies, dinners together. She was there at our wedding, and the Punster and I were there at hers.

Alas, we were also there when she decided that her marriage was dead in the water, an assessment with which we initially disagreed, but which, after many months of serious consideration, we came to accept as reasonable.

We were there for her as she embarked upon the challenging task of raising an infant by herself.

And therein lies a tale.

She’s one of only two friends I’ve ever had of whom I can honestly say that motherhood was one of the main things that drove us apart.

You see, her child was perfect.

A little angel, so well behaved.

A high achiever in school.

While we struggled to raise a child with disabilities.

Suffice it to say that she never let us forget it.

Which is why she’s the only mother among my friends with whom I’ve avoided discussing our children as much as possible.

First, she stopped inviting our son to her son’s birthday parties, on the grounds that our son didn’t handle crowds well at that age. Okay, granted.

Then she told me, flat out, that she wouldn’t come to our home anymore because she couldn’t stand my cooking. Again, granted that my main claim to culinary fame is that I’m good at boiling water, but still, did she really have to rub it in by insulting me to my face for committing the unpardonable crime of serving her and her son what she described, with disdain, as "breakfast food"—french toast—for dinner? She had the car. But we had to drag ourselves out to her apartment, in beyond-the-subways land (meaning that we had to take a subway, then wait outdoors for a bus, even in the freezing cold), every time we wanted to see her and her son.

After many years as a single mother, S.K. finally remarried.

If anything, our relationship became even distant, both literally and figuratively, as she moved out of the city altogether to make a new life with her semi-recluse of a husband.

Now, not only wouldn’t she visit us, but we couldn’t visit her, either. It’s not at all unusual, these days, for us to see each other exactly once a year, at the annual “that-olde-gang-of-ours” Chanukah party, which is just about the only time we ever get invited to her home anymore.

The last straw was when she decided, one fine day, that she was no longer going to use e-mail. Ever. (And no, she’s not even remotely Orthodox, much less Ultra.) Nowadays, if I can’t catch her on the phone when she’s home and has time, we just don’t talk anymore.

Tomorrow, her daughter is celebrating becoming a Bat Mitzvah. Oh, did I mention that she now has a daughter? Considering the fact that we probably haven’t actually seen this child more than about 50 times in her entire life, I hope you’ll forgive me. The kid’s a total stranger. And for a total stranger, we’re expected to violate Shabbat (Sabbath) twice over, first by driving to synagogue, which as you know, I can live with, but then, to boot, by driving to a restaurant afterward. It finally occurred to me last night that I really don’t want to go. But unless I’m prepared to break up what little is left of a relationship of over 30 years, I don’t think I have much choice.

Sunday, June 11, 2006 update:
After all that kvetching (complaining), I had a wonderful time at the Bat Mitzvah celebration.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A thinking Orthodox Jew's approach to halachic decision making

I'm delighted to see that Dilbert (the blogger, not the cartoon character) has returned, with his intelligent, articulate posts, from a long hiatus. I recommend his Tuesday, June 06, 2006 post, "The importance of context in halachic decision making."

The money quote:

"The halachic data needs to be seen in the context of the surrounding world. Anything else, despite protestations to the contrary from the very right, is a distortion of the true Halachic process, and subsequently a distortion of God's will. Willfully distorting God's will is not the exclusive province of the liberals. The thinking Orthodox should not accept an emperor without clothing."

"Secular kids in religous schools"--Jameel discusses a conflict between openness and preservation and perpetuation of a traditional lifestyle

On the one hand, you want to give secular children a chance to learn about Judaism.

On the other hand, you don't send your child to a Jewish day school thinking that you'll have to worry about play dates in non-kosher homes, or why your kid is learning curse words from TV shows that she or he isn't allowed to watch.

What's an Orthodox parent to do? What's an Orthodox school to do?

Here's Jameel's Thursday, May 25, 2006 post, "Secular Kids in Religious Schools."

A reaction to Not the Godol Hador's changing perspective on faith, from yours truly, who doesn't have any faith to speak of

Here's Ten Jew Very Much's 06.06.06 - 10:47 am comment to Not the Godol Hador's Tuesday, June 06, 2006 post, "A Major Evolution For Mirty"

"But short of that, Faith in God, Torah, Midrashim or Gosse all seem pretty much the same to me: Belief in something not supported by evidence in order to support something else of beauty, value or other importance. Nobody thinks like that in other areas of life, but when it comes to religion, society makes an exception.

Gee, didn't Pascal define faith in essentially the same way? It's what has been called a subjective reality--somthing that is real to you though it cannot be proven, measured or demonstrated objectively. Isn't love the same? Your feelings of love for another person (spouse, child, parent, SO) are very real but you cannot prove them to someone else. Nor can you persuade someone to love (or not love) a person.

So what's wrong with faith? It's arational, but not irrational. And it doesn't even have to be in the name of some other good, such as beauty.

You love your family not because it is better than other families, but because it is your family. In fact, even when you know your sibling is being a jerk and you can't change that behavior, the love doesn't disappear. So love/faith need not be consistent with reason."

The money quote: "You love your family not because it is better than other families, but because it is your family."

I expressed this sentiment in a similar fashion in my Sunday, February 27, 2005 post, "In honor of U.S. Presidents' Day (slightly belated)--my "George Washington chopped down the cherry tree" approach to Jewish tradition."

"Every American knows the legend of George Washington and the cherry tree. According to the story, a young George chopped down a cherry tree, but, when confronted with his naughty deed, he 'fessed up (confessed), saying, "I cannot tell a lie."

In my opinion, it's not important whether this event actually took place. What's important is that Americans can learn from this story and teach it to our children. What's important is not that the story is true, but, for Americans, that it's ours.

I approach Judaism the same way. What's important is that we can learn from Jewish tradition and teach it to our children. What's important about Jewish tradition is that it's ours."

For those of you who take Judaism seriously, but not necessarily literally, what keeps you Jewish? What makes it important to you? Why do you want to pass it on?

Here's my own response, originally posted at The Jewish Connection, in response to the question, "Why is Judaism Relevant to You?"

"For me, Judaism is tradition and poetry, a "dance" around the synagogue with a lulav and etrog in my hands. For me, Judaism is beauty, a sukkah open to the sky, reminding us to be grateful for what we have. For me, Judaism is a teaching, from which we learn that it is our obligation to invite all those who are hungry to come and eat, even when we have only unleavened bread to share. For me, Judaism is song, an opportunity to raise our voices in joy. For me, Judaism is blessing, putting our hands on the heads of our children, hoping that they will follow in the ways of our ancestors and inherit all that I have just mentioned.

Once upon a time, I had a friend who was single and childless. She gave a gift of Judaism to her next-door neighbors' children by paying their Hebrew School tuition. All Israel is responsible for one another. And we remember the stranger, because we were strangers in the land of Egypt. This is the inheritance and the joy that we owe to all Jewish children, and to ourselves."

I'd love to hear from others concerning Jewish tradition for the not-necessarily-"traditional."

Monday, June 05, 2006

The case of the missing blogroll

Is it just me, or:

A) Was recently taken over by an entity calling itself "tucows," which doesn't seem to be related to blogrolling in any way?

B) Fellow and sister bloggers, did your entire blogroll vanish, too?

If both A and B are true, how can one go about recreating a blogroll? Is any other blogger acquainted with another blogrolling service?

Update, 10:29 PM, same day: I'm happy to report that is now back in operation, and my blogroll has also rematerialized. Whew, what a relief! I couldn't imagine having to start from scratch.

Yom Yerushalayim concert review--a major correction, with apology

Concerning my review of the Thursday, May 25, Yom Yerushalayim concert at CODA, I have just received information via e-mail that I may have had the performers' names in the wrong order!!! Such an error would, obviously, render that entire review invalid. If that's the case, I apologize. Apparently, I'm going to have to be much more careful with my reviews in the future.

I have requested permission to publish the information from the e-mail on my blog. If and when I receive authoritzation, I will publish that information here.

My sincerest apologies to anyone whom I may have offended.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006 update:

Now that I've received his permission, I'm posting a copy of a Mon, 5 Jun 2006 e-mail from Aryeh Kunster:

Hi Shira, i happened to have come over this review of the show i played at. there are however a bunch of mistakes - first off your review for teva was actually my set with "Mizmor Shir" etc. And i didnt get up with blue fringe - that was heedoosh. the order of the show was Aryeh Kunstler, the Teva (the band i think you lost your hearing in!) then heedoosh and then blue fringe. Thanks for the giving the review though! If you need my link its Thanks!

I have listened to some of the music on Aryeh Kunstler's website and on the Heedoosh website, and it does, indeed appear that I got everything inside out. Aryeh Kunstler's song "Split the Sea" is, to the best of my recollection, the song that I referred to as the Yom Suf song that I incorrectly attributed to Teva. And if you go to the Heedoosh website, click on the album jacket, then click on "Lecha Dodi," you can hear an audio clip of what I'm pretty sure is the "Sefardi L'cha Dodi" that I incorrectly attributed to Aryeh Kunstler.

My sincerest apologies to all of the performers for my errors.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Post-Shavuot post # 2: Lessons learned re liturgy

Those not interested in Jewish prayer might want to skip this post altogether. See you later, alligator.

First of all, here's what I learned last Shavuot, before the (not-so) great kitchen fire: One of the traditional (Askenazi only?) tunes for the Shavuot piyyut (liturgical poem) Akdamut is the same tune that many (Askenazim only?) use for the kiddush for Erev Shalosh Regalim (the Eve of the Pilgrimage Festivals).

And now for something new and exciting, folks: Below is a word-by-word comparison of the difference in texts between the Orthodox version of the Musaf Amidah's "U-mip'néy chataéynu" (courtesy of my Birnbaum machzor [prayer book for the three Pilgimage Festivals] and the Conservative version found in Siddur Sim Shalom.

Birnbaum (Orthodox) and Sim Shalom (Conservative): U-mip'néy chataéyni galinu mé-artsénu, v'nitrachaknu mé-al admaténu, Because of our sins we were exiled from our country and banished far from our land,"

Birnbaum (Ortho.): v'én anachnu y'cholim laalot v'léraot u-l'hishtachavot l'fanecha, v'laasot chovotéynu b'vét b'chiratecha, babayit hagadol v'hakadosh sheh-nikra shimcha alav, mip'néy hayad sheh-nishtal'chah b'mikdashecha, and we cannot go up as pilgrims to worship You, to perform our duties in Your chosen house, the great and holy temple which was called by Your name, on account of the hand that was let loose on Your sanctuary."

Sim Shalom (Conserv.): Omits this phrase completely.

Birnbaum and Sim Shalom: "Y'hi ratzon mil'fanecha, Hashem Elokéynu v'Elokéy avotéynu, melech rachaman, May it be Your will, Hashem our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, compassionate King" (Sim Shalom adds here: haméshiv banim li-g'vulam, who restores His children to their land), sheh-tashuv u-t'rachém aléynu v'al mikdashecha b'rachamecha harabim, v'tivnéhu m'hérah u-t'gadel kovodo (feh--I don't like either translation, so I'm wingin' it) that You will return and have compassion upon us and on your sanctuary in your great compassion, and that you will rebuild it quickly and make its glory great (okay, so I won't win any prizes for translation). (Sim Shalom adds here: U-t'kabel b'rachamim et t'filat amcha Yisrael b'chol m'komot moshvotéyhem, And accept in compassion the prayer of Your people Israel in all of the places of their dwellings [my translation].

That's all, folks.

For my Orthodox readers, here's a quick lesson in non-Orthodox-but-serious-about-the-Jewish-religion logic that will probably make you roll your eyes (in amusement and/or annoyance):

If I want to davven (pray) the Orthodox version in a Conservative synagogue, or, noch besser (even better) get myself thoroughly farblunget (confused) by, heaven help me, combining the two versions, should I take an Orthodox prayer book with me to synagogue when I travel there by subway train, you should pardon the expression? My own answer: Yes on a plain Yom Tov, no on Shabbat Yom Tov, because you're allowed to carry in public on Yom Tov but not on Shabbat (and yes, obviously I'm ignoring the "traveling by subway even though you're only allowed to travel by foot" detail).

Also, here's something that I just realized this year while reading Haftarat (Yom Rishon shel) Shavuot ("Prophetic Reading" for [the First Day of the--in the Diaspora, there are two days, and boy, is that ever a long story!] Feast of Weeks/Jewish Pentecost:

The last four words of Yechezkel/Ezekiel chapter 3 verse 12--"Baruch k'vod Hashem mi-m'kmomo, Praised be the glory of Hashem from His place"--appear in every Kedusha, but the verse in its entirety--Va-tisaéni ruach va-eshma acharay kol raash gadol, And a wind lifted me up and I heard behind me a voice of a great noise, "Baruch k'vod Hashem mi-m'komo, Praised be the glory of Hashem from His place"" appears exclusively(?) in the Kedusha d'Sidra.

For those still learning their way around the siddur/prayer book (don't worry--I was in your shoes 30 years ago, and I'm still learning new things about the siddur all the time), the Keduscha d'Sidra (Kedusha/Sanctification from the Weekly Reading?) can be found beginning with the words "U'va l'Tzion goél, and to Zion will come a redeemer" just before the Full Kaddish Shalem preceding Alénu in the weekday Shacharit/morning service and just after Ashré in the Mincha/afternoon service for Shabbat/Sabbath and Yom Tom/Festivals, and beginning with the words "V'atah kadosh yohév t'hilot Yisrael, You are the Holy One enthroned upon the praises of Israel," just after Psalm 91, Yoshév b'séter elyon, Whoever sits in the refuge of the Most High" in the Maariv/evening service for the conclusion of Shabbat/Sabbath. I hope that's not too confusing.


Post-Shavuot post # 1: It's a good thing *one* of us is smart

Early Friday evening, I awoke from a Yom Tov (holiday) nap in a panic and ran to the kitchen, afraid that I would barely have time to cook dinner before Shabbat (Sabbath--cooking on a pre-lit flame is permissible on a holiday, but not on the Sabbath). There, I was confronted with a puzzle--on the counter sat two empty boxes of blintzes, and I could have sworn that I hadn't cooked all the blintzes the day before. What on earth was I going to cook for Shabbat? Finally, the coin dropped. I turned around, and, sure enough, there, on the hot-tray, sat the cooked blintzes, along with a pot of vegies. After almost 29 years of marriage, my poor, long-suffering husband, all too well aware of my penchant for resetting the alarm and then forgetting to turn it back on, had been kind enough to let me sleep and make our dinner himself. I think I'll keep him for another few years (oh, say, another 29 :) ).

Since the "weather guessers" were predicting severe thunderstorms, I decided to skip Erev Shavuot (Evening of Jewish Pentecost) services and the Tikkun Lel Shavuot study session voluntarily (as opposed to due to motherhood duties or illness) for the first time in years. (Boy, were they right--the thunder was so loud that it scared the bleep out of me!) In walked the braver hubster at around 11 (the oldsters of our congregation are afraid to stay out any later, so we break up early), and asked me why the candles weren't lit. "Well, you know the rule for Shavuot: Since we're supposed to count seven complete weeks between the second night of Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot, we have to wait until after sundown to bentsch lecht (light candles with a blessing for the Sabbath or Festival), so I figured I'd wait 'til after you got home and . . .

Oops! I forgot it's also Shabbat."

Lighting candles from a pre-lit flame is permissible on a holiday, but not on the Sabbath. Guess who ended up not bentsching lecht this past Friday night?

There are times when I think I have a sieve where a brain should be.

On the plus side, at least this Shavuot, unlike last Shavuot, we didn't french-fry our kitchen.

While we're on the subject of toasted stoves, here's Mark's/PT's post concerning this conflict between halachah (Jewish religious law) and safety.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Woo hoo, yippee, hip-hip hooray--this year, we didn't miss a single day!

Copied from the Orthodox Union's daily e-mail:

"Ha-yom tisha v'arbaim yom, sheheim shiv-a shavuot la-omer. Today is forty-nine days, which makes seven weeks of the Omer."

Speaking of Sefirat HaOmer, check out Drew Kaplan's 31 May 2006 post, "Counting of the Omer: 49 or 50 Days?"

Chag saméach, happy holiday, one and all. Enjoy your Shavuot, both the learning and the dairy-goodies parts.

Update: Speaking of "woo hoo," apparently, the Punster and I are not the only bloggers who were kept counting by the OU's e-mails. The protests of some fervently Orthodox Jews to the contrary notwithstanding, the Internet is a tool that, while it can be used for evil, can also be used for good. In the case of the Orthodox Union's website, and many other Jewish websites, the Internet doesn't destroy Jewish observance, it enhances it.
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