Sunday, July 30, 2006

(Link>) Jameel spends a weekend on stand-by as a Magen David Adom ambulance driver in northern Israel

Fortunately, he comes home in one piece. He's shaken. The rest of us should be stirred . . . to action.

"Looking northwards at the mountains overlooking the station, most of the trees and greenery had been burned black by brush fires resulting from countless Katyusha strikes.

[See photo in post.]

The estimates I've heard are that it will take JNF another 40 years to return the Galil to the green forest situation that Israel enjoyed only a few weeks ago."

Okay, you heard the man: Tree here.

I'm copying this manually from a hard-copy of a Tu BiSh'vat Seder edited heaven only remembers how many years ago by Rabbi Gary Karlin and Cantor Judith Naimark. The footnote says "BT [Babylonian Talmud/Talmud Bavli, I presume] Ta'anit 23a. (I'm not sure whether this is a translation or a paraphrased version. This particular Seder was written for a group mixed in both age and language--the reason why I don't have a copy on my computer is that some of the text was hand-written in Russian. Hmm, now that there's such a thing as a scanner, and we happen to own one . . .) It's a Jewish version of the much-later American legend of Rip Van Winkle:

"Many years ago in Israel, there lived a righteous man whose name was Choni. One day, Choni saw a man planting a carob tree. Choni asked him, 'How many years will it take for this tree to bear fruit?' The man answered, 'Seventy years.' 'Foolish man,' said Choni, 'do you think that you will be alive to eat the fruit of this tree?' The man replied, 'I found carob trees in the world when I was born. As those before me planted for me, so I plant trees for my children.'

Choni sat down to eat and soon fell into a deep sleep. Leaves fell, covering Choni entirely, and he slept for seventy years. When he awoke, he was surprised to see a man picking fruit from that same carob tree. 'Are you the man who planted the tree?' Choni asked. 'No,' replied the man. 'My grandfather planted it for me.'"

I won't live to see the reforestation of the Galil. But it's my responsibility to help make it happen. Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibatel mimena, You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it." (Pirkei Avot/Verses [Ethics] of the Fathers, chapter 2, number 21.

As I was saying, tree here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sinat chinam during the Nine Days, of all times

Unbelievable. An anonymous commenter dug up this August 4, 2005 post of mine today, and you won't believe what s/he just posted.

Here's the comment, and my response. This is exactly the sort of thing that we should be avoiding, especially at this time of year.

Anonymous said...
Hi ..Cute title for your Blog..As some one who has Super indulged in everything from disco inferno to heavy clubing downtown,,, Unless you truly emerge yourself in a real authentic beautiful Orthodox lifestyle and really "try it on" ..You will remain sadly ignorant, defensive,clueless, quite bitter,unhappy and just stupid sounding .... sorry to give it you straight up ..Good luck with your Shtus.....
Thu Jul 27, 10:42:40 PM 2006

Shira Salamone said...
Anonymous, I have no problem with commenters disagreeing with me, but one of the few rules I have for my blog is that comments must be phrased in respectful language. Your comment is a prime candidate for deletion. I'm leaving it here to enable me to make a point or two.

For openers, "you catch more flies with honey," as the old saying goes--you would have had a greater chance of influencing me if you hadn't insulted me in public.

Speaking of public insults, allow me to quote from the ArtScroll's translation of Pirkei Avot (Verses of the Fathers), chapter 3, saying 15: "Rabbi Elazar the Moda'i said, 'One who . . . humiliates his fellow [chaver = friend?] in public . . . though he may have Torah and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come." I would think that a frummeh Yid like you would know that.

Third, your timing is quite interesting. Here we are, only days away from Tisha B'Av, commemorating the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, which, according to traditon, happened because of sinat chinam (baseless hatred) among Jews, and yet you feel perfectly free to humiliate another Jew in public. In case you're not acquainted with the story of Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza, please let me steer you to the Orthodox Union's telling thereof.

And by the way, thank you for forcing me to schlep out my Hebrew-English dictionary and look up the work "shtut"--"foolishness, silliness, nonsense." This is probably the Hebrew equivalent of the Yiddish word "narishkeiten." Kindly allow me to return the favor and teach *you* some new Hebrew words: "derech eretz" means "the way of the land," and is often used to mean "common courtesy;" kavod habriot" means "respect for creatures [including humans];" and "midot" means "attributes," and usually refers to traits of good character. I'll be happy to read your comments on my blog when they display any of the above.
Fri Jul 28, 12:35:46 AM 2006

On our son's excellent East Asian adventure—good luck trying to explain kashrut to the Japanese

Those who expressed their concern for our son's health after that stupid auto accident—yes, we have a lawyer on the case—will want to know that he's currently seeing a chiropractor. I’m happy to report that he’s getting to the chiro on his own, via subway.

In other news, our son said that the town in which he studied Japanese scientific and technical terminology for six weeks is extremely clean—there's no littering whatsoever, and storefronts and house exteriors are hosed down just about every day. It's also hot as bleep.

Food-wise, that particular town's cuisine includes lots of eggs, but no decent cheese (which is tough for a "milchig man" like our son, who practically lives on the stuff), and, unfortunately, not much as much fish as one might expect on an island, either—though a seaside town, that town is, evidently not on a sea that's good for fishing. And rice is grown everywhere where there's a good piece of land for it, even in between apartment buildings. The cultivation of rice necessitates daily care—my son wonders whether wheat farmers are considered relatively lazy, by comparison.

In between classes at the local university, our son did lots of touring and partying. So it I guess it was 95% work, 5% play.

Students attending the program spent time living with a host family, and were advised to bring gifts for the hosts that were, preferably, somewhat out of the ordinary. So our son showed up with a box of matzah! (How he managed to pack it well enough that it didn't arrive as matzah farfel, in pieces—or, as Elvis Presley would say, "all shook up"—is beyond me.) Our son said that it was easy enough explaining the rituals and food restrictions of Pesach/Passover. But explaining year-round kashrut took him half an hour. According to him, the Japanese don't observe any dietary restrictions that are not related to health. (They don't even diet, per se—it's just built into the culture that overeating is a disgrace, so it simply isn't done.) The assumption seems to be that the Japanese diet is restricted enough as it is, and consequently, the whole idea that anyone would voluntarily avoid eating any given food or combination of foods on a permanent basis is beyond their comprehension. Why would anyone avoid eating pork, when pork is a major part of the local diet? What's this business about not eating meat and dairy products together? Well, okay, if you don't want to boil a kid in its mother's milk, why can't you eat turkey and cheese together?

Our son said that keeping even a semblance of kashrut is very difficult in Japan. He's under the impression that people eat out all the time because restaurant meals are relatively cheap and because the cooking process for Japanese food is complex enough that it's too difficult and time-consuming to do too often at home. But a consequence of the complex cooking process is that food gets cooked in quantity almost exclusively. According to our son, restaurants simply don't cook to order—everything is cooked in large batches in advance, and served a certain way. You simply can't go into a restaurant and ask the waiter for a noodle dish without the usual slice of meat on the top. There's no "please put the dressing on the side" in Japan. Any particular dish is served in a standard manner, take it or leave it. And there's almost no such thing as uncooked cold food, other than junk food, in Japan. The sandwich is virtually non-existent. Can you live on salad alone?

If my husband and I ever get to Japan, we'll have to go the old-fashioned way—have tuna, will travel.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

David Bogner (Treppenwitz) blogs from the West Bank about the war, & I add my 2 cents

Trep has been providing thought-provoking commentary.

A whispered post (this one's a heartbreaker)

Handy To-Do List (how we can help)

A difficult lesson (frankly gruesome--is this truly the only way?)

A depressing epiphany (ever is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are cloudy all day)

I've said this before and I'll say it again, though it certainly won't endear me to Trep, Jameel, West Bank Mama, other settlers and/or their supporters in the Galut/Diaspora: Call me naive, but I've been saying for the past 30 years or so that Israel should have kept the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights as militarized buffer zones, rather than opening them up to settlement. It's bad enough being ruled by an army other than your own, but having one's home turf invaded by the enemies' homes is not going to be popular with the locals. That said, the various governments (Labor, Likud, etc.) that encouraged settlement having made, in my opinion, a serious and, now, literally life-threatening error in judgement, the settlers can hardly be blamed for having gone where their government encouraged them to go, and they certainly deserve protection. I hope that, in the long run, there be peace in the Land, gladness eternal for its inhabitants, as the prayer says. In the meantime, do what you have to do to survive. Israel is there for all of us.

For a different perspective, I strongly recommend that you write to David Shasha at and ask to be added to the mailing list for the Sephardic Heritage Update newsletter that he edits and e-mails. Mr. Shasha is coming from an angle that I haven't encountered elsewhere. If I understand correctly, he's of the opinion that the early Zionists, having done such a thorough job of demonizing the Arabs, forced Arab Jews to deny their heritage, and thus deprived the fledgling Jewish State of what might have been a wonderful resource for helping establish a State of Israel whose people, with centuries of experience, knew how to get along with their Arab neighbors.

The damage is done, on all sides. Israel has spent over 50 years creating what's, to a great extent (in my opinion), a pseudo-European state, and an Ashkenazi one, at that, in the middle of the Middle East, thoroughly downplaying and disrespecting the Arabic roots of a very large segment of Israel's Jewish population. The territories have been thoroughly settled. Israel has backed itself into a corner. Does it have any other choice, at this point, but to fight for its life?

Did I mention that I'm a Zionist? Did I mention that my nephew is in basic training in the Israel Defense Force, giving me good reason to bite my nails? Did I mention . . . yes, I did.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

You almost forgot WHAT?! On the hazards of davvening solo

Ashkenazim are nuts!

I should know. I’m 100% Ashkenazi myself, to the best of my knowledge.

We nutty Ashkenazim don’t eat kitniyot during Pesach/Passover. Sefardim do.

Unlike Sefardim, we Ashkenzim are also crazy enough to wear tefillin on Rosh Chodesh and Festivals.

Which means that we have to remember to remove our tefillin before Musaf, the Additional Service for Sabbaths, Festivals, and Rosh Chodesh.

I was so busy concentrating on remembering to remove my tefillin at the right time that, if I hadn’t been reading the “instructions” in the ArtScroll Siddur (prayer book) carefully, I would have forgotten to recite Hallel!

And I love Hallel!

Our local synagogue has weekday morning services only on Sundays (to accommodate the late sleepers, but Sunday is my only day to sleep in) and on the Torah-reading days, Mondays and Thursdays. So, today, I was in the same boat as many Orthodox women who davven (pray) alone almost all the time: I had no one else from whom to get a clue. I’ve encountered this phenomenon before—one of my Orthodox co-workers, a single woman, has accidentally forgotten Rosh Chodesh twice in the last six months. Think about it—if you don’t go to synagogue, don’t live with Mom and Dad anymore, and don’t have a husband, who’s going to remind you?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Out of Step Jew in Kfar Saba has come out of "retirement," temporarily—to blog about the war, unfortunately

OOSJ is writing about parents with children in the IDF/Israel Defense Force (Tzava haganah l’Yisrael/Tzahal), military strategy, etc. Let's hope that the next time he reopens his blog, it'll be for simchas.

P.S. While you're over there, I strongly recommend that you print out this article to which OOSJ links, under the "English library" category on his sidebar, and read it on Shabbat (Sabbath): H. Soloveitchik: Rupture & Reconstruction.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The J-Blogosphere Blog is providing information and links to information re the war in Israel—here’s a list of rallies for Israel, etc.

Keep an eye on the J-Blogosphere Blog—it's become something of a central clearing house.


Want to Help English Speaking IDF Soldiers?

I posted this link before, but it's well worth another mention—Here’s a list of blogs and websites to go to for the latest updates and/or commentary, plus some suggestions, often from Israel itself:
Live-Blogging the War & What We Can Do

Message to those lobbing Qassams and Katyushas at Israel: A little peace wouldn't kill you.

Speaking of patrols, score one for the Tznuit Squad, perhaps?

Once upon a time, women’s fashion was much more rigid and dictatorial than it is now. In the bad old days, we women wore the designated skirt length of the year, or else, lest we stand out like sore thumbs from four blocks away. Even at Lincoln Square Synagogue, an Orthodox shul, where I used to “shul-hop” occasionally when I lived in Manhattan in the 1970’s, the women didn’t dare wear skirts longer than halfway down the knee during the previous round of the mini-skirt’s popularity, less their modesty make them blatantly conspicuous, as long-skirted Orthodox women from certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn were, at the time.

I was no different from the rest. There were even some skirts in my wardrobe that I designated “too short for shul” and tried, as much as possible, to avoid wearing to synagogue.

Times have changed. Women’s fashion is far more flexible at the moment. (I hope it stays that way.) A woman can now wear skirts ranging in length from a “bandaid” so short that it barely covers her butt—not even when I was in my twenties did I ever wear anything that short!—to a “sidewalk sweeper,” and no one will bat an eye.

And I’ve changed. For openers, I’m considerably older than I was during the previous era of the mini-skirt’s popularity. I’m also considerably more zaftig. In plain English, that means that I’m no longer thin enough to “have the legs” for wearing mini-skirts.

For closers, I’m also less comfortable with the whole idea of mini-skirts. Does that make me a hypocrite, since I wore mini-skirts myself when I was younger and still had the figure for them? Maybe.

What I can say for certain is that, over the course of the last couple of years or so, I’ve become increasing uncomfortable with the idea of trooping around in really short clothing. And that includes shorts.

How convenient that capri pants (formerly known as pedal pushers) and crop(ped) pants have become so popular this year. I’d been planning to tell friends at a barbecue two weeks ago that I’d simply concluded that no one wanted to see a 57-year-old woman’s knobby knees, but realized that it wasn’t necessary for me to explain why I was wearing my pants folded up to just below the knees when I noticed that half my old buddies were wearing pants of roughly the same length.

It’s now been over two weeks since I received the crop pants that I ordered and stopped wearing shorts. Thus far, I’ve managed to wear pants rolled up to just below the knee even on a couple of scorching-hot days of over 95 degrees Fahrenheit/35 degrees Celsius. Fortunately, my own neighborhood has not suffered any of the power outages typical of New York City in the summer—yet. Whether I’d be able to maintain my current experiment in tznuit (modesty) if it were 95 degrees inside, I don’t know. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Send out the Idiot Patrol and have me arrested :)

My apologies to the Orthodox Union. I was so annoyed that, no matter how high I turned up the volume on the speakers, we didn’t seem to be able to hear this Special Report: Israel in Crisis.

It wasn’t until I went to turn off the computer for the night and noticed the wiring configuration that I realized what the problem had been.

Um, Shira?


If you intend to listen to anything through your computer speakers, it will really help if you made sure to unplug the headphone jack. You do realize that what you were hearing was the sound of the webcast through the headphones that were lying on your computer desk, don’t you?


[Insert roll-eyes emoticon here.]

Oops, spoken too soon: Drew Kaplan is back, at least on a limited basis, after a very brief blogging break

Having previously report that Drew was closing up shop, I hope that he worked out the balance between sparing his eyes and blogging.

Here's his blog, still up and running.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Not the reason for which I would have preferred to participate in a Tehillim group for the first time

One of the women in my office sent an e-mail to every female Jewish employee she could think of in our office, urging us to get together at 2 every day to say tehillim (psalms) for the captured soldiers and for the people of Israel. She's serving as our tehillim leader. Unlike the leader of a (men's) minyan, she just pulls up a chair by a table in the middle of the group, has a seat, and reads one psalm after another. It's a very quiet group, compared to a bunch of guys shuckling away and davvening at the tops of their lungs. The women who know what they're doing just whisper the tehillim along with her. The rest of us manage with the translations. I'm mostly following the Hebrew in the English (meaning that I know where she's reading, most of the time, but I can't read quickly enough in Hebrew to join in, most of the time.) It's certainly a different way of davvening than going to morning minyan. I just wish I weren't praying for people's lives.

Here, again, are the names of the captured chayalim, soldiers, of Tzahal (Tzava Haganah L'Yisrael), the Israel Defense Force (IDF).

Gilad ben Aviva Shalit
Ehud ben Malka Goldwasser
Eldad ben Tovah Regev

And here are the names of the children critically injured in the bombing of Tzfat (Safed), thanks to the Orthodox Union.

Michal bat Revital
Bat-Tzion bat Revital
Avraham Natan ben Revital
Odel Hannah bat Revital

And since the women who know what they're doing tell me that this prayer isn't reserved for weekday Torah services only, as I had thought, I'll post it, as it's just about the most appropriate prayer I've seen:

Acheinu kol beit Yisrael, ha-n'tunim b'tzarah u-v'shivyah, ha-omdim bein ba-yam u-vein ba-yabashah, haMakom y'rachem aleihem, v'yotziyeim mi-tzarah li-r'vachah, u-mei-afeilah l'orah, u-mi-shibud li-r'gulah, ha-sh'ta ba-agalah u-vi-z'man kariv, v-nomar, amen.

(From a translation given to me by a sister employee, copied, she said, from the OU website:)

"If any of our fellow Jews are in jeopardy or are entrapped, whether overseas or at home, may the Almighty take pity on them and deliver them from trouble to relief, from gloom to bright light, and from tyranny to freedom, urgently, swiftly, and very soon, and let us say, amen."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

“Baked Apple:” Yet another reason why this literal hot-head will probably never choose to cover her head at all times

It’s so hot you could cook on the sidewalk here
New York, the Big Apple, is baking, I fear

Remember how your mom always told you to wear a hat in the winter because you lose most of your body heat through your head? Well, that’s equally true in the summer.

Orthomom has kindly provided us with Heat Wave Tips:

“Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, headache, weak pulse, dizziness, exhaustion, fainting, nausea or vomiting, and cold, clammy skin. Body temperature will seem normal.” [Bolding added by yours truly.]

Yep, that’s me. As I’ve told my husband many times, he married a dizzy dame. :)

It’s not enough for me to be in an air conditioned location. I really do feel noticeably cooler when I take off my baseball cap.

A question for those of my female Orthodox Jewish readers who follow the tradition of covering the head after marriage: How do you manage in 98 degree Fahrenheit/36.67 degree Celsius weather, especially those of you who wear sheitlach/wigs? Seriously. Inquiring minds want to know.

Quick update on matters parental

Our son's doctor has prescribed physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. The fun part, of course, will be squeezing the driver responsible for our son’s injury for the money. Our son’s doctor has already recommended a lawyer.

Quick update on matters Jewish

So many posts, so little time—it’s amazing how much more time I spend in front of the idiot box when my son is home watching interesting television shows.

Last Tuesday night, I had the somewhat unexpected experience of going to a concert of three female singers in an Orthodox synagogue—with my husband. (By way of clarification, I suggest that you look here, just because this is the most recent post in which I’ve discussed the issue, for an explanation of kol isha.)

Quick tidbit, just about literally: I’m happy to say that I actually remembered to scarf down two new fruits and one new vegetable of the season, with the shehecheyanu blessing, literally within the last 1 ½ before sundown on the eve of the 17th of Tammuz last Wednesday. Last year, I forgot to sneak the new fruits and vegies in before the Three Weeks (of semi-mourning leading up to the fast of Tisha B’Av), when it’s traditional not to say a shehecheyanu blessing over new things, and ended up postponing eating them for three weeks.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Matir asurim

Tradition tells us that HaShem is "matir asurim," the One who sets the captives free/loosens the bound/releases the confined (depending on your translation). But He's subcontracted the job to us human beings.

"Eleh sh'mot . . . , these are the names . . ."--These are the soldiers of the Israel Defense Force (IDF, or Tzava Haganah L'Yisrael, Tzahal) currently being held captive:

Gilad ben Aviva Shalit

Ehud ben Malka Goldwasser

Eldad ben Tovah Regev

Please add these names to your prayers and/or keep them in your thoughts.

(I probably got these names from Jameel, but, at this point, what with jumping from one live blogger to another, I'm not sure. Thanks to all of those who are keeping us apprised of the situation.)

A number of psalms have been recommended on various websites and in various newspapers as being appropriate to recite under these frightening circumstances. I've chosen one that's relatively short and easy, since I have limited Hebrew skills: Psalm 70. "3 Let them be ashamed and abashed that seek after my soul; let them be turned backward and brought to confusion that delight in my hurt."

A little non-crisis post: Here’s one of the last posts that Drew Kaplan published before closing up shop

It concerns the meaning of the word hevel, as in havel havalim.

Best of luck, Drew, be it in rabbinical school, in your future congregations, and/or in life in general.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

In more personal news, our son went (link>all the way to Japan and back (link) safely—and was involved in a collision 10 blocks from home

Some idiotic so-called driver rear-ended the taxi that was bringing him home from the airport while the cab was standing still at a stoplight.

Rewind 23 years.

Only a few days after our son was born, my sister was on the way to the airport for a business trip when the taxi in which she was riding was involved in an accident. She took the cabbie’s name and information, and went her merry way. It wasn’t until a few days later that she realized that she had, in fact, been seriously hurt—whiplash and back injury—and that the information given by the taxi driver had been false and worthless, meaning that she’d never be able to collect a dime from him and/or his insurance company.

In the interim, she went through several jobs, none of which seemed to work out, and even earned a second master’s degree in an attempt to jump-start a new career. It was in the course of earning that degree that she was finally forced to face the fact that she could no longer keep up the pace of a normal life, and hadn’t been able to do so since her accident. She’d never truly recovered from her injuries, and had, in fact, been permanently disabled. She hasn’t held a paying joy in more years than I can remember, has been getting by on income from investments made years ago, and is now applying to the Social Security Administration for disability payments.

Fast-forward to the present. Given that family history, you can imagine why we didn’t even bother stopping off at home to drop off our son’s luggage—when we picked him up at the accident site (in his own car, of which we’ve had “custody” since he left for Japan), we got whatever information we needed from the police who were on the scene, and then took our son straight to the nearest Emergency Room. Hubby went home, unloaded the car, packed some sandwiches, books, etc., and met me back at the hospital. The last time I saw my son, he was stretched out on a hospital gurney in the Emergency Room with a brace on his neck, asking for his iPod. “No book?” “No, I can’t read in this position anyway.” Oy.

So here I am, having been shipped home to do the unpacking, wondering what happened to that old Yiddish phrase, “Kleine kinder, kleine tzures; groisse kinder, groisse tzures, small children, small worries; big children, big worries.” We seem to have missed the first part. For most of his childhood and youth, our son and we dealt with his learning and social-skills-development delays. Then, just when he thought he was out of the woods, the other shoe dropped—by the time he was 22, he’d developed kidney stones and Crohn’s Disease (for which he takes the prescription medicine Asacol, at $220.95 per month—not covered by insurance, naturally :( ). And now, there’s this to worry about.

Okay, Shira, take a deep breath. Even your son is complaining that’s he’s been told he has a negative attitude—and says he learned it from you. Didn’t you promise that you were going to try to become more of a “sunny-sider?”

Repeat three times:

Our son walked away from the collision.

Our son walked away from the collision.

Our son walked away from the collision.

That’s better. Now get some sleep, before Daddy-O calls from the hospital waiting room and asks you to walk over and relieve him of duty.

If you have some time between listening to Aussie Dave’s live podcast from Israel, along with reading some of the other live blogging about the war in Israel that I mentioned in my previous post—assuming that you’re not one of the people under fire, heaven help you—please stop by now and then. I could use some cybernetic hand-holding.

Update, 5:43 AM
Our son just walked in the door, without a neck brace. The hospital didn't find any injury, and sent him home with nothing but pain medication and instructions to call back if he experiences numbness or tingling. So far, so good, thank heaven. I guess we'll have to take a wait-and-see attitude over the next few days.

As of a few minutes ago, I am now the proud possessor of a brand-new hand-held fan and a set of beautifully-decorated Japanese chopsticks. :)

"Mi-tzafon tipatach haraah al kol yoshvei haaretz"

On Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve/Friday Night), I was practicing yesterday's haftarah (Haftarat Mattot, Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah, chapter 1, verse 1-chapter 2, verse 3) when I chanted the words in the title of this post--and stopped dead in my tracks. Even with my limited Hebrew, this was what I understood: "From the north will open the evil on all the inhabitants of the land." Here's an official translation, from the Hertz Chumash from which I was practicing: "Out of the north the evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land."

Our tradition reaches out across the centuries--and gives us the words to express what's happening and how we're feeling.

The "matzav" has become a milchamah--the "situation" is now a war.

All morning in synagogue, the words kept jumping off the page.

"Yizk'rém Elokénu l'tovah, im sh'ar tzadiké olam, v'yinkom l'énénu nikmat dam avadav hashafuch," May our G-d remember them for good with the other righteous of the world, and may He, before our eyes, exact retribution for the spilled blood of his servants . . . "

"Shomer HaShem et kol ohavav, v'ét kol ha-r'shaim yashmid, G-d protects all who love him, but all the wicked He will destroy." (Ashré, Psalm 145, verse 20).

"HaShem oz l'amo yitén, HaShem y'voréch et amo va-shalom, G-d will give might to his people, G-d will bless his people with peace." (Psalm 29, last verse)

Thanks to Ezzie's latest round-up for this link to Life-of-Rubin's post, Important Links for the Latest in What's Happening in Israel. I strong recommend that you check them out.

When I chanted the haftarah this morning, I made it a point to chant these final words with strong feeling: "Kol ochlav yeshamu, raah tavo aléchem, n'um HaShem, All who devour him (Israel) will be held guilty, evil will come upon them, says HaShem." (Jeremiah, chapter 2, verse 3)

In accordance with tradition, I'll end on a positive note, which also struck me this morning: V'tov b'énecha l'varéch et amcha Yisraél b'chol ét u-v'chol shaah bi-sh'lomecha. Baruch . . . ha-m'varéch et amo Yisraél ba-shalom, And may it be good in your eyes to bless your people Israel, in every season and in every hour with Your peace. Praised (is the One) Who blesses his people with peace.

Bi-m'héra v-yaménu--speedily and in our day.

Update: Ezzie e-mailed a number of bloggers a request for publication of this link that he posted at the J-Blogosphere blog--Live-Blogging the War & What We Can Do

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Just a spoonful of music helps the paperwork go down" :) -- Check out the Rockin' Docs (M.D. & Ph.D.) and the Beat Boychik!!!

When confronted with a two-inch-high stack of papers to alphabetize, there's nothin' like sticking an earbud in one ear--gotta leave one ear free, at the office, to hear the phone ring--and listening to some mentschen from Milwaukee playing music like a bunch of meshugaim. :)

Hear here!

"Kabbalah Live(s)"

"That Piamenta Song"

"...former Shlock Rock member..."

"Original Tunes"

"Moshe B. Goode"

Not to mention see here!

And, if all else fails and none of the YouTube videos are working on either of these websites, you go, guys! (Todah raba, raba, many, many thanks to Mark/PsychoToddler for sending me this link, 'cause without it, I wouldn't have a clue how to get there from here.)

(Er, listen fast, folks--the Three Weeks/Drei Wochen/Shalosh HaShavuot start tomorrow night at sundown. Not to worry--everything will still be there the day after the fast of Tisha B'Av.)

Just call 'em Bam, Bam, Thumper, and Wild Man Mendel.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The quote-hunter strikes (it rich) again: Korach and Chukkat-Balak edition

I’m sitting in synagogue at Ansche Chesed last Sabbath (Shabbat Korach) when I hear this one: Ki lo yitosh HaShem et amo baavur sh’mo hagadol, ki hoil HaShem laasot etchem lo l’am, For HaShem will not forsake His people for the sake of His great name, because it has pleased HaShem to make you for a people unto Him (translation from the Hertz Chumash, with some tweeking). (Haftarat Korach, Shmuel Aleph/ Samuel One, , chapter 12, verse 22.) Given Siddur Sim Shalom’s (dis)organization (grumble, grumble, kvetch and mumble), it takes me 10 minutes of hunting (or half the rabbi’s sermon, poor man) to locate the quote in said prayer book. This is, of course, partly because I start by looking at what I call “the usual suspect” :), namely, “U’va l’Tzion goel/V’Atah kodosh, yoshev t’hillot Yisrael.” Wrong. Okay, second usual suspect in the category “collection of random quotes in which one is most likely to find a random quote,” namely, "Baruch HaShem l’olam, amen v’amen.” Bingo! Finally found it in the Siddur Sim Shalom prayer book (1985 edition) on page 206. (In the Artscroll Siddur Kol Yaakov, Nusach Ashkenaz, it’s on page 264; and in the Birnbaum HaSiddur HaShalem, it’s on page 197.)

I apologize to those of my readers who either don’t read Hebrew and/or can’t make head nor tail of Hebrew that's transliterated, that is, written using English letters. Sometime, there’s just no clear way to transliterate that makes it obvious how a word is supposed to be pronounced. By way of attempted clarification, “baavur” sounds like “bah-ah-vure” (rhymes with “sure”), and “hoil” sounds like “hoe-eel.” (How one can hoe an eel is beyond me. And why would anyone want to, since eels are treif/non-kosher? Um, never mind. :) )

This week was considerably trickier, given that, since the West Side Minyan reads in accordance with the triennial cycle, I mostly ignore the leining/chanting and just read the whole parsha/weekly portion of the Bible in English. But here’s something relatively new in my life—I now speak Hebrew just barely well enough that sometimes I can spot a phrase that I know in Hebrew from seeing and/or hearing it in English! “A star out of Jacob.” ??? (Parshat Balak, Numbers, chapter 24, verse 17.) "Darach kochav miYaakov, There will step forward a star from Jacob.” You can see it in the Artscroll Siddur Kol Yaakov, Nusach Ashkenaz, on page 624. You can read about it in my Tuesday, February 21, 2006 post, “Holier than thou? How I ruined my own Shabbos, for which, unfortunately, the link is no longer working (and the comments are no longer accessible). But the best thing to do with this quote is to listen to it here (have patience--this quote is toward the end).

Much better known is this quote, from earlier in Parshat Balak, Numbers, chapter 24, verse 5: Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishk’notecha, Yisrael, How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your dwellings, Israel.” This is one of the few quotes, if not the only one, that is now used in Jewish liturgy (being what a persons says when entering a synagogue) despite having originally been spoken by a pagan prophet.

Last, but not least, is this goody from the end of Haftarat Balak, Micah, chapter 6, verse 8: “Higid l’cha, adam, mah tov u-mah Hashem dorésh, kiy im asot mishpat, v’ahavat chesed, v’hatzéah lechet im Elokecha, It has been told to you, human, what is good and what Hashem requires of you, that is, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your G-d.”

Here are the previous posts in my “quote-hunter" series (which wasn't originally planned as a series, but seems to have ended up as one, just because it's a recurring theme of mine--I get a kick out of quote-hunting, as you will gather, if you haven't already):

Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech: Choosing Judaism in Torah times, the joys of quote-hunting, and more

See the post at the top of the screeen in my September 2004 archive, my Monday, September 27, 2004 “The Yamim Noraim/High Holidays: Concerning quotes, cantors, qualms, and kavannah”—not for love or money can I get the hyperlink to this post itself to work, nor are the comments accessible anymore.

"The quote-hunter finds another one"

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly—High-Holiday-Season Highlights, part 1: Elul forshbeis (appetizer), aka “prep time” "

"High-Holiday-Season Highlights, part 5: A singer learns the other half of it, literally"

"High-Holiday-Season Highlights, part 6: “ . . . v’hayita ach saméach, & you will be altogether joyful"

Friday, July 07, 2006

Reflections, after the fact, on raising a child with disabilities: In the long run, we were lucky--some kids don't make it

Every now and then, if our timing is right, we still see a woman who lives across the street put her daughter on the school bus in the morning.

The only problem is, it isn't a school bus anymore.

Her daughter went to the same special ed. school as our son.

But our son was in the college-bound track.

Her daughter was in the sheltered-workshop track.

Our son has completed the fourth year of a five-year physics major, with a minor in Japanese. We expect him to go for at least a master's degree, possibly a doctorate.

Her daughter will probably never have much of an income other than S.S.I., a monthly payment from a U.S. federal government funding program for people who are permanently disabled.

Some parents know from the beginning, or close to it, that their child has a problem. Some figure it out as they go along, with and/or without outside help. Some just pretend that nothing's wrong.

Then there are the "timebombs." We know a few of those. Our son was fortunate enough to outgrow and/or learn to compensate for his problems as he entered his mid-teens. In some cases, however, problems that are not that apparent when children are younger become glaring challenges to the possibility of leading a normal life as a child ages and/or enters adulthood. (Executive function problems made it so difficult for one young person of our acquaintance to organize himself well enough to get his schoolwork done, once he was away from home and had no one keeping him on track, that he had to be pulled out of college after his first semester. He is now serving in the military.) In other cases, there's no indication whatsoever of the existence of a disability until it suddenly manifests itself in an individual's early adulthood and wrecks what had been a perfectly normal life. (I understand that paranoid schizophrenia frequently manifests itself for the first time when one is in one's twenties. She was going to be an astrophysicist. At this point, it appears unlikely that she'll ever even be able to return to college.)

I must also caution you that just because your first child is "normal" doesn't necessarily mean that subsequent children will be so fortunate. Conversely, just because your first child has a disability does not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that none of your subsequent children will have a disability. I cannot tell you how many families I've heard about who have multiple children with disabilities. (Two children, members of the same family, with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder; two children with Down's Syndrome; a family of five children of whom the first three were born profoundly deaf; two children with severe mobility challenges.) When our son was young, we were (or mostly I was) nagged to death to have another child. "Oh, the second one will be fine." "Oh, yeah? Says who? And if she isn't fine, are you going to take care of her?"

When our son was young and giving us enough trouble to turn my husband's hair gray and make me want to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, I never dreamed that a day would come when we would consider ourselves to be among the lucky ones. Our son "made it." Other people's children did not.

I don't know what's going to happen to my girlfriend's daughter, in the long run. As the slogan goes, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." But it's hard not to, when the meds sometimes make it difficult even to read, much less study astrophysics.

As for the mother of the military man, well, as the old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for." Years ago, when my kid was still impossible and her son and daughter were perfect angels who were doing very well in school, I used to say to mutual friends of ours whose kids had assorted learning disabilities that it would serve her right to have one of her kids turn out to be disabled just so she would know what the rest of us were going through and stop being so obnoxiously smug. For years, I avoided talking to her about our sons as much as possible because I didn't want her shoving her son's perfection down my throat. Now, I avoid it for the exact opposite reason--my son's majoring in physics, whereas hers nearly flunked out of college after his first semester.

And I don't know what to say to the woman across the street anymore.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Park your ego at the door: Links to my series “On raising a child with disabilities”

For a long time now, I’ve been thinking about setting up permanent links in my sidebar to enable easy access to what I think of as my “Public Service Posts.” Todah rabah rabah, many, many thanks to Sheyna Galyan, who helped me create my blogroll, for providing even more help to enable me to complete this project.

And now, without further ado . . .

[Er, um, with further ado--my attempt to add the link to this post to my sidebar resulted in the deletion of my entire sidebar! Let's just say that my blog will be undergoing further construction within the next few days. Apparently, I'm still at least partially a Reconstructionist Jew. :)]
Tuesday, July 4, 2006, 10:33 PM update:
Thanks to Sheyna, who was kind enough to send me back my entire template, edited and corrected, with advice to save it in Notepad, not Word, my sidebar finally looks the way I want it to look. You go, gal!!!
September 12, 2008 update: Here's the latest link to the other series to which I referred. Z and I were pretty much trading posts at the time.
Park your ego at the door: On raising a child with disabilities

On raising a child with disabilites, part 2: Dyssemia, or “my son, the ‘space’ invader”

On raising a child with disabilites, part 3: Oppositional Defiant Disorder—it’s not just for teenagers

On raising a child with disabilites, part 4: Pragmatic Language Deficit—the literal inability to know what to say when

On raising a child with disabilities, part 5: Deaf and *dumb*?!!!—concerning hearing loss of various degrees

On raising a child with disabilities, part 6: A problem with special education—concerning the concept of the “least restrictive environment

On raising a child with disabilities, part 7: A problem with special education—concerning an “appropriate" education

On raising a child with disabilities, part 8: A problem with special education—in which I break a taboo & discuss the economies of scale

On raising a child with disabilities, part 9: Concerning intolerance, or how to make a difficult situation even more so

On raising a child with disabilities, part 10: In which I say that it could have been worse, and dedicate this series


Book review (plus my usual 2 cents): Equality Lost, by Rabbi Yehuda Henkin

(Thanks to Dilbert for recommending this book.)

Equality Lost: Essays in Torah Commentary, Halacha, and Jewish Thought, by Rabbi Yehuda Henkin, is a good news/bad news book.

Good news: Chava/Eve ate from the tree because Adam showed her zilzul, disrespect, by not telling her its name, as G-d had told him, whereas the serpent did tell her the tree's name ("the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.") "Man and woman were created equal, but from the first he related to her as an inferior; by doing so he caused her to stumble and the result was that she caused him to stumble." (Page 19.) For once, we women don't get blamed.

Good news: According to Rabbi Henkin, halachah (Jewish religious law) allows a woman to say kaddish and birkat hagomel (a blessing thanking Hashem when one survives a dangerous situation) from the women's section in the presence of a minyan.

Good news: Women may read Megillat Esther (the Scroll [of the Book of] Esther) for other women.

Bad news: Women may not read Megillat Esther, Torah, or Birkat haMazon (Grace After Meals) for men. Reasons? (1) Kol ishah (the prohibition against a man hearing a woman sing, because a woman's singing voice is the functional equivalent of her nakedness). (2) Zila beho milta , it is dishonorable for (a woman to help) the many (fulfill their obligation—there are some opinions that a woman may not read even for other women). (3) And/or it's "dishonorable for men to have women enable them to fulfill their obligation." (Kavod hatzibbur, round 4,568. Sigh.)

I just love statements such as this one (quoth she sarcastically): "women are equally obligated, but nevertheless may not read for men." (Page 57) On the one hand, halachah forbids a person from fulfilling another person's obligation unless both persons are equally obligated. Women, by rabbinic tradition, are exempt from most time-bound commandments, such as praying all services at fixed times. Therefore, a woman may not lead a religious service if a man is present, since a man is obligated to pray all religious services at fixed times and a woman is not, and, therefore, her obligation is not equal to his. However, in the case of reading the Megillat Esther and/or leading Birkat HaMazon, a woman is equally obligated, but is still forbidden to read or lead when men are present. "It is dishonorable?" Find me a good reason!

And then there's Rabbi Henkin's discussion of kol isha (the prohibition against a man hearing a woman sing, because a woman's singing voice is the functional equivalent of her nakedness). Here, I must apologize in advance to my Orthodox readers for, in all likelihood, causing offense: It's at times like this that I have an even more serious problem with the concept of Torah sheh-b'al peh, the Oral Law, than I usually have. Please correct me if I'm wrong: My understanding is that rabbinical interpretations of Jewish law were handed down orally by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai, along with the Torah sheh-bi-ch'tav, the Written Law (specifically, the Chamesh Chumshei Torah/"Five Books of Moses" [Genesis through Deuteronomy]). Exactly how literally is one to take this idea? Here, Rav Sheshet and Rav Shmuel combine their artillery to say that "in the same way that gazing at a woman's little finger is tantamount to gazing at her private parts [Rav Sheshet], so too, is attentively listening to her voice [Rav Shmuel]." (Page 68) I'm sorry that I can't find a less offensive way to say this, but my first reaction to this logic is that "the Emperor has no clothes." To me, the whole notion that a woman's pinky is as erotic as her erogenous zones is patently absurd, and I cannot for the life of me comprehend why on earth half the Jewish people should be forbidden to listen to the other half sing (which, in practice, means that half the community is forbidden to sing in the presence of the other half) based on such a blatantly ridiculous idea. My pinky is too sexy to be seen, therefore, I must metaphorically tape my mouth shut in the presence of men??!!!!!! My second reaction is that Rav Sheshet is, apparently, of the opinion that a woman is nothing but a walking erogenous zone, her entire body, right down to her pinky, "a sin waiting to happen," in the words of a sister blogger. Excuse me, but I am under the distinct impression that woman are full-fledged human beings with brains and hearts in addition to sex organs. Just how many insults are we women expected to shut up for and put up with in the name of Torah miSinai? Thank goodness that there's a wide range of opinions about kol isha within the Orthodox community.

Related news, or Rabbi Henkin comes to the right conclusion for the wrong reason:
According to the Talmud, men are supposed to limit their conversation with women, for fear that too much contact with women will lead them to have sexual thoughts. Some rabbis of old ignored this prohibition because they felt that they were able to control themselves and/or didn’t have such thoughts, but the rabbis tend not to trust an individual male who claims to be just as pure-minded as the sages of old. However, since it’s become so common for everyone to mingle, community standards have made the mingling of the sexes acceptable, Rabbi Henkin posits.

Again, I have a problem with the fundamental premise, and so does my husband. We’ve discussed this, and both of us are of the same opinion: Based on our own personal experience, the more interaction one has with a person of the opposite sex—obviously, I’m not speaking of yichud (two persons of the opposite sex not married to one another being alone in a room together), but, rather, of such innocent interactions as might take place at a Chanukah party or barbeque—the more one gets to know that person as a whole human being, and consequently, the less one has exclusively sexual thoughts about that person. The “forbidden-fruit” problem is the issue, here: Put something—or someone—out of a person’s reach, and he or she becomes all the more desirable. Once, I was so distracted by a really cute guy that I had difficulty davvening (praying). I cured myself by talking to him at kiddush. Once he became a person with a name and something interesting to say, he was no longer simply a sex object. I haven’t had that problem with him since.

Reactions may differ by individual and/or by age and/or by sex—I can think of a couple of male bloggers who’ve written that they benefited from going to single-sex high schools. My own personal opinion remains that, certainly for adults, the more the sexes are separated, the more they are depersonalized, or, rather “de-person-alized,” and, thereby, turned into sexual objects. When a member of the opposite sex is known to you exclusively, or almost exclusively as, literally, a body on the opposite side of the mechitza (which may be the case in those communities in which males cross the street to avoid females, and vice versa), how could it be otherwise?

Good news: Rabbi Henkin condemns the practice of, on the one hand, serving glatt kosher food at a simcha (happy occasion), but, on the other hand, spending so much on the simcha that half the money should have been donated to charity instead. He’s not a great believer in conspicuous consumption.

Bad news, from a non-Orthodox Jew's perspective: Rav Henkin is opposed to the conversion of children being raised in non-Orthodox homes.

Mixed feelings about this one: Yes, on the one hand, it's important to be careful what tunes one picks when leading prayer, so that the tune reflects the words. (No, one shouldn't be singing, "Who will live or die, tra la la." And too many repetitions of the same word or words can drive me nuts! But no repetitions of a word, ever?!

Bottom line: Read the book, if only to read Rabbi Henkin's explanation of the difference between p'shat and drash.


An open letter to Fern Sidman

Apparently, I'm not the only one to have attracted such a loquacious visitor as you.

I see that you've also done some hanging out at Joe Settler's, lately.

On a hunch, I copied your comment into Word.

It was . . .

are you sitting down?


(I didn't fiddle with anything--when I pasted the copy, it formatted itself automatically in size 10 Verdana font, in case anyone's wondering.)

So I went back to my own blog and copied just the part of your comment that I re-posted here.
And it was . . .

Yup, you guessed it . . .

Five pages long (in size 12 Georgia font).

Fern, please do all of us a favor: If you have that much to say that you're posting the functional equivalent of a post every time you comment, kindly have the courtesy to start your own blog!!!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

V’lo raiti tzadik neh-eh-zav (?), and I have not seen a righteous person forsaken (?)—a Jew living hand-to-mouth speaks out

Naar hayati, gam zakanti, v’lo raiti tzadik neh-eh-zav, v’zar’o m’vakesh lachem, A youth I was, also I have aged, and I have not seen a righteous person forsaken, and his children [literally, seed] seeking bread.” (Psalm 37, verse 25) We say this at the end of Birkat haMazon, Grace After Meals, and I’ve never been comfortable with it.

Here’s what Barefoot Jewess had to say, after quitting a job in which she was treated so inhumanely that she landed in the hospital suffering from dehydration:

“ . . . I was and continue to be one of the working poor. Working poor are people who barely make enough to live on, get no benefits, and live hand to mouth.

Very few people with Jblogs know what it means to be really poor, grindingly poor, even though you have a job, and to be counting every cent, all the while knowing that this poverty may never end- that the future holds more of the same, and that "upward mobility" began sliding downhill when you got divorced and older, with distant friends, and no immediate family.

. . .

When you are poor people treat you as if you are stupid. . . . No matter how learned or educated or wise you are. They treat you as if you can't possibly know much, or have an opinion that matters. . . .they rarely ask you what it is you need or know or have to say or what your story is. When you are poor people treat you . . . every which way but humanly. . . . People assume things about you because you have no money, and it's never anything other than embarrassing. . . To be poor is to be powerless. To be poor is to have your experience, your life, and your person denied, diminished and dismissed. Yes, Virginia, amidst so much abundance, life can be that harsh- and privation is a reality, especially in the way others deprive you of your dignity. . . ”

And then she tells us that she volunteers at a homeless shelter every few months, and loves it.

Read the rest here, and, if you’re fortunate enough to have medical insurance, be grateful.

Between a (Qassam) rock(et) and a (political) hard place, part 2

Reshuffling my CDs, I put my "Best of Moshav Band, " to which I hadn't listened for a good while, into my CD player while I was writing checks before Shabbat. And this is what I heard. It's as if they read my mind, and heard me arguing with myself.

On the one hand . . .

STOP (by Yehudah Solomon, Duvid Swirsky, Meir Solomon)

"Well have you heard the news today
about the boy who was killed?
He was caught in the crossfire
I heard them say that it won't pass quietly
but today, they were back on the streets with guns in their hands

Will it never stop, will it never stop,
will it ever end
Will it never stop, will it never stop,
will it ever end

And did you see the mother's eyes
with the tears coming down for the baby in the ground
Nine A.M. on CNN
and tomorrow on the streets again

Will it never stop, will it never stop,
will it ever end
Will it never stop, will it never stop,
will it ever end

Lay down your arms
You can lay them down,
you can lay them down

Lay down your arms

So can you see the blood in my eyes
Or do we all look the same when we all look the other way
Tell me how, will it ever end
Blood on the streets again

Will it never stop, will it ever stop,
will it ever end
Will it ever stop, will it ever stop, will it ever end

Will it ever stop"

On the other hand . . .

HEART IS OPEN (by Yehudah Solomon, Duvid Swirsky, Meir Solomon)

"Break me down to the end
Push me past the border
And who is there to blame
In the end it's all the same
We will return
It's a game
We know the rules and break them
Time and time again
You pretend to be my friend
But you're just pretending

But I keep holding on to
These dreams I can't let go of
And I know in time
I'll get what's mine
If my heart is open

Shining like the stars
These scars
Spread across the night sky
For everyone to see
But it's only you and me
And we have not changed
We're the same
Still fighting windmills
And the wind is blowing hard
And it's tearing us apart
And it leaves us hanging

But I keep holding on to
These dreams I can't let go of
And I know in time
I'll get what's mine
If my heart is open

Hope my heart is open
And my mind is free at last
And I come to you
With grace, face to face
And we've seen enough to finally understand

That a change will come
From somewhere deep within us
And a lion will roar
And it won't matter anymore
As we go walking through the door
When our hearts are open

But I keep holding on to
These dreams I can't let go of
And I know in time
I'll get what's mine
If my heart is open"

" . . . I keep holding on to
These dreams I can't let go of"

Ever since Gaza and the West Bank came into Israeli hands, I've prayed for the day when Israel could trade a piece of land for a land at peace. I've always believed in a two-state solution. Yet now, after trading a piece of land, Israel is at war again. I'm 57 years old. Is there even the remotest possibility that there will be peace between the State of Israel and its neighbors in my lifetime?

"I keep holding on to
These dreams I can't let go of"

The words of screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski, placed in the mouth of the sadly-short-lived Babylon 5 sequel Crusade's Galen the Technomage, come back to me at times like this:

"There's always hope. It's the only thing they haven't figured out how to kill yet."

" . . . I keep holding on to
These dreams I can't let go of"
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