Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A do-it-yourself wedding

[Sunday, June 17, 2007 update: The bride finally figures out how to use the scanner! :) ]

[Sunday, April 6, 2008 update: Having somehow neglected to save the scan to her computer, the bride figures out how to copy her favorite wedding photo from this post into My Pictures and upload it onto Flickr from there! In the interest of protecting what's left of her and her husband's anonymity, she then deletes the aforementioned scanned photo from this post, where it can be seen be anyone walking past her computer, and moves the bride and groom's picture here.)

Here's a little something from Jack that brought back some memories. You see, I described the event in the video as a "homemade" wedding--and so was ours.

When it came time for the Punster and me to go under the chuppah, we faced three major challenges:

1) We wanted to get married in the synagogue in which we'd met and of which we were members--and the Social Hall there had a fire-safety occupancy limit of 200 people (if memory serves me correctly). We had roughly 225 guests in mind.

2) We were hard-core folk dancers, and wanted to have a folk-dance reception.

3) My soon-to-make-aliyah brother and his then-wife were still Orthodox at that time, and we didn't trust the kashrut of our synagogue's kitchen.

Because of the room-size limitation, we had only two choices--either we could have a sit-down dinner, or we could have a folk-dance reception. There was simply no way to do both.

So we decided to have it our way. We lined the walls with chairs, and drafted a fellow folk-dancer to play disk jockey with my chattan's (groom's) personal collection of folk-dance records. (The hubster was still teaching folk-dancing at the time. And yes, we still have the records. One of these days, we really should figure out how to convert them to a more current format.) For the "chuppah"/wedding ceremony itself, we invited the entire volunteer synagogue choir, of which we were then both members, to sing a lovely piece (comprised of excerpts from Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs) called "Ma dodech mi-dod." (I don't know whether we still have the sheet music, but I could probably still sing the alto part at the drop of a yarmulke.) We figured that that would work out better than hiring a band, because folk-dance music is sufficiently esoteric that we assumed that no one band could possibly know how to play all the dances that we knew how to dance (and who has sheet music for this kind of stuff?).

And we had a decidedly unchic buffet of cold glatt kosher deli.

We probably still hold some kind of record for having had one of the least glamorous weddings to take place in Manhattan in the past 30 years.

And you know what? Who cares?!

We and our folk-dancing friends had an absolute blast dancing our feet off. (We relented every 15 minutes or so, and put on one of my father's Big Band albums for the older guests. Benny Goodman really isn't half bad.) We were told that one guest commented that she hadn't had that much fun at a wedding in years.

And we paid for almost the entire wedding out of our own pockets. A friend was kind enough to lend me her wedding gown without even being asked, and we had another friend, who was a calligrapher, create the invitations, which were then photocopied onto store-bought stationery.

Here's a semi-legible photo of the inside of our wedding invitation:

We owed nothing to the bank, and almost nothing to our parents, either. We even had enough money, between what we'd saved and what we received in wedding presents, to visit Israel the following summer.

Obviously, a folk-dance reception isn't for everyone. But really, was it absolutely necessary for a certain bride of my acquaintance to pay $900--over a decade ago--just for flowers? Think about priorities when it's time for you or your daughter or son to get married. What's important, and what's not so important? Are flowers or centerpieces at every table really necessary, or is a donation to tzedakah (charity) in the name of the bride and groom more appropriate? Is it really necessary to spend $3,000 on a wedding gown, or would the bride prefer to spend more money on a hand-calligraphed ketubah (Jewish wedding contract) and less money on a one-time-only dress? Is it more important to the chattan (groom) and kallah (bride) to have a lavish dinner and less important to worry about music, or more important to them to have a simpler meal and a really good band? And while we're on the subject, whose wedding is this, anyway? Those of us hoping to see a child (or more) wed would do well to remember that it's the bride's and groom's simchah (happy occasion), not just the parents', and that, in the final analysis, the bride and groom should be the ones calling the shots. My parents wanted me to get married at their synagogue. I flatly refused, on the grounds that (a) it was my wedding and I wanted to be married by my rabbi in my shul, and (b) I knew that my parents and relatives, all of whom had cars, would trek to New York, but wasn't so sure that our friends, almost none of whom had cars (or tons of money) at the time, would schlep to Nowheresville, New Jersey.

(Major rant, and warning to our son: The one thing I find intolerable is the serving of alcoholic beverages at a pre-wedding-ceremony buffet--I think it's absolutely disgraceful for a person to take part in a serious religious ritual, even as an observer, when he or she is half-drunk, Simchat Torah and Purim perhaps excepted. People can save the l'chaims until the seudat mitzvah after the wedding ceremony.)

Bottom line, both figuratively and literally: Let the chattan and kallah choose what's important to them, and go for it.

We did.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The advantages of a plain-vanilla template: As far as I can tell, my blog looks exactly the same in this "New Blogger" version. Or not :(

With any luck, all that hyperventilating was for nothing.

Update: Bummer--My long-winded post titles get cut short in the "Previous Posts" list on my sidebar. :( Does anyone have any idea how I could fix that, or I am going to have to learn to write titles short enough to fit the new limit (which seems to vary from 41-47 characters)? (Darn--Succinct titles are not my style.) Sheyna, my go-to person for template problems, just gave me the bad news (in the comments to the previous post): "I don't code in php." Help! Any takers?

Not-so-great news: Last post before enforced switch to Google version of Blogspot.com

Blogger has politely informed me that this is the last time I'll be able to access my dashboard via my current Blogger account. So, if you don't see any new posts for a few days, it'll be because I'm engaged in a frantic e-mail exchange with the more technology-gifted (which is almost every blogger but me), trying to figure out how to recreate my settings in the new Google blogspot.com. Sheyna, you'll be happy to know that I just copied my current template into both Word and Notepad and e-mailed it to two of my accounts for safekeeping. And, as soon as I hit the Publish Post button--assuming that it still works--I'm going to finish updating my archives in Word, on the chance that I might lose a few odds and ends in the process of making the switch. Wish me luck.

Great news: I'm happy to report that this Weed is flourishing

"Weed" is the Daveed Yoel Tzvi ben Chaya Mindel to whom I referred in this poem. He's been on my misheberach list (Mi sheh-berach, May He who blessed our Ancestors . . . bless and heal the sick [insert name(s) here] . . . ) since late last year. I've just heard this, from a reliable source:

"I spoke with him a few weeks ago. He’s doing great. . . . He told me he has no disability. He’s back at school, and he’s running a weekend late-night radio show somewhere. You can take him off the list."

It's always a pleasure to be able to stop praying for someone's health because he or she got well.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Live from New York--It's Saturday Night ???

My husband's gone out dancing, and left me home alone to spend a thrilling evening entering bills into Quicken. :(

It's like this: I'm still recovering from (thankfully, minor and relatively painless) foot surgery, and am in no shape to attend an Israeli folk dance marathon. My husband, on the other, will be starting a new semester of college accounting courses as of Monday. If registration goes according to plan and all of the classes to which he's been assigned actually take place, he'll be teaching Monday through Thursday nights. Add to that the fact that Hubster, CPA is about to enter the dreaded (by yours truly, an experienced "tax widow") "busy season," which will make even Sunday night Israel folk dancing next to impossible, and tonight and tomorrow night may be his last chance to go folk dancing until April 16!

(In answer to the question that my Orthodox readers may now be asking in their heads, Sefirah observance goes pretty much down the tubes for both of us when it comes to folk dancing. My husband just isn't much into observing Sefirah, other than counting the Omer. I, myself, experimented with a more traditional Sefirah observance last year, and concluded that, while I can manage without listening to music from Chol HaMoed Pesach until Lag B'Omer, I really can't manage without going Israeli folk dancing for a whole month, because that's pretty much the only form of exercise that I do on a regularly basis nowdays.)

Oh, well, since I swiped the show's slogan as my post title, I suppose I can always watch "Saturday Night Live."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Essential reading: "This Place Called Hope" [or, as Jack describes it, " The Future of Israel/Judaism], by Daniel Gordis

Jack's Shack refers us to this must-read article by Daniel Gordis.

Some highlights:

"When any other country in the world does something people object to, they object to the leader, or the policy. Does anyone opposing the war in Iraq say that the United States no longer has a right to exist?"

. . .

When faced with the realization that Zionism has brought neither safe refuge nor normalcy to the Jewish people, how hard is it to understand state of Israelis’ morale? “What’s the fight about?” they ask. If the experiment called the State of Israel still leaves us vulnerable both at home and throughout the world, why pay the price? Why send generation after generation to the front, with thousands of mothers and fathers waiting up at night, night after night after night, anxiously waiting for their son to call, so they’ll know he made it back once again? If we got security, or normalcy, then maybe it would be worth it. But all this, just to remain vulnerable? All this, just to remain the only country in the world without a right to be?

It’s not hard to understand the fact that there are no protesters in the streets. This is something way too big for mere protests.

The issue, of course, isn’t really Israel, or even Zionism. It’s the Jews. Again. Amos Oz has written with sadness about the irony that when his father was growing up in Europe, he saw signs that said “Jews Go Home to Palestine,” but that when he, Amos, was growing up in Palestine, the signs said “Jews out of Palestine.” Oz, one of Israel’s best known left-wing intellectuals, summarizes the unavoidable point. “Don’t be here. Don’t be there. In short, don’t be.” An exaggeration? I don’t think so. What did Gaarder call his editorial objecting to Israel’s military policy, claiming that Israel is now “history”? “God’s Chosen People.” How on earth is the issue of Israel’s conduct of the Lebanon war connected to “God’s Chosen People,” unless the issue really isn’t Israel?

It’s not.

Which leaves us with a decision – the Jews have to decide, once again, if we want to survive. If we want to make it, then we need to rekindle one of the basic premises of Zionism, and take matters into our own hands. It’s not enough to simply feel that we’re back where we started, 110 years ago. The question is what we’re going to do about it. The question is, how do we restore hope?"

Sheyna Galyan shares her thoughts about this article.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Baruch zokef k’fufim—Blessed (is the One who) straightens the bent

I gave my foot a trial, er, walk :) last night—I decided that, if I could manage to walk the three blocks to the synagogue for a board meeting and home again with a cane, I was well enough to take a bus to the subway. I’m happy to say that I hardly needed the cane. So Limp-Along Cassidy went back to work today.

Two weeks on two canes had some interesting, and unanticipated, effects. On the plus side, my upper arms are probably stronger now than they’ve ever been, to the best of my knowledge. On the other hand, I didn’t realize until late this morning, walking slowly down the hall at the office half-carrying my cane, that walking with canes has given me a temporary tendency to lean forward when I walk—I really have to remind myself to walk with my back straight. When I go back to my chiropractor, probably in a couple of weeks, he’s going to have his job cut out for him.

The boss welcomed me back with open arms (insofar as one can use such a term in reference to a shomer n'giah black-hatter :) )—and promptly informed me that I probably have another major project coming up. This particular project comes to me (and a few other fine folks) as a complete surprise. Some welcome. [Insert roll-eyes emoticon here.] Well, that's what they pay me for.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Finally, I get to put my foot down again :)

. . . literally, as I’m literally no longer in stitches—my podiatric surgeon removed them yesterday. He advised me to ditch the second cane and start getting used to putting weight on my left foot again. After a few hours of walking around the apartment rather gingerly with one cane, I’ve been managing without it, for the most part. It was nice to be able to take a shower this morning without having to schlep (drag) a rubber “cast cover” over my "bad" foot and without having to worry about keeping all my weight on my "good" foot.

The doctor advised me against going back to work until I’d taken at least a couple of days to get used to putting weight on my foot again by walking around the apartment. I’d like to go back to work tomorrow, but I think I’ll have to wait until the minor swelling has subsided sufficiently that I can wear a regular shoe—for the moment, I’m still wearing the surgical shoe. Frankly, if it were warmer, I’d probably just go back to work in the surgical shoe, but it’s going to be cold enough Thursday and Friday (low 16 degrees Fahrenheit/9 degrees Celsius) that I’ll need to wear boots, so I’ll have to be able to wear them if I want to go to the office.

In the meantime, my boss has kept me well enough supplied with work that I’ve regained a day’s vacation time—I put in half a day last Thursday and again yesterday, taking the boss’s “chicken-scratch” from our home fax machine, converting it into typed copy (with my usual edits), and e-mailing him the resultant Word files.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Decisions, decisions

We’ve never switched to Voice Mail for our home and home-office phones, because, with Voice Mail, one can’t hear messages at the time that they’re being recorded. We’ve found that the combination of screening our calls by both ear (on our two answering machines) and by caller-ID box works best for us. All of our friends and family know that we screen all of our calls, and, that, therefore, they must (at least begin to) leave a message if they want us to answer our phone.

So there I was Shabbat (Sabbath, Saturday) morning, dressed to the nines in blue jeans and a decent but casual shirt—no, I always wear a skirt for davvening (praying) on Shabbat, but have you ever tried to pull a pair of pantyhose over half an inch of surgical dressing and Ace bandage?—and partway through P’sukei d’Zimra (Verses of Song, a.k.a. the Introductory Prayers), when the family phone rang, and I heard, courtesy of the answering machine, the unmistakable Irish lilt of one of the finest Shabbos goyim I’ve ever known. “J. and E. are having a Kiddush in honor of their 57th anniversary. I’ll be over with a wheelchair at 11. If you buzz me in, I’ll take you. If not, I’ll go back. See you.”

What to do? After serious consideration, I concluded that, from a halachic (Jewish religious law) point of view, there wasn’t much difference between taking a subway to synagogue on the Sabbath and riding a wheelchair to synagogue on the Sabbath, so why get J. and E., two of my favorite congregants, upset? As for pressing the buzzer that unlocks the lobby's inner door, well . . .

So I speeded up my davvening, read the Torah reading in English (knowing that I’d probably arrive too late to hear it in Hebrew), chanted Haftarat Shabbat Rosh Chodesh to myself, grabbed a quick snack of nuts, raisins, and chocolate (my favorite form of caffeine), somehow squeezed my bad foot into the aforementioned pantyhose, threw on the nearest skirt, blouse, and jacket that I could grab, and rolled out the door with my keys around my neck and carrying nothing but my two canes. And a fine time was had by all.

Except when it came time for Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals). This got very interesting. The chazzan (cantor) was kind enough to ask me to lead. He was also kind enough to announce that, due to my current dubious condition, I’d be leading while seated. (I don’t know whether this is standard practice among more traditional folks, but it’s generally customary in our synagogue for the person leading the bentching [Birkat haMazon] to stand, in order to make it easier for everyone to hear him or her.) So I began leading the introductory psalm, Shir haMaalot, from my seat at a table in the back of the room. Folks, are you sitting down? You’re not going to believe this, but one of the women at the next table actually leaned over to my husband and complained that I was singing too loudly! Um, hello? I’m sitting in the back of the room and trying to lead the folks in the front of the room, among others, in prayer! Do you object when the cantor stands in the front of the room and tries to sing loudly enough to lead the folks in the back of the room in prayer?? Rather than put up with her b . . . , er, bellyaching and/or giving me dirty looks through the entire bentching, I stood up and, two canes and all, started walking toward the center of the room, still singing. And that’s when I began having second thoughts. Did I happen to mention that the woman objecting to my loud singing was none other than the H. (also called H.D.) mentioned here? So I says to myself, says I, “This dame is going to complain no matter what I do, so why not do what I jolly well please, and let the chips fall where they’re bound to fall anyway? And with that thought in mind, I betook myself, still singing, all the way up to the front of the room—and hobbled up onto the bima, from which I proceeded to lead the rest of Birkat HaMazon.

There's more to this story: Never in my life have I felt so thoroughly ignored when leading a prayer. The hubbub from the blabbers was unbelievable. But since the rabbi has made it perfectly clear that even he can’t be expected to participate in Birkat HaMazon—he’s as likely to talk through Birkat HaMazon as any of the congregants—I didn’t even feel free to ask for quiet. So I just barreled through, ignoring the commotion as best I could.

My husband assures me that it wasn’t my imagination—as best he can remember, there probably weren’t even 10 people bentching along with me. (His very rough estimate of the number of people in attendance is 75). The only two whom I could actually hear, occasionally, were him and the chazzan. He has suggested that, since leading Birkat HaMazon while being almost completely ignored simply gets me upset, perhaps I should no longer lead Birkat HaMazon under the current circumstances at this synagogue.

Here are some questions for my more traditional readers:

Is it customary, when leading Birkat haMazon, for one to remain seated at the table at which one ate, to stand at the table at which one ate, or to stand wherever one is most likely to be heard?

What are the circumstances, if any, other than a brit milah (ritual circumcision), wedding, sheva brachot, and meal in a house of mourning after the return from the cemetery, at which it’s traditional to recite Birkat haMazon as a group? Does one typically bentch communally at any other seudat mitzvah?

Would bentching communally at an occasion such as today’s, when a special Kiddush lunch (with bread) was being served, be typical or not? Come to think of it, how typical is a Kiddush lunch with bread in a more traditional synagogue?

P.S. I've decided to retract my original decision not to lead Ashrei anymore (because of the song and dance I got about that at that Ritual Committee meeting), and to continue leading it from the bima, as I've done for roughly the past decade. I've come to the conclusion that some people are going to get honked off no matter what I do.

Sunday, January 21, 2007, 4:00 PM update

Here's another question for my more traditional readers:

Given the choice between making ha-motzi and reciting Birkat HaMazon with at least a mezuman in the synagogue, on the one hand, and following the tradition of making a motzi and doing Birkat HaMazon at home alone or with only one's spouse, on the other hand, which is preferable, from a purely halachic point of view? Is it of any relevance that the rabbi himself is single, and/or that, as a congregation with a largely senior membership, a large proportion of our members are widows living alone or empty-nesters, many of whom are in poor enough health not to be inclined to invite guests?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Back to work, slacker!--The boss just faxed me some handwritten hieroglyphics for typing

So much for watching television this afternoon, but at least that's a half day less that'll have to come out of my vacation time. Later, folks--I have some assignments to type and e-mail.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A little nice music

Hop on over to Mark's/PT's and click on his YouTube icon. He has a lot of his newer acoustic performances already uploaded.

Blogging glitches

Yesterday, both the comments and the permalink to one of my posts became inaccessible. (I've since deleted and re-published that post, resetting the date and time to match the original, and, for the moment, that post and its comments section are functioning perfectly, but I think I'll save their URLs here, just in case.)

Today, every last one of the entries on my sidebar is tagged "Updated." No way, José--some of those blogs haven't been updated in over a month. (NaomiChana, are you still there?)

Don't you just love it when both Blogger and Blogrolling mess with your head?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A triage question: Would you give medical treatment to a Cylon?

For the uninitiated, here’s the story of “Battlestar Galactica,” standing on one foot.

The Cylon robots have not only become sentient, they have also evolved—in addition to the standard “toaster” (metallic) model, twelve humanoid models—so similar in appearance to humans that not even a surgeon could tell the difference—now exist, with numerous copies of each model. The so-called “skins” are, for all practical purposes, immortal—when a “skin” dies, his/her body is returned to a “resurrection ship,” where his/her memories are downloaded into an identical body, a process that takes only a few hours.

On one of this past fall’s episodes, the show’s doctor was seen emerging from what appeared to have been surgery on a “skin.” This prompted my question: If you were (or are) a medical professional, would you treat a “skin,” knowing that the Cylons are out to either wipe out or enslave—they don’t see to have made up their minds—the remainder of the human race?

Reasons to oppose treating a Cylon

1. They’re trying to kill us. Why should we? (Giving credit where it’s due, [or “props,” as some currently say,] this issue was dealt with quite a while back by M.A.S.H.)

2. Why should we waste resources and staff on a being who can come back to life in a few hours anyway?

Reasons in favor of treating a Cylon

1. “First, do no harm.” Caring for the ill and/or injured is what medical professionals do, which is pretty much what the show’s doctor said. The ethics of medical care do not distinguish between our guys and the other guys.

2. Don’t create any more enemies, or enmity, than you already have. When the resistance leaves a wounded Cylon “skin” out in the hot sun to die a long and agonizing death, he becomes even more hostile than he was already.

The floor is open.

Test results are in for Hopalong Cassidy (hmm, gives a whole new meaning to the term “hip-hop artist,” doesn’t it? :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007, 10:33 AM

I've deleted the original of this post and am re-publishing a copy thereof, in the hope that the comments will be accessible, this time. I'm re-setting the date and time for yesterday at 2:32 PM, when the original was published. Hope to hear from you.

The category is “other.” As in not cancer, not “precancer/dysplasia,” not infectious, not inflammatory, not "suspicious."

For the benefit of the medical professionals among you, here’s the official diagnosis:

“Dilated vascular proliferation with organizing thrombi and fibroconnective tissue. Note: These findings may represent a vascular malformation.”

If I understood my podiatric surgeon correctly, I think that translates into English as a tiny, non-life-threatening blood clot and some extra tissue. The cause is unknown, but this may have been the result of an injury, which, considering the fact that I’m accident-prone and a folk dancer, seems to be the most likely explanation.

The stitches, which the doctor was happy to see are still nicely intact and properly taut, will be removed next Monday at 1 PM.

Grandmammy Amos signing off. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blogging.

3:51 PM: I don't seem to have access to the comments to this post, at the moment. I'll respond when able. On the off chance that no one else has access, either, I did see Elie's good wishes before the comment access ceased functioning. Thanks, Elie.

5:30 PM: Access to the comments for this post seems to be unavailable, for reasons unknown--when I click, all I see is an empty window--so please be kind enough to e-mail your comments and I'll post them below.



Baruch Hashem it's not worse! May you have a full recovery.

Posted by Elie to ON THE FRINGE—AL TZITZIT at 1/16/2007 02:58:23 PM

Thanks, Elie. At this point, it appears likely that I'll be back to work by next Wednesday.

Posted by Shira Salamone to ON THE FRINGE—AL TZITZIT at 1/16/2007 03:14:34 PM

Monday, January 15, 2007

DVR dimwit finally catches up with "Battlestar Galactica"

Well, I'm a complete idiot when it comes to working the DVR, and the Punster can't get the darned thing to work consistently, either. So today's marathon was my last glorious opportunity to catch up with this past fall's episodes. Thank heaven this show is moving to Sunday night--I don't ever want to watch television from 8 AM to 7 PM again!

Was the late Ellen Tigh a Cylon? Probably not. Is Baltar a Cylon? Probably not--that would be too obvious an explanation for his behavior. Will the planet get nuked? Probably not, if for no other reason than that french-frying half the characters would necessitate the replacement of a huge chunk of the cast. Heck of a cliffhanger, though. Also, I was sorry to see that pilot "buy it." She was one of the good guys, shady past notwithstanding, and it was a shame that she died. But at least she went out a hero.

Never let it be said that science fiction is just foolishness. How many television shows have posed this question--asked by both the humans and the Cylons--lately: If the only guaranteed way to save your people were to commit genocide against theirs, would you do it? The last place I heard anyone pose a question even remotely resembling that one was here and here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

False alarm

If any of you happen to have read this post before I completely rewrote it, I thought that the umbilical hernia that I'd gotten from gaining too much weight during pregnancy had become obstructed or strangulated, at least partially from the extra stress I've been putting on the muscles in my mid-section by hopping around the apartment on a cane or two. But my gastroenterologist thinks it's nothing but good old-fashioned constipation. And here I thought I might need emergency surgery. Whew, that's a relief!

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled program.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sh'mot notes

Here are a few of my thoughts concerning the first parsha of Exodus (Sh'mot).

Politics, part 1

Okay, let’s start with Rabbi Hertz’s assertion that the new pharaoh (pretended that he) didn’t know Joseph/Yosef because Yosef had worked for the Hyksos, a group of Asiatic conquerors, and the local yokels had regained control of their government.

Essentially, this made Yosef a collaborator, and probably tarred his entire family’s reputation by association, thus creating an excuse for the entire family to suffer collective punishment.

Politics, part 2

It can also be argued that the new Egyptian government’s attitude toward B’nei Yakov (Jacob’s children) was a literally classic case of xenophobia, fear of foreigners. It behooves those of us who are United States citizens to remember that a huge proportion of American Jewry is probably not more than 2-3 generations “off the boat” ourselves, and to give really careful thought to legislation concerning immigration, from which our ancestors and/or we have benefited.

Shifrah and Puah

Now those were two gutsy women. They put their lives on the line by refusing to kill the male Hebrew newborns.

A gruesome thought

“. . . and she saw that he was good (ki tov hu), and she hid him three months.” Parshat Sh’mot, Exodus, chapter 2, verse 2.

What exactly did it mean, in those days, to “see that a child was good”? And if she’d seen that the child wasn’t "good . . .?” Did our ancestors follow the gruesome practice of “exposing” visibly-disabled newborns, abandoning them outdoors to die?

Pharoah’s daughter

Adopting a Hebrew baby boy was a gutsy move, but how did she get away with it?


Nice strategy, offering her own and her brother’s mother as his wet nurse. Gutsy, too.

Moses the shepherd

Um, folks, Moshe was raised in a palace. When did he learn to be a shepherd?

Aaron enters the picture

Question A: Just how long was Moshe nursed by his mother, that 1) Moshe actually knew that he had a brother named Aharon, and that 2) Aharon knew that Moshe the Egyptian Prince was actually his brother?

Question B: What kind of slavery was this, that Aharon could just nonchalantly take a few days personal leave to meet his brother in the wilderness?

Haftarat Sh’mot

For Sefardim: Never looked before, and boy, was I surprised—it’s exactly the same as Haftarat Matot. (Full disclosure: I’d be able to spot that one in my sleep—I’ve chanted it almost every year for roughly two decades.)

For Ashkenazim: I said this years ago in a d’var Torah ("word of Torah," Torah discussion) and I’ll say it again—“For with stammering lips and a strange tongue shall it be spoken to this people” describes the speech of a person with a speech impediment. This may be the sort of thing that’s more likely to catch the eye of the mother of a hard-of-hearing child who spent sixteen years in speech therapy.

Aharon is an interpreter for a person with a speech impediment. As often happens, those who interact frequently with a person with a speech impediment eventually learn to understand his/her speech directly. Notice that, by partway through Vaera (next week’s parsha), Moshe is speaking for himself.

Accidental puns are the most fun

PARENTAL GUIDANCE WARNING: You are definitely not going to want to explain this one to your kids. That goes double for Mark/Dr. PT and Ralphie.
















One of these days, I have to buy a new down coat from LL Bean and return the one I recently bought. I'm 99.99% sure that the zipper is defective. Yes, I know that two-way zippers are generally more difficult to fasten, but this one's ridiculous--sometimes, it takes me as many as roughly a dozen attempts over a couple of minutes to get the "tongue" into the "pulls" properly, so that I can actually pull up the zipper. I don't think the "tongue" is exactly straight.

For some reason, the Punster has better luck getting my zipper to work properly that I do. He says it's the angle from which he's working that makes the difference. In any case, I feel like a three-year-old when he helps me zip my coat.

So there we are in the doctor's office, the Punster having just zipped my coat, when I make this brilliant comment:

"How come you can always get it in straight?"

Two seconds later: "Um, I retract that comment." I start laughing my fool head off, followed shortly by the Punster (possibly to the embarrassment of my podiatric surgeon's secretary.)

Accidental puns are the best, and when they're accidentally gross, too, all the better. :)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mission Impossible: Stepping on a trash-can-lid pedal while standing on the same foot

Who would have thought that such a simple thing could become such a major national project? So I end up opening and propping up the kitchen garbage-can lid with my elbow while peeling out and discarding the bell-pepper seeds. Such contortions for such a simple job. Sheesh.

(Link>) Me Tarzan, you Jane

Me Tarzan. Me have strong hands and arms. Me grab vines, swing through trees.

You Jane. You have weak hands, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, complain about upper arms killing you because you hobble around apartment on two canes.

Me think you must lose weight. Maybe arms not hurt so much if you ten pounds lighter.

Okay, okay, I'm back on the Carbohydrate Addicts' Diet, munching celery all day. You happy now? Shut up, Tarzan.

P.S. This diet is much easier to stick to when I'm not working. I have only about half an hour left for lunch after Women's Tehillim (Psalms) Group and Minchah (Afternoon Service), and it's impossible to eat tuna and vegies and take a walk at the same time. So I end up eating yogurt (high-carb) or nuts and raisins (high-carb) while getting a little fresh air and exercise. And there goes the diet. 'Course, the M & M peanuts, my favorite form of caffeine, don't help, either. Unfortunately, the tannic acid in caffeinated (as opposed to herb) tea makes me sick to my stomach. I really must develop a taste for coffee. (Blech!)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On the “un-educating” of Israeli Chareidi women, part 2—discrimination, not just against women

See part 1 here.

Bolding added by me.

Here's an excerpt from the original article from Haaretz:

"The rabbis were mostly infuriated by the psychological subjects in the teaching programs. Freud and Western psychology had always been a red rag to them.

The absence of ultra-Orthodox lecturers with academic degrees in diagnostics and consulting required bringing in lecturers from "outside" the community. Yated Neeman's women's supplement, Bayit Neeman, blasted the trend of bringing in lecturers from the "Sephardi faction" and even "completely secular" ones, warning of the women students' defilement."

Haredi Women Crying Foul Over New Education Restrictions

“For some reason, we have found, in recent years, that courses are taught by foreign lecturers,” ran an editorial in Beit Ne’eman, Yated Ne’eman’s women’s supplement. “Some of these lecturers belong to the Mizrahi stream, and others, to great shame, are secular through and through ... there is danger here of contamination.”

(Note: Some say that Sefardim and “Mizrachim” [B’nei Edot HaMizrach, Children of the Communities of the East] are the same group, others disagree, but all agree that they’re not Ashkenazim.)

Does anyone else see attitudes bordering on racism in these statements?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Photo update (from our trip to Israel in August 2005)

Success, at last! This only took me over a year. Enjoy!

Two-Cane Kayla's Kitchen Escapades

This is one time when I'm happy to have a small kitchen--leaving one cane hooked over a counter, I can grab a can opener, reach up and grab a can of tuna, cane my way over to the sink with the other hand while holding both of the aforementioned items and leaning the "holder-arm" elbow on the front counter, then the edge of the stove, then the counter next to the sink, and open and drain the tuna.

I actually managed to make something remotely resembling dinner. But I had to ask the Punster to take the hot pots off the stove and out of the microwave. Even I'm not that crazy--I wouldn't dare try carrying a hot pot in one hand while holding a cane in the other and literally standing on one foot. Lending me a hand (almost literally :) ) is okay with the Punster--not wishing to see me take a flip-flop on the floor and/or fry myself, he says he'd rather I be Hopalong Cassidy than Flopalong Cassidy.

(Link>)The return of Hopalong Cassidy :)

Just call me two-cane Kayla. The surgery went fine, and I'll see my podiatric surgeon for my first follow-up visit this Friday. Unfortunately, he told me that it would be best if I stayed off my left foot for two weeks! I had to call the Minyan Rimonim leining and haftarah coordinator and give him ample warning that I won't be able to lein the Maftir aliyah and chant Haftarat Rosh Chodesh on January 20, after all. !#$%^&!!!!!!!!!!!

Otherwise, so far, so good.

When I get the lab results, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 update:

Feeling (almost) no pain, I'm happy to report.

For those of you who might wish to add me to your mi-sh'berach (get-well prayer) list, my Hebrew name is Léah bat Ester v'Ozer. (I've given both my mother's and my father's names, though traditionalists use only the mother's name when praying for someone's health. Please feel free to pray in accordance with your own minhag/custom). Thanks for your thoughts and/or prayers.

Footloose and fancy free--for about another hour or so

I'll be literally standing on one foot in a few hours, and for at least a week--I'm due for foot surgery this morning at 8 AM.

In the meantime, here's some fun to keep my 3 1/2 dance fans entertained while I'm temporarily off my feet. I'm posting the links in the order in which I choreographed the dances.

Ki V'Simchah

Modeh Ani

Aniyah Soarah



Sevivon, take 2 (This is the new, and, I hope, improved version. )

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A possible unforeseen consequence of the "un-educating" of Israel Chareidi women

Here are Ezzie's links to the Chareidi women's (non)-education scandal. Thanks, Ezzie!
I won't talk about the fact that this ruling is an insult to women, implying that we're nothing but children who need constant supervision lest we get in trouble, as if we have no brains (and/or too much by way of brains, these rabbis might think) and are not responsible adults. That's already been discussed elsewhere.
I won't talk about the distinct possibility that this ruling is a power play by male authorities afraid of the slightest challenge and/or sign of independence. That's already been discussed elsewhere.
I won't talk about the fact that this ruling condemns an already-impoverished community to further poverty without hope of future financial self-sufficiency. That's already been discussed elsewhere.
I want to talk about this from the one angle that no one else seems to have noticed.
Here's an excerpt from the original article from Haaretz:
"The rabbis were mostly infuriated by the psychological subjects in the teaching programs. Freud and Western psychology had always been a red rag to them.

The absence of ultra-Orthodox lecturers with academic degrees in diagnostics and consulting required bringing in lecturers from "outside" the community. Yated Neeman's women's supplement, Bayit Neeman, blasted the trend of bringing in lecturers from the "Sephardi faction" and even "completely secular" ones, warning of the women students' defilement."
Exactly how are the children with disabilities in this community to be educated, if no one in their own community is authorized to acquire the knowledge necessary to help them? Where are the modestly-dressed physical therapists and occupational therapists and Yiddish-speaking speech and language therapists to come from, if none of the women in this community are permitted to pursue studies that will qualify them for these positions? Or do the rabbis propose to lock these children in a room and throw away the key?

Seen on the subway: Another opinion on prayer in a public place?

The gentleman in question was seated about 6 feet (2 meters?) from me, wearing a regular knit winter hat. He was reading what appeared to be a siddur (prayer book) with an interlinear
translation from Hebrew to Arabic. The only words that I could read from that distance were the two printed in large type at the top right of the page, Al Kein. Al Kein? He was saying the Aleinu prayer?

Okay, round two. My co-worker from the Women's Tehillim Group says that men are forbidden to pray on the subway, lest there be improperly-dressed women within visual range . That particular co-worker is B'nei Eidot HaMizrach ("Children of the Communities[?] of the East"--of Middle Eastern, such as Syrian, Jewish origin). I think it reasonable to assume that anyone reading a siddur with an Arabic translation is also B'nei Eidot HaMizrach. Apparently, there are differences of hashkafah/religious point of view even within the same group. But one thing I do remember hearing is that one can fulfill one's obligation to wear a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin simply by donning them with the proper blessings, reciting all three paragraphs of the Sh'ma (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41), then removing them, as this anonymous commenter's rabbi instructed her to do. So is it conceivable that this gentleman might have recited the entire Sh'ma at home while wearing tallit and tefillin, then removed them and left for work, praying the rest of Shacharit on the subway?

For those of you who missed the story of the literal lifesaver

I was going to post this on the Kindness Happens blog, but Aidel Maidel beat me to it. Great story--and true!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Two Views on Halachah & Morality: Ex-Gadol Hador's commenters have some interesting things to say on the subject

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Boy, do I feel dumb

It turns out that the reason why we couldn't find that missing CD anywhere in the apartment was that it wasn't in the apartment--I'd left it in the CD drive in my office computer! I found it today when I went to burn my CD collection onto my office hard drive--I'm prepping for literally taking a load off my feet, as I assume that I won't be able to carry anything heavier than my pocketbook for a few weeks after my foot surgery next week.

Monday, January 01, 2007

An “incriminating” photo

July 11, 2007 update: Here it is, folks, in honor of our new scanner (may it live longer than the old one).

In roughly October of 2005, we went to an Israeli folk dance weekend. We had a wonderful time, and I really wanted to blog about it. But I thought better of it.

This past November, the same group sponsored another Israeli folk dance weekend, but we were unable to go due to my husband’s schedule—he has a class to teach on Thursday nights. So I was annoyed last night when he showed me a postcard advertising the missed weekend, and insisted that he throw it out, already. But he was equally insistent that I look at it carefully first. So I did.

There were several photos from the previous year’s event on the postcard . The largest picture showed a huge circle of folk dancers, with a smaller circler of “hot shots” in the middle—you shouldn’t dance in the inside circle unless you really know your stuff, which is why I try to avoid it—and an even smaller group of people dancing together on the outside. Some people dance outside the circle because they want to dance with their friends, some because they know a different version of the dance, some so as to avoid holding hands with members of the opposite sex, for religious reasons (shmirat n’giah). Others dance outside the circle because they’re trying to learn the dance by following the person in front of them—that'd be me—or because they want to dance at a slower pace (in rhythm, but with smaller steps and/or less jumping)—I do that quite often.

And there I was, dancing all by myself outside the circle (probably trying to avoid the “speedsters”), just about unmistakable even with my back to the camera, not only because of the short brown hair and short-sleeved burgundy tee-shirt, but also because, as far as I could tell, I was one of the few woman in the photo who was wearing a skirt. (I prefer wearing skirts for folk dancing—it’s hard to swish a pair of pants.)

I’m considering keeping the photo as a memento, because I’ve been thinking quite seriously about whether I should ever go to an Israeli folk dance weekend again, given that teaching sessions and evening dance parties, with instrumental music, are not exactly suspended for Shabbat. If it were an international folk dancing weekend, I would go, because I could reasonably assume that many of the people in attendance would not be Jewish. But at an Israeli folk dance session, the odds are darned good that almost all of the teachers are Jewish, most of the dancers are Jewish, and—crucial point—the people playing the music on the tapes, CDs, and/or computer(s), (or, occasionally, live) are also Jewish. So I’d be benefiting from a Jew doing forbidden labor on Shabbat.

I’ve never claimed to be consistent in my observance. On Shabbat (Sabbath), I’ve been known to perform such forbidden activities as traveling, eating out, and even shopping (my least favorite activity) for my son’s college needs in the days when we used to drive him up to college and had to leave too soon to shop on Sunday. But I’ve really been trying hard to forego electricity-based entertainment on Shabbat, and have found that we certainly talk more to one another on Leil Shabbat (Eve of Sabbath, Friday night) since we stopped watching television thereon. So folk dancing to live or recorded instrumental music on Shabbat, which would distract from the conversation, seems to me to be, you should pardon the pun, a step in the wrong direction.

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