Tuesday, May 29, 2007

One picture is worth a thousand words

Update, Sunday, April 6, 2008:
In the interest of preserving what little is left of my son's anonymity and mine, I have deleted the photo from this post, so that it is no longer visible to anyone walking past my computer, and uploaded it to Flickr. See the newly-minted Family Physicist here.

Bachelor of Science, High Honors, Physics, with a minor in Japanese, Rochester Institute of Technology, May 25, 2007.

Pair of parents (who will, quite clearly, never win a Pulitzer for photography) very proud and pleased as punch. :) :) :) :) :) :) :) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The gold-colored double "rope" is indicative of the Son-ster's status as a "High Honors" recipient, which we assume to be the English-language equivalent of Magna Cum Laude. The white stole with the large red dot, patterned after the Japanese flag, symbolizes The Family Physicist's successful completion of foreign studies in Japan.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Torah tzivah lanu Moshe

[Parshat V'Zot HaB'rachah, Deuteronomy, chapter 33, verse 4]

That's the perfect Torah quote
to lead us up to Shavuot.

But it also pretty much encapsulates my haskafah/religious perspective, because I take this quote much more literally than it's traditionally taken: I truly believe that Torah, Jewish law, was commanded to us by Moses, that is, by inspired human beings.

And, therefore, it can be changed by human beings.

My behavior is inconsistent, in that I observe many of the mitzot (at least after a fashion) while ignoring others. But obviously, this approach to Torah puts me at odds with my Orthodox readers, and probably many of my Conservative readers, as well. Still, traditional Judaism and Jews have my respect, and I deeply appreciate all those who've taken the time to try to explain a more tradition perspective to me. I have learned much from the comments posted here, as well as from posts and comments on other people's blogs. Truly, you have been my teachers.

On the remote chance that I haven't already either offended you and/or bored you to tears, you can read the rest of this discussion here.

Chag Saméach. I'm happy to report that I made it through the entire Sefirat HaOmer for the second year in row without missing a single day's count, thanks to the OU's Sefirah reminder e-mails. I strongly recommend this free e-mail service for next year for those who read their e-mail daily and need a reminder. Just print 'em out every night before Maariv (Evening Service), or print them at work, take home the print-out, and leave yourself a reminder message on your home phone. Save the one you print before Shabbat to use on Saturday night--just add one day.

I'll be back online next Tuesday, after our son's graduation (with photos, I hope)! :)

Paint stripper update

Just in time for Yom Tov. :)

And while we're on the subject of updates, you might want to check out the new video here. I'll never make it as a cinematographer, but what the hey. :)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Our son begins the rest of his life

Last December, the Son-ster spent a good chunk of his vacation completing applications to numerous graduate schools—he’ll be seeking a doctorate in condensed matter physics.

The grad schools, as is standard procedure, took their sweet time replying.

A month or so later, our young man started the great summer-job hunt.

In this, he was stymied by our beloved United States Congress, which couldn’t get off its collective duff long enough to pass a budget. Without a Federal budget, the National Laboratories couldn’t determine how many college science students and/or recent college science graduates they would be able to hire for summer research positions.

Months passed before the first grad school acceptances and rejections started to arrive. It was only about a week and a half ago that the field was finally narrowed to the three schools that had not only accepted the Son-ster, but had offered him full scholarships and part-time employment as a teaching assistant, as well.

Meanwhile, back at the schoolhouse, our son got a pleasant surprise—unbeknownst to him, one of his physics professors had recommended him for a summer job in a science laboratory at a different upstate (meaning northern) New York university! He had no idea how many people he was competing against, and wasn’t betting on getting the job.

Finally, the phone call came in this past Friday morning—having just visited the last of the three universities that had accepted him and offered financial support, the Son-ster had chosen his school. And, to boot, he’d gotten that summer job!

Our son is graduating this coming Friday. He'll begin his summer job the following week, and may very well go straight from there to grad school in mid-August, unless he stops off for a day or two to pick up some things from, well, his soon-to-be-former home. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it's likely that he'll never live with us again. It's a weird feeling, watching one's once-a-baby bird leave the nest.

Daas Hedyot doesn't appreciate this attitude

Go here to find out what the issue is. And I strongly recommend that you follow all the links.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Beauty found, underground

[Based on the view from top of the second to last staircase at the Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle end of the R train platform, Times Square/42nd Street.]

[Updated May 22, 2007 with video recorded May 21.]

A place's poetry
doesn't have to be
all Corinthian columns
and pretty paintings
Beauty can be as real
as steel
railings with several horizontal bars and rounded corners
on either side of the stairs
and there
at the top
to stop
people from falling
Calling out to me
to appreciate the "little things" that I see

Shabbat shalom

Friday, June 1, 2007 update: Oh, to heck with it--the embedded video works only when it jolly well pleases. Here's the URL.

Updated Friday, June 15, 2007 with photograph taken Thursday, June 14, 2007. See photo here, too!

Necessity trumps kashrut

I don’t know whether this idea originated with him, but a friend of mine from Ansche Chesed had (roughly) this to say about this: “No matter where the water source was or how polluted the water was, water was never declared treif (non-kosher) before, because it’s a necessity of life, and people would die without it. The only reason it’s being declared treif now (in New York City—see link immediately above) is that people can now afford to pay for clean water [bought in bottles or strained through specially-purchased-and-installed water filters].” Personally, I think he has a point. Comments, anyone?

Access denied


Pornography/Adult Content
Blocked URL:



Blocked URL:


The fine folks at my office have now denied us access not only to MySpace, but, as of today, to YouTube, as well. As the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles--you can tell I have a kid, can't you?--would say, "Major bummer, dudes."

So much for watching videos between working on projects and answering phone calls. :(

Thursday, May 17, 2007

*Two* CD release parties!

In case you're wondering why, despite having decided to blog from the office, I'm still not getting to bed at a decent hour . . .

Well, first, there was The Great Last-Minute Mother's Day 2007 Blogger Bash. :)

Then, there were these:

From: Gili Houpt To: NYCJewishMusic@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2007 12:19 PM
Subject: [NYCJewishMusic] Return of the Central Park Kumsitz this Sunday

. . .

------- MONDAY, MAY 14
8PM Pharaoh's Daughter Record Release Party, their biggest NYC concert ever, at the Highline Ballroom, 431 W 16th St between 9th & 10th Ave. Cost: $25 (Free CD with ticket purchase). Read my review of the new album below. Info & tickets: 212-414-5994. http://myspace.com/pharaohsdaughter

. . .

------- TUESDAY, MAY 15
6:15-9:30 PM Yom Yerushalayim Community Wide Celebration at Lincoln Square Synagogue. Pre-register for BBQ by May 9: Adults $18, Children $12; at the door: Adults $20, Children $15. Free admission afterwards for Tefillah Chagigit (Mincha/Maariv) at 7:50PM with Multi Media Presentation, followed by Musical Kumzitz with Community Chazzanim. At Lincoln Square Synagogue, 200 Amsterdam Ave, at 69 St. Info: 212-874-6100 http://lss.org/

. . .

------- WEDNESDAY, MAY 16
7:30PM Sarah Aroeste Band - CD release concert. Also featuring The Hebrew Mamita, Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars, Scott Kettner's Maracatu, Dj Handler. At the Knitting Factory's Main Space, 74 Leonard St. Admission: $15. Info: 212.219.3132 or http://knittingfactory.com/

I strongly recommend that lovers of Jewish music who live within commuting distance of New York City go here and subscribe to Gili Houpt’s NYCJewishMusic group. I’ve heard about numerous concerts through Gili's e-mails.

No wonder I’m so tired—I’d rather party hearty than sleep! :)

I first heard Pharaoh's Daughter at a Jewzapalooza Concert (about which I wrote here). It took almost a year and a half for the coin to drop—it finally occurred to me, after this past Monday's concert, that the band's name is based on a midrash saying that the name of the daughter of Pharaoh who rescued and raised Moshe/Moses was Bitya, from the Hebrew Batya, meaning “daughter of G-d.” The name of the bandleader is Basya Schechter, Basya being the Ashkenazi version of Batya. (Well, duh, Shira, it certainly took you long enough.)

The band has a gorgeous, “world-music” sound. The musicians (regulars and guests) include European, Japanese and African stringed-instrument players, not to mention Israeli back-up singers who’ve had to learn to sing using Ashkenazi pronunciation (with half the accents on the wrong syl-lab-les :) ). For this particular concert (and CD), the focus was on z’mirot (Jewish Sabbath songs usually song around the dining table). Beautiful!

Sarah Aroeste and her band specialize in singing and playing contemporary arrangements of traditional Ladino music. And a delightful job they do, too!

It turns out that the Sarah Aroeste concert was sponsored by Makor, currently in the moving process. They’ll be sponsoring numerous other concerts in the downtown area until their new location is renovated and ready for move-in. Keep an eye on their website for further news.

Opening for Sarah Aroeste and her band were Frank London's Klezmer Brass Allstars—unbelievable!—accompanied, for part of their set, by Scott Kettner's Maracatú New York Brazilian percussion group, which had a most infectious sound. In addition, Vanessa Hidary, the Hebrew Mamita, was present to present some of her poems, all of which were quite good, though some were X-rated. DJ Handler was on hand, as well, furnishing some mighty fine recorded music before, between, and after the live-music sets. The Punster and I actually got our best dancing in after the show, when there was room on the floor for some real moves. :)

All in all, it’s been a most enjoyable week. Plenty of conversation, good food, and dancing à la Fred Astaire, though I daresay that he did a much better job of dancing with a cane than I’ll ever do. :)


------- SUNDAY, MAY 20
5:30-7:30pm this season's first musical kumsitz in Central Park! Enter the park from Central Park West at W96 St and turn right (or at W93 and turn left), and look for us between CPW and the Park Drive. Bring along any musical instruments and blankets to sit on (and if you want, some kosher snacks or drinks to share). If you have any questions send me an email (rebgili@gmail.com or just reply to this message), or call me on Sunday if it looks like rain to find out if we're still on: 646-706-3076

If the weather is nice and the kumsitz doesn’t get cancelled, maybe we’ll see some of you this Sunday in Central Park.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Finally, a safe haven for AidelMaidel

After the storms of the past few years, AidelMaidel has finally found a secure harbor, or, as Fudge once put it, "someone's open arms to come home to."

Adulthood: An antidote to age discrimination :)

. . . of sorts.

When a child is very young, even a few months can make an enormous difference in his/her physical and social development.

For a school-age child, a difference of a few months can determine whether your kid is in the same grade as your friend’s kid, or whether he’ll spend his entire academic career one grade behind, as our son did.

One of the most surprising things for me, as I became as adult, was how much less age differences matter.

There’s a huge difference, in social terms, between a high-school senior and a college senior.

And yet, at my age, I can as easily have friends who are 15 years older or 15 years younger than I.

Or more.

Age differences become rather like, well, other kinds of differences.

As I was saying here, “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, . . . I haven’t had that problem with him since.”

He hasn’t stopped being cute, and I still notice, but that’s not the only thing I notice about him anymore.

Something similar happened when I walked into that blogger bash the other day. My first reaction, upon meeting RaggedyMom, was, “Good heavens, she’s so young!” A few minutes and some good conversation later, her age became fairly irrelevant.

I think one of the advantages of being an adult is that we grown-ups have much broader latitude for friendships across the age range.

Quote of the day :)

(Overheard at Lincoln Square Synagogue’s Yom Yerushalayim [Jerusalem Reunification Day] barbecue and program last night)

Mother to pre-schooler: “If you don’t behave yourself, you won’t get a Gameboy until you’re old enough to pay for it with your own money."


(As my father used to say of empty threats, "Promises, nothin' but promises." :) )

“Too cussedly independent-minded . . . “

The Punster and I were yakking with Steg as he kindly drove us home from the blogger bash. "For me,” I told Steg,” the problem with becoming Orthodox is that it’s not enough just to be shomer mitzvot (someone who observes the commandments)—you have to buy into the whole package. I’m too cussedly independent-minded to be Orthodox.”

Steg was highly amused, responding that, considering all the Orthodox skeptics he’d encountered in the blogosphere, he wasn’t so sure about that. [Some Jewish bloggers observe all the rules of Orthodox Judaism without holding the beliefs that are often considered integral to Orthodox Judaism. This practice is sometimes described as an “Orthoprax approach.]

I replied that, if by any chance our son married an Orthodox Jew and ask us to make the switch, “Orthoprax” is probably the kind of Orthodox Jew that I would be.

“But on the other hand, it’s kinda hard for a woman to lead musaf in an Orthodox synagogue.”

Let’s leave aside, for the moment, my hard-core egalitarian approach to Judaism (that is, my belief that women should have equal obligations and rights in terms of Jewish law and ritual observance) and consider this other issue that’s preventing me from “taking the plunge”—anyone who’s been following my blog for more than a month :) is probably aware that I have a serious problem with this perspective:

Adam Ragil said...

“ . . . Judaism does not shed prohibitions and limitations once they have been aquired and accepted. That isn't always good or always bad. It just is. . . . “

Thu Oct 14, 05:41:00 PM 2004

What it comes down to, in plain English, is that I prefer to think and make decisions for myself—if a law not only no longer makes sense, but contradicts what I consider to be logical and/or, in some cases, ethically acceptable, I’m not enough of a believer in God and/or Torah miSinai to see a good reason to continue to observe it. Keeping kosher is not such a big deal that I can’t keep at least some semblance of kashrut as a nod of respect to my ancestors and the current Jewish community. Not having an aliyah is another matter entirely—since the original reason for the prohibition against women having aliyot no longer exists (see link above), I see no good reason to maintain the prohibition. Adopting, at a minimum, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward homosexuals seems to me to be a matter of simple human compassion for a difference that can’t be changed, and I think it’s a legitimate question whether excluding people from the rabbinate solely because Hashem made them in accordance with his will is really consistent with the pursuit of justice (“tzedek, tzedek tirdof”).

So, much as it would simply my life, in some ways, to complicate my life in other ways by becoming Orthodox, I really don’t see that as something that I would feel comfortable doing. As uncomfortable as I can sometimes be with the inconsistencies of Conservative Jewish observance (or the sometime lack thereof), I spent too much time as a member of a dual-affiliated Conservative/Reconstructionist synagogue not to believe, as Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan used to say, that “the past has a vote, but not a veto.” At this point, I truly don't see any alternative to living the rest of my life as a perpetual misfit. That's what I am. So be it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A crazy Mother's Day--last minute blogger bash!

A last-minute blogger bash!


As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself . . .

Imagine my surprise when I found this in my comments:

RaggedyMom said...

Shira - RaggedyMom here - with an eleventh hour invite to chez Raggedy tonight (Sunday) for an informal meet with Ezzie, PT, Steg, & us - Sorry it's coming so late, but it wasn't a definite until the last minute!

Email me @ history3@gmail.com if it's feasible for you to attend so I can give you the info.

Again, sorry for the extreme spontanaiety!

Sun May 13, 07:21:00 PM 2007
Holy Moses! A chance for a blogger bash, if only I could get in touch before they all gave up on us and took the party elsewhere!
Shira Salamone said...

RaggedyMom, I just read your invitation 30 seconds ago--I was busy posting a comment to Elie's post when you posted! Eek! Where are you? Can we get there by public transit? Or should we fahgetaboutit and just take a cab? Please RSVP ASAP! The Punster is currently with a client, but might appreciate being rescued. :) Reply with details to onthefringe_jewishblogger@yahoo.com.

Sun May 13, 07:55:00 PM 2007
As I was A) throwing myself together, and B) trying to "rescue" my husband from his tormenters, it occurred to me that I might have to resort to a cell-phone "relay"--the last time I saw Fudge, she was kind enough to program her cell phone number into my cell phone, so, if worse came to worse, I could call her, she could call her father . . .

Fortunately, RaggedyMom was keeping an eye on her e-mail and kindly provided me with her phone number and address.

Ages later, my husband was finally able to extract himself from his business meeting, and we taxied our way out to the wilds of beyond-the-subways.

What a crew! Mark/PT was there with both Fudge and 30cal/Moe (all in town for the unveiling). I've seen Fudge a few times since we first met, but 30cal looked a bit older than the last time we'd seen him, which is logical--good grief, was that really almost two years ago?! Steg, whom we'd met before, was there. And we finally had the opportunity to meet Ezzie (lunch in June?--we'll be in touch), as well as our hosts, RaggedyMom and Dad. (The kids, "Ann" and "Andy," were "snoring ," :) as RaggedyMom put it. The parties present at the party ranged in age from the dinosaur of the bloggers--yours truly, 58--and my 65-year-old husband, to the youngest blogger, 17-year-old 30cal, and the sleeping "snorers" :). ) What fun! We yakked about blogging (apparently, there aren't nearly as many opportunities for blogger meetings in Milwaukee), 30cal's college hunt (he'll be a senior next year), our kids, our jobs (and occasionally combinations of the aforementioned, or how having a Ph.D. in physics can help one become a great financial analyst), and everything else we could think of. (I'm afraid I talked our poor hosts' ears off while we were waiting for Steg, who'd kindly volunteered to drive us home, to get his car. Sorry about that.) A great time was has by all. Rav todot, many thanks, to RaggedyMom and Dad for getting us all together!

Another PSA, for users of the new Blogger.com

There will be a short interruption in the story, while I mention that RaggedyMom was kind enough to point out to me that my e-mail address did not make the transition from the old to the new version of Blogger.com. I have since corrected the problem. Please check your profile, and make sure that your e-mail address is "clickable" (if you wish it to be accessible to your readers). To make your e-mail address "clickable, " click on "View My Complete Profile," then "Edit Your Profile," and choose the appropriate e-mail address (not necessarily the one with which you're registered with Google--the address that I provide for my readers, for example, is different--so be sure that the address listed is the address that you want to make accessible to your readers), and click.

And now, on with the show.

Speaking of RaggedyMom . . .

An ice cube for my sister (major safety PSA)

Many years ago, my sister sent most of our Seder in pain because she'd burned herself helping me in the kitchen, and I didn't have any ice for her burn, it never having occurred to me that I needed an icecube tray for Pesach (Passover).

Needless to say, I went out on Chol HaMoed (an "intermediate" day of a Pilgrimage Festival, when shopping and necessary work are permitted) and bought an icecube tray.

Then it occurred to me that I'd been an idiot, which is why I'm posting this as a major public service announcement: Make sure that you not only have an icecube tray for Pesach, but, also, that it's the first thing you put into your freezer when you finish cleaning and lining it for Pesach, in case you "fry" yourself while kashering utensils, cooking or baking.

Which means, among other things, that you have to be able to find it!

And so, the year that my husband did me a favor and put away all the Pesach pots, utensils, etc., by himself . . . well, it took me two hours to find the icecube tray the next year!

So here's the deal--we have to put away the Pesach pots together.

'Cause the Punster is a much better packer than I am, and can figure out how to squash everything into our storage boxes. (Boy, do we ever need at least one more plastic storage box!)

But, since I'm the one who has to do most of the set-up, I have to be able to find things! So either I have to tell him where to put certain essential items, such as the icecube tray, or see where he puts them, so that I can make notes in my Pesach files.

And this year, since my resident CPA had a particularly tough tax season (at least partly because one of his not-for-profit clients [tax returns for not-for-profit organizations are due today] is being a major pain in the butt), he couldn't spare the time 'til yesterday!

What a way to spend Mother's Day!

First the housecleaning.

Then the great Pesach put-away party.

Finally, a minute to myself while the Punster went off to get "tortured" by the aforementioned pain-in-the-butt non-profit organization. I sat down with book in hand to copy a quote into a comment on a post to which I had linked, then came back to my own blog to make a quick check for comments before taking a nap in preparation for going out to dinner. Imagine my surprise when I found this in my comments . . .

A crazy Mother's Day

Since I'd spent a good chunk of last Sunday, Lag B'Omer, at the Salute to Israel Parade and Concert, the apartment was a wreck, so, Mother's Day or not, I had to do some major housecleaning after minyan yesterday morning. But the best was yet to come--before we went out to dinner, we had to put the Pesach pots away.

Say WHAT?!


It all started because I didn't have . . .

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Elie discusses "Coerced Cooperation"

I recommend this post as a sensible response to some of my egalitarian rants. Follow the link, too.

Sunday, May 13, 2007 update:

On the other hand, see my comment (to Elie's post) about JTS Talmud Professor Rabbi Judith Hauptman's conclusion.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Chana marches, Fudge dances (belated Lag B'Omer post)

Chana was astounded to see so many Jews in one place at one time at New York City's annual Salute to Israel Parade last Sunday.

Fudge found herself in the mood for a Lag B'Omer strum-and-sing-a-long and a little dancing, much to her pleasant surprise.

Eventually, when they're finished torturing me with this major project at the office, I'll get around to blogging about the Israel Day Concert in Central Park that started toward the end of the parade. Kosher Dilz (spelling?) rapped about something Jewish--as is usual with me and rap, I couldn't understand most of the words. Yosi Piamenta sent the next generation of family guitar genii, his son Yehuda, to lead the Piamentas. What an incredible band! (So help me, the drummer didn't look much more than 16 years old. Probably another member of the family.) Chaim Kiss, Dr. Meyer Abittan (subbing for his son Baruch, who performed last year), and Hazzan Moshe Tessone (with a son in tow) each performed one song. Shloime Dachs, whose band was the back-up for a good part of the concert, performed several songs. (He's a bit too slick for my personal taste--I think he's what MOChassid would describe as a "shiny shoe" singer--but I still got some good dancin' in.) Gershon Veroba, Shlomo Katz, the American band Pey Dalid and the Israeli band Yood each performed three songs, as I recollect, and I enjoyed them thoroughly. (The organizers really bring out the best for this bash. Last year, we got there too late, and just missed the brilliantly eccentric Israeli rock musician Aron Razel. Bummer.) Having managed to snag a great spot right along the security barrier behind the VIP seats, I spent the entire concert leaning on the barrier and dancing Hillel-style (on one foot), more or less, putting most of my weight on my right foot, as the left one still has that inflammation at the surgical site. The Punster had a jolly good time, as well, while I was dancing the day away.

You just can't stop a dancin' dame
If she starts to feel a little pain
She makes a dancer's barre of her trusty cane
And starts a-dancin' all over again. :)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My blogmom goes under the chuppah again! :) :)

Go here and wish AidelMaidel and her new husband, Mr. Sky-High, a hearty mazal tov!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Society for the Protection of Childhood needed?

See here for part one. (Thanks, Shifra!)


Secular division:

In this post of mine, I discuss twelve-year-old girls (and their parents) who think it's perfectly fine to show a little cleavage. Beyond the obvious tzniut (modesty) issue, what's so age-appropriate about a twelve-year-old girl dressing as an adult?

Jewish division:

Shifra's post (and especially RaggedyMom's second comment) speaks of girls as young as four years old (and their parents) under pressure to wear only skirts, as if it's forbidden for girls to be children and hang upside from playground equipment once they're old enough to be out of diapers.


Secular division:

Okay, call me a bit informal, but for the life of me, I've never understood the necessity of putting a six-year-old in a full suit for just about any reason other than a relative's wedding.

Jewish division:

Now add a black hat to an elementary-school-boy's full suit, and tell me that that's normal clothing for a boy of that age.


Secular division:

This post was inspired by a 10-year-old who mentioned that she was studying for an algebra test. Please excuse my husband and me for being so horribly backward, but neither of us ever saw the inside of an algebra book until we were 14 1/2 years old and in ninth grade.

Jewish division:

I've seen repeated complaints voiced in blog posts and newspaper articles that Gemorrah is being taught to children who are barely old enough to understand the Chumash and/or (in the case of non-Israelis) to be fluent in Hebrew.

What's the rush? Why aren't children allowed to be children anymore?

Karov Hashem l'chol kor'av?

[Note: I guess this post might be a late addition to my recent "Thoughts on prayer" series."]

In the military, if one wishes to state one's mind, one must request authorization to do so: "Permission to speak freely, sir?" Is the same true of prayer?

About halfway down in the comments to this post comes this interesting comment:

(I do take exception to changing the text of brachos—that would be a brachah l’vetalah, which is an Torah prohibition. What do you gain by praising Hashem in a way that’s more personally meaningful by transgressing on one of the Ten Commandments—Don’t take His Name in vain!)

. . .

The psalmist tells us, "Karov Hashem l'chol kor'av, l'chol asher yikrauhu v'emet," Near is the L-rd to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon him in truth." (Psalm 145). Is that true? Or must one have authorization?

"Permission to pray freely, sir?"

I have only my "baby Birnbaum" at work, so please forgive me if my memory fails me, but I'm pretty sure that these are the words of an optional addition to the brachah (blessing) for the sick (Baruch . . . rofei choley Yisrael) in the ArtScroll Siddur (prayer book): "May it be your will, L-rd my G-d and G-d of my ancestors, to send from heaven a complete healing, a healing of the spirit and a healing of the body, to (fill in the blank with the names[s] of the ill), among the remnant of the sick of [the People] Israel." When I add the words "v'cholei kol yoshvei teiveil, and the sick of all the inhabitants of Earth," I'm committing a sin? Someone wrote a prayer a thousand (or more) years ago, and I'm not at liberty to add or change a single word, because praying my way is taking Hashem's name in vain?!

If we're committing a sin by using our brains to think for ourselves, then is "Baruch chonen hadaat, Blessed is the One who gives us knowledge," a brachah l'vatalah*?

*Brachah l'vatalah: a "wasted" blessing, a form of taking G-d's name in vain.

Baruch shekachah lo b'olamo

The sun is shining so warmly
The blue sky is so clear
The leaves on the trees are a beautiful green
The flowers abloom make a gorgeous scene
To drink it all in, my eyes are so keen
How can one not thank G-d at this time of year

Blessed is the One who has such as these in His World
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