Sunday, July 29, 2007

Links to my Tu B'Av posts (serious discussion welcome)

Links to my July 20-early July 29 posts

More good reasons why we still need Tu B'Av

See Brooklyn Wolf's post here.

Abstinence, for one reason or the other

"There are times that require "a binding of Yitzchak." There are times when we must suffer and live in an impossible situation. The Talmud tells us that every day a heavenly voice praises bachelors who live in a city and do not sin. There are difficult and impossible situations in which the one who stands up to them is greatly rewarded by heaven for each and every day that he passes the test even under great hardship.

However, these are the exceptions which prove the rule. They show that we observe the good and pleasant Torah because of our obligation to the Creator and not because it suits us. The path of the Torah is "a pleasant way, and all of its routes are peaceful" [Mishlei 3:17], but we are committed to observe it because of Divine commands. "

Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute ( "

From an Orthodox Union "Shabbat Shalom" article, "The Symbol on the Grave," by Rabbi Amicahi Gordin, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High.

I've had the post below saved as a draft for several weeks, and was wondering when, or whether, I should publish it. I guess Tu B'Av is as good, or bad, a time as ever.

There has been some discussion in the Jewish blogosphere in recent months on the subject of sexual abstinence, prompted mostly by the Orthodox Union’s new push to get teens to abide by it. This issue has given me pause, lately.

Miriam Shaviv has a few words to say about shmirat n’giah, the religious rule barring any (non-medical) physical contact between men and women unless they are either married to one another or related to one another by blood.

Nice Jewish Girl has even more to say.

But there’s another population to be considered. What about persons with same-sex attraction?

It’s tougher, in some ways, to be gay than straight, when it comes to sexual abstinence, from the point of view of halachah/Jewish religious law. It’s bad enough to find oneself 35 years old and never kissed. But what if you knew, from the time you were a teenager, that you would never be kissed?

In the final analysis, though, the results are the same. According to Jewish law, a person who never marries is never permitted to have sex. Period.

It’s probable that I’ve been thinking about this recently because of both my age and my good fortune. As a 58-year-old who’s now been married for 30 years, I simply can’t fathom how anyone can cope, either physically or emotionally, with being a virgin at 58. It's tough enough to face the knowledge that, somewhere down the line (may it be many years from now), I'll be joining the ranks of the widowed. But to go an entire lifetime without ever once having had sex, and being almost literally untouched by human hands? I, personally, would find the deprivation unbearable.

What, exactly, is one supposed to do when halachah is just plain outright cruel and inhumane? Why should one person suffer a lifetime of physical and emotional deprivation--starvation of a different kind--because of bad luck, and another suffer the same fate because HaShem made him or her according to His will?

August 2, 2007 update: Thus far, all of the comments to this post seem to have ended up here.

The quote-hunter strikes (it rich) again, Vaetchanan edition

See here for a previous edition and links to other editions in this "accidental series."
I’m sitting there in shul/synagogue listening to the haftarah ("prophetic reading") when the words suddenly start sounding particularly familiar. So after Shabbat/Sabbath, I crank up the old Victrola, put on Gershon Veroba’s "Reach Out," and, sure enough, the lyrics to track 11, “Harimi,” sung by Reva L’Sheva and some students of Yeshivat Mevaseret Zion (Jerusalem) are from Isaiah/Yishaya 40, verse 9, which is in this haftarah. Here’s a sample of this song. Enjoy! (Nu? Go buy the album, already!)
Yesterday's Torah (Bible) reading, Parshat Vaetchanan (D'varim/Deuteronomy chapter 3, 23-chapter 7, verse 11) is loaded with good stuff. Here's one that we use as part of the introduction to a public Torah reading from a sefer Torah/scroll: chapter 4, verse 4. ד וְאַתֶּם, הַדְּבֵקִים, בַּי---, אֱלֹהֵי-ם --חַיִּים כֻּלְּכֶם, הַיּוֹם. 4 But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.

And here's another goody, used in the introduction to the Torah reading on Simchat Torah: chapter 4, verse 35. לה אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת, כִּי יְ--- הוּא הָאֱלֹ-ים: אֵין עוֹד, מִלְּבַדּוֹ. 35 Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the LORD, He is God; there is none else beside Him.

Naturally, it's hard to miss the second mention of the Aseret HaDibrot/Ten Commandment, chapter 5, verses 6-19.

And of courses, there's the central "prayer" of the Jewish faith, which isn't a prayer at all, but, rather, a quote, known as the Sh'ma, the first paragraph of which can be found in this parsha in chapter 6, verses 4-9: ד שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְ--- אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְ--- אֶחָד. 4 Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. (That paragraph continues--see the link.]

If memory serves me correctly, at least part of chapter 6, verses 20-25 are quoted in the Haggadah of Pesach/Passover.

כ כִּי-יִשְׁאָלְךָ בִנְךָ מָחָר, לֵאמֹר: מָה הָעֵדֹת, וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְ--- אֱלֹ-ינוּ, אֶתְכֶם. 20 When thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: 'What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which the LORD our God hath commanded you?
כא וְאָמַרְתָּ לְבִנְךָ, עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרָיִם; וַיֹּצִיאֵנוּ יְ--- מִמִּצְרַיִם, בְּיָד חֲזָקָה. 21 then thou shalt say unto thy son: 'We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Ah, I knew there was one that I'd missed, from Aleinu--the quote is in this parsha, chapter 4, verse 39:

לט וְיָדַעְתָּ הַיּוֹם, וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל-לְבָבֶךָ, כִּי יְ---- הוּא הָאֱלֹ-ים, בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וְעַל-הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת: אֵין, עוֹד. 39 know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else.
If I think of any others, I'll let you know. If you think of any others, please let me know! Thanks!

Wild Bill Hiccup--an ongoing saga

Here's the original.

Sometimes no amount of keeping up helps you keep up: Yesterday alone, we received eight bills. Sigh.

Not fit to print?

Start here. (Thanks, Ezzie!)

Then consider this: The District Attorney released the news on July 16; the New York Times and other local newspapers reported it on July 17. Yet I can’t recollect having seen any mention of this incident in either the Jewish Week or the Jewish Press, either in last week's or in this week's edition. (If someone has spotted an article that I missed, please correct me.) Why?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blogger blues

Is there any particular reason why edits and comments to my posts sometimes take more than half a day to become visible on this blog's homepage? It drives me nuts when I respond to a comment and no one except me can see any change, not to mention that it's embarrassing enough when I publish a spelling error, but even worse when the error is still visible six hours after I've corrected it.

(I'm publishing this at 3:05 PM. When Blogger will publish it, I haven't a clue. Sigh.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A sad anniversary

DrumbumJ asked me to blog about the hitnatkut (withdrawal from Gaza [I hope I got the spelling right this time]), which began the day after Tisha B'Av two years ago, if memory serves me correctly. I've been rather hesitant to do so, as I'm still of two minds about it, wondering, on the one hand, whether any of the territories conquered in the Six-Day War should ever have been settled at all, and on the other hand, whether the settlements were/are necessary for defense.

I will say this much, however: At this time, I am opposed to any further withdrawals, strictly on humanitarian grounds. Two years after the evacuation of Gush Katif/the Gaza settlements, and after the evacuation of several settlements in northern Shomron/Samaria, there are literally thousands of people still living in caravillot/trailers/mobile homes, many not only without permanent homes but unemployed, as well. Children and adults alike still suffer from emotional trauma, resulting in social and school problems and the dissolution of marriages. The government of the State of Israel has proven itself completely incapable of resettling even the current evacauees, who, to the best of my admittedly-limited knowledge, number less than 10,000 people. What makes the Israeli government think that they're capable of resettling additional evacuees when they can't even take care of the ones they've already "created"?

My husband speculates that the military and/or security forces had reason to suspect that Hamas was becoming strong enough to pose an even greater danger to the settlers than it had previously posed, and that that's why the decision to withdraw was made. Allison Kaplan Sommer said something similar here--follow the link in her post, too.

Feel free to agree, disagree, and/or express ambivalence about anything written in this post. The usual rules of this blog apply: I ask only that your comments be phrased in respectful language. This is, after all, the day after we commemorate the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash/Holy Temple, which, according to tradition, was destroyed because of sinat chinam/baseless hatred.

Sigh. That's about as much politics as I can tolerate.

The evacuees remain in my prayers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lest we forget, chayalim are still missing

Read Irina's heartfelt words here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dis-armed (or arms “dissed”): Clothing controversies

“dis” (current[?] American slang): verb—to disrespect; noun: an act of disrespect.

It started out as an innocent gripe by OrthoMom about her pre-teen daughter's request for pantyhose to wear at an Orthodox day summer camp that requires girls to cover their legs completely. OM’s original complaint seems to have been that it was a waste of money: “Apparently, the tween set likes to wear sheer nude pantyhose. Which my daughter didn't bring enough of. Which I now have to send up to camp - so she can get one wearing out of each pair. “ Over 100 comments later . . .

A number of the commenters asserted that parents who didn’t insist that their daughters be dressed extremely modestly from a very young age were not providing them with a proper chinuch (education/upbringing). I found this very distressing.

Please excuse me if this sounds a bit disrespectful, but I’m waiting patiently for someone to explain to me exactly what’s so obscene about:

1. a girl’s or woman’s leg below the knee;

2. a girl’s or woman’s upper arm below the shoulder (making a sleeve that covers the entire shoulder, but not the rest of the upper arm, not modest enough);

3. females in pants (I’m referring to pants designed for females, as opposed to jeans purchased from the Men’s Department, which would raise the “beged ish" ["garment of a man"] issue—halachah/Jewish religious law prohibits the wearing of the opposite sex's clothing.)

What's wrong with a short-sleeved shirt? Why should a woman, in some Orthodox communities, be considered immodestly dressed if her sleeves don't at least reach—stricter folks say her sleeves must cover—her elbows? What's so indecent about a female's upper arm? With all the women who don't hesitate to expose significant portions of their, um, chests, the chareidim/fervently Orthodox have nothing more, um, pointed to worry about than a woman's elbows?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Steam pipe explosion in Manhattan, 1 dead, 24(?) injured

I was trying to get to my chiropractor when the subway bypassed Grand Central Station. For lack of an alternative, I got out at 51st Street and Lexington Avenue, and found myself in the midst of chaos.

It turned out that a steam pipe had exploded at 41st Street and Lexington Avenue, one block south of Grand Central Station. Thus far, terrorism has been ruled out. This seems to have been an old-fashioned accident (remember those?).

Here are two videos that I took in the upper 40's on Lexington Avenue.

System failure in the subway

The water poured right down the stair--
Of rained-soaked shoes, I had my share.
In subway car, I sit and stare
The train's not going anywhere

There's flooding in the station ahead
The electric power there is probably dead
"Don't know when I'll be in," I said
I might as well be back in bed

I got to work just short of noon
The thunderstorms won't vanish soon
It's s'posed to pour tomorrow, too
The subway ride should be a zoo

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


"HaShem tz'vakot" is a phrase I've encountered in Jewish music that I find rather puzzling.

Why add that "k" sound?

To the best of my knowledge, the word "tz'vaot" means either hosts, legions, or armies, depending on the translation that you happen to have in your hands. "Legions" is not one of the names of G-d. Nor is it one of the "substitute" names of G-d, such as, for example, HaShem (literally, "The Name," used in place of, well, The Name.)

I can understand that a person who's concerned about taking G-d's name in vain might use the substitute name HaShem or AdoShem for L-rd, the substitute name Elokim for G-d, or Kel instead of a shorter name of G-d. I can even understand the use of the substitute name Kadai for a name starting with a "sh" sound and meaning Almighty, though, to be honest, I've only become acquainted with that substitute within the past half dozen years, at most, and it sounds downright odd to my Conservative ears.

But "tz'vaot" is not even a name! And combining it with G-d's name to create the phrase HaShem tz'vaot, the L-rd of legions, does not make it any more of one. "Legions" is still not a name. And if it's not even a name, how can it be the Name? And if it isn't one of HaShem's names, why is there a substitute for it?

In my opinion, the original Hebrew for "L-rd of hosts" or "L-rd of legions" should be pronounced "HaShem tz'vaot" (not "HaShem tz'vakot"). I see no good reason for adding an extra letter.

The city limits . . .

. . .or, at least, that city limits this blogger.

Good luck figuring out how to use that scanner. It would be fun to see those drawings. And by the way, have a great trip!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Precaution or paranoia?

This evening, I was standing in a subway station with nothing more dangerous in my hands than a camera when I was stopped by the police, who politely informed me that taking a photo inside a station is not permitted. Maybe I'm naive, but I can't imagine what useful information a terrorist could possibly gain from a shot of an interesting bit of architecture.

Public Service Announcement: Safety first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the words of a lucky-to-be-alive Steg, “GET A CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR. NOW!”

And David Bogner/Treppenwitz, who was fortunate to escape serious injury, reminds us of “the importance of following written warnings on equipment.”

While we’re on the subject of home safely, please remember that “an open box of baking soda in an obvious & easy-to-reach place could save your life” in case of a fire in the kitchen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Quick round-up of my July 9-12 posts

Less they get lost in the shuffle, here are links to these posts of mine:

My first meme [complete with photo by yours truly]

Fake a-cappella music: Following the letter, violating the spirit of the “law” [a little commentary on a "Three-Weeks" issue]

A lesson learned from an error [or how not to embarrass one's kid in public]

Ignorance isn't bliss, it's embarrassing [or the kid's not the only one]

Extra, extra: Here's a photgraphic update to an old post, in honor of our new scanner, it should live and be well (which is more than I can say for its late predecessor).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ignorance isn't bliss, it's embarrassing

I clicked on my sidebar’s link to "Haveil Havalim, current post," and ended up at this post (thanks, Malachi!), which sent me to this post. Sigh. I’m not even a baalot t’shuvah (“returnee” to Orthodox Judaism), and I’ve run into some similar embarrassing situations, myself. Oy, can I tell you stories . . .

Baruch Elokeinu sheh-b'raanu li-ch'vodo (repeat three times)
[Blessed is He, our G-d, Who created us for His glory (repeat three times)
For His glory]

Od ha-paam, od ha-paam, li-ch'vodo (repeat twice)
Od ha-paam, li-ch'vodo, li-ch'vodo
[Repeat, again, "for His glory" (repeat twice)
Repeat, again, "for His glory," "for His glory"]

[I think "od ha-paam" can mean either "repeat" or "again."]

V'hivdilanu min ha-toim (repeat three times)
Min ha-toim
[And separated us from those who stray]

Od ha-paam, od ha-paam, min ha-toim (repeat twice)
Od ha-paam, min ha-toim, min ha-toim
[Repeat, again, "from those who stray"]

V'natan lanu Torat emet (repeat three times)
Torat emet
[And gave us the Torah/law of truth]

Od ha-paam, od ha-paam, Torat emet (repeat twice)
Od ha-paam, Torat emet, Torat emet
[Repeat, again, "Torah/law of truth"]

V'chayei olam nata b'tocheinu (repeat three times)
[And life eternal planted within us]

Od ha-paam, od ha-paam, b'tocheinu (repeat twice)
Od ha-paam b'tocheinu, b'tocheinu
[Repeat, again, "within us"]

Every summer for something like a decade, my mother worked as a counselor at the local Jewish day camp in return for tuition for the four of us. So there I was, among the campers singing Hebrew songs, when I got carried away by the spirit of the moment and started singing this beauty at the top of my lungs:

V'natan lanu et ha-Shabbat (repeat three times)
Et ha-Shabbat
[And gave us the Sabbath]

Od ha-paam, od ha-paam, et ha-Shabbat (repeat twice)
Od ha-paam, et ha-Shabbat, et ha-Shabbat
[Repeat, again, "the Sabbath"]

Dead silence from the counselors.

I knew that I'd done something that wasn't done, but no one said a word, and I was afraid to ask.

It was roughly another forty years before I understood: I'd been under the impression that what we were singing was just an ordinary Hebrew song, when, in fact, those lyrics are taken from the siddur (prayer book)--and since I didn't know that prayer at that time, I had no idea that I was adding words that weren't part of the prayer. The words that come immediately after the lyrics of that song are "Hu yiftach libeinu b'Torato, May He open our heart to His Torah." There's no mention of Shabbat (Sabbath) in that particular prayer, which is recited daily.

Over forty years after the fact, I'm still mortified to realize that, by adding that verse, I'd made it clear to every counselor present that I was ignorant of Jewish prayer. It's to their credit that they chose not to embarrass me by telling me just how stupid I'd made myself look.

Then there was the time that we invited a High Holiday cantor and his wife to lunch at our humble abode on Rosh HaShanah. Imagine how I felt when the cantor's wife complained that my very elegant and none-too-cheap dairy meal was just, well, "It's traditional to have a meat meal." My immediate reaction was to be thoroughly insulted. What an ingrate! (It probably didn't help that that was not the first time a guest had complained that the food I was serving wasn't good enough for her.) I've learned a few things since then. Apparently, it is traditional in some circles to make it a point to serve a meat meal on Sabbaths and holidays. But still, is it that great a breach of tradition to serve smoked salmon and kosher brie (neither of which is either cheap or easy to get in our non-Jewish neighborhood) that it was worth insulting the hostess? And how did she know that we weren't one of those families that had simplified our kashrut observance by having a dairy-only kitchen? If she wished to explain the tradition to me, why didn't she take me aside and explain privately, rather than embarrassing me in front of both of our husbands and my friend and friends?

Still, I would never serve a clergy-person and/or spouse a dairy meal on a Shabbat or Yom Tov again, lest I risk having to deal with that kind of disdain. I'd clean out one of the glatt kosher take-out places (lest there be a question about whether our kitchen is kosher enough) and put at least one dish, double-wrapped, on the hot tray (lest, heaven forbid, we be accused of being Tzadokim because we'd served only cold food.) Sigh.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A lesson learned from an error

Great outdoor types that we are, we spent (U.S.) Independence Day (July 4th) watching a couple of DVDs with some good friends. The first movie was a Bollywood musical called “Bride and Prejudice.” Speaking of cheating, it occurred to me several hours later that I probably shouldn’t have watched a musical during the Three Weeks. But HaShem had the last laugh.

If I were traditional enough to believe in such things, I would say that my watching that particular movie was “hashgacha pratit,” which I think translates roughly as “divine intervention,” the idea that everything that happens in one’s life happens for G-d’s own good reason(s). One scene, at a wedding, showed a bevy of beautiful young women singing their way down a conveniently wide staircase, then joining the gents at the foot of the stairs for a dance sequence. They were interrupted, mid-dance, by the mother of some of the guests, who stood on the stairs singing something to the effect that just because she wasn’t so young anymore didn’t mean she wasn’t attractive, and dancing in a would-be “come-hither” manner. The woman’s daughters cringed in embarrassment, and her husband had the dubious privilege of persuading her to join him while trying not to tell her what a spectacle she was making of herself.

Okayyyyyyyyy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Apparently, this “dancin’ fool” is only allowed to make a fool of herself in public when her son is not present. I’ll have to remember that, should I happen to have the good fortune to see him wed, one of these years. Lady, leave the livelier dancing to the bride and groom and their friends.

Fake a-cappella music: Following the letter, violating the spirit of the “law”

I’ve been making it a point to patronize West Side Judaica, my favorite Jewish book and ritual-items store, since reading that the store may be forced to close due to skyrocketing rent. As it happens, having heard an opinion that one isn’t supposed to listen to singing accompanied by musical instruments during the Shalosh HaShavuot/Drei Vochen/”Three Weeks” (the period between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B’Av), I had a good excuse to do damage to the family finances—I needed to buy some a-cappella CDs. Imagine my annoyance when I started playing one of the CDs and heard a bunch of guys singing with full accompaniment. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine how these people could possibly say that their album of allegedly a cappella singing was recorded without the use of musical instruments.

It was a rare moment of brilliance when the truth finally hit me.

“Dune-koff (dummy)!,” quoth she, smacking herself upside the head. “You’ve been reading Mark/PT’s blog for almost three years, and you’ve never heard of a drum machine?"

“Can you say ‘synthesizer’?”

I don’t know quite what to make of such a “cheat.”

Monday, July 09, 2007

My first meme

Mondrian in Glass
(June 29, 2007)
See fact number 5.

I’ve been tagged by Elie for this meme:

"Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged."

Well, Elie, truth to tell, I've never been a big fan of memes. Still, let me see . . . Maybe I’ll just follow your lead:

1. I, too "find it very hard to block out sound, especially coming from a television or radio." The reason why I got into the habit of staying up until outrageous hours on Saturday night/Sunday morning is that I couldn't get a thing done on the computer as long as our son was sitting a few yards from me watching the idiot box, so I had to wait until he turned off the tube [TV] and went to bed (at 1 AM—he was around 17 when this started) to do my entries in Quicken, etc. Now you know why I'm up publishing posts and comments at 3 AM. And I wonder why I'm tired. [Insert roll-eyes emoticon here.]

This also accounts for the fact that I don’t listen to music nearly as much now as when I was younger. Either whatever else I’m doing distracts me from the music, or the music distracts me from whatever else I’m doing. It’s a nice distraction, though, when I’m doing such mind-numbing pursuits as data entry or filing, both of which I, personally, find so boring that it’s difficult to for me to do them without listening to music. But I can’t “listen” to TV or a video while I’m working in Quicken or doing any serious writing—the visuals are even more distracting than the audio.

2. “I remember, and saved, the outfit I wore on my first date with my wife. I can't even come close to fitting into it any more, but I kept it anyway - hey, I'm a sentimental guy!” I still have the white eyelet skirt and blouse that I wore for our wedding reception. (It was a folk-dance reception, and I assumed that I’d eventually break my neck and/or be constricted in my dancing if I danced in my wedding gown all afternoon.) Unfortunately, we have absolutely no photos of me in that outfit, which I also wore for Yom Kippur for a couple of years after our wedding. Also unfortunately, I, um, “outgrew” it within about three years. But I can’t bear to part with it.

3. I was just about exactly 24 years old when I began wearing a tallit (a prayer shawl, which has ritual fringes). (I was a member of an egalitarian synagogue at the time, and figured that, as long as I had the rights, I should also have the responsibilities.) When I first began wearing a tallit, my (California) brother yelled at me for not wearing one on the Shabbat morning of a bat mitzvah celebration. “Either you’re going to wear one or you’re not!” That made sense to me, so I’ve worn one every Shabbat (Sabbath and Yom Tov (holiday) ever since, at least when I’m in a non-Orthodox synagogue.

I used to wear a tallit kattan (literally, a small tallit) under my blouse when I went to an Orthodox synagogue, but I think I’d probably put on my tallit (and t’fillin, if it were a weekday), say the full Sh’ma at home, then remove the tallit (and t’fillin) before going to shul if I were davvening Orthodox nowadays. For myself, I now question the point of wearing a fringed garment if I don’t have the nerve to wear the fringes in a visible manner—the mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah specifies “u-r’item oto”/and you will see it,” "it" being a ritual fringe—and I’m no longer either as blasé about offending people as I was when I was in my twenties or chutzpahdik (gutsy) enough to wear the tzitzit (fringe[s]) where I can see them. That perspective and the fact that I’m particularly prone to heat prostration have prevented me from adding the wearing of a tallit kattan to my ritual observance.

For the record, the Punster met me after I’d already begun wearing a tallit, so he can’t say he didn’t know what he was getting into. :)

4. Some friends of ours got us interested in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” when the Son-ster was about six years old, and we’ve been science fiction fans ever since. In my humble opinion, the best of the Star Trek TV shows was “Deep Space Nine,” possibly because it was influenced by its wonderful “rival,” “Babylon 5,” which was conceived first but put into production later. The current version of “Battlestar Galactica” has been a bit convoluted lately—I have no idea where the writers are going with the latest plot twist, and, frankly, I suspect that they don’t know, either. But it was nice while it lasted. “Farscape” was far out, both literally and figuratively, and I enjoyed it very much, though I don’t think I’ve see all the episodes. “Stargate: SG 1” was fun, as is its spin-off, “Stargate: Atlantis”—neither is usually quite as serious as B5, DS9, or Farscape, though there have certainly been those moments. (Why, oh why, did they have to kill off Dr. Beckett on Atlantis? He was my favorite character. Sniff.) By the way, I absolutely love the opening theme song of Atlantis.

5. I’ve always been a late bloomer, and the later, the bloomier :), apparently. My current job is the best I’ve ever had (though, unfortunately, not particularly lucrative). In addition, within roughly the latest ten years, I’ve written over 50 poems, many of which have been published on my blog—none of them is Pulitzer-worthy, but I enjoyed writing them. (The less said about my “Babylon 5” fan fiction short stories, the better, but the writing process was fascinating.) I’ve also choreographed five dances since I started blogging, and now that they’re on YouTube, where anyone can see them, I don’t much care that they’re not Broadway-worthy. :) Now, if only I could figure how to use the lighting settings on our camera . . . :)

One of the biggest surprises I've gotten since discovering first the televised-science-fiction message boards and, then, the Jewish blogosphere is how much I really enjoy writing and being creative. I never did any of this before—every poem, story, and non-fiction discussion piece that I've written, every dance that I’ve choreographed, and almost all of my recent attempts at photography have been done precisely for sharing on the Internet and getting a response. What can I say? Apparently, I’m not only a late bloomer, I'm also an attention-seeker. :)

6. Probably one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had on the Internet took place when I was visiting another J-blog. Every time my curser happened to slide into the sidebar, I saw my URL appear at the bottom left of my screen. At first, I though there was some kind of computer malfunction. But finally, it occurred to me that maybe I should check out the sidebar deliberately and see what the story was. Imagine my shock when I discovered that my URL was appearing whenever the mouse was pointing to the following words: “Jewish. Writer. Great. Undiscovered.” Who, me??! Holy Moses!! Truth to tell, I've always thought of myself as being more of an editor than a writer, especially given my work history in the secretarial field. (I've always considered it my job to make my employer look good. You'd be surprised at how much editing that sometimes entails.) Thanks, Eliyahu!

7. I "did time" in France. :) Okay, I lived for 17 months in France as a college French major. (I came home quite fluent, but, though I can still read it, I no longer understand spoken French.) My biggest peeve with the French was that they were perfectly content to demonstrate against U.S. war Vietnam--a war which I also opposed--but wouldn't say a word against their own government's war in the African nation of Chad.

8. Holding on for dear life, literally:
When I was in high school, we once went on a class trip to an amusement park. This having been roughly 40 years ago, the sophisticated safety mechanisms currently common on amusement rides either didn't exist yet or were not yet in common use, and seat belts in cars were almost unheard of. So when I ended up alone in a two-seater roller coaster car and thought that the attendant had left the safety belt rather lose, I had no idea how to tighten it, and just figured I'd live. Little did I know how wrong I almost was. When the roller coaster reached the top of the first ("monster") hill and started plunging down that huge drop, I realized, to my horror, not to mention terror, that the only thing keeping me from flying out of that car to a certain death was my own two hands. Astoundingly enough in retrospect, it never occurred to me to report to anyone that the ride attendant's error had almost cost me my life. But I think it goes without saying that I've been petrified of roller coasters ever since.

Well, for someone who isn't big on memes, I think I've managed to write one of the longest-winded memes in the history of the blogosphere. :) (Is anyone still here? :) ) I'm too worn out to tag eight other people. Um, any volunteers?

On second thought, AidelMaidel did complain here that she hadn't been tagged, so she's hereby tagged. :)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Chana on the importance of teaching multiple perspectives

Thanks to Ezzie for pointing out this July 2 post by Chana on teaching multiple legitimate opinions within Orthodox Judaism and on tolerating students who, while most definitely Orthodox, don't tow a yeshiva's party line. I'm sorry that it took me roughly a week to link to it. At last look, it has garnered 121 comments. The most distressing ones, I think, are the anonymous comment on July 3 at 9:34 PM followed by Chana's responses at 9:38 and 9:40 PM.
If you wish to comment, kindly post your responses on Chana's blog. I decided, about a month and a half ago, that it might not be appropriate to open the comments on this non-Orthodox blog to discussions of issues that affect only or primarily the Orthodox community.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Kol Ish

A male singer has been banned from chareidi (fervently Orthodox) radio because his voice sounds like a woman's, and many Orthodox Jews believe that halachah (Jewish religious law) forbids a man from listening to a woman sing.

See this post by Brooklyn Wolf.

My favorite comment on this interesting role reversal is to this post by DovBear (see translations of Hebrew terms at end of post):

"As I have written previously, the entire basis of the kol isha prohibition is bogus.

In the talmudic passage that forms its basis, the assertion that the voice of a woman is "erva" (as well as additional assertions that a woman showing parts of her body are also erva) is based on a passage from Shir HaShirim. Presumably, just as the (female) lover's voice in song arouses her man ,so, too would a random female voice arouse a random man, thus driving him to commit improper sex acts.

The fallacy of this argument in general should be obvious, but there's even more.

Shir Hashirim was made part of the Tanach because it was interpreted as having nothing to do with profane stuff like lust, or even love. This is obvious if you've ever read the Artscroll version. It's supposed to be an allegory describing the love of Israel for God, where, of course, the woman is Israel and God is the man. So if one insists on using that passage, the conclusion is that the voice of Israel in prayer to God is "erva," and chazzanut and davening are thus assur.
Conservative apikoris Homepage 06.29.07 - 8:27 am #

I must confess to a certain glee at CA's approach to kol isha, which is certainly a lot more fun than my own umpteen thousand screeds on the subject. :) (Click on the Kol Isha label to read my previous posts about this issue.)

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

Those of you who've been reading my blog for more than two days :) know my humble opinion of the kol isha prohibition: I see no good reason why any adult should be held responsible for the sins of another adult. But even assuming that you disagree with that approach, you can't have it both ways, folks. If the prohibition against kol isha is based on a verse from Shir HaShirim (The Song of Songs), that means that Shir HaShirim is a poem about human love, rabbinic protests to the contrary notwithstanding. If Shir HaShirim is not about human love, then there's no reason for the prohibition against kol isha.

kol isha: literally "the voice of a woman"--the prohibition against a man hearing a woman sing. (This prohibition is variously interpreted--some say it applies only to live music; some say that "zevach laShem" [praise of G-d] is exempt from this prohibition).

(To clarify, "kol ish" would mean "the voice of a man"--see immediately above--and there's no prohibition against either a woman or another man listening to a man sing.)

erva: to the best of my knowledge, the literal translation is "nudity."

Shir HaShirim: The Song of Songs

Tanach: Bible

chazzanut: the singing of a chazzan/cantor (this particular term usually refers to the operatic style of cantorial singing)

davening: prayer, praying

assur: prohibited


Monday, July 02, 2007

Ezzie shot by Inquiring Photographer :)

. . . who also shoots self in foot--"Ezzie Goldfish"??!!

Well, at least the photo that the Jewish Press published shows Ezzie with cute little Elianna.

Why do I have a feeling that the Inquiring Photographer did all of the interviews for the Friday, June 29, 2007 edition at the accounting firm for which Ezzie works? Does it have anything to do with the fact that three of the four people interviewed, including Ezzie, are audit associates? :)

And why am I not surprised that our conservative friend Ezzie's answer to the question "Rudy Giuliani or Barack Obama for president?" was "Giulani?" :)
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