Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Moderation in modesty

Some choices! :(

A Jew can be "holding" (maintaining standards in accordance with a particular hashkafah/religious perspective) in this manner. ("Shmirat einayim" means "the guarding of the eyes," done in the interest of avoiding temptation by the "yetzer hara" [evil inclination]. Sorry, but it would take half of this post for me to translate all the Hebrew in that one. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. ) Here's a sample from that post: ". . . the real place of milchama [war] is, b’avonoseinu harabim [in our many sins?], in our frum [Orthodox] communities where helige bnos Yisroel [holy daughters of Israel/Jewish daughters/Jewish women], try to walk the line between proper, unapologetic tzinus [tznius/tzniut/modesty], and “being fashionable”.

Or a Jew can be behaving in this manner. (I'm referring to the second paragraph and beyond, but feel free to follow the links in the first one.)

Either extreme—"nothing shows" or "anything goes"—results in shooting the knees-covered legs out from under those wishing to stake out a moderate position on the issue of modesty (tzniut) in dress.

In that post by A Simple Jew, he and his commenters seem to be positing that the only way for men to control their own sexual desires is, essentially, to avoid women like the plague. They don’t seem to have any understanding that this particular method of trying to improve their own behavior tends to lead them to insult half the human race, which one would think would be a violation of Judaism’s teachings on derech eretz (courtesy) and kavod habriyot (respect for [G-d’s] creatures). To me, some of them seem so concerned with protecting themselves from temptation that they don’t appear to care that their method of doing so may make some women feel like pariahs instead of respected human beings. As I commented on that post, “We are not a disease.”

(It could also be argued that the men writing and commenting on that post were insulting themselves, too, by implying that males have little self-control. That thought doesn't seem to have occurred to them, either. Their response to my comments was to ask why I was criticizing them for trying to improve their behavior. How could I explain that it wasn't necessary for them to act like cloistered monks for whom the presence of any female [except their wives and daughters, in this case] is a temptation to be avoided whenever possible?)

On the other hand, I’m also not too happy about, you should pardon the expression, the “boobs on the half-shell” look. (I’m copyrighting that one.) Call me a hypocrite, if you wish, since I wore mini-skirts as a young woman. But, even in my mini-skirt days, I had skirts that were on my “too-short-for-shul” list. Nowadays, it’s not unusual, in non-Orthodox synagogues, for women to show up in tops that show a bit more than they should. (I’m not too bonkers about guys, in the more informal synagogues, showing up in shorts, either.) And don’t even ask about how people dress at work. Even in the offices of the Orthodox organization that employs me, the manner of dress runs the full gamut, from ankle-length skirts and turtlenecks to mini-skirts and low-cut tops.

A while back, on a post on another blog (I forget which one), a commenter said that, where she lives, an outfit such as this one would be considered modest. I’ve seen just this sort of layered look at Israeli folk dancing sessions many times, when some of the younger women come in wearing low-rider jeans—and, every time they stand up, yank down the longer T-shirts that they’re wearing underneath their top T-shirts. Never let it be said that there’s no modesty among the non-Orthodox.

And never let it be said that all Orthodox Jews are slaves to the “tzniut police.” If you’d like to see an example of a moderate version of modesty among the frum folks, check out the photo of Safranit here. (Keep scrolling down—you’ll see her, eventually.) As Safranit said here, “I am very comfortable where I am religiously…this means I was not made uncomfortable by snide comments by non-religious family members, nor did I feel like I should leave wearing short sleeves and having hair showing in the Chareidi shops in the Catskills. (Yes, my parents really live year round in the Catskills)” You go!

Thursday, November 8, 2007 update: See my post "But when the shoe is on the other foot . . ."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Innovations that simplify observance

Cue the "Inspector Gadget" music. ("Go, Gadget, go!")

Here's a shot of the "Kosher Lamp" (from Kosher Innovations), that we recently picked up at Manhattan Judaica (Midtown on W. 45th St. between 5th and 6th Avenues). It's an inordinately clever contraption based on a low-tech principle: Don't turn the light on or off on Shabbat (an act forbidden by Jewish lawone is not permitted to start or put out a fire on the Sabbath, as a general rule, unless it's a life or death situation), just hide it!

The Kosher Lamp consists of two basic parts:

1) a "base" that includes the wire and a compact-fluorescent light bulb inside a tubular structure with an oval opening in the front, and

2) a "top" (with a small hole in it to help with heat dissipation) that's inserted into the base (and rests on the tubular part thereof), to which is attached a tubular piece with an oval translucent-plastic lampshade section.

To reduce the light or "turn it off" completely, all one does is to turn the top so that the lampshade section is turned away from the oval opening in the base, thus hiding the light.

Here's some advice for users of the Kosher Lamp:

1) Note that, since the Kosher Lamp uses a compact fluorescent light bulb only (probably because it burns at a cooler temperature and is, thereof, safer to leave lit for 25 hours straight), the light tends to give off a lot of glare. If possible, place the lamp on a surface that is parallel to, and at the foot of, the bed(s), so that your spouse, sibling(s), or roommate(s) won't jump 10 feet when you "turn the light on." :)

2) This may seem counterintuitive, but, if you wish to use the Kosher Lamp as a night light, turn the "top" toward you. Since the tubular section of the "bottom" is nearly half an inch thick, the edge of the opening will deflect the light, preventing it from hitting you smack in the eyes while you're trying to sleep.

We also purchased a new urn from Manhattan Judaica to replace the coffee pot that nearly went out in a blaze of glory during Sukkot. My rabbi says he thinks it's permissible for me to take some hot water from the urn, pour it into the bathroom sink, and rinse (bathe with liquid soap?) a few body parts, but he readily admits to not being an expert on hilchot Shabbat (the laws of Sabbath). Here's a question for my more learnèd readers: Is rinsing (or bathing with liquid soap) in pre-heated water on Shabbat really allowed?

We're still in the market for a new hot tray--one of the two being sold at Manhattan Judaica is even smaller than the one we have now, which is already too small, but the other one is huge, and would take up most of our kitchen table. If anyone knows a good place (accessible by subway) to buy a hot tray, please let me know.

Whoa, check out this "Shomer Shabbat alarm clock" on the Kosher Innovations website:

  • Shabbat Mode- All alarms shut off by themselves after one minute! Once set, no need to touch your KosherClock on Shabbos! NO PROBLEM WITH MUKTZAH.
  • 5 Beep Alarms- on Shabbos wake up for shacharis, enjoy a snooze, don't miss your chavrusa and be on time for mincha.
I've been trying for the longest time to figure out how to wake up on Shabbat morning without using a regular alarm clock and without resorting to one of those old wind-up monstrosities that tick so loudly they keep me awake all night. So this is the next Shabbat contraption on my shopping list!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

GoldaLeah's back(!), with one to chuckle over

Just when you think it's time to delete yet another blog from the blogroll, it comes back to life--with a droll summary of the early parts of the Torah. :)

(Um, if you'd like to come back here after reading the fun, copy my URL before clicking on the link--"Go West, Young Jew" is apparently one of the latest wave of blogs that don't let you access the previous blog by clicking on the "Back" arrow. Sigh. Ezzie, are you reading this? Your SerandEz blog is equally stubborn.)

See here for a laugh & a half, courtesy of Elie :)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The F-word, revisited

Here's the original.

And here's a quote therefrom:

" . . . someone always says, “Hey, wait a minute! You’re not a feminist!” and I ask them why not and they say “You don’t hate men” or “You haven’t burned your bra” or “you’re not pro-abortion”. No, I do not hate men because I married a very nice one who loves me for who I am and who does not look at me as an extension of who he is. No, I do not burn bras because I hate the smell of burning nylon and because, frankly, I need the support. No, I am not pro-abortion because I don’t believe in throwing away life wantonly. It’s not something that G-d would do and women are made in the image of G-d.

So how am I a feminist? Because I believe in the power of women to do almost anything. I believe that women have the ability to be great, with or without the aid of a man. I believe that women are the closest thing that the human race has to an embodiment of the qualities of G-d and that women are a living, breathing proof that the Almighty loves us fiercely and without reservation.

So I call myself a feminist, but what I really mean is that I’m a Jewish woman and I can’t call myself that because it’s not what I was taught a Jewish woman is supposed to be."

Here are my comments to this post by Chana on not being a feminist:

Shira Salamone said...

Chana, for better or for worse, my brain simply doesn't work the same way yours does. You're a student by nature, a lover of the intellectual give-and-take of Talmud in an era in [which] Talmud study is open to women. Perhaps, if that were my own personal approach to Judaism, the traditional role for women would be as fulfilling to me as it obviously is to you. It so happens, though, that I'm an “experiential Jew" by nature. Study is just not what draws me to Judaism--ritual is. And ritual opportunities for women are somewhat more limited in traditional circles. That's okay for many women, but not for all. So I hope that we can simply agree respectfully to disagree: I won't insist that every women become a feminist, and I hope that you won't insist that every woman become a traditionalist.
September 24, 2007 11:33 PM

Shira Salamone said...

On the other hand, you said, "I am very glad that women have the right to vote, are theoretically paid equal salaries to those of men and enjoy the advantages that America has to offer us." So perhaps the title of this post is not entirely accurate: You're not a feminist in terms of religious practice, but you're a feminist with regard to secular law. Methinks there are many others in the Jewish community who share that perspective.
September 25, 2007 10:52 AM

But the best response I can think of to this F-word--feminist--is this one (also a response to Chana's post):

Anonymous said...
"but you're a feminist with regard to secular law."Shira, if this is how you define feminism, id say 99% of this country is feminist.
September 26, 2007 1:34 AM

For me, the most striking thing about the use and/or abuse of the word "feminist" is that both sides get very defensive about it. Feminists get up in arms because we think that traditionalists are benefiting from the advances in women's legal rights that resulted, in large measure, from the battles fought and won by feminists, while, at the same time, refusing to give credit where it's due ("if this is how you define feminism, id say 99% of this country is feminist") by treating the term "feminist" almost as if it were a curse word. Traditionalists feel under siege, apparently thinking that they might have to denounce marriage (“You don’t hate men”), renounce their femininity (“You haven’t burned your bra”), or give up their right to be stay-at-home mothers (“you’re not pro-abortion”) if they called themselves feminists.

So feminists and traditionalists end up, instead of working together, trading potshots.

Here's a copy of a comment from someone else's blog (originally quoted in this post):
"I heard of such a women's minyan in _____ when my sister was living there. My question is [1] why would you want to? and [b] don't you have anything better to do? There are plenty of things that are broken and need fixing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

And here's a quote from Chana's "I'm not a feminist" post:

"A Rabbi of mine (whom I respect) once referred to women's minyanim as reminding him of little children playing house. It's not real, but they are children playing pretend and it makes them happy! So we will humor them. You are going to tell me that that was condescending. Yes, I suppose it was. It doesn't make it less true..."

No doubt there are some not-so-wonderful examples of anti-traditionalist sniping by feminists, as well. This certainly goes both ways. I'm sorry to say that I've engaged in some of this disrespectful talk myself.

I’ve just finished reading Deborah Siegel’s book “Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild," reviewed by Rebecca Honig Friedman here on the Jewess blog. Siegel speaks of some of the conflicts between “second-generation” feminists (of which I’m one) and “third-generation” feminists, not to mention those who prefer the description, “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” One of the issues seems to be the delicate balancing act that feminists must perform between trying to change those aspects of social traditions and/or laws that victimize women, on the one hand, and celebrating the strength and (in many cases, still potential) power of women, on the other. Feminists try to walk a fine line between celebrating female sexuality and our freedom to work in the home or be employed, on the one hand, and being victimized by discrimination in hiring and pay scales (however illegal), the scandalous dearth of subsidized child-care in the United States, and some employers’ reluctance to provide such benefits as birth control prescription coverage, etc., on the other hand.

I am reminded of an American Association of Retired Persons bulletin article claiming that women are vastly more likely to end our lives in poverty than men are:

"Q: What about returning to work after raising children? How did that turn out for the women you interviewed for your book [The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?, by Leslie Bennetts]?

A: Women were catastrophically unprepared for the difficulty of reentering the labor force. They were blindsided by the barriers—ageism, sexism and overt discrimination against mothers and also a strong prejudice against returning workers. Those four factors add up to a very high barrier. Many never find full-time jobs with benefits—which means health insurance—at a level commensurate with their abilities, let alone their expectations."

Been there, done that. When I earned a certificate in word processing in 1997, at the apparently ancient age of 48—evidently, I was quite over the hill, in job-hunting terms—it never occurred to me that I would still be temping four years later. In 2001, I went nine months without a single day’s employment—and that was before the terrorist attacks of September 11! Had an old friend of mine not recommended me for a temp job with my current employer, it’s quite possible that I would have remained unemployed for the rest of my life. Sure, I could have tried earning another degree or getting trained in yet another field, but I doubt that any amount of additional education and/or training would have made any difference. Who wants to hire a fifty-something female?

So, as far as I’m concerned, we women are all in this together, whether or not we choose to call ourselves feminists. Indeed, "There are plenty of things that are broken and need fixing. " I don't think that we are well served by fighting with one another, be it over our legal rights or over differing religious perspectives. I've made serious efforts, over the past few years, to understand the perspective of religious traditionalists concerning the different roles of women and men. (Here's an example.) I would hope that the same can be said of religious traditionalists.

Can we work out a truce?

Friday, November 2, 2007 update: West Bank Mama's has responded with a post of her own.

Thursday, November 8, 2008 update: Rebecca Honig Friedman, via this post on the Jewess blog, directs us to her response on the Lilith blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yosef Karduner in concert at the Carlebach Shul

I gotta check out the Carlebach Shul's website more often. They sponsor some pretty interesting concerts. The Punster and I have attended a couple of them, making the musical acquaintance of Ruby Harris and Soul Farm band leaders C. Lanzbom and Noah Solomon.

Yosef Karduner (Car-due-ner) is an Israeli acoustic-guitar-playing singer/songwriter of Jewish folk music, rather in the mold of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach himself, which made his appearance at Carlebach's shul last night all the more appropriate. I first heard him sing on MOChassid's CD, "U'Shmuel B'korei Sh'mo," and liked his song, "Haaleinu," very much. Apparently, a lot of people like his songs very much--the concert was standing-room-only.

Karduner apologized for his English, which was, I suppose, no worse than my Hebrew. (Oy). He introduced some of the songs he was singing, doing a nice job of mixing the two languages. He also spoke of learning to play guitar from books at the age of thirteen, and of how he almost gave up playing after becoming a baal t'shuvah (a person not raised Orthodox who chooses to become Orthodox). Fortunately, some of his friends got really upset with him for giving up the music scene. Apparently, that made him reconsider. After two months of not touching a guitar, he decided to try writing what I guess I'd call "religious folk music" instead.

As usual, I recognized a lot of the lyrics from the prayers or psalms that Karduner set to music, but few of the lyrics of the songs based on texts from rabbinic literature. I also noticed, after the first couple of songs, that Karduner often starts slow, but, in many of his songs, he gets up to "clapping speed"--and dancing speed--later. So, of course, I was havin' a rockin' good time in the back of the room, dancing on three legs, so to speak. (During the hakafot at Ansche Chesed, one of the teenagers from the West Side Minyan joked with me that, contrary to my statement that I was having a grand ole time dancing on one foot, the cane made it three feet, as in the old joke about the three stages of humankind--first, we "walk" on four legs, then on two, then on three. Oy. I'm there, already?)

Concerts at the Carlebach Shul can sometimes be fairly informal affairs. When Ruby Harris came to play, he invited just about every musician who walked through the door to come up and join him. Same here. One gentleman picked up a tamborine for a time. Then another was introduced, and joined Karduner in song.

About halfway through the concert, the master of ceremonies (or whatever) announced that another musical guest had arrived--and proceeded to introduce the tall, lanky fellow in the baseball cap who was walking down the aisle as Matisyahu. Oh, yeah, sure. . . Wait a minute . . . He's serious??! Holy Moses, it really is Matisyahu!

Well, I know that Matisyahu has gotten a certain amount of bad press in the Jewish blogosphere lately. (It seems to me that there were some questions about the manner in which he terminated his contract with JDub Records, but I can't find the post I read that discussed the matter.) In any case, I'm just not into reggae--I prefer songs whose lyrics I can actually understand. But still, as long as he'd shown up (presumably for free), I wasn't going to argue. Matisyahu did a little harmony, but mostly provided a lot of vocal percussion (also known as "beat boxing," these days?), which livened things up nicely. He sat with his head down the entire time, apparently not wishing to steal the limelight from Karduner. The two of them seemed to be having as enjoyable a time sharing the music as the audience was having listening to it.

The concert was still going strong when I left at 11:40 PM. I hated to go, but it's a long trip from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to my apartment in the wilds of outer borough.

If you enjoy Jewish folk music and you have an opportunity to hear Yosef Karduner live or can fit a CD or two into your budget, I certainly recommend that you do so.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Wardrobe Malfunction" :) :) :)

I was late to minyan yesterday morning because I couldn't get my raincoat zipper to work. I'm now awaiting a delivery from good ole L.L. Bean.

And yes, I published this post just for the title. How could I resist, when, as every "Star Trek" fan knows, "Resistance is futile." :)

Now go pay a virtual birkur cholim visit to ADDeRabbi. [Waves.]

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Haviva Ner-David's "Life on the Fringes" (book review)

Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Towards Traditional Rabbinic Ordination, by Haviva Ner-David, is a memoir of a life still being lived both in consonance with, and in rebellion against, Orthodox Judaism. At the time of the book's publication in 2000, Ner-David was still actively studying with an Orthodox rabbi for private rabbinical ordination, which she received just prior to Pesach 2006 after 12 years of study. In the book, she discusses the challenge of being an Orthodox woman committed to an increased role for women in the more public aspects of observance and in halachic decision-making.

Here are three aspects of her book that I, personally, found rather surprising.

One was her wish to find a way within Orthodoxy to accept active homosexuality. I was not anticipating such an open attitude from an Orthodox Jew, much less one studying for rabbinic ordination.

Another was her discussion of the role of B'not Yisrael (the Daughters of Israel, meaning Jewish women) in making the laws regarding refraining from sex after menstruation more stringent than the rabbis had originally proposed. Ner-David makes the case that a combination of lack of scientific knowledge and lack of availability of a standard calendar led to errors in calculating the average length of a woman's monthly cycle. The rabbis were under the impression that the average woman's monthly cycle was only 18 days. B'not Yisrael, possibly because they realized how far off the rabbis' calculations were, and possibly acting to avoid accidentally violating the law, lengthened the amount of time before immersion in a mikvah (ritual bath) and a return to permissible sex with their husbands from seven days without bleeding to fourteen days. Ner-David reminds us that this seems to be one of the rare instances in which women actively decided the halachah (Jewish religious law) both by and for themselves. (Ner-David does not say this in her book, but it also seems to me that the original ruling by the rabbis would have been much more workable if the good gentlemen, had, ya know, consulted their wives about how their own bodies worked. If you can't admit that you're lost, then give me the blinkin' map, darn it!)

But the position that Ner-David took that surprised me the most, given that she was studying to become a rabbi, was her adamant opposition to p'sak, which she defines as "a personal ruling by a rabbi who specializes in answering questions of Jewish law that must be followed once received. " Ner-David supports her father's position that p'sak is "idolatry, that people who did this were worshipping their rabbi like an idol. . . .My parents asked rabbis and scholars for advice, but they never asked for a p'sak. My parents were never willing to hand over the responsibility for their life decisions to another person, and neither am I." I agree 100%. If we have no right to think for ourselves, then the blessing "chonen ha-daat"* is a brachah l'vatalah.**

I recommend this book to both feminists and traditionalists. It's a fine portrait of someone trying to walk a tightrope between two sometimes-conflicting hashkafot (religious perspectives).

*"[Blessed is (the One)] who graciously gives knowledge."

** A "wasted blessing," meaning that the person saying the blessing has just taken G-d's name in vain.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

JTS Chancellor Eisen, standing on one foot

Would that I had Chana's ability to transcribe presentations practically word for word on a laptop. (She could make a killing as a court reporter.) I'd love to give you a full report on Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Dr. Arnold Eisen's talk and question-and-answer session on "The Future of Conservative Judaism in America," but with my so-called memory . . .

Naturally, the one thing I can remember is his response to this question that yours truly stood up and asked in response to the chancellor's own question, "What can JTS do for you?":

"Some 20 years ago, my son was denied admission to a Solomon Schechter School because he has disabilities. I'd like to know what the Conservative Movement can do to help parents of children with disabilities provide a decent Jewish education for their children."

Chancellor Eisen replied that the Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education would be pairing with Teachers College--Columbia University, which is literally across the street, to help train teachers to work with special ed. students. It's about time! Not that it's of much relevance now, but this thought occurred to me on the way home: I wonder what kind of Jew our son would be if he'd gone to a school where he was surrounded by Jewish kids, instead of growing up as the only kid in the neighborhood whose weird parents actually went to synagogue.

I also submitted this question to the chancellor in writing: "Why do I have to go to the Orthodox Union's website to get information on Jewish observance? There's little to be found on the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism's website, and what little there is can be difficult to find. Can you do anything to encourage the USCJ to post more information on Jewish observance on its website and to make it readily accessible?" (I'm quoting from memory--whatever remains thereof--but that's a reasonable approximation of what I wrote.) I assume that that question was not posed by the moderator because it concerned the USCJ rather than JTS, but, since Dr. Eisen complained about the disorganized state of the Conservative Movement, I hope he'll work with the USCJ to make improvements there, as well.

Eureka! I found some notes that I'd forgotten I'd taken! Dr. Eisen sees three principal challenges facing the Conservative Movement:

1. Message (The movement hasn't done a good enough job of making it clear that there's more to Conservative Judaism than pluralism.)

2. Quality

3. Organization (see the last long-winded paragraph above)

Meeting any of those challenges, much less all of them, should be quite a task.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sukkot and Simchat Torah posts, 2007

A Jewish view of the Empire State Building :)

I'll probably never get any awards for cinematography, but see here, anyway. :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hoshana Rabbah: Five "minyannaires," total

By "total," I mean males and females.

So we cheated. We didn't open the aron kodesh/holy ark or take out a sefer Torah (Torah scroll), but we did the seven circuits of the Hoshanot (explained here), with lulav and etrog in hand, anyway. Then we took the aravot/willows and beat them after chanting, "Kol m'vaser m'vaser v'omer."

We topped off the service with our last meal in the synagogue sukkah. With such a "crowd," it looked like, you should pardon the expression, the last supper.

Did I mention that we're a dying congregation?

I gotta find another place for Hoshana Rabbah services. But before anybody tells me to try the Carlebach Shul, just answer one question, please: Would they let a woman walk around the women's section with a lulav and etrog? Methinks I'd have better luck in that regard at a Conservative synagogue. There is, of course, the minor logistical problem that you could practically either kill a person or be killed, carrying a lulav on the subway during the morning rush hour. Alternatively, for your adventure of the day, you might be detained and questioned by the cops for carrying what might appear to them to be a weapon.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sukkot & Simchat Torah survey

Yes, I know I skipped Sh'mini Atzeret, but my questions don't pertain to it, except insofar as Simchat Torah is, technically, the Galut's/Diaspora's second day of Sh'mini Atzeret. (I was well into my twenties before I figured that out. How come they never told me that in Hebrew School?)

Sukkot questions

For my male readers of the Orthodox persuasion:
Do you buy one lulav and etrog for each male member of your family who's already become a Bar Mitzvah (responsible for fulfilling all the mitzvot/commandments), or do you share one and pass it around?

For my female readers of the Orthodox persuasion:
1. Do you take the lulav and etrog? If so, do you say the brachah/blessing?

2. Is there anything in particular that the females do while the males are circling the synagogue with the lulav and etrog, chanting the Hoshanot prayers?

3. Is it now common for women to eat in the sukkah? Are sukkot routinely constructed that are large enough to accommodate all the females of the family (or congregation) along with the males for meals and/or kiddush? Do the women of your family and/or community recite the brachah "leisheiv" for "dwelling" in the sukkah?

Simchat Torah questions

In your synagogue, what do the women do while the men are circling the synagogue with the sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls), chanting the Hakafot?

Does your congregation have a separate Hakafot and/or Torah reading by and for women on Simchat Torah? (Touchy topic, I know--just curious.)

Another close call in the kitchen

It's a good thing that the Punster stayed up late the other night to read, because, around midnight, he smelled something burning in the kitchen. Taking no chances after our previous Yom Tov fire, he immediately turned off both of the gas burners that we'd left on for Yom Tov, and unplugged both the coffee pot (which we use for hot water) and the hot tray, actions which would normally be prohibited on a Yom Tov/holiday, according to most opinions (to the best of my knowledge). Then he started checking the kitchen to determine where the smell of burning was coming from. It turned out that, unbeknownst to us, our coffee pot had broken, and all the water had leaked out. In another few minutes, the formica countertop would probably had starting smoldering. Instead, we are fortunate enough to have been left with nothing but three permanently-coffee-colored spots on the counter where the coffee pot's feet once stood, making a delightful compliment to our char-broiled stove. We have a real penchant for french-frying the kitchen fixtures.

Seriously, don't forget to keep an open box of baking soda in the kitchen, within easy reach, to help smother fires. And while you're at it, make sure that all of your kitchen appliances are in proper working order, especially if you intend to leave them turned on for three days straight.
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