Friday, February 29, 2008

Maybe we should just delete Psalm 100

. . . which, for the record, includes one of my all-time favorite biblical quotes, "Ivdu et HaShem b'simchah, serve G-d in joy. . . "

Mark/PT is a similarly unhappy camper. See why here.

MOChassid, an attorney by profession, raises the legal (American and halachic) issues involved in forcing someone to violate a contract. What gives the rabbis the right to (a) force someone to cancel a concert only weeks before it's scheduled to take place and (b) thereby force the producer and/or would-be performers to forfeit thousand of dollars in legitimate earnings and/or breach-of-contract legal fees?

Will I ever be able to attend a Piamenta or Shlock Rock concert again? Or will the chareidi rabbinate put Jewish musicians out of business?

Political comment of the week

Jordan Hirsch comments on this post by Trep:

"The reason why countries adhere to the Geneva Conventions is because it ensures mutual protection of captives. i.e. if an American soldier is held captive in another signator's POW camp, we americans know he will be safe because the other signator is counting on our keeping their soldiers safe.
The terrorist groups, by their ample and frequent use of the Suicide bomber, have already demonstrated that they don't care what happens to their own soldiers, much less ours. So we haave nothing to hold over their heads.That is why the Peres-Rabin approach of incremental steps has a kind of logic to it. We can't beat them, because they don't care if they all die. Civilian casualties are only important to them insofar as they provide leverage with the Western world against Israel. So the thinking behind Peres and Rabin was based on a hope that since they can't be intimidated, perhaps they could respond to incentives.
It didn't work not because it was fundamentally wrong, but because the PA especially under Arafat acted like a kleptocracy and did not receive the oversight necessary from it's benefactors, who had their own political reasons for perpetuating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Posted by: jordan Hirsch Feb 28, 2008 7:27:00 PM

Agree, disagree, or can't make up your mind (that's me, as usual), it's an intriguing explanation of the current mess.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kvetching about Conservative Judaism

Katrina start an interesting discussion here. Here's a sample: "What surprises me about Conservative Judaism is that, from my own experience, it is the MOST committed people who are dragging themselves, kicking and screaming, to identify with the movement, rather than to become un-affiliated, post-denominational, or whatever. I think that is partially because the national movement is so fractured. USY (the Conservative youth group), JTS (the Conservative rabbinical school), and the Solomon Schechter schools teach one thing, but if it doesn't seem replicable, and not too much is being done about that fact, I see how that could be depressing."

Elf continued the discussion here. Here's a rather stunning quote: "I've rarely met a Conservative rabbi or educated layperson who didn't regard the Conservative movement with positive contempt. Maybe there really is something wrong with this picture."

Here’s an earlier rant of mine on the subject. Let me quote a snippet: "Does our movement support observance, or doesn't it? Am I wrong to believe that there's such a thing as a traditional egalitarian? What happened to the "traditional" part?"

We Conservative Jews do like to kvetch about our own movement.

Steg is trying to define Left-Wing Modern Orthodoxy

Have a look here, and/or, if the shoe fits, give him a hand.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

“My kingdom for a dry cleaner,” or Mrs. Cohen’s complaint

Nu, you think I don’t know what you read in synagogue last week? They took some blood from the consecration sacrifice and some olive oil and sprinkled it on Aharon's and the boys' priestly garments (Parshat Tetzaveh, Exodus, chapter 29, verse 21). And just when I’d almost forgotten about that, they had to go and mention that anointing oil again this week, even listing all the fancy-schmancy spices that had to be mixed with the oil to make it so special. (Parshat Ki Tisa, Exodus, chapter 30, verse 30).

Guess who got to clean up that mess?

Every day, Aharon and the boys would come home from the Ohel Moed/Tent of Meeting-with-God with their clothes covered with blood from the animal sacrifices. And I’d have to spend hours scrubbing their clothes with salt. No wonder you later-day rabbinic-law followers use salt for drawing blood out of meat and making it kosher—it really does work. But not well enough that I’d want to see any more generations put through what I and the wives of other Cohanim/Priests of the animal-sacrifice days went through.

N’shei Cohanim, Wifes of Men of the Priestly Clan, stand up for your rights! You tell those later-day zealots to give up any thoughts of a literal return to animal sacrifices, or you’ll make them clean the blood off the priestly clothes! Humph!

Steg explains how 3 hours can be stricter than 6

Start here and follow Steg's link.

There goes the neighborhood :)

The label on the empty box was clear:
"Electric guitar"
Congratulate us. We're now living diagonally across the hall
from a budding rock star

So far, so good--our would-be Hendrix practices only in the afternoon
Can't complain. Hope there's no change in practice hours anytime soon

Guess this post shows my age
Well, truth be told
in the eyes of most bloggers
fifty-nine is old :) :) :)

(Written Feb. 24, 2008)

The long and short of it

On a previous post of mine, commenter Gella linked to an interesting previous post of her own, Kippah Revolution. Reading that post made me realize that there are one or two things that I’ve never discussed on my blog.

The long of it
I recently told my husband that if, by any remote chance, we should ever choose to become Orthodox, I would give up wear short sleeves and start wearing long sleeves exclusively. This would not be for reasons of tzniut/modesty, though that’s certainly what I would claim. No, it would be because, unlike the gutsy Gella, I am no longer enough of a revolutionary to be willing to brave the slings and arrows of outrageous—or outraged—glances that I would certainly get from at least some of the more right-wing Orthodox if any of them happened to see the tefillin-strap marks on my arm. The only way to hide tefillin-strap marks is to cover them with a long sleeve. Fortunately for me, excessive air-conditioning in office buildings has become so common that many women now wear or carry a long-sleeved sweater or jacket to the office on even the hottest days. Long sleeves cover a multitude of “sins.”

The short of it
When I decided, just about a year ago, to accept upon myself the obligation to pray three times daily, I gave serious thought to the question of wearing a tallit kattan/arba kanfot—and decided against it. The issue is fundamentally the same as above—I’m unwilling to deal with the weird looks I’d get if my tzitzit popped out of my skirt.

As long as I confine my wearing of ritual garments to times when I’m praying, no one need ever know about my personal decision to accept these mitzvot/commandments upon myself, unless I chose to tell them. If that choice makes me both considerate and a coward, so be it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Boom box :(

It began with a nose-ring of a different kind
The sort you'll very often find
at the tip of a sniffling person's nose
where tissues wipe away constant flows

Welcome to the flu!
What, you too?
I fear there are many more of you

But wait--
too late
My fever's gone
and I've moved on

Now I'm playing vocal percussion
Coughing my head off in the midst of a discussion
Instead of a nose that's turning red
I'm stuck with a cough that could wake the dead

And that, my friends, is why I can't get to bed
and I'm pounding on the keyboard like a fool instead

I've played with the words of a very old song
If you know it, feel free to sing along:

"Come on along and listen to
Bronchitis Babe of Broadway"

Sneezing or coughing, it's no use
Either way, I'm honking like a Canadian goose

Such a hearty, booming cough
on the "box" called my lungs is a little bit rough

It shouldn't come as any shock
that I'm planning another date with the doc

Meanwhile, here's one beat box that's beat
I'm sitting here asleep on my feet
I'll try, for the nth time, to go back to bed
and see whether I can sleep and not cough instead

Here's a hero just for me
back from our friendly pharmacy
I can't drink booze, so no hot rum
Robitussin, here I come

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Tax widow's" lament--a CPA's spouse grouses

The above is a shot of the view immediately behind my computer, which happens to sit on the same desk as my husband's home-office fax machine/photocopier/printer. That's three boxes of new and recycled computer paper standing nearly three feet high. (I don't think I'll ever be known as a world-class photographer--for the record, what appears to be a black space behind the boxes is actually a dark-brown-wood combination storage cabinet and bookshelf.) We won't talk about the dining room table full of clients' mail, or the dining room chair piled with accounting textbooks for the college classes that he's teaching this semester, or the computer hardware and software piled on the couch. Now you can see with your own eyes why I gave up on hachnasat orchim--inviting guests--years ago: Where would I put them? Don't even ask what we go through every Friday afternoon clearing the table for Shabbat/Sabbath. Sigh.

Sadly, tax season also turns my favorite Certified Public Accountant--and, therefore, to a lesser extent, me, as well--into a hermit. We had to turn down a gracious invitation to spend Purim and Shabbat in Baltimore because my husband simply can't spare the time during tax season. So if any kind soul(s) in the New York metropolitan area happen to have room for two more at a Purim seudah (festive meal)--we've never been to one--we'd certainly appreciate an invitation. Just tell us what to wear and what to bring. (Hey, we may be bad at hosting, but we do try to be good guests!)

Reminder: It is not a Mitzvah to get drunk on Purim!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Supersized meal, NYC style: Shark eats Grand Central :) :) :)

Click on the photo for a better view.
Oh come on, use your imaginations--Don't you think that the top of the Chrysler Building looks like a shark's teeth when it's lit up at night? I've been saying that for decades!

(I took this photo of part of the west side of Grand Central Station tonight from Madison Avenue at 43rd Street/Ben Gurion Place. For the record, the Chrysler Building is actually across the street from the east side of Grand Central.)


The return of purdah?

Short explanation.

Medium-length explanation.

Long explanation, including the possible health consequences.

An Orthodox blogger expresses concern.

To my fellow and sister non-Orthodox Jews, do you really think that changes that radical in the Orthodox community’s approach to tzniyut (modesty) would have no effect whatsoever on the rest of us? What if my son became and married an Orthodox Jew? And what about my chiloni (secular) nieces in Israel--do they risk being beaten up on a bus for refusing to move to the back?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Conservative women's head coverings, part two

See part one here.

What are the head-covering options available for Jewish women, and which of them are Conservative women likely to wear (in my opinion)?
Sheitel (wig): Commonly worn by Orthodox married women. (Forbidden by many Sefardi rabbis, I’ve heard, on the, to my mind, entirely logical grounds that if a married woman is required to cover her *own* hair as a sign of modesty and/or a sartorial signal indicating that she’s married, covering it with *someone else’s* hair, or artificial hair, defeats the purpose. In defense of non-Israeli sheitel-wearers, a sheitel can be practically a necessity in a business or professional setting in the galut/diaspora, since, in this era, when indoor hat-wearing is quite uncommon among non-Jews in business or professional settings, no other women’s head-covering is sufficiently formal. Ages ago, a blogger recounted the tale of the time she tried wearing a scarf to work—and her boss asked her, “What’s that rag on your head?” She never dared wear a scarf to work again.)

Sheitlach are so completely identified with Orthodox woman that I don’t know of any Conservative woman who would wear one (except for health reasons or for “protective coloration” when working for an Orthodox organization.)
Hat: No longer in common use by women in indoor business, professional, or simcha (happy-occasion) settings. The wearing of a hat by a Conservative woman may mark her as religiously somewhat more traditional than many Conservative women. Of course, there’s always the woman who defies the stereotype by wearing both a hat and a tallit (prayer shawl).
Snood: I can’t imagine any Conservative woman being caught dead in such a thing (though some Orthodox women actually manage to make them look presentable by tying them in various ways and/or combining them with handbands and/or scarves) , assuming they even know that such things exist. (I have absolutely no idea how old I was when I saw my first snood, but I was certainly well into adulthood and living in New York City.)

Scarf (a.k.a tiechel): It’s done, but is often considered more typical of a senior and/or someone not born in the U.S. and/or not dressy enough to be worn to synagogue on a Sabbath or a holiday.
Doily, a.k.a. chapel cap: Unfortunately, New Yorkers use the term "doily." I’m not overly fond of that term, since it could just as easily indicate a crocheted furniture protector (placed, for example, under a vase or centerpiece on a table) or a fancily-cut paper liner protecting a plate or serving tray from baked goods. (See here.)
Unlike kippot/yarmulkehs/skullcaps, chapel caps (quoth this raised-in-South-Jersey gal) have the major advantage of being an unequivocally female garment. However, they have one minor disadvantage and one major one. Being made of lace or thicker crochet thread, they often don’t cover much, and are pretty much symbolic. They also have the major disadvantage, in some areas of the U.S. (such as the aforementioned South Jersey) of being unequivocally associated with the church (specifically, the Catholic Church, in my youth), and therefore, in the eyes of some, possibly intended specifically to be worn during non-Jewish worship.
Wire kippah: As with chapel caps, they’re pretty much symbolic, as they don’t really cover much. And they’re arguably more jewelry than clothing. But at least they’re clearly for females and clearly Jewish.

Designed-for-females kippah/yarmulkeh/skullcap (examples here, here, and here or other ritual head-covering: I once owned a chapel cap affixed to a wire frame overlaid with braid. It was very nice and clearly a female head-covering, but didn’t sit on my head in the place that I prefer (covering both part of the front and part of the back, like an old-fashioned bowl-shaped, as opposed to modern flat, kippah), and was a bit too see-through, as Jewish ritual head-coverings go, for my taste, so I finally gave it up. I think that what I’m wearing now is actually a rolled-up knitted kufi, which seems to be a hat of Islamic, or at least African, origin, and possibly originally intended for men (see here), but if Orthodox Israeli women can wear them—they were quite commonly worn by Orthodox women when I was in Israel in 2005—so can I!

Standard-issue kippah: The major advantage of the standard-issue kippah is that it is unequivocally a Jewish garment (except when worn by Catholic cardinals and popes. Who came first?) The obvious disadvantage is that the standard kippah has traditionally been worn by men.

The entire issue of what we non-Orthodox women should wear on our heads exists precisely because, as I’ve stated a few times before, there’s no ritual garment for females that’s unequivocally Jewishany female can wear a wig, hat, snood, or scarf, and doilies are frequently worn in church. So what’s a Jewish woman who wants to wear a specifically-Jewish, specifically-female garment to do?
The women of my parents’ Conservative synagogue who folded kippot in half and bobby-pinned them to their heads were doing the best they could under limiting circumstances. By wearing kippot instead of chapel caps, they were avoiding wearing what they considered a Christian ritual garment, and by folding the kippot in half, they were at least trying to avoid wearing beged ish (a man’s garment).


Monday, February 11, 2008

Mysteries of Conservative women's head-coverings

Our Orthodox brethren and sistren may argue that a kippah/yarmulkeh/skullcap is beged ish, a man's garment, and shouldn't be warn be a woman, but the women of my parents' Conservative synagogue had an alleged work-around: They would take a kippah, fold it in half, then bobby-pin it to their heads. Huh??? Exactly what was that little maneuver intended to accomplish?

Here's another favorite of mine (quoth she sarcastically): a kippah or doily/chapel cap (depending on your neighborhood) folded in half and pinned onto the back of the head, only inches above the neck, so that it's completely invisible from the front and covers next to nothing. What purpose does that serve?

Talk about mixed sartorial signals!

Personally, I'm not crazy about wire kippot (see some examples here, and here) because they don't cover much (which is true of many doilies, as well) and are more jewelry than clothing. But I'll say this in their favor: They have the major advantages of being clearly designed for females and designed to be highly visible.

If you haven't read the previous post, this might be a good time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 update:
Much to my surprise, this post seems to have been fruitful and multiplied. Here's the baby. :)



I like the feel of the breeze in my hair
Okay, there’s not much there
It’s short and thin, but I don’t care
I just don’t think it’s fair

Why should I cover my hair with a hat
that’ll squash what little there is quite flat—
What’s so good about that?
Or a snood or scarf, or worse, a wig—
as if I really want to wear, on top
what's really naught but a nice-looking mop

What kind of gig
is marriage for a Jewish gal?
I thought a husband was supposed to be a wife’s best pal
and then some
come what may
But what the hey?!

A married woman’s locks must be kept under lock and key?
I don't think that's the way it ought to be
I think we Jewish women left Egypt to be free
So send that breeze this way, HaShem, and ruffle my hair for me

See also Mixed sartorial signals (and follow the links).

While you're at it, see next post, or The Conservative Version.

P.S. This post also applies to guys who've had their heads covered, indoors and out, since they were old enough to walk. You have my sympathies.

Written on or around (that is, first saved as draft) January 8, 2008, and yes, I know, a bit ironic for a wool-beret-under-down-hood kind of day, but what the hey.


WUAT??, or the adventures of Mark and Moe

"Eldest Son Seeks College" meets "All in the Family, Polish Jewish Division" co-starring Mom, Aunt, assorted cousins, Eldest Daughter, Sister, Brother-in-Law, and college roommate, with 15 seconds of fame for blogger. "Creative" spelling courtesy of Youngest Daughter. Warning: May induce grins. :)

Frozen apple, Feb. 11, 2008 edition

Folks from the frozen zones will be happy to know that winter has finally arrived in New York City--it was 11 degrees Fahrenheit/-11.7 degrees Celsius (with a 40-mile-an-hour wind?) when I woke up this morning. Before leaving the apartment, I put on a sweater under my suit jacket, a windbreaker over my suit jacket, a pair of knee-high lined boots, my heavy gloves, a wool beret under the hood of my mid-calf-length down coat, and a scarf. Sound familiar?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Links to my Friday, Feb. 8, 2008 posts

I have another post in the works, so I'm leaving this post on top until tomorrow night, lest you miss anything (there being a rumor that Friday and weekend posts are sometimes lost in the shuffle, since many people read blogs at the office).

Friday, February 08, 2008

Darwin Awards: Category—Suicide Bombers

The ability of Gila to view with wry amusement her own dubious position as a homicide-bombing survivor never ceases to amaze me. Here, she writes about a conversation with a friend about a homicide bomber who’s a possible candidate for a Darwin Award. She also links to Bradley Burston’s “A Special Place in Hell, or This is How Islam Ends," a serious opinion piece and a must-read.

Mainstream Media Keeps Ignoring Hamas War Crimes

See this important post by Elder of Ziyon. (Hat-tip: Aussie Dave at Israellycool, where it was cross-posted.)

Spiritual “infection”?

Our tehillim (psalms) group at the office has been known to bring in cake and other junk food for Rosh Chodesh. At our little psalms-reading get-together yesterday, one of my co-workers commented that she wouldn’t eat any of the leftovers from the men’s mincha (afternoon service) minyan’s own Rosh Chodesh celebration because she generally didn’t eat food that might have been touched by other people (such as cookies) because they may not have done n’tilat yadayim (the ritual washing of the hands, done before eating bread and after going to the Ladies’ or Gent’s room, and, according to some, at other times, as well), and she didn’t need any more of the Sitra Achra. Huh? My understanding was that the translation of the term Sitra Achra (it’s either Aramaic or Talmudic Hebrew—I can’t tell the difference) is “the Other Side,” meaning Satan (for the record, that’s pronounced Sahtahn in Hebrew). Judging by the manner in which my colleague used that term, I gather that it can also mean the yetzer hara/evil inclination.

I don’t understand the role of indirect contact in Jewish tradition. There are those who “hold” (are of the religious opinion/haskafah) that it’s forbidden for a married woman to hand anything (some say even their baby) directly to her husband until she’s gone to the mikvah—she must put the object/baby on a surface from which he can pick it up. Some say that a man is not permitted to sit in a seat that was previously occupied by a woman who’s niddah. Now, I learn that there exists a minhag/custom that the yetzer hara can be transmitted by a person putting cookies on a plate???

Sorry, I just don’t get it.

A good place for a snowball fight

What say ye that we start building our "arsenals" by clearing the snow off of Mark's car?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Final-year-in-my-fifties links

Sunday, February 03, 2008

My favorite folk dancer shows some fast footwork

Happy Birthday tomorrow to the Punster, who got his literal kicks this afternoon at Sasha's international folk dance session at the Workmen's Circle. That's my husband in the plain white T-shirt (and me yelping "hee-yuh!" on the audio :) ).

Here's another view of my favorite fellow kicking up his heels, recorded in November at one of Haim's Rikuday Dor Rishon Israeli folk dance sessions.

Our old gang is getting old

On Saturday night, we celebrated our birthdays--the hubster's is tomorrow--with a delicious dinner at the home of some old friends of ours, who'd invited some more old friends of ours to join in the celebration. It being right after Shabbat/Sabbath, we couldn't get to their home on Long Island until after 8 o'clock. Boy, was I surprised when, at a bit after 10, the other guests said that they had to go home--and the hosts graciously "volunteered" them to drop us off at the railroad station. Even after a trip on the Long Island Railroad, followed by a trip on the subway, followed by a walk home, we were still home before midnight. Whoever heard of a birthday boy and girl above the age of 18 being sent home from their own birthday party at 10 and arriving home before midnight? We must all be getting old.

No opinion

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker the other day concerning kashrut. It turns out that, until she's married, she will eat foods only if they're certified kosher by kashrut supervisors/mashgichim that her father approves, and after she's married, she'll eat foods only if they're certified kosher by kashrut supervisors/mashgichim that her husband approves. I asked her whether she was allowed to have her own opinion. I don't think she'd ever considered the question, but the answer seemed to be "No." Is this approach typical among Orthodox women? Does an Orthodox man have any more freedom to choose his approach to matters of halachah/Jewish religious law, or is he equally bound by the tradition(s) of his family?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Baruch shehecheyanu

I'm 59 and feelin' fine. Happy Birthday to me.
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