Monday, March 31, 2008

Some comic relief: Dining directions, so to speak :)

On the way to the subway recently, I was walking near a group of people discussing a recent wedding, and one of them commented that she'd really pigged out and chowed down. It's not often that I hear both of those slang terms used one right after the other, and that got me thinking: Have you ever noticed how "directional" American-English slang is on the subject of eating? When it comes to food, one can chow down, eat it up, wolf it down, scarf it up, and pig out on it. Nu, and you? Can you think of any terms that I might have missed that describe how one can make a pig of oneself?

This just makes me sad

Thanks to Rafi G of Life in Israel, who included this link in the current edition of Haveil Havalim.

I find this post by Lion of Zion downright depressing:

“While in college I was once talking with a friend and she mentioned that she gets upset when the baal kore makes a mistake during leining. “How difficult,” she asked, “is it for someone who went to yeshivah for twelve years to read Hebrew correctly.”

As I soon understood, my friend had never seen a Torah inside and was thus unaware that the text is purely consonantal and lacks vowels, punctuation and trop. For that matter, she didn’t even know that the trop is very specific to each and every word. She thought that leining was as simple as reading from a printed humash to some generic tune and she never realized how much work and preparation is involved in a decent reading. I wondered how many girls likewise were unaware of what leining entails.”

Did I really want to be reminded that a woman who observes every last law of the Torah that she can possibly observe can go to her grave without ever having seen an open Torah scroll from sufficiently close up that she could actually read the words? Did I really want to be reminded that the more strict a woman is in her observance, the less likely it is that she’ll ever in her entire life see the inside of a Torah scroll from sufficiently close up that she could actually read the words, and that some of the strictest Chareidi sects won’t even let a girl study Chumash from an actual book, but will teach her from photocopies? Why do some in the Orthodox community act as if the Torah was given to only half the Jewish people?

Attn.: Attorneys, et. al.: Why are these fees legal?

A while back, I heard a comedian on television complaining about mileage charges for renting a car. The comedian asked, “Why are they charging me extra for mileage? Do they think I’m renting a car just to park it in the garage?” In all seriousness, I think the comedian had a point. One rents a car for the purpose of driving it, so why does one get charged separately for renting and for driving? Isn’t this a case of charging a person twice for the same thing?

Here’s another good one: Why does the Federal Communications Commission permit cell-phone companies to charge for incoming calls? Have you ever in your life been charged for an incoming call on a land-line phone (a phone that’s plugged into a wall jack) unless you specifically accepted the charges? Ms. Tech-Challenged here will text-message in an emergency only, so, obviously, I’m not expecting any incoming messages, yet I’ve just been charged over $10 for incoming text spam. (So help me, if one more person texts me an ad for “blue pills,” I’ll bonk ‘im over the head with a wet noodle.) I’m royally ticked. Does the U.S. Postal Service charge a delivery fee to the recipient of junk mail? Why is it legal to charge a person for incoming phone calls that s/he might not consent to receive, given the option?

For the record, I’ve filed an official complaint with the FCC.

Buy now, pay later—update

Another mutual acquaintance finally pointed out that the groom mentioned here did have one thing to offer his bride--a larger apartment for which she wouldn't have to pay rent. But again, it doesn't seem to have occurred to her that her new husband's employer is in a precarious financial position--and that, if the groom gets laid off, the bride will end up paying the rent, too.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Re Ramat Bet Shemesh child-abuse case

Some in the Orthodox community joke about the current tendency toward promoting chumrot, strict interpretations of halachah/Jewish law that go beyond what halachah actually requires—they describe those who follow this tendency as members of the “chumra of the month club.” But there may be a price to being too strict in one’s interpretation of halachah. Harry Maryles is of the opinion that some twisted souls use excessive piety to attract cult followers. In the Ramat Bet Shemesh child-abuse case, the cult of Jewish women wearing burkas acted as a cover for immoral, cruel, and negligent behavior. Here’s his post concerning this case.

A more detailed analysis can be found at Frumhouses’s How One Person’s Neurosis Can Become a Cult Following, to which I found a link in a post by My Obiter Dicta.

In his own post concerning this case , My Obiter Dicta says “The solution to every social woe (Drugs, promiscuity, Gossip, Theft, and Talking in Shul) is always (as one therapist noted): 'Throw another smatte* on the women.' In other words, the crazies simply read the signals that inundate the community and are constantly preached by rabbis, educators and others and took them to their logical (if absurd) conclusions.”

Links to some other posts concerning this case can be found in the current edition of Haveil Havalim, thanks to H.H. host Rafi G. of Life in Israel.

In his own post, Rafi G expressed the opinion that those with extreme views on modesty are sex-obsessed, and said that Rabbi Yakov Horowitz agrees. The same post, but with different comments (worth reading), can be found here.

*smatte, or shmatteh: an item of clothing (literally, a rag)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Round-up of post-Purim links

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Paying kids to study on Purim (& at other times)??

Megillah teaches, "Help yourselves, don't wait for G-d."

So says the Conservative Apikoris here.

The Ahistorical Nature of Megillat Esther

See this interesting post by Frum Heretic. (Hat-tip: Holy Hyrax.)

On one foot: "Megillah Esther is ahistorical, but it is nonetheless our story."

My thought, and that of some other folks, precisely.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Burka babes take over Beit Shemesh" :) :) :)

Oh my heavens, what hath Jameel posted?! Check out the Purim parody video here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Purim "weekend": Good news, bad news

It's been a roller-coaster for the residents of the Salamone-Punster Palace since Thursday. I've decided to post separately about the several things that have transpired, as I'm not sure I could do them justice in one post. So I'll just keep moving this to the top and posting links, as the individual posts are published.

Out of the loop on a friend's illness

Shver tzu zein a Conservative Yid on Purim

A Seudat Purim with Elie, Debbie, and family!!! (March 26 update--photo added!)

Not the best thing to read right before Shabbat :(

Prisoners of their apartment--Mom & Dad are failing

Prisoners of their apartment--Mom & Dad are failing

My father, who's had memory problems for many years (prompting our visit to them in Jerusalem in August 2005), has taken a dramatic turn for the worse in the past few weeks--he's now incontinent and incapable of walking, even with a four-pronged cane, more than three steps at a time. When he went for a CAT scan recently to determine whether he'd had a stroke, he needed help from three people to get him back up the stairs to his apartment. My brother has already told my mother that, when he's not available to help, she'll have to call an ambulance at a cost of $90.

My mother is understandably hesitant to leave my father alone in the apartment. In addition, she, herself, was hospitalized a few months ago, and no longer leaves the house alone to do more than go down to street level and get the mail because she doesn't trust her ability to walk any further, even with a cane. My parents' helper, a wonderful English-speaking woman who goes out of her way to do nice things for them, comes only three days per week. The last time my mother went further than the apartment-house entrance was when she got a haircut about a week ago.

My New York City sister and northern California brother and I each received an e-mail from our Israeli brother last night asking for legal documents authorizing him to take legal guardianship of our father, and of our mother, when the need arises. The question of whether that's the best way to proceed at this time is now under discussion across continents and oceans.

Not the best thing to read right before Shabbat :(

Hubster CPA has allowed himself to be "volunteered" for the post of treasurer of two non-profit organizations. When we got home from a delightful day with the Rosenfeld family, my husband found, waiting for him in our mailbox, a notice from the IRS setting an April 15 meeting date for him and all the other members of the Executive Board of one of those organizations.

Last year, my husband was shocked to discover that the employee-income-tax checks that he had long ago signed, and that the record-keeper had entered into the computer, had never been mailed. Apparently, one of the required co-signatories had decided to withhold his/her signature and not mail the checks without bothering to tell the treasurer or the record-keeper. My husband gave that individual quite a piece of his mind.

Evidently, the lecture made no impression: The same co-signatory pulled the same stunt again, and now, all of the authorized co-signatories have been called to the IRS because no employee income taxes have been paid for an entire year!!!

If anyone is acquainted with a good lawyer specializing in non-profit law, kindly leave a comment or e-mail me at onthefringe_jewishblogger at yahoo dot com.

A Seudat Purim with Elie, Debbie, and family!!!

(shot on the way home, at least an hour before Shabbat candle-lighting time)
(Sorry, I can't post photos of our hosts--Debbie and Elie are camera-shy for blogging purposes)

True to his word, Elie reiterated his and his wife's invitation to a Seudat Purim (festive Purim meal). Wow! And so, with rented car in tow (or rather, with us in rented car's tow :) ), we wended our way to the wilds of Central Jersey.

We didn't know what to expect (although we probably should have expected the 20-minute wait on Canal Street in lower Manhattan just to get into, much less through, the Holland Tunnel taking us to New Jersey and the NJ Turnpike--'twas rather embarrassing to show up an hour late.) Would there be mucho ceremony? No. Would there be, heaven help us, mucho drinking? No! (Thank goodness!) There was nothing but wine on the table, and I don't think anyone had more than a glass. (Since booze puts me to sleep and the hubster was driving, each of us had roughly a sip.)

The other thing I certainly wasn't expecting was the women's dress code, or rather, what I expected would be an element thereof. Apparently, I've been spending too much time among the "yeshivish" (stricter in their interpretation of halachah/Jewish religious law than the Modern or Centrist Orthodox, but not as strict as the Chareidim/"fervently Orthodox"), both at work and in my reading on- and off-line. The reading seemed to indicate that it was a wonderful thing that women are now obeying the requirement of halachah to cover their heads in public after marriage. As for the office, while the "observance spectrum" among the Jewish employees runs all the way from Chassidic and non-Chassidic Chareidim to completely non-practicing, the bulk of our observant Jewish employees are yeshivish. That translates, in sartorial terms, to the fact that I've yet to see an Orthodox married woman at my office who doesn't cover her head. So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into Elie's and Debbie's home and discovered that I, of all people, was the only female over 20 wearing a head covering! Following my mother's dictum not to outdo the hostess, I ditched the hat at the first opportunity after making the ha-motzi blessing over bread, didn't put it on again until Birkat HaMazon/Grace After Meals, and took it off again immediately thereafter. We ended up having a conversation about what's really halachah and what's a minhag/custom. Yes, Virginia, there are still Orthodox Jewish women who only cover their heads in synagogue--and whose rabbinically-ordained husbands think that's perfectly acceptable in terms of halachah.

It was such a delight to get to meet Elie finally, and to share a scrumptious meal and wonderful conversation with him, Debbie, two of their children (one is currently studying in Israel), and Debbie's mother. We talked all about various Jewish topics, raising kids, their neighborhood (with an eruv and a huge Conservative synagogue in addition to the Orthodox ones--hmm), and anything else that came to mind. We were surprised and delighted when they invited us to come back and spend a Shabbat/Sabbath with them after tax season. (I was even more surprised when Debbie suggested that we come for a Shabbat on which the Conservative synagogue was having its monthly egalitarian minyan, as I'd assumed that, when in frumville, davven as the frummies do [with them in their synagogue].)

I have to admit, though, that I was jealous when Elie started talking about casually walking down the street and leaving mishloach manot (Purim's mandated gifts of food) for friends. I should live so long.

Speaking of different minhagim, the Punster wasn't quite sure whether our hosts' minhag was to sing all of Birkat HaMazon aloud or recite silently after the first paragraph. While leading, he hesitated just long enough to find Elie and Debbie zipping ahead of him in the singing. (Hmm, no problem here with Kol Ishah [a woman singing in the presence of a man not her husband and not related to her by blood] when singing Birkat HaMazon, at least.) As for me, I figured out, only after getting to the words "Bi-y'mei Matityahu," that I was reading the HaNissim paragraphs for Chanukah, not the ones for Purim, and had to start that part of the prayer over again, so I ended up finishing several minutes after everyone else. (That's typical [insert roll-eyes emoticon here].)

Anyway, we're looking forward to seeing the Rosenfeld crew some Shabbos after tax season. Thanks so much for the delicious food and the delightful time!

Shver tsu zein a Conservative Yid on Purim

Shver tsu zein a Yid--it's hard to be a Jew.

And it's even harder to be a Conservative Jew, when it comes to Purim.

This is the time of year when I'm most acutely aware of the vast difference in observance and community between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox. Everyone goes to High Holiday services, lights Chanukah candles, goes to a Seder. But in all my 59 years, I've never heard of any Conservative Jew holding a Seudat Purim (special festival meal for Purim), as mandated by Jewish law. (Maybe I've missed a few, especially some in Conservative rabbinical and cantorial circles.)

It's even worse than the Conservative record for making a blessing on a lulav and etrog and eating in a sukkah, or pulling their kids out of school for Simchat Torah--after all, on Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I don't get upset about giving out a couple dozen mishloach manot packages every year for over 20 years and getting, at most, four in return. Sigh.

Every Purim, it's Little House on the Prairie. :(

Out of the loop on a friend's illness

Imagine my dismay, upon checking my e-mail Thursday night, when I learned that a close friend had been hospitalized for major surgery and I hadn't even known about it. I just called her, and we'll be visiting her tonight, if she's feeling well enough to have company. (Thank goodness for the rental car, or a visit would be practically impossible. More about the car later.) Please put in a good word for Rivkah bat Sarah v'Avraham.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Some Purim links, present and past

A few words of caution:
For heaven’s sake—literally—take it easy on the drinking! Remember that alcohol can be lethal. Also, there's absolutely no excuse—halachic or otherwise—for giving a teenager a cigarette as a treat, and no cap guns or caps—they’re dangerous!

And now, on with the show!

This look at Purim-costume time at the Bogner residence comes complete with a video on putting on a sari (saree?) that’s both instructive and droll.

On a serious note, WestBankMama reminds us that Megillat Esther is not a Hollywood production.

Follow the link to this parody (on "purifying" Megillat Esther/the Scroll [Book] of Esther). Thanks, Ezzie!

This just in: New York Jewish Week Purim Spoof!

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz gets into the Purim spirit with his Is At-Risk At Risk? :) Thanks to DovBear for the link.

Husband-hunter Bad for Shidduchim provided a link to a parody for Orthodox Jews who are "in the parsha" (translation: seeking a spouse), and good for grins for the entire Jewish community.

The Orthodox Union posts Tapping the Power of Purim, Purim: Hide and Seek, and, for foodies, Merriment, mirth, and good eats (complete with several different Hamantaschen recipes), A Purim Feast Filled with the Amazing Aromas of Aleppo (Syria), and (Moroccan) Ojos de Haman (The Eyes of Haman).

For those interested in Limudei Kodesh (study of sacred texts), Rabbi Gil Student takes issue here with a post (linked) on Megillat Esther by Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women sophomore Jewish Studies/English major Chana—but a good number of the commenters seem to think that Chana is right.

Saturday Night Live, Shushan Purim style:

Elie chimes in with this Purim Torah on the non-kashrut of green eggs and ham. Good for laughs for anyone who raised a kid on Dr. Seuss and/or for Talmud scholars.

A new song for Mark's Milwaukee Music Makers: I'm dreaming of a white Purim (?!)

On DovBear's (Chaim Bray's?) blog, Tikun Olam guest-posts about the best costume at her synagogue, and asks for the best at yours. Check the comments here.

Talmud scholars will enjoy Rabbi Gil Student's Mordechai and Dating.

Jack's "Purim is Over" edition of Haveil Havalim is a mixed bag, but there are some Purim links in there.

Here's a contemporary political take on Purim. (Hat-tip: Robert Avrech.)

Stern student Chana posts some more Thoughts on the Megilla.

Check out the poster that Jameel posted here.

Reading the Megilla led JoeSettler to ask What Changed?

If you know of any more good Purim posts (etc.), just post in the comments section telling us where to find them. Those in need of instructions for creating hyperlinks in comments will find them at the end of this post.

Here are some oldies but goodies from previous years:

Please avoid Reckless endangerment on Purim—go easy on the alcohol!

In case you missed it or enjoyed it enough to listen again, here's last year's (in)famous Purim Podcast (co-created by Jameel and Ezzie).

While you're at Jameel's, check out the blog parodies linked in the special Purim Parod Blogroll (below his regular blogroll). As I recollect, the parodists each undertook to create a parody version of another person's blog.

When not busy enjoying Purim with cave kids and Female, Cro Magnon Man not only see patients, he also sing loudly and carry big bass. :)

Esther played the “sex” card???!!!

Matanot la-evyonim—min ha-evyonim

On Tuesday, March 14, 2006, I posted “Shushan Purim Saméach: Here's a link fest in honor of our very first Seudat Purim.” (You’ll notice that many of the posts are dated, rather than linked—I’ve gotten a lot better at unearthing permalinks since then.)

Ad lo yada—a non-drinker still has trouble telling the difference between the hero and the villain

DovBear links here to his own Purim-posts collection.

For those in need of technical assistance, here are the instructions for creating hyperlinks in comments:

[A HREF="put the link here"]put the text here, whatever you want the reader to click on[/A]

For every [, substitute a <, and for every ], substitute a >.

Have an easy fast. Purim Saméach/a Freilichen Purim/Happy Purim!

Katrina copes with a challenging Purim

Death has struck not only in Jerusalem, but much closer to her home.

I need one of those absolutely-harmless foam bats

. . . 'cause, so help me, if I get one more comment on my dances posted on YouTube complaining that I've left the top button of my blouse unbuttoned. . .

Will someone please explain to me what's so obscene about a woman's collarbone?

(Sigh. Here's a photo of a foam bat [not exactly what I had in mind, but that's the closest I could find.] Here's an explanation of this post and links to my dances--you be the judge!)

Lament of a female "flasher" :)

Sleeping is not always nifty
for a female over fifty
Seems like almost every night
my body's in a temperature fight
First I'm hot and then I'm cold
Repeat 12 times nightly 'til I'm 90 years old

Cruisin' Mom explains origin of "jumping the shark"

See here.

Easy way to keep online videos from stalling

Thus far, it's worked for me: The minute a video starts to "stall" (with that darned arrow going round and round), just move the mouse. If the video keeps stalling, keep the mouse moving until the end of the video.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Holy cow: Holy Hyrax finally started a blog, & wrote this

See Holy Hyrax's "Learning from History," for a discussion of the drawbacks of rabbinic overreacting.

Israel’s rights under law of war, etc. (Dershowitz)

Thanks to Trep for providing a link here to this article.

Ceding land is not safe, says Soccer Dad

Here, Soccer Dad quotes Michael Goldfarb: “The land for peace paradigm is dead. It didn't work. The Israelis gave up southern Lebanon and got a war with Hezbollah. They gave up Gaza and they now have a hot war in the south with rockets hitting Sderot daily. There is no chance that the Israelis give up the West Bank only to see the same thing happen, especially given the West Bank's proximity to the economic heart of Israel. Which only further contributes to the paralysis--the old paradigm is dead, but nothing has yet developed to take its place. Even the country's peaceniks are horrified by the turn of events in Gaza--they are no longer pushing for a similar withdrawal from the West Bank.”

Soccer Dad’s take: “If Israel thought that ceding land was safe there'd be peace. No amount of American involvement though, is going to move the peace process forward unless there's a significant change of heart from the Palestinians.”

Doron Maraheta: A 21st-century Hillel (by Lazer Beams)

Thanks to A Simple Jew for the link to Lazer Beams, where I found this tribute to one of the victims of the pigua (terrorist attack) at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav.

A chillul HaShem (desecration of G-d’s name)

Here's where I read the following comment on the recent concert ban by Chareidi rabbis:

“ . . . to see this discussed in the general press as normative Judaism is depressing. Is this what the world thinks we are?

Shmilda | 03.11.08 - 12:32 pm | #

SephardiLady, of Orthonomics, is "REPULSED by what I have read and listen to" concerning the concert ban as well as the recent wig store boycott (see her link), and calls both incidents cases of "Economic Terrorism."

Haveil Havalim at Jack's: Quite a link collection

Wow, check out this one.

Let's start with a pre-Purim (and general) safety warning: AidelMaidel warns us of "The Danger of Cap Guns" (and caps).

This link fest is especially heavy on the post-pigua* posts (*terrorist attack), unfortunately and understandably. :( Check the Israel section, especially at the beginning, where there are some interesting dueling posts.

But there are some other good posts linked there, too. Check out the Lipa-concert-ban parody "The BPS (Banmanship Policy Standards)" , as well as "Why We Need the Haftarah: 15 Reasons." :)

Thanks, Jack!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Family Physicist turns 25

Remember this young man? He finally reached the quarter-century mark today. We called our son and wished him many happy and healthy returns. And yes, the check is in the mail. :)

Friday, March 14, 2008

The far side—of fifty

Good grief, I'm certainly showing my age by blogging about 1950s etiquette lessons wasted and digital timepieces affecting the English language. Just out of curiosity, are there any other bloggers in the Jewish blogosphere over the age of 50, aside from me and MOChassid? I'd love to meet some of my fellow and sister "seniors" in the comments, so don't be shy.

Technical effects—on language

Has anyone but me noticed the evolution of the word "access" from noun to verb? Once upon a time, one had to have, gain, or get access to something. Only with the advent of the computer has one simply been able to access something.

Then, of course, there’s the new “times” table, so to speak. Once upon a time, people would look at their good old-fashioned analog watches and tell you that they’d meet you at “quarter of,” “quarter after,” or “10 to.” I don't think that anyone with a digital watch even thinks of time in terms of quarter hours. And the expressions “5 of” or “20 to” (“of” or “to” meaning, in this case, “minutes before” a given hour) are dead as doornails, victims of digital technology. Not for nothing I refused to buy my son a digital watch until he was, as I recollect, in his teens—I wanted to be sure that the famous clock in the main hall of Grand Central Station—and any other analog timepiece—wouldn’t be a mystery to him.

You also may have noticed that, in my previous post, I used the phrase “10 minutes before 7.” Does anyone speak of minutes before a given hour, these days? Or does the fact that digital watches indicate only the number of minutes after an hour preclude the users from even thinking in terms of the number of minutes before an hour?

Sometimes technology not only affects the way we think, it actually forces changes in the way we think.

There's such a thing as *too* informal

Earlier this week, we got a cute and breezy e-mail from a friend inviting us to a combination Shabbat dinner and birthday party for her husband. Since both of us are still a bit under the weather from our recent bouts of bronchitis, we waited until the last minute to be sure we were well enough, and called just last night to say that we were coming. Imagine our surprise when we got a phone call this morning at about 10 minutes before 7 saying that the party is not tonight! I checked the e-mail, and sure enough, the sender had neglected to include the date of the party (not to mention their address). You might want to watch out for that, the next time you send invitations.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

1950s etiquette lessons, wasted

When I was growing up in the 1950s, we were taught that there were two topics considered too controversial to discuss in polite company: religion and politics.

Some 50 years later, I started a blog to discuss religion. Sadly, the "matzav" ("situation") has forced me to discuss politics, as well.

I wish I could go back to just discussing religion.

Buy now, pay later

I feel truly sorry for a new bride of my acquaintance, who doesn’t seem to realize that she’s just become a “kollel wife.” (See the text highlighted in yellow here for an explanation.) Her groom has been employed part-time for a pittance in salary and without benefits for as long as I've known him. As far as anyone can determine, the only reason why he hasn't managed to find another part-time or full-time job is that he’s too busy studying Talmud to do any serious job-hunting. I fear to think what will happen to this almost-literally poor woman, who can barely support herself and her child from a previous marriage, when her groom's employer, who has serious financial difficulties, goes belly-up, and she suddenly finds herself supporting her husband, as well.

Or maybe she'll get lucky—one of my more diplomatic friends has promised to try to talk some sense into the groom, now that he's a married man. I sincerely hope that she succeeds.

Joke of the day

Some thought-provoking words to go with hot cocoa

The source of our stress is our difficulty in accepting the rabbinic advice, “Who is rich? One who is happy with his/her portion.” (Pirkei Avot/Verses ["Ethics"] of the Fathers, chapter four, paragraph one)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pre-Purim reminder: Alcohol can be lethal

A bus stops for mourning in Israel

See this moving post at Ezzie's.

When Israelis get stoned, it’s literal

Robert Avrech, of Seraphic Secret, has a photo on his blog the likes of which I hope never to see again. My parents, my brother and his ex-wife, and their three kids all live in Israel. If any of them ever gets stoned in this fashion, they could end up quite dead, and not from a drug overdose.

On facing injury & illness as a "lone" Israeli

Born in Ashkelon,Palestinian Twins Under Gaza Fire

See here.

Hat-tip: Aussie Dave, here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fudge comes face to face with the 70 faces of Torah

Fudge is having a difficult time dealing with two teachers who have totally conflicting views of how to be a Torah-true Jew.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Instead of bombs, sleepless nights, etc., for Gazans

Thanks to Gila’s Haveil Havalim 157 post for linking me to this ingenious idea by Guy Bechor reported by Imshin.

“Despite It All: Rejoicing in Adar” (by Jameel)

See here.

Quote of the day

In her "Scenes from the [hospital] hallway," Mrs. Balabusta, a nurse, reminds us:

"It does well to remember that we are very fragile, intricate, beautiful beings and that tomorrow is promised to no one."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I think these are important videos to watch

Cut down: The recent murders, & thoughts thereafter

I have been informed that I somehow missed the news of the murder of yet another college student. May good memories of her bring comfort to her family.

Flowers, here and gone

My husband and I saw our first crocus of the year on the way to Mincha-Maariv this past Shabbat. I was both happy and sad, thinking that eight young men, gunned down in the flower of youth for the crime of being Religious Zionist Israelis, would never see a flower again.

Over at Ezzie's, Mindy has asked us to recite "Acheinu," a prayer found in the weekday Shacharit (morning service) at the point at which the Torah scroll is being "dressed" to be returned to the Aron Kodesh/Holy Ark:

Acheinu, kol beit Yisrael, ha-n'tunim b'tzarah u-v'shivyah, ha-omdim bein ba-yam u-vein ba-yabashah, ha-Makom y'racheim aleihem ha-yotzieim mi-tzarah li-r'vachah, u-meiafeilah l'orah, u-mi-shibud li-g'ulah, hashta baagala u-vi-z'man kariv, v'nomar, amen.

"Our brethren, of the entire House of Israel, who find themselves in jeopardy or entrapped, whether on sea or land, may the Almighty have compassion upon them and bring them forth from trouble to relief, from gloom to light, and from tyranny to redemption, urgently and very soon, and let us say, amen."

(The translation is mostly by the Orthodox Union and a little by me.)

Others have suggested that we recite psalms. And, of course, giving charity and/or doing good deeds in memory of the deceased is always a good way to memorialize them.

May the families of these young men be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem:

Doron Mehereta, 26, Ashdod
Ro'i Rote, 18, Elkanah
Yonadav Haim Hirschfeld, 19, Kokhav HaShachar
Yochai Lipshitz, 18, Jerusalem
Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, Shiloh
Niryah Cohen, 15, Jerusalem
Segev Pniel Avichayil, 15, Neve Daniel
Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat

Mother in Israel asks us to say Tehillim/Psalms and/or other prayers for the wounded, and/or to keep them in our thoughts:

Naftali ben Gila
Shimon Yechiel ben Tirza
Nadav ben Hadassa
Reuven ben Naomi
Elchanan Yosef ben Zehava

"The Left Hand of God" no longer has a place here

Received Friday via e-mail from Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God:

"We at Tikkun feel equally grieving for the people killed by vicious and immoral terrorists at the Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav (the ultra-nationalist religious center that developed the ideology which inspired religious Zionists to believe that they had a God-given right to settle and hold on to the territories without regard to the consequences for the Palestinian people already living there) as we do for the victims of Israeli terror (which in the past week killed 120 people, many of them children, many of them sitting in their homes when Israeli troops randomly fire-bombed and murdered them, as documented by the same international human rights organizations that today condemned the attack in Jerusalem by terrorists)."

"Israeli terror"??? If you wish to say that you disagree with the settler philosophy, that's one thing. But once you describe as terrorists those defending their fellow citizens against terrorists, you've gone beyond the pale. I've heard that the Talmud says, "If someone comes to kill you, kill him first."*

I have just unsubscribed from Tikkun Magazine's Network of Spiritual Progressives.

I've also removed The Left Hand of God from our book shelves. We'll probably just give it to our local library.

*I really want to know where there this quote comes from, so, if you can supply chapter and verse, kindly do so in the comments.

Mich said...
It's in Sanhedrin, 8th chapter (ben sorer u'moreh), daf ayin-bet, amud alef. The context is the discussion of the ganav ba'machteret. Rashi makes mention of it in his commentary to Shemot 22:1, dibbur hamatchil ein lo damim.
Sun Mar 09, 09:31:00 PM 2008

Thanks, Mich!

Gordis: Israelis no longer know why they're there

Sergey Kadinsky to editor: "No Chance of Peace"

This letter to the editor, published in this past Friday's New York Jewish Week, takes a sobering psychological approach to the "matzav (situation)." I'm just going to copy and paste the whole thing:

No Chance Of Peace

by Sergey Kadinsky

At this point, I am convinced that if Israel were to voluntarily drive itself into the sea and hand everything over to the Palestinians, they would refuse to take it. In their culture, victory is gained not by negotiating, but by struggling and fighting. In Palestinian schools, streets, and mosques, it is the martyrs, not the diplomats, who are given honors.
To be given half of Jerusalem with the stroke of a pen would be shameful for the Palestinians to accept. They would much prefer to take it by blood and bullets. This is why Hamas is shooting rockets at Israel: to show that it won Gaza through warfare, rather than a bloodless Israeli withdrawal.

Forest Hills, Queens

Friday, March 07, 2008

Adding to the mourning: Student-body president killed

“Thousands of students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gathered Thursday to remember student body president Eve Carson, who was shot and killed in a suburban neighborhood near campus.”

My son's in grad school. Is he safe? Are any of our children ever safe anywhere anymore?

Maybe we just had dilusions of safety in the 50s, but generally, the worse I can remember happening to anyone I knew was a broken arm from falling off a bike, or a trip to the hospital for a tonsilectomy. Then there was the Hebrew-School kid whose brother was killed by a car. But deliberately targeting students? This was unheard of.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Breaking news: Attack at a Jerusalem yeshiva

See here and here for links to reports of the terrorist attack on Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav.

Jameel writes from his perspective as a volunteer with both the Haztala and Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance corps in Israel.

IsraellyCool's Aussie Dave gives a rundown of today's terrorist attacks on Israel, including the one on Yeshiva Merkaz Harav.

Trep asks us to help future terrorism victims by donating to ZAKA or Magen David Adom , and asks those in Israel to give blood.

CNN reports at least 8 dead at Yeshiva Merkaz Harav, and FOXNews reports the same.

Friday, March 7, 2008 update:

A Simple Jew provides important links about the attacks.

Aidel Maidel asks, “What if this was one of my little girls . . .?,” then links us to Mother in Israel’s list of the dead and wounded, with a request for prayers.

Ezzie and friends are crying and asking for prayers.

Robert, at Seraphic Secret, provides some sad and some infuriating photos, plus his commentary and that of others, and some links. (Check today's and yesterday's posts--some of the permalinks aren't working properly.) Here's a key quote from one of his posts: "The Arabs understand that it's acceptable to murder “settlers.” These brave Jewish pioneers have been so demonized by the liberal press in Israel, Europe and America that they they are blamed for their own murders because, y'know, they brought it on themselves by being too right wing, too Zionistic, too religious, too intent on living in Israel. And of course, the expulsion of the 9,000 Jewish “settlers” from Gaza in 2006 by the Israeli government made it official: it's open season on “settlers."

Harry Maryles, of Emes V'Emunah, discusses the moral relativism of the media, which seems always to root for the (alleged) underdog).

Finally, Mommy's Going Meshugganah asks why no one questions the right of any sovereign nation to defend itself, except when it comes to Israel.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Links to my "Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all" series

Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all: 4-Conversions

Here's the latest from the New York Times: How Do You Prove You’re a Jew?

(Hat-tip to ADDeRabbi for the NY Times link.)

The Jewish people is rapidly devolving into two separate entities--those born Jewish or converted in accordance with Orthodox interpretations of halachah/Jewish religious law, and the rest of us. How can this possibly not affect "the rest of us?" When our children or grandchildren, with mothers or grandmothers converted under non-Orthodox auspices, decide to make aliyah (move to Israel), will they be able to marry "as is," or will they have to undergo conversion? When our children or grandchildren decide to become baalei t'shuvah/"returnees" to Orthodoxy, will they be accepted "as is," or will they have to undergo conversion?

And here's the latest from the New York Jewish Week: RCA Seen Caving on Conversions. Now, even the legitimacy of Orthodox conversions is being called into question.

HaShem is one, but is His People still one?

Friday, March 7, 2008 update:

My Obiter Dicta says, "Except in rare cases, the acts of one Bet Din have always been accepted and respected by other Batei Din. א"כ במה מצינו כח בית דין יפה? By what right does the Israeli Chief Rabbinate arrogate to itself the authority to sit in judgement upon the acts of colleagues abroad? Do they know anything about Diaspora Jewry?"

Saturday night, er, Sunday morning update, March 9, 2008, 12:23 AM:

This past Friday's New York Jewish Week is chock full of opinions, pro and con, on the RCA's new conversion rules.

Rabbi Kenneth Auman says that this agreement is a great boon.

Rabbi Kenneth Hain and Rabbi Hershel Billet think that last week's headline, "RCA Seen Caving on Conversions " was inaccurate.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein offers a conversion critique from within, but "hesitates to withdraw from the new system because of the impact it could have on the hundreds of people he has already converted and their descendants."

And lined up on the same page is "The Chief Rabbinate-RCA Deal: Two Views," with Rabbi Barry Freundel making "The case for 'centralized' conversions" and Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss arguing that the new policy is "Taking power away from the rabbis."

Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all:3-Fun banned

In some communities, ten-year-old boys are no longer allowed to play baseball. The internet, television, video games, secular music, secular books—all are banned in certain circles. Every waking minute of a young person’s time is to be spent with one’s nose in a sacred text.

But that’s not enough, either. Now, even Jewish music is being banned. Benefit concerts are cancelled on two weeks’ notice, lest our at-risk youth lose what’s left of their fear of G-d because they hear music that may show signs of non-Jewish influence, and/or because sacred words aren’t supposed to be set to secular music, and/or because concerts are of dubious permissibility since the destruction of the Temple, and/or because the band is playing before both men and women, even though there are separate entrances for men and women and the genders are seated strictly separately. A few years ago, a former blogger complained bitterly that he’d gotten dirty looks at a Jewish-music concert because he’d had the unmitigated chutzpah/gall to sit with his own daughters, rather than sending them to sit with total strangers who just happened to be female. The nerve!

If you think that this won’t affect you, imagine the day when you won’t be able to take your kids or grandkids to see a squeaky-clean family band such as Shlock Rock—they will have been forced out of the concert business because, being a kiruv band (that is, a band that tries to encourage Jewish observance) they sing Jewish parodies of non-Jewish songs, along with original Jewish music, and play to mixed-seating audiences.

If the great twentieth-century Jewish singer/songwriter Shlomo Carlebach were alive today, the chareidi establishment would probably do the functional equivalent of tarring and feathering him and running him out of town on a rail. Poor Shlomo is turning in his grave.

Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all: 2—Modesty, etc.

Those of us who grew up in the United States during the era of the fight for desegregation cringe at reports of women in Israel being beaten for refusing to move to the back of the bus. You may think that that doesn’t affect you because, after all, you’re here and they’re there, but it affects any female visiting or living in Israel and anyone with female relatives or friends visiting or living in Israel. I have two Israeli nieces who may, heaven forbid, fall victim someday to this fanatical approach to tzniut, modesty.

What about reports of women in Israel being sprayed with bleach for wearing clothes that weren’t considered modest enough? What about reports of boycotts organized against stores whose clothing doesn’t meet local rabbinical standards of tzniut?

What about tzniut demands in the United States? What about the recent communal and/or school demands requiring younger and younger girls to give up wearing pants—not to mention riding bicycles—and switch to skirts at all times? What about the young lady who asked how on earth she could go skiing in a skirt—and was asked, in return, what made her think that skiing was a permissible activity?

What about the store displaying slightly coquettish headshots of women wearing sheitelach/wigs that was hit with a boycott because the students at the yeshiva diagonally across the street had such a low tolerance for temptation that they complained about the display to their rosh yeshiva?

If you think that this doesn’t affect you, imagine this possible scenario, roughly ten years from now: You (or your wife, mother, sister, etc.) walk into a kosher store to stock up on kasher l’Pesach/kosher for Passover food, and get a major lecture at the check-out counter because you’re wearing blue jeans and a short-sleeved T-shirt. The fact that you’re concerned enough about Jewish tradition to have gone out of your way to buy kosher for Passover food seems to escape your lecturer’s attention. And, lest you think that men are exempt from pressure to conform to the “levush” (meaning, in practice, dress code or uniform), your husband (or your father, brother, etc.) gets a lecture for being bareheaded, or for wearing, heaven forbid, a baseball cap or multi-colored kippah instead of a proper black hat.

Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all: 1—Kashrut

Not smooth enough

There's regularly kosher meat, and there's glatt kosher meat. At least, that's the way it used to be, up until about 30 years ago.My understanding is that, according to halachah/Jewish religious law, certain lesions on the inside of the lungs of large animals (cattle, goats, sheep, and kosher-slaughtered deer—yes, venison can be kosher if a deer is slaughtered according to the rules) are permissible, while others render the slaughtered animals treif (not kosher). The chareidi (fervently Orthodox), however, have taken a machmir (strict) position, and will eat only animals with totally smooth (glatt) lungs. (These laws do not apply to poultry or fowl, that is, chickens, ducks, turkeys, etc. Technically speaking, there's no such thing as glatt kosher poultry.) Up until about thirty years ago, one could choose which standard of kashrut to adhere to. No more, at least, not in New York City—to the best of my knowledge, it's no longer possible to buy kosher meat that's not glatt kosher in this entire town.

In other words, in some places, the chareidim now dictate the rules for kosher meat, whether you're chareidi or not.

Not old enough

What is this new term, kemach yashan (old flour?) that began appeared on the windows of kosher restaurants, especially dairy restaurants and pizza parlors, about 15 years ago? My understanding is that some are of the opinion that one is not permitted to eat flour from the new harvest until a certain date. Now, the restaurants are afraid of losing business, and advertise their use of yashan flour.

Not clean enough

Bugs, bugs, everywhere. Jews aren't allowed to eat most insects. Okay, fine, so we'll rinse our lettuce. Not good enough. The list of foods and beverages that are now considered, in some circles, off-limits to Jews because of possible insect infestation keeps growing. Here's a list I made a few years ago. I read somewhere that asparagus tips have since been added to the list. I've probably missed a few.

Not Jewish enough

The Orthodox Union, which runs one of the best-known organizations performing kashrut supervision, is of the opinion that, under some circumstances, the fear of government is as effective as the fear of G-d. When it comes to milk, they rely on the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure that all milk sold in the United States is from kosher animals. I believe that the milk certified kosher under this approach is known as “chalav stam” (ordinary milk?). The chareidim take a more machmir (strict) approach—if I understand their point of view correctly, they are of the opinion that only milk from animals milked under Jewish supervision can be trusted to be from kosher animals. Milk certified under that approach is known as “chalav Yisrael” (literally, “Israel” milk [Jewish milk]).

A few months ago, some wise guy put up a parody on the internet stating that the OU would no longer certify “chalav stam” as kosher. This would have been funny, had it not been for the fact that the poor author had to clarify that the parody was a parody, and not the truth. The march toward machmir has become so pervasive that many of the readers (including myself) thought the author was reporting breaking news.

What would happen if the OU did, indeed, stop certifying chalav stam as kosher?

Imagine walking into a supermarket and discovering that every single brand of ice cream that has graced your parents’ and/or your own kosher table for decades is no longer kosher. Imagine the sobbing and/or tantrum-throwing pre-schoolers who’ve just been told that, no, they will not be allowed to have ice cream and/or an ice cream cake at their birthday parties because ice cream is no longer kosher. Imagine the run on kitchen-appliance stores nationwide as literally thousand of Jews descend en masse and buy every single home ice-cream-making machine on the shelves. Imagine the months of waiting as manufacturers gear up to cover the sudden spate of back-orders for home ice-cream makers. Imagine going through an entire summer without a drop of ice cream.

If you think that changes in kashrut standards won’t affect you just because you’re not Orthodox, think again.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Live-blogging the war in Israel, etc.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A touching—and true—story about touch and trust

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