Thursday, May 29, 2008

Maybe Venus is too hot for men :) :) :)

Here's round one.

In connection with the "kashrut color war" mentioned previously, my husband and I had a most entertaining conversation after he laundered our brand-new green pareve towels and potholders for the first time.

"Where are the potholders? I can't find them in the laundry cart."

"I hung them up on hangers to dry. I was afraid they'd melt in the dryer."

Momentary silence.

"Sweets, they're potholders. They're designed for removing hot pans from a hot oven. If they can't take the heat of a dryer, I'm taking them back to the store."

It's no wonder some say that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. Men must need a colder planet. :) :) :)

A dying breed

I suppose that, after the thorough--and well-deserved--drubbing I took concerning my unconsciously judgmental description of my mother's honorable service as an office worker in the Women Marines during World War II, I should talk a bit about the current state of the profession, in which I am currently employed.

You see, my boss is one of the last of the scribes. He hand-writes memos, letters, etc., and hands them to whichever secretary is available to type them. He insists on keeping a hand-written calendar for scheduling. He can barely find his way around a keyboard well enough to answer e-mails.

And that's why I'm employed.

Someday, he'll retire, and be replaced by someone who types her/his own memos. At that point, the office staff will probably be reduced. And, given that my work is episodic anyway--sometimes I'm crazy busy and working 'til 10, while, at other times, I spend my time surfing the net (and writing posts when no one's looking)--I'll probably be the first to go, or, at least, to be bumped back down to temp. work, being called when needed.

But as long as I work for an organization some of whose employees need to be told that the computer is actually turned on already, and would be usable once they turned on the monitor--you can't make this stuff up, folks--I'll probably have at least some semblance of a job here.

I rather hope so, as I enjoy my job. I'm a pretty decent editor, which is even more necessary for some of the major projects on which I work than for letters and memoranda, and I'm one of the better formatters on staff, which is handy for both two-page and 200-page documents. I take great pride in my work, and consider it my job to make my employer look good. Now, if only they'd pay me a decent salary . . .

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lost links: A Google glitch

Once upon a time, a link would show up at the end of every old post to which I linked from a new post. This was nice, because it enabled both me and my readers to track, over time, the development (or lack thereof) of my thought(s) on the issue(s) being discussed.

However, nowadays, ever since Blogger was taken over by Google, the only links that appear on my blog are those of other bloggers. I certainly appreciate the fact that other folks link to my posts. But I do wish that my own links to my own old posts would show up on the old posts. Does anyone know of a "fix" for this?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Disability: Denial and control issues

As the mother of an adult child who spent almost his entire childhood in special education (see here), I've seen it, and, I'm sorry to say, been guilty of it myself: Denial. How else can I explain why it wasn't until six months after our child was diagnosed as hard of hearing that he got his first pair of hearing aids? True, he made it pretty tough for the audiologist, not being much inclined to sit still at the time, but I think it also may have taken me a month or two to get used to the idea that my kid had a permanent disability.

How many kids (now adults) did I know whose parents simply refused to acknowledge that their child had a problem and needed help, or who didn't get them enough help, or who first put them in special ed. when it was too late to do much good? I haven't forgotten the time I attended a meeting in the home of a sweet little boy of about six years old whose parents thought his pronunciation was cute--I practically begged them to get his hearing checked.

But I think there may be another issue involved, in addition to denial, especially with regard to adults. What independent adult wants to admit that his/her body and/or health is not totally within her/his control?

I'm not only the mother of a hard-of-hearing adult, I'm also, at 59, one of the youngest members of my synagogue. How many of our members aren't using hearing aids even though they might benefit from them?

You can't pretend you're not blind. You can't pretend that you can get out of your wheelchair and walk. But you can pretend that you're not hard of hearing. You can pretend that other people are just whispering all the time, or that the volume on the TV is never turned up loud enough for a person with normal hearing to hear it. And/or you can avoid the whole issue by becoming a recluse, leaving your home as rarely as possible so that you can avoid interacting with people and being forced to admit that you can't hear them and need hearing aids. Nobody but you can make you "stick it in your ear," to quote the button that my son's first audiologist loved to wear.

Sadly, the same denial and/or wish to maintain control can apply to persons with certain types of mental illnesses--sometimes, one of the symptoms of certain mental illnesses is precisely an inability to acknowledge that one is ill. (Paranoia has been known to do that.)

The same may apply to certain diseases and other illnesses. Thus far, I've been spared.

This is probably one for the shrinks and social workers of the blogosphere: Is there anything that family and friends can do to help encourage people who need help to get help?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day thoughts and links

My father was an ambulance driver in the U.S. Army during World War II. He brought home malaria as a souvenir from the Philippines.

My uncle served during World War II in the Navy, sailing the Pacific.

My mother decided that, since babies would have to wait until my father came home, she should make herself useful in the war effort, and enlisted in the Women Marines, where she served in a secretarial capacity. Yes, that's what women were allowed to do in the military, in those days. But my mother has always taken great pride in her military service, and saved her Marine uniform hat for decades.

My husband served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force Reserves during the Vietnam War. It was only by good fortune that he was not shipped out to either Korea--he was called to active duty after the Pueblo Incident--or Vietnam, and served his two-year tour of duty in the U.S., delaying his graduate studies to serve his country. He still has has his Air Force combat boots and duffel bag.

The son of an old friend of ours is currently serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Seraphic Secret salutes those who've helped maintain the morale of U.S. troops over the years.

Soccer Dad is thinking of the troops, and links to thoughts and a video about our men and women in uniform.

See what our man at the Muqata, an American-Israeli, has to say about U.S. Memorial Day, with the help of a link to a story and photo concerning Arlington National Cemetery.

On this day, we should remember the old saying, "Freedom isn't free," and keep in our thoughts our troops, veterans, and those struck down while serving our country.

Friday, May 23, 2008

DovBear argues in favor of women's aliyot

See his "Why the Meron pilgrimage [*] is an argument in favor of calling women for aliyot."

Orthodox blogger DB's argument in favor of women's aliyot*:

"My question to those who would berate women for attempting to find spiritual fulfilment the only way they know how -by copying the only things they see - is this: How do you justify yourselves? If Meron (and countless other rituals and observances) could be taken from other cultures and added for the sake of pleasing men, what is the justification for continuing to frustrate women?"

Yehudi Hilchati, also Orthodox, who agrees with DB, plays devil's advocate, and makes the most reasonable case for opponents of aliyot that I, a hard-core egalitarian, can think of:

I agree totally that women should have expanded ritual roles in tefilla [prayer] and kriat hatorah [[reading from a scroll of the biblical Five Books of Moses (Hebrew)]. But your analogy is not a great one.

The minhag [custom] of going to Meron on Lag BaOmer is just that - a minhag. Those who go don't claim it's halacha [Jewish religious law]. While I think that women's laining [reading from a scroll of the biblical Five Books of Moses (Yiddish)] is not assur [forbidden] today, there have been numerous halachic objections over the centuries that have great force in certain communities and things aren't going to change overnight.

Furthermore, those who don't go to Meron don't have to see the people who do. [Bolding added.] It's something that some people do but doesn't become a issue for most of klal yisrael [the community of Israel/The Jewish People]. Out of sight, out of mind.

Yehudi Hilchati Homepage 05.22.08 - 1:45 pm #

I have personal experience with this way of looking at things. In my own local synagogue, the traditionalists, none of whom come to weekday morning minyan anymore (due to age and/or illness), are perfectly content to let women serve as gabbai, lein Torah, and even lead services at the weekday morning minyanim, but heaven help us if we ask for the same privileges on a Shabbat (Sabbath) or Yom Tov (Festival), when they're there to see it.

*Explanation of the "Meron pilgrimage" mentioned in DB's post.)

*"Aliyah," plural "aliyot" (from here):
Aliyah – Literally means “to go up”. Used when referring to when someone emigrates to Israel, or when someone is called up to read or say a blessing on the torah. Also when someone passes away, we say their neshama/soul goes “up” to shamayim/gan eden/heaven.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Casualty of conversion war: Druckman fired

Yes, I know I’ve linked to this opinion piece before (thanks, Steg!), but, for those who are new to, or don’t understand, the whole conversion controversy and Rabbi Druckman’s role therein—he’s one of the good guys, in my opinion—start here.

The latest news, courtesy of Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf of My Obiter Dicta, is that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in yet another move to salvage his scandal-ridden political career, has chosen Rabbi Druckman as the latest sacrificial offering.

I am left speechless. The only response that comes to my mind is “Hashivah shofténu k’va-rishonah, v’yoatzénu k’va-t’chilah, Restore our judges as at first, and our counselors as in the beginning … Baruch . . .Melech ohev tzedakah u’mishpat, Praised is . . . the Sovereign who loves righteousness and justice."

Not to mention “. . . al géré ha-tzedek . . yehemu rachamecha, upon the righteous converts, show (?) mercy . . .”

My previous posts on the conversion war:

NYC Jewish Music list revived;L.B.concerts tonight!

Gili Houpt, now a first-time father of twins living in New Jersey, has turned over the NYC Jewish Music list to artist Yisroel Juskowicz, who hopes to add Jewish art exhibitions to the announcements.

"To submit an event, the event MUST be Jewish in content and taking place in the NY/NJ area. You MUST include the name of the performer who is playing, when and where the event is taking place, the cost of the event, and the contact info. You can submit the info to my email address

. . .

To be added to this group, send email to:"

Tonight's Lag B'Omer (here's an explanation that you can take as literally--or not--as you wish) concert list, copied from his e-mail received today:

------ Thursday May 22nd

9:00 PM Eitan Katz will be performing together with Nochi Krohn at
Aish Kodesh in Woodmere 894 Woodmere Place Woodmere, NY 11598. For
more info www.aishkodesh.


8:00 PM
8th Annual Lag Ba'omer Bonfire
Willow Tree Park, Wesley Hills, NY
Music by C. Lanzbaum and Noah Solomon (Soulfarm)
Bring a chair or blanket, a flashlight and marshmallows.
Questions or directions please contact

Bonfire and music at the home of the Rothenbergs, 370 Pennington Ave (backyard), Passaic, NJ.
Come celebrate the hilulla of Rav Shimon bar Yochai and experience the joy and light of Lag B'Omer! Enter a new appreciation for this special day with sweet divrei Torah, stories from our tzaddikim, and music from shamayim. With Rabbi Eliezer and Rebbetzin Malka Garner.
For more information: 973-773-8286

Women only: ages 18 and up, you are invited to Ohr Naava's LAG BA'
Leon Kaiser Park/Beach
Brooklyn, NY this Thursday night at 6. BBQ, Hula Hoops, Music and fun!
BE THERE! For more innfo, contact Onit Brodsky

8:00pm, 'NYC's newest Jewish power trio'
Rashanim + renowned saxophonist Greg Wall continues their monthly
residency at the Stanton Street Shul on
New York's Lower East Side. 180 Stanton St. New York, NY 10002
7:30pm doors 8:00pm concert for more info

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Location, location, location :( (bumped)

My e-mail to a clothing company:
Your woman's windbreaker must surely have been designed by a man. Only a man could have designed a woman's jacket with the cell phone pocket placed directly over the breast. Ouch. Literally.

Update: This was originally a Monday, May 19, 2008, 10:09 PM post, but the comments keep getting better, so I'm bumping it up. I recommend comment #5 for your amusement.

Jew by Choice discusses conversion controversy

This is a must-read.

In a nutshell:

"Geirim [converts] everywhere are questioning their Jewishness and what ramifications the new standards will have down the line. Will the individual convert’s rabbi still be on the list in twenty years? Will these converts ever be accepted as Jews? Or will they remain permanent outsiders, their Jewish identity always in question?"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The conversion war: A conflict of values

See part one here.

According to one school of thought, one should convert a person to Judaism only if that person is a true believer and is willing to accept and observe all of the mitzvot (commandments).

According to other perspectives, other factors may enter into the equation. Is preserving the Jewish people so important that it's preferable to convert a person and hope that that person will be observant than to stand by while a Jew marries a non-Jew? Is maintaining the Jewish character of the Jewish State so important that it's preferable to convert a half-Jew, there being so many ex-Soviet Israeli citizens with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers (a person's religious identity being defined, according to halachah/Jewish religious law, by the religion of the mother), and hope that that person will be observant, than to stand by while the Jewish character of the State of Israel becomes questionable?

The previous paragraph may have been a bit simplistic. After all, we do want conversion to have some meaning. But what "entrance requirements" should the Jewish People enforce? What are our priorities? I think that's the real question behind the current conversion crisis.

If the answers aren't easy for those of us who are laypersons, imagine how difficult they are for those actually entrusted with performing conversions. But I would like to think that more Orthodox rabbis and rabbinical students are, at least, asking questions like this one.

The war against Modern & Zionist Orthodoxy

I'm linking to a definition of aguna because my readers won't be able to understand this post without understanding the problem that it describes.

If there's one thing I've learned from blogging, it's not to tar any entire group. I'm operating on the assumption that not even all the chareidim (fervently Orthodox Jews, both chassidic and non-chassidic) agree with the recent ruling by chareidi rabbis invalidating thousands of conversions performed by an Israeli Orthodox rabbi of the Dati LeUmi (Religious Zionist) camp. I don't see much choice, however, but to agree that those who promulgated this ruling and those who agree with it are engaged in an active attempt to discredit all Dati LeUmi rabbis (and, by extensive, all non-chareidi rabbis worldwide), regardless of how much suffering they cause to those affected by their ruling(s).

See also Frum vs. Frum, and, while you're at it, my next post.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Close encounter of the tuneful kind

A bird took off right in front of me
and perched on a very low branch of a tree,
then burst into song just a foot above my head
"I want a mate!," that songbird said

(This is the closest I've ever been to a wild bird in song. I got quite a kick out of it.)

Written April 28, 2008, shortly after this post.)

Eek! Computer search “outs” me as a blogger

Well, here’s a first: Last Thursday, at Israeli folk dancing,* Basya’s mother told me that her daughter’s ex-boyfriend had spotted the afore-linked post and had e-mailed it to Basya, who had, in turn, forwarded it to her mom, telling her that she’s now famous, too. :) Much as I enjoy the thought of helping to make someone else famous :), I’m a bit unnerved, as a blogger who must remain anonymous in order to continue blogging without getting into trouble with folks from my neighborhood—this is the first time that someone from real life whom I didn’t tell about my blog has found out about it from someone whom I don't even know.

(*Re my approach to folk dancing during Sefirah, see here. I have to admit that I haven't been very good about not free-styling, solo, in a corner during the livelier couples dances.)

Positive & negative,etc.:Jewish women's observance

One of my Orthodox co-workers and I were discussing Sefirah. I said that I was a bit ambivalent about the Sefirah restrictions on permissible activities (no haircuts, no live music, etc.--there are a variety of customs and interpretations) because these restrictions just don't make sense: Why are there 33 days of mourning for the plague among Rabbi Akiva's students, but only one day (Tisha B'Av) for the destruction of the Temple (churban Bet HaMikdash) and only one day (Yom HaShoa) for the 6,000,000 dead in the Holocaust (for those who advocate a day other than Tisha B'Av)? She made it clear that she observes all the restrictions, but doesn't count the Omer.

Another Orthodox co-worker, one of the Women’s Tehillim (Psalms) Group attendees, told me recently that she’d already said the psalms for the day, just in case she wasn’t able to attend the Tehillim group. I commented that I was having a tough time learning how to focus while praying Maariv (Arvit, Evening Service) on the subway (which I’ve taken to doing after folk dancing because I always get home so late). A different Orthodox co-worker had recently mentioned to me that many women don't say Maariv at all (it being a service the obligatory nature of which is debatable, since it doesn't replace any of the daily sacrifices made in the long-destroyed Temple in Jerusalem, but Orthodox and observant Conservative men have all accepted it as obligatory).

I find it interesting that my priorities seem to be different from those of some (many?) women within the Orthodox community. For openers, from what little I’ve heard, there seems to be more emphasis on avoiding the forbidden (that is, obeying the negative commandments) than on doing the permitted and/or required (that is, obeying the positive commandments). Or perhaps it’s just that davvening (praying) is central to my particular way of observing Judaism, whereas there’s a question how much prayer, if any, and what kind of prayer is required of women. Some in the Orthodox community say that women are required to pray three times a day, just as men are, but not necessarily at specified times; some say that women are required to pray once a day; some say that any petition to HaShem (which, I guess, would include a psalm) fulfills a women’s daily prayer obligation.

I am reminded of a discussion I had with yet another Orthodox co-worker a few years ago. I mentioned to her, with some pride, that I'd finally learned to say the short (not the longer Monday and Thursday) Tachanun. Instead of congratulating me on my learning, she sniffed, "Women don't say Tachanun."

So how’s this for odd: I davven more than many women in both the Conservative and Orthodox camps. And you wonder why I feel like a square peg in a round community. I suspect I'm not the only one who sees me as a square peg--I imagine I have something of a rep as an "odd duck." What can I say but "Quack?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reconsidering Sefirah observance (again)

Katrina’s as confused and conflicted about Sefirah observance as I am. Her buddy’s suggestion that one observe from after Rosh Chodesh Iyar until Lag B’Omer actually makes a certain amount of sense, though it doesn’t follow any currently-accepted minhag (custom), of which elf’s DH delineates five in his comment to Katrina’s post.

I’ve linked previously to this DovBear post concerning Sefirah, and I’m linking again, because I think it’s worth a look every year. (This bit of satire is really about Yom HaShoah, but it touches on Sefirah as well.)

Psalm 19: A “two-fer”

Read Psalm 19 carefully, and you’ll see what I mean when I say that it’s two for the price of one. The first half of the psalm is all about the wonders of HaShem’s creation, particularly the sun. (I dispute the translation of verse 7 shown in the link--I think "hu" refers back to the sun [mentioned in verse 5], not the bridegroom and/or runner [mentioned in verse 6], and should be translated "its," not "his.") Then, smack in the middle of the psalm, there’s a complete change of subject. What does “Torat HaShem t’mimah (the Law of HaShem is perfect)” have to do with the heavens declaring the glory of G-d?

Score another one in favor of the Documentary Hypothesis. In my opinion, this is yet another example of two texts having been cobbled together into one without any concern for the fact that the seam is showing.

That said, do read Psalm 19, and any other psalm that's to your liking. There are some real beauties in Sefer Tehillim/the Book of Psalms.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Frum vs.frum:The conversion crisis that affects all

Here’s an opinion piece about the recent Israeli rabbinical ruling declaring possibly thousands of Orthodox (Hebrew: Dati; Yiddish: Frum) conversions invalid. (Thanks to Steg for the link).

Harry Maryles warns, “Are you a convert to Judaism? Think again!"

Steg also links to Marc Shapiro’s New York Jewish Week article asking whether there’s going to be a schism in the Orthodox community—and indicating that it might be necessary.

Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss must be clairvoyant—they founded the new International Rabbinic Fellowship just last week. Actually, they seem to have been headed in that direction already, as this quote from the linked article indicates: "“Avi and Marc have come to feel increasingly disenfranchised,” one rabbi said, “and the conversion issue put them over the top."

ADDeRabbi, a former American now living in Modiin, said of the Israeli rabbinate, “I haven't discussed the current giyur [conversion] issue because I've been trying to get a copy of R' Sherman's psak din [roughly, ruling on a question of halachah/Jewish religious law]. In the meantime, I can't help but think that maybe THIS will be the crisis that finally precipitates a Religious-Zionist austritt." Methinks we'll be hearing more from the Israeli outreach rabbinical organization Tzohar as well--I can't remember where I read this, but I think there's been previous talk of Tzohar acting independently of the official state rabbinate.

This rabbinical ruling is frightening. As I said in my comments to a post of my own that’s almost two years old (sorry about the no-longer-functioning link in that post):

". . . if, as the ADDeRabbi asserts, the real issue is that a significant group of chareidi [fervently Orthodox] rabbis consider only chareidi rabbis to be real rabbis, then . . . it stands to reason that, if non-chareidi *rabbis* aren't consider to be real *rabbis,* then non-chareidi *Jews* aren't considered to be real *Jews.*

. . . Unless a reasonably solution is devised, a) non-chareidi conversions will not be recognized, b) non-chareidi "born" Jews will not be recognized, and c) non-Orthodox Jews, having no Orthodox, much less chareidi, rabbis to vouch for our Jewishness, will not be recognized. In the blink of an eye, the chareidi rabbinate of Israel will have written off as non-Jewish roughly 95% of American Jews."

Now, even those converted by Israeli Orthodox rabbis aren't "safe."

Don't say I didn't warn you that the rightward turn of Orthodox Judaism would affect all of us, Orthodox and non-Orthodox. At this point, I'm frankly hoping that there will, indeed, be a schism within the Orthodox community, both in Israel and elsewhere.

In case you think it's unmitigated chutzpah (gall) for a non-Orthodox Jew to hope for a schism within Orthodox Judaism, please remember that I have a personal stake in the outcome of the conversion crisis, as I said in a comment to that two-year-post of mine:

"Please excuse me for taking this personally, but the last person in my family to live and die Orthodox was my greatgrandmother, so our son has no Orthodox rabbi to vouch for his Jewishness. In addition, my Israeli nieces and nephew are the children of a Jew by choice. Her conversion was under the auspices of an American Orthodox rabbi. I fear that the fact that said [rabbi] was approved by the Israeli rabbinate *at that time* might not suffice to protect her children from being declared non-practicing Protestants.

My nightmare scenario #1: Within the next 15 years, my nieces and nephew are each, in turn, rejected for marriage by the Israeli rabbinate (their parents having made aliyah only weeks after the wedding). Each chooses to raise her/his kids as totally secular Israelis.

[Said Marc Shapiro in the aforementioned New York Jewish Week article, "I was struck by how, in his lengthy ruling attacking Rabbi Druckman’s conversions, the haredi [fervently Orthodox] dayan [judge] relies on the halachic [Jewish law] decisions of a well-known posek [decisor on matters of halachah/Jewish law] who serves the anti-Zionist Edah Haredit. In other words, the writings of one who believes that the creation of the State of Israel was a terrible sin — and who clearly has no sympathy with the goal of helping ease the conversion of sincere non-Jewish immigrants — is helping guide the decisions of a dayan who works for the Israeli government and is supposed to have the best interests of the State at heart."]

My nightmare scenario #2: My son's fiancee having decided, after very serious deliberation, to chose Judaism, they go to an Israeli-rabbinate-approved Orthodox rabbi to begin the process. Instead of addressing my son's fiancee, the rabbi grills my son about his Jewish identity, rejecting our ketubah [Jewish wedding contract] as proof. My son storms out, enraged, and our only grandchildren are raised Roman Catholic.

Result: In 20 years, there won't be a practicing Jew left in the family, and all of my parents' descendants will be (considered) Christian."

The most right-wing and anti-Zionist of the chareidim have rejected the rest of the Jewish People. Maybe it's time for the rest of the Jewish People to reject the most right-wing and anti-Zionist of the chareidim.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Zeh hayom asah HaShem, . . .

. . . nagilah v'nism'chah vo. This is the day HaShem made, let us rejoice and be glad on it." (Psalm 118, from Hallel).

What difference does it make whether I'm a literal believer or not? I thank HaShem on this Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, for M'dinat Yisrael, the State of Israel, whether HaShem gave it to the Jewish People or the Jewish People gave it to the Jewish People. It's a miracle, one way or the other. And just as I say the Hallel psalms with the brachot/blessings, skip the Tachanun prayer and La-m'natzeiach on Chanukah, so, too, I do on Yom HaAtzmaut.

Happy 60th Birthday, M'dinat Yisrael! I hope and pray that you will have many more for the entire Am Yisrael/Jewish People to celebrate.


See some interesting disucssions on Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut here (sorry I can't find the link to that specific post--keep scrolling down to the bottom of the page for the "Hallel on Yom Ha-Atzmaut post"[try this]), here, and here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Not my favorite minhag (custom)

I learned as a child that it's customary to turn to face the sefer Torah (scroll of the Bible's Five Books of Moses) as it's being carried around the room at the beginning and end of Hotzaat HaTorah (roughly, the Torah service). I think it's unfortunate that, in some synagogues, it's also customary for congregants to shake the hands of those circling the room with the sefer Torah. Speaking of skewed priorities, I find that custom a bit disrespectful. Since the sefer Torah is always carried at the head of the procession, shaking the hands of those escorting it requires one to turn one's back to the Torah! It seems to me that the escort is being honored only secondarily--in my opinion, the primary function of those escorting the Torah is to serve as an honor guard for the Torah. One can always shake the hand of an escort after the Torah procession.

I won't turn my back on the sefer Torah to shake the hands of the people walking behind it (unless I know that the "escort" is a person who's likely to be insulted). As it says in the siddur (prayer book), ". . . t'nu chavod laTorah, . . . give honor to the Torah."

On the other hand, I'm occasionally guilty of using the Torah processional as an opportunity to talk to my neighbors in the surrounding seats, seventh-inning-stretch style. Perfect, I'm not.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Skewed priorities

The mother of the Bachur haBar Mitzvah, the Bar Mitzvah boy, shows up wearing a nice sports outfit consisting of a skirt and a matching print top and overblouse, with casual flats on her feet. Attempting the “dan l’chaf z’chut” (“judge everyone favorably”) approach, which is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I tell myself that she’s normally not much of a dresser and might actually think that what she’s wearing is a nice enough outfit, and that perhaps she’s having trouble with her feet. Imagine the shock that the few of us at daily morning minyan the next day experience when we see her walk in with her family for Bar Mitzvah photos dressed in a formal suit and two-inch heels. It was more important for her to dress up for the photo session than for her own son’s first aliyah?!

Top-heavy on the aliyot

Imagine trying to give out aliyot for this crowd: Seven Leviyim/Levites (yep, count 'em--seven!)--the rabbi, the cantor, the cantor's two sons, the cantor's brother, the president of the congregation, and the guy who's giving out the aliyot, the Chair of the Ritual Committee (also known as my husband). In theory, the Leviyim get only the first two aliyot, and that assumes that we don't get a surprise Cohen walking in and taking the first aliyah. The hubster is always on the look-out for non-Leviyim, who are, you may have gathered, in short supply in a congregation that can barely get eight men, total, for a Shabbat morning Torah reading. Much fun ensues. Oy.

Answering to a higher authority :(

The Feds have spoken.

Many colleges, including the college at which my husband teaches accounting, have long had policies allowing the admission of students with less-than-stellar academic records, on the assumption that a few developmental (read: remedial) courses will enable them to “catch up” academically and earn at least an associate’s degree. The United States federal (national) government recently put its foot down, insisting that colleges are permitted to accept only a certain maximum percentage of these students without losing federal financial aid to students. The result is that, with fewer of these students being admitted, the enrollment at my husband’s college has dropped. Therefore, fewer classes will be offered, and full-time faculty members such as my husband who have frequently been asked to teach—and offered extra pay for—more classes than the standard number required per semester will, in all likelihood, no longer be asked to teach extra classes. Bottom line: My husband expects a reduction in his semi-monthly net pay of approximately $375, almost certainly to take effect in September and possibly as early as July (depending on summer enrollment).


On the plus side, there’ll be less work for the hubster, not to mention less traveling—he’s been known to teach at three different campuses in two different boroughs of New York City in a single day. And I imagine that those subsisting on the current legal minimum wage might well be happy to see the difference between my husband’s base pay and “overload” pay added to their paltry earnings.

Still, we can’t deny that a $375 pay reduction will lighten our wallets considerably. The good times are over. :(

Friday, May 02, 2008

"Pizza party :)": My post-Pesach-week posts, 2008

It’s Greek to me (literally)

On the subject of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) (again), before I forget (again), see chapter 3, verse 9: “Apiryon . . .” Say what?! Do my eyes and ears deceive me, or is that word just as much swiped from the Greek as “afikoman” and “gematria” (whose Greek root also gave us the English word “geometry”)?
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