Friday, June 27, 2008

Proud owner of my 1st "lampshade" hat*

In a rare moment of brilliance, it finally occurred to me that the office of the doctor with whom I had an appointment yesterday is located on the same street as our favorite not-so-local kosher-shopping area. So, after my appointment, rather than hopping on the bus and heading back to the subway, I hopped on the same bus headed in the opposite direction. Ten minutes later, I was there. After picking up a few groceries not available in our neighborhood--too bad I can't carry as much in the backpack as I could in my younger years--I had another bright idea. It's bothered me some that, if we should ever get lucky enough to be invited to spend a Shabbat/Sabbath in an Orthodox home--just going to a local Orthodox synagogue wouldn't do, as, first of all, since neither of us was raised in a frum family and neither was ever privileged to spend even a single day in a Jewish day school, we're not sure of all the rules, and second of all, if I wanted to spend yet another Shabbat in a shul in which 80% of the attendees were old enough to be at least my parents, I could stay in my own synagogue--I wouldn't have anything dressier to park on my head than a baseball cap. So I called RaggedyMom, last seen here, and asked her where to go hat shopping. Many thanks to her for patiently putting up with my pesky questions.

Stay tuned. I'll link to a photo of the new chapeau on Flickr as soon as the hubster has a minute to shoot one.

*The term "lampshade" hat is the tongue-in-check description given by some Orthodox Jews to a woman's hat that has a) a flat, or nearly flat, top (or one that's sufficiently unstructured that it conforms somewhat to the shape of the head), rather than one that's "dented" like a fedora or specifically constructed to be rounded, like a bowler hat, and b) a brim that's either as straight, or nearly as straight, as the hat's sides--some might describe this as a "bucket" hat--or fairly narrow and unobtrusive, unlike a sunhat's brim. Here are some examples.

Saturday, June 28, 2008, 11:38 PM update:

Here's the promised chapeau shot, a Punster's Pic. (Thanks, hubby!) I don't look so great in black, but other than that, it's not a bad looking hat.

Thanks for the literal hat tip, RaggedyMom!

June 7, 2008 update:

Not being an experienced hat-wearer, I'm not sure at which angle to wear my new hat. Here's a shot of the hat tipped a bit further forward. Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My television series :)

A down side of secular "culture"

They're actually televising a show called "Secret Diary of a Call Girl"?! I'm not ready to give up watching television--why throw out the good shows with the bad?--but I no longer wonder why many yeshivish (moderately right-wing Orthodox) and Chareidi (fervently right-wing Orthodox) Jews won't touch the stuff.

I read Samuel Heilman's "Sliding to the Right: The Contest for the Future of American Jewish Orthodoxy" some months ago, so I don't remember every detail. But it seems to me that part of his point was that one of the reasons for the withdrawal of some segments of the Orthodox community from participation in secular culture--for example, the current preference, among many Chareidim, to avoid college education--is that secular values no longer match religious values as much as they did years ago. There was a time, before the "sexual revolution" of my early adulthood in the 70's, when such things as discreet behavior--even if you "did it," you didn't discuss it--and proper public dress and language were simply an accepted part of the general culture. Now, it's considered perfectly normal and acceptable for television to produce such shows as "Sex in the City," and for some colleges to require students to live in dorms in which the genders are mixed, whether students find such living arrangements acceptable to their religious beliefs or not. Enough said.

Post-strike television re-addiction

During the screenwriters' strike, I practically stopped watching TV, since every show I liked was playing reruns.

Or so I thought.

When the strike was finally settled, I went to check out the olde DVR, and got a bit of a shock: Apparently, "Stargate: Atlantis" had already had a season "in the can" (already filmed) before the strike, and I was behind in my watching by almost the entire season!

Discouraged by the prospect of having to watch some 10 or so episodes posthaste, I actually seriously considered whether I should take advantage of having gone nearly "cold turkey" from television and give it up altogether, except for the news. I decided against it because, I reasoned, my interests are so esoteric as it is--really, how many folk dance lovers are there, anyway?--that I need something more mainstream to talk about.

Well, no sooner had I decided to watch an episode of Stargate: Atlantis just about every Monday-Wednesday evening until I caught up when our cable connection decided to malfunction, leaving us completely tv-free for almost two weeks. It didn't help, of course, that that bum from the cable company first showed up two and a half hours later than scheduled and I refused to press the buzzer to let him enter the building because it was already well into Shabbat/Sabbath. It was just my luck, naturally, that the season finale occurred while our cable was on the fritz and was, therefore, not recorded by our DVR. !#$%^&*!!!!!!!!!! The seasons's third- and second-to-last episodes were getting quite interesting, since the writers had decided to write one of the actor's pregnancies into, rather than out of, the series: The last time I saw Teyla, she'd been kidnapped by someone seeking access to her still-unborn baby's unique genetic heritage. Talk about "stay tuned"!

Anyone who's not already bored by this post and/or isn't a Battlestar Galactica fan is cautioned that this might be a good time to stop reading and go directly to my next post. :)

My theory is that there are two wild cards (unpredictable factors) on this show:

1) Athena, whom we met originally as a "sleeper" Cylon named Sharon (code name Boomer) who'd been programmed to believe that she was human, then met in another version (most Cylons having many copies of the same model) who knew that she was a Cylon, has switched loyalties and gone over to the human camp, pairing off with the human Karl Agathon (code name Helo) and having a baby with him. She has already attempted to murder a Cylon (one of the Sixes) whom she has good reason to believe will eventually try to kidnap their daughter, Hera.

2) Tory Foster, another sleeper Cylon, just learned, at the end of last season, that she was a Cylon. Tory has since killed a human to prevent her from exposing the formerly-sleeper Cylons among the Galactica crew and government, and has become not only Baltar's lover, but a believer in the monotheistic religion that Balter is preaching (despite the humans' usual belief in something resembling the ancient Greek pantheon of gods)--the One God being, probably unbeknownst to Baltar's followers, the god worshipped by the Cylons. When she finally chose to "come out" as a Cylon, she told her former boss, President Laura Roslin, "I don't take orders from you anymore."

Which of these Cylons poses a greater threat to the fragile truce between humans and Cylons? If I were a gambler, my money would be on Tory. Unlike her kind-hearted predecessor as the president's press secretary (now deceased), Tory has always struck me as a calculating individual who'll do whatever it takes to accomplish her goals.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A boring three-day weekend???!

Independence Day is the only federal holiday (a holiday mandated by the national government) in the United States the occurrence of which has not been changed in order to create a three-day weekend--it always takes place on July 4, no matter on which day of the week July 4 falls, rather than having been moved to the nearest Monday. So you can imagine my initial elation when I realized that July 4 falls on a Friday this year. Yay!

Actually, not quite "yay."

One thing no one mentions about being (even some remote semblance of) an observant Jew is that there's no such thing as a three-day weekend--one day is always taken by Shabbat/Sabbath, with its travel (and other) restrictions. This means that, when a three-day weekend begins on a Friday, one must be home in time to avoid riding on, and to prepare for, Shabbat. In the case of Independence Day, it means that, since we don't live within walking distance of a fireworks display and no longer watch television on Shabbat, we'll have to miss the fireworks this year. Major bummer. :(

It would be really nice if we could arrange to visit some friends over the July 4th weekend, so as to have someone with whom to enjoy Shabbat and not be so conscious of being among the handful of people in the neighborhood with eyes not glued to the tube (television), watching the festivities. (Given the number of Orthodox and observant Conservative Jews left in our neighborhood, I would be surprised if there were even 100 individuals there who refrain from watching TV on Friday nights, etc., because of Shabbat.) But we can count on one hand the number of friends who 1) have apartments or houses large enough to accommodate us overnight, 2) keep kosher, and 3) are likely to attend synagogue on Shabbat morning, at least. :(

As I said, it'll probably be a pretty boring three-day weekend. :(

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An interesting conversation

See the comments section. (Long story.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Late sunset

Verdi Square, behind the Broadway/72nd Street subway station
(Shira's Shot, Thursday, June 12, 2008)

I'm sitting here eating a mango sorbet
Taking advantage of this gorgeous day
To grab a snack to eat in the park
And enjoy June's late sun long before it gets dark
(It's considerably after 7 o'clock)

Go out and have fun

Lost in the stacks: Update

Unfortunately, the situation remains as mentioned here.

However, the effect has not been what I expected--rather than preventing olde blabbermouth here from blogging, the situation has prevented me from making the rounds of other blogs. For example, I haven't had a chance to check out a Haveil Havalim post in about two weeks. :( At this point, it's not clear when this situation will improve. So I ask those of my readers who are also bloggers to please excuse my absence from the comments sections of their blogs.

(Link>) A mechitzah might have been handy :(

Sheesh, doesn't rush hour ever end in Manhattan? I was sitting on the subway last night at about 11 PM, after a couple of hours of Israeli folk dancing, and had just starting davvening Maariv/Arvit (praying the Evening Service), when I was joined by a gentleman on my right and a lady on my left. Unfortunately, this was one of the subway cars with "bucket seats," which, sadly, are not only not designed to accommodate the, um, varying widths of riders, but, even worse, don't take into account the existence of arms and shoulders, either. To make a long story short, I was literally rubbing shoulders and upper arms with my neighbors the entire time that I was davvening. Fortunately for me, I was still wearing my jacket from the office (which I shed while dancing). I have, occasionally, had the dubious privilege of rubbing arms with a fellow or sister rider in the subway while wearing short sleeves, and it's not my idea of a pleasant encounter. There are some advantages to the practice, among some Orthodox women, of wearing sleaves that cover at least the elbow all year long.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Enough controversy--I'll take something bubbly :) :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who is a Jew?: Worst-case scenario

From the Brooklyn Wolf's "Scary Paper on Annulling Conversions:"

ProfK said...
Anonymous's comment "Where does this end?" brought to mind a really scary end to this scenario. If geirus [conversion] can be invalidated retroactively then what is to keep rabbanim [rabbis] somewhere down the line from saying that being a Jew will no longer be passed down from mother to child? That you only get to call yourself a Jew if you meet X,Y and Z criteria?
June 17, 2008 8:29 AM

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A lack of compassion

Recommended reading: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin's "Why my Torah is crying." (Thanks to TikunOlam, guest-posting on DovBear's blog, for the link.)

On a related topic, see Da'as Hedyot's "Halachic Choices."

For those not already familiar with the conversion controversy, see here.

The Producers, Jewish-Music Division

Lenny loves to give families a treat
Producing Jewish music with a nice rock beat
When he's looked for talent, he has rarely missed
Check out the fine folks on his list
(He even lent his voice with glee
To sing two songs on Kunstler's CD)

C Lanzbom plays a mean guitar
or two or three
With his talent he's gone far
And produced a CD
for Chana Rothman and a Fringe of Blue
Fine music, and it's Jewish, too
(Sometimes he plays guitar on these, too)

In a basement somewhere in Milwaukee
Mark worries that his recording equipment may be getting squawky
He's thinking of buying an Apple computer
(Once his basement recovers from the recent wet weather)
In the hope that his recordings will sound even better

Let's hear it for the folks who record Jewish tunes
And hope they keep at for many moons

[Believe it or not, I actually had this entire post--links and all--saved among my drafts when I spotted that letter to the editor concerning a threat to the livelihood of Jewish musicians (posted below).]

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fightin' words in support of Jewish musicians

Here's a letter to the editor published in the Friday, June 13, 2008 Jewish Press:

Angered By Simcha [Happy-Occasion Celebration] Guideline

The May 9 “Machberes” [notebook] feature caught my eye, and, quite frankly, made me quite angry. While the runaway costs of chasana [Jewish wedding] preparations are a major concern, one particular “guideline” struck me as particularly odious – the recommendation that there be a limit on the time “live” musicians are permitted to be paid for their work. What is galling about this recommendation is the concept that follows it, namely, that pre-recorded music should be substituted for live music.
Now, I ask you, why would our gedolim ["great ones," leading rabbinic authorities] consider such a suggestion to be even remotely kosher when it means that the musicians and performers whose recorded music would presumably be used to substitute for paid live musicians would not be paid for their services, that their work would be considered free and used without permission or compensation? Isn’t the use of instrumental and vocal music considered to be one of the key elements in the observance of a simcha? Don’t we ban instrumental music during Sefiras HaOmer and the Three Weeks [periods of semi-mourning] precisely because of that association?
I would suggest, given the importance of music-making in the context of simchas, as well as for the issue of parnossa [livelihood] for musicians in general, that the suggestion to limit live music (as a function of cost) so that unpaid canned music be used is the very essence of chillul Hashem [desecration of The Name (of G-d)] – we want the simcha, we want the music, but we don’t want to pay for it, and we will do it no matter what.
What chutzpah [nerve, gall]! If nothing else, it displays the kind of arrogance that is most certainly a contributing factor to the attitudes that for example, produced the recent scandal of the Lipa concert ban. [See this, one of many posts re this ban.] I don’t think the connection there is coincidental or casual.
Dr. Avrohom Leichtling
Monsey, NY


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Frightening weather

I flatly refused to go to shul (synagogue) for Mincha-Maariv/Arvit (Afternoon and Evening Services) last night because I was literally afraid to leave the apartment building--I'm petrified of thunderstorms. On the plus side, this gave me a legitimate excuse for skipping davvening (praying) with a minyan--I actually prefer to davven Mincha-Maariv at home on Saturday night because I can't stand the speed-davvening approach to prayer at Saturday Maariv services (especially common this time of year, when Shabbat/Sabbath ends late due to the late sunset). But I wish I'd had a less frightening excuse.

Meanwhile, in the wilds of Wisconsin, the weather in Milwaukee makes some members of this family freak out. The Mom thinks this is the second 100-year rain, but the Dad comments that you can't have two in less than two decades. Eldest Daughter recounts a droll conversation that she had with Youngest Daughter concerning the first-graders' tornado drill, then finds herself wishing she'd paid more attention to the dangerous-weather safety instructions when she ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Two nut-cases make a pair :)

Have the two of us really been married for thirty-one years? I hope we'll have many more years together.

A link to a photo from our wedding came be found here. A little background on how it all started can be found here.

And do congratulate Mark/PT and Mrs. Balabusta, who should be up to their twenty-first right about now.

Friday, June 13, 2008 update: Yes, it was a fun wedding, as RivkaYael commented.

A little night music, glad and sad

Last night's concert at Safra Hall in the Museum of Jewish Heritage was quite nice, but a bit of a new experience for me. I'm not used to attending rock concerts in an actual concert hall. Concert halls have advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, people who go to concert halls are practically guaranteed to be there to actually listen to the music (unlike some places I've been). In fact, there were quite a few families with kids in the audience--I forget that the Museum of Jewish Heritage is located at the southernmost end of Battery Park City, a huge residential complex at the southwest-most tip of Manhattan. Also on the plus side, and possibly as much because there were children in attendance as because the concert was in a concert hall, the musicians had been asked to keep the volume down. On the other hand, a concert hall is not exactly the best place for a dancin' fool to dance. The most likely spot, between the "orchestra" seats in front and the stadium-style seating in the back, was, unfortunately for me, occupied by the sound equipment and technicians. I ended up dancing in the aisle leading to the entrance door, which meant that I had to be careful not to create a fire hazard by blocking the exit. Oh, well.

For me, the line-up of Clare Burson's and Michelle Citrin's bands was almost as interesting as their music. Clare Burson had a guy playing Hawaiian guitar (the kind that sits horizontally, i.e., flat and face up, usually on a stand), not something one sees everyday in a Jewish rock band, though C Lanzbom has been known to play a standard-guitar-looking version thereof (a slide guitar?). Michelle Citrin's band featured an electric-cello player, also not too common in a Jewish rock band. Chana Rothman, whom I'd heard before, sounded as good as I remembered, and I could even understand what she was saying most of the time. A good time was had by all.

After the concert, I decided to enjoy a walk along the Battery Park City Promenade (or whatever its official name is, these days.) I've hardly been down there since the World Trade Center was attacked and my sister forced to leave her apartment in Battery Park City. (In the interim, she's lived in various Manhattan locations on short-term sublets.) It was a beautiful night for a walk along the Hudson River. I even spotted a great place for a shidduch (matchmaking) date on a nice warm night: In the Japanese-garden area just north of the museum, a couple sat on the same bench but separated by roughly a foot. (Bad-for-Shidduchim alert!) It was definitely weird, though, when I approached the top of the beautiful stone staircase in the World Financial Center, where I always used to go to get the subway, and realized that, when I turned to face the place where the enclosed pedestrian overpass over West Street had once stood, I would see nothing but a gaping hole--and, sure enough . . . There's now a glass wall where the overpass once began, overlooking what's now a combination mass grave and construction site. I ended up walking halfway around the Financial Center to find a new, temporary overpass. (Looking south, I saw that one of the overpasses, from another building of the World Financial Center, had survived the destruction.) What a schlep to the subway! Actually, it's probably the same distance that it always was, but there are no longer any World Trade Center shops to serve as distractions along the way. They're building, though--even at 10 PM, the construction crews were hard at work.

I finally fell onto a subway seat, and, it being a ridiculously long ride, davvened Maariv/Arvit (prayed the Evening Service) on the way home.

See you later.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Shavuot: An all-nighter, standing on one foot

After the Tikkun at our local synagogue--with so many seniors, we rarely run past 11 PM--a few hardy souls headed for the Tikkun at the JCC in Manhattan, where we broke up to follow our own interests. I ended up first in David Kraemer's "Israel as Converts: The Conversion Ritual & Standing at Sinai." The text that he taught showed the rabbis taking two totally different approaches to conversion: Either it consisted of (milah and) t'vilah (circumsion, for a man, and) ritual immersion, making one a member of the Jewish family, or it consisted of a committment to accepting the mitzvot (commandments), as at Sinai, making one a part of the covenant with G-d. As far as I can determine, both seem to be required, though the current conversion controversy seems to pit an emphasis on one against an emphasis on the other.

In passing, (Rabbi?) Kraemer said that Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher) did the women a favor by declaring that men couldn't come near women for three days prior to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai: He said that there was some concern that both women and men be ritually pure, so that all, male and female alike, could receive the Torah. I told this to a female rabbi of my acquaintance the next night--she didn't buy it. But I like the idea.

The next session I attended was taught by Congregation Ramat Orah Associate Rabbi Moshe Grussgott. He was scheduled to speak about the "cheter m'chirah," the permission/leniency to sell land in the biblically-defined Land of Israel to a non-Jew so that one could continue to farm it during the Shmittah (Sabbatical) Year. At the last minute, though, he decided to speak about the AgriProcessor kosher-meat-processing-plant controversy instead. There was much talk of violations of halachah/Jewish religious law, ranging from "dina m'dina dina" ("the law of the country is the law), which would make it halachically forbidden to violate U.S. immigration laws, to questions of g'neivah (theft) because workers were not being paid adequately and/or on time for their work, to causing a person to sin through deception or the withholding of information (lifnei iver lo titein michshol--in front of a blind person do not put a stumbling block), to the chilul HaShem (desecration of G-d's name) of being involved in one of the largest illegal-immigrant mass arrests in the history of the United States, not to mention the prior allegations of cruelty to animals (tzaar baalei chayim). I'm sure I've forgotten one or two more points.

Concerning the question of whether a boycott of AgriProcessor products would be appropriate, especially prior to a trial, Rabbi Grussgott said that no business has an absolute right to any person's patronage, and that one can simply choose to buy from another business at any time. He did not seem to think it necessary to wait for a verdict.

This point was vehemently disputed two days later by the teenaged son of some members of my Manhattan synagogue, who insisted that to boycott AgriProcessor before a verdict would be to commit an act of lashon ha-ra (malicious gossip). He was also quite adamant that, if the Orthodox Union wished to withdraw its certification of the kashrut of AgriProcessor products, they state quite clearly that they were withdrawing it not because the company's products weren't kosher, but because they did not wish to be associated with a company that conducted itself in a manner that might be deemed unethical. He took a very narrow view of kashrut, with which I disagreed, but ended up in the same place in the long run, which was that a boycott and/or withdrawal of kashrut certification might be appropriate if properly explained and occurring after a guilty verdict.

I'll happily respond to comments when available to do so.

Parshat Naso: Sotah--Another look

You might wish to start by reading about the trial-by-ordeal of the woman suspected of adultery, found in Parshat Naso, Numbers, chapter 5, verses 11-31. Here's my first look at the Sotah ritual. I encourage you to read Elie's response.

Debbie, from the synagogue that I often attend in Manhattan, has another way of interpreting Sotah: In her d'var Torah (discussion of Torah), she said that, however humiliating the Sotah ritual was, it did have the major advantage of depriving the husband of the right to take out his unprovable suspicions on his wife, forcing him to put the matter in G-d's (or the Cohen's/priest's) instead. There being nothing in the water that could have made the wife sick (unless she was "blessed" with multiple chemical sensitivities and could have had an allergy reaction to just about anything), the "potion" given to the women "worked" only by what we now call the placebo effect--that is, if the wife believed that it would work, it might have worked. So it was almost a given that the wife would be found innocent, and the husband deprived of the right to take revenge.

It may take me a while to respond to comments, so I apologize in advance.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ring around a railroad, or An eye for detail, part 2

A far cry . . . :)
(Shira's Shot, May 10, 2008)

Come a little bit closer, you're my kind of bridge . . . :)(Shira's Shot, May 22, 2008)
I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. D . . . but you can stop right there :)
(Shira's Shot, May 22, 2008)

For a better view, double-click on each photo.

This bypass carries cars from Park Avenue through (yes, through) a building (the Helmsley Building) and around the MetLife and Grand Central Station buildings, emptying onto Park Avenue South. That's a pretty long-winded explanation for a few simple photos of a nicely-decorated bridge. But then again, what do you expect from someone who's into nicely-decorated bridges, etc.?


A world record?

When I brought up my e-mail after Shabbat, I discovered 45--count 'em, 45--Viagra and/or Cialis ads in my inbox. Unbelievable.

Lost in the stacks

We are extremely short-staffed at the office at the moment, and expect to remain that way for several more weeks (unless our boss has rachmones [mercy] on us and brings in a temp). In the meantime, there are literally hundreds of documents that must be sorted, photocopied, mailed, and filed by the remaining few hardy souls. So please excuse me if you don't hear much from me--I expect to spend the next few days (weeks?) drowning in paperwork. (Ah, the joys of bureaucracy). I'll be back when I can see my desk again.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Yerushalayim ha-b'nuyah (Jerusalem rebuilt)

On this Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Reunification Day, I pray for a Jerusalem rebuilt and at peace.

"Floating" in Israel Day Parade in NYC

See the bottom line on the list on the photo here. (Thanks, Jameel!)

As the old song goes, "I love a parade!" And what a parade it was!

The concert in Central Park thereafter wasn't half bad either. Tried and true (and woo hoo!): The Piamenta Band, Simply Tsfat. Up and coming: Baruch Abittan, HaMakor. Loud but good (I think Mark would like these guys): Yood. Maybe-not-so-new kid on the block: Singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Shloimy Bluth and band (wish I'd heard them years ago).

Davvening on a need-to-know basis :(

In recent months, I've tried to add the Gemara quote "Rabbi Yishmael omer (Rabbi Ishmael says)" not only to my Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (Festival) morning prayers, but to my weekday morning prayers as well, whenever I have an extra two minutes. I've also tried to add Psalm 30, "Mizmor, Shir Chanukat HaBayit, L'David, (A psalm, a song for the dedication of the House [Temple], for/of/by David)."

Some years ago, a former rabbi told us that one is not permitted to recite Kaddish D'Rabbanan (the Rabbis' Kaddish) at the end of Birkot HaShachar (Morning Blessings) unless one has said Rabbi Yishmael.

I've also noticed that one can add a Kaddish Yatom (Mourner's Kaddish) before the Baruch Sheh-amar (Praised is the One who says . . . ) prayer if one says Psalm 30 first.

I've decided that I really need to master these texts thoroughly, because my father's memory is largely gone, he's now incontinent and having trouble walking, and my mother's not in great health either.

And sooner or later, I'm going to need to know. :(

Multi-part "harmony" in the morning "songs"

Those of you not interested in Jewish prayer can just skip this post.

It occurred to me recently that P'sukei D'Zimrah, the "Verses of Song" section of Shacharit/Morning Service, is a multi-part section.

Part 1
For the weekday and Shabbat(Sabbath)/Yom Tov (Festival) Shacharit, there's the transitional Psalm 30 (Mizmor, Shir Chanukat HaBayit, L'David), followed by the official opening prayer of P'sukei D'Zimrah, Baruch Sheh-amar, Praised is the One who said . . . " and part one. Note that part one is much longer on Shabbat and Yom Tov, and includes the so-called Hallel HaGadol (Great Hallel), Psalm 135 ("Hodu LaShem ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo, Give thanks to G-d because He is good, for his kindness is forever").

(I always say Baruch Sheh-amar. Aside from that prayer, all bets are off. Whether on a weekday or on Shabbat or Yom Tov, I always skip huge chunks of this section, as I simply can't read Hebrew quickly enough. [Concerning Psalm 30, Mizmor, Shir Chanukat HaBayit, L'David, please see next post.])

Part 2
Ashrei (Psalm 145 with some verses added before and after) is the transition to part two, which includes not just random psalms and other biblical quotes or prayers, but, specifically, the last five psalms (146-150) of Sefer Tehillim, the Book of Psalms, which, according to Rabbi Hammer, form the heart of the P'sukei D'Zimrah section. The transition from part two to part three is the paragraph immediately after Psalm 150, beginning with "Baruch HaShem l'olam (Praised is G-d forever)" and ending with "Amen v'amen."

(I always say Ashrei and Psalm 150. On Shabbat and Yom Tov, I recite the entire section. I finally mastered the remaining two of the five final psalms--I already knew 146 and 150 from my former synagogue choir days, and 148 because a former rabbi recommended that I learn it--only since I started blogging. It was one of the many multi-month liturgy-learning projects that I've undertaken since my late twenties.)

Part 3
"Synagogue choreography"--in this case, the fact that we stand--indicates that part three begins with "Va-y'varech David (And David blessed)." I describe this as the "historical" part because it includes both HaShem's choice of Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Father) and Shirat Yam Suf, the Song of the Sea of Reeds (the song our ancestors sang after escaping from their Egyptian slave-masters at the Reed Sea). The paragraph following Shirat Yam Suf (also know as Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea, which was, more recently, the name of a town in Gush Katif) concludes part three.

(On weekdays, I skip this entire part, for lack of time. On Shabbat and Yom Tov, I recite the whole thing.)

Part 4 on weekdays
Here's where it gets interesting. On weekdays, part four and the conclusion of P'sukei D'Zimrah consists entirely of the one-paragraph b'rachah (blessing) Yishtabach.

(I always say Yishtabach.)

Part 4 on Shabbat and Yom Tov
The prayer Nishmat kol chai (The spirit of everything living) is an added section for Shabbat and Yom Tov. In some prayer books, it's split into a second paragraph at "Ilu finu malei shirah kayam, Were our mouth as full of song as the sea . . ."

(I davven [pray] this entire part. It's really quite poetic.)

Part 5 on Shabbat and Yom Tov
"Synagogue choreography"--in this case, the fact that a new "soloist," that is, the person leading the core (matbeiah shel tefillah) of Shacharit (as opposed to the introductory prayers and quotes), takes over at this point--indicates that a fifth section begins either at HaKel b'taatzumot uzecha on a Yom Tov or Shochen Ad on Shabbat.

Note that, in the "paragraph" beginning "B'fi y'sharim," the name Yitzchak (Isaac) is spelled out in the first letter of the second word of every phrase. In addition, if one says the words in the following order--an order in which, in many prayer books, they are not printed--the name Rivkah (Rebecca) is also spelled out in the second letter of the third word of every phrase:

B'fi yisharim t'romam,
u-v'divrei tzaddikim titbarach,
u-vi-l'shon chassidim titkadash,
u-v'kerev k'doshim tithalal.

(For non-Hebrew readers, the letters pronounced "bet" and "vet" are identical in appearance in a handwritten Torah scroll and in Modern Israel Hebrew, neither of which uses written vowels or consonant-differentiation marks. Purists would probably say that the pairs "bet" and "vet," "pay" and "fay," "sheen" and "seen," which are identical in appearance without consonant-differentiation marks, are actually each one letter--bet, pay, and sheen--pronounced two different ways.)

This section, as on a weekday, ends with Yishtabach.

(I davven this entire part.)

That's the way I see it.
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