Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shifra's back, with a "good news, bad news" post

A rabbi should show rachmanut

Just because your decision is the right one doesn't mean that no one will be hurt by it, and it can't hurt to say you're sorry. That's why rachmanut, rachmones, compassion, mercy, or whatever you wish to call it is a necessary quality for anyone who must make a halachic decision, says rabbinical student Steg.

Deus ex machine, sci-fi style

Our hero, in attempting to rescue a kidnapped team member, has found himself trapped under the debris of a collapsed building that was booby trapped. His trusty sidekick, who has repeatedly tried to free him without success—that junk is heavy, man!—refuses to abandon him. They are about to be confronted with enemy engineers who have come both to free them and to capture them, and have raised their weapons to keep firing as long as possible, when—on cue—the “spiritual descendants” of Star Trek’s Scotty beam them up directly into their ship’s sickbay. Okay, to keep some semblance of realism, the ship suffers major damage when the shields are lowered to allow the beam-up, but still . . .Yeah, it does get a bit predictable after literally decades of watching science fiction television and movies. But let’s face, who wants to see the good guys captured by the bad guys?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Oops: Clearing up an accidental "post pile-up"

When I decided to move Wednesday's education post to Sunday, I thought I'd rescheduled the "More misplaced commas" post to Wednesday. I generally try not to publish two posts that I intend to submit to the Haveil Havalim Jewish and Israeli post round-up within 24 hours. So here's the line-up of my recent "important" posts, in case you missed a few:

More "misplaced commas" :)

Remember this post? I've come across a few more "misplaced commas"--pauses in the music of songs that break up phrases in the lyrics--since then.

Here's a quote from the aforementioned post that might serve as an illustration, not to mention a lead-in, for this one:

"Open your siddur to K'riat HaTorah, the Torah-Reading Service.

This quote (Eicha/The Book of Lamentation, chapter 5, verse 21) is the last thing that we sing at the end of this service before the Aron Kodesh/Holy "Ark" (in which the Torah scrolls are stored) is closed:

"Hashiveinu AdoShem
eilecha v'nashuvah"

Three of the tunes that I know for that passage in the Torah Service "break" in that same place.

Again, read the same passage in translation:
"Turn us, HaShem
to You and let us return" (Birnbaum Siddur's translation, more or less.)

As with a p'sik in a Torah reading, you have to stop there in the song."

On to the new--While we're on the subject of the songs sung during Hotzaat haTorah, the Torah Service (the "taking out" of the Torah), let's try this one from the beginning of that section:

"Ki v'cha
l'vad batachnu"

For in You

alone do we trust

Given the meaning of the words, that's an odd place for a "break" in the music.

But then again, as I said, when it comes to words, "language" people like me (BA in French) listen for meaning, whereas songwriters listen for sound.

Then there's the interesting "break" in the first paragraph of Birkat haMazon, the Grace After Meals. Check this out:

". . . u-v'tuvo hagadol, tamid lo chasar lanu v'al yachsar lanu mazon l'olam vaed

baavur sh'mo hagadol, ki hu Kel zan u-m'farneis lakol . . ."

Attempting my own translation:

" . . . and in His great goodness, never has He deprived us and never will He deprive us of food
for the sake of His great name, For He is the G-d who feeds and sustains all . . . "

Okay, I tipped my hand by capitalizing the word "For": Folks, once you put a "ki" in there, it's a given that you've started a new sentence or phrase. Clearly, "baavur sh'mo hagadol, for the sake of His great name" belongs with the previous sentence.

One of my all-time favorites for "breaks"--though this is a question of punctuation, not of music--is the second part of the prayer "Baruch Sheh-Amar, Praised is the One who spoke." Here's a classic case of "two Jews, three opinions"--the "breaks" fall all over the place.

Open in front of me are the following siddurim/prayer books:

  • Hertz (copyright 1948, 16th printing 1979)--Orthodox
  • Birnbaum (copyright 1949)--Orthodox
  • ArtScroll Siddur Kol Yaakov Nusach Ashkenaz (copyright 1984 and 1990)--Orthodox
  • Siddur Sim Shalom (1985 edition)--Conservative
I'm going to copy some of the words (with the ArtScroll translation, more or less, that being the most contemporary and, I hope, accurate of the four), showing you which punctuation is used in each book.

". . . m'shubach u-m'foar bil'shon chassidav va-avadav
. . . praised and glorified by the tongue of his devout ones and his servants
[ends with a comma in ArtScroll, Hertz; ends with a period in Birnbaum, Sim Shalom]

u-v'shirei David avdecha
and in the songs of David Your servant
(period in ArtScroll; comma in Hertz, Birnbaum; no punctuation in Sim Shalom]

N'halelcha HaShem Elokeinu bi-sh'vachot u-vi-z'mirot
We will laud You, HaShem/Lord our G-d in praises and songs . . .

We have here two different variations on the meaning of the words:

1) . . . .praised and glorified by the tongue of his devout ones and his servants, and in the songs of David Your servant. We will laud You, HaShem/Lord our G-d, in praises and songs . . .

2) . . . praised and glorified by the tongue of his devout ones and his servants. And in the songs of David Your servant we will laud You, HaShem/Lord our G-d. In praises and songs . . .

[Tangent: I was startled to see that Psalm 30, Mizmor, Shir Chanukat HaBayit, L'David, A Psalm, A Song for the Dedication of the House (Holy Temple), by/of/for/to (depending on your translation and/or belief) (King) David, does not appear at all in the Hertz Siddur between the Rabbi Yishmael quote from the Gemara and the prayer Baruch ShehAmar. I was even more startled to see that, according to Hertz--Rabbi Joseph Hertz was the late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire--the tallit and tefillin were to be put on just before Baruch ShehAmar. I also just noticed that, according to the ArtScroll's editors, one puts on a tallit and tefillin before even going to synagogue--Ma Tovu, recited upon entering the synagogue, appears later in this siddur. I am totally unacquainted with either of those minhagim/customs. In every synagogue that I've ever attended, tallit and tefillin were/are put on immediately upon entering the shul. However, my rabbi tells me that he saw men wearing tallit and tefillin on the way to synagogue in Jerusalem. Perhaps this is minhag Yerushalmi, the (a?) custom of Jerusalem.]
Ahem. Where was I before I so rudely interrupted myself? Oh, yes: Here's where I have fun. Check out the line just before the closing brachah/blessing:

Yachid, chei haolamim, melech m'shubach u-m'foar adei ad sh'mo hagadol.

ArtScroll translation: O Unique One, Life-giver of the worlds, King Whose great Name is eternally praised and glorified.

My translation: Only One, life of the worlds, king praised and glorified, forever is His name the Great One.

I rather like my translation.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Deliberate undereducation is a form of child neglect

From this post by SephardiLady, of Orthonomics:

Shira Salamone said...
"The real solution needs to be a situation in which a man is expected to spend 1-2 years post high school in yeshiva full-time (on *his* parents' dime or on scholarship) sans wife/kids, and then marry and have a career and schedule study around the career."

An excellent idea, though, if college or other higher education or career training comes afterward, he'll still have to count pennies and/or depend on parents for a while. Still, that's a vast improvement over being dependent for life.

"Shira - Even if they WANT to go out to work, most have very little by way of marketable skills" I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that the Torah requires a father to teach his son a trade (and how to swim). When did it become even mutar (permissible in accordance with halachah/Jewish religious law), much less a given in certain segments of the right-wing Orthodox community, for parents to deliberately deprive their children of the education and/or training necessary to make a living?

June 24, 2008 6:28 PM
Shira Salamone said...
I'm posting this as a separate comment in case SephardiLady chooses to delete it, as I suppose that some folks may find it offensive.

It is my sincere opinion that any school, no matter from what sources it receives its funding, that does not, at an absolute minimum, teach its students 1) to speak, read, and write in the native language of the country in which they live, and 2) to do at least basic arithmatic should be illegal. To deprive any child of the ability to make a living before that child is old enough to make such a decision for himself or herself is, in my opinion, a form of child neglect.
June 24, 2008 6:53 PM

Elitzur said...
Shira - you are referring to the mishna at the end of the first perek of Kiddushin. However, there seems to be a contradictory statement at the end of Kiddushin from R' Nahorai who says, "I will leave all worldly pursuits and teach my son only Torah." This boils down into an arguement between Maharsha (and others) and Meiri. The Meiri says that one who teaches his son Torah does not have to teach him a trade.

I don't like it but one has to be honest with the sources...
June 25, 2008 10:38 AM

Shira Salamone said...
Elitzur, thanks for the information.

I was not aware that there was a contrary opinion. I suppose that I would pose the same question to the Meiri, if I could: How do you expect your son to survive if his education and/or training does not enable him to make a living?
June 25, 2008 10:49 AM

SephardiLady said...
I would argue that the statement in Pirkei Avot (one who does not teach his child a trade teaches him to steal) is the accepted opinion. Unfortunately, we see a lot of fraud and the emet is being demonstrated.
June 25, 2008 11:01 AM

[emet = truth]

The above reminded me of a post that upset me. The upsetting post concerned a blogger's decision to send his/her children to a right-wing-Orthodox school that teaches children to read and write in Yiddish only, and teaches only basic arithmetic. The school system run by that particularly group has a curriculum that does not meet New York State standards, and the children who graduate from that group's high school(s?) are not eligible for official New York State high school diplomas ("Regents'" diplomas).

I can understand, more or less, parents who chose to send their children to local Orthodox schools to ensure that their children are accepted in the neighborhood, whether or not those schools offer exactly the education that they would prefer their children to receive. Parents can supplement an education that does not include such "extras" as music classes, or obtain additional Jewish-studies tutoring (such as Gemara lessons for a girl whose school doesn't teach Gemara to girls) to compensate for differences in hashkafah/religious viewpoint. But to send a child to a school that will leave him and/or her totally unprepared to earn a living outside of her/his own community, thereby creating an adult who's a virtual prisoner of that community, is another matter altogether. On some level, all Jews should be Jews by choice.

A poor decision re Israeli education funding

See David Bogner's/Trep's post here. My own related education post was originally scheduled for publication this Wednesday, but I published it today instead, in response and in support.

Single by choice?

That's Mother in Israel's opinion concerning the majority of singles. (See the comments here.) Maybe I'm just reading too many blogs by singles over 30, but I haven't seen any evidence to support her assertion that most singles are single voluntarily. Or is it possible that it's so taboo to choose deliberately never to marry that people just don't discuss their choice publicly? I'd be very interested in hearing the opinions of others, especially those who are single, and particularly those singles who are 28 and older.

By way of clarification, since I'm not now, nor have I ever been, Orthodox, I see absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about a person over the age of 22 being single. (I won't even discuss the marital status of people under the age of 22. The pressure on young Orthodox Jews to get married at the earliest possible age is unreasonable, in my opinion.) I chose 28 not arbitrarily, but because I think that most people would probably be finished graduate school by then, and would probably be in a better position to start "the rest of their lives."

An ethical dilemma

It was a classic case of inclusion vs. tzarchei tzibur, which I think translates roughly as "a burden on the congregation". (The sefer Torah/Torah scroll is rolled to the correct place before the service, whenever possible, to avoid tzarchei tzibur--the congregation shouldn't be burdened with having to wait for a "holy rolling." :) )

What should a congregation do when one of the people who volunteers to lein Torah/do k'riat haTorah/read from the Torah scroll during the chazzan's (cantor's) vacation is well known to have been slowed down considerably by a stroke?

To make an excruciatingly long story mercifully short, seven aliyot took over 50 minutes.

A comedy of errors, Shabbat-style

First, I forgot to turn on the Shabbat alarm clock (the one with five settings and an automatic shut-off after two minutes, so we don't have to violate Shabbat/Sabbath by either resetting the alarm or turning it off).

Then, my husband set the timer for the hot-tray and plugged it in, but forget to plug the hot-tray into the timer.

Final score: Cold dinner, late wake-up. Could be worse.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Incoming-call cell-phone charges explained

Speaking of things that are legal but annoying, writing my previous post reminded me of my protest against being charged for incoming cell-phone calls. Given that Ms. Low-Tech here has barely figured out how to send outgoing text messages, I was quite irked about being billed for incoming ones, which, under the aforementioned circumstances, were almost guaranteed to be spam.

My phone company sent me a very reasonable explanation. When phone calls are sent to a land-line (wired-into-a-wall) phone, they're always delivered to the same location. But delivering a cell-phone call requires the phone company to locate the cell phone first. So one gets billed for the technology and effort required to find one's phone, literally. I must admit that I never thought of that.

Location, location, location

Choco Taco (Kaf K hechsher/rabbinical seal indicating that a product is kosher [chalav stam], for the record) near the Chelsea Hotel—$2

Choco Taco across the street from Greeley Square, a block south of Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square —$3

Legal, but a rip-off. :( (Or a classic case of capitalism, depending on your point of view.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Captured soldiers, hostage citizens: A Hertzl-ite Zionist 's view

Remember this guy?

I guess I'm a Hertzl-ite Zionist because there are a few verses in Psalm 136, that are a bit problematic for me, personally.

יז לְמַכֵּה, מְלָכִים גְּדֹלִים: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ.
17 To Him that smote great kings; for His mercy endureth for ever;
יח וַיַּהֲרֹג, מְלָכִים אַדִּירִים: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ.
18 And slew mighty kings, for His mercy endureth for ever.
יט לְסִיחוֹן, מֶלֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִי: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites, for His mercy endureth for ever;
כ וּלְעוֹג, מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ.
20 And Og king of Bashan, for His mercy endureth for ever;
כא וְנָתַן אַרְצָם לְנַחֲלָה: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ.
21 And gave their land for a heritage, for His mercy endureth for ever;
כב נַחֲלָה, לְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַבְדּוֹ: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ.
22 Even a heritage unto Israel His servant, for His mercy endureth for ever.

I don't think it's possible to be a Religious Zionist/Dati Leumi without believing literally in the above. And I don't.

It would be easier if I did. As it stands, I suppose I can't really justify having a Jewish State in the current Israel, as opposed to Uganda (see the first link), except on grounds of history (that's where we started as a nation) and nostalgia (what do you mean, no Kotel HaMaaravi/Western ["Wailing"] Wall?).

But I was born in 1949, and can't imagine a world without an "escape hatch" for persecuted Jews after the horrors of the Holocaust. If the Jews weren't safe even in such a supposedly-civilized country as Germany, who says we're safe anywhere (including my native United States)? One never knows. I don't think it's possible not to be a bit paranoid after the Shoah.

This makes the Israeli government's failure to protect its citizens in recent years even more upsetting. Why can't the government of the State of Israel wage a war that actually meets their stated objective of bringing captured soldiers home? Why are the people of S'derot and other nearby locations sitting ducks for terrorists? If we Jews can't trust a Jewish State to protect Jews, who can we trust? Hertzl must be turning in his grave.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An interesting conversation

See here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Advertising one’s Jewishness &/or viewpoint

If it's Monday, it must be time to put in a good word for this week's Haveil Havalim link fest. Thanks to Ben-Yehudah, of Esser Agaroth, for assembling a fine collection of links to interesting posts.

Writing about praying undercover has made me think about other forms of being undercover. The following prayer and footnote help express my questions.

L'olam y'hé adam yiré shamayim b'séter u-va-galui . . . Always a person should be fearful of heaven in private and in public . . . "

I'm quoting the footnote, found in the Birnbaum Siddur (prayer book), to the above prayer:

"During the reign of Yezbejerd II (fifth century) it was made unlawful for the Babylonian Jews to recite the Shema as being a challenge to the Zoroastrian religion. Special government officials were posted in the synagogues to watch the services. The rabbis of the time impressed upon the people the duty of reciting at least the first verse of Shema privately, in their homes, before proceeding to the synagogue for the morning service. L'olam y'hé is an exhortation to the effect that Judaism must be practised in secrecy (b'séter) during religious persecution. The additional word u-va-galui [in public] is not found in early texts." (Bold added.)

1. Is it necessary for one to advertise one's Jewishness?

In all seriousness, why is such a big deal made of wearing a kippah or hat in public? What's wrong with the old German Jewish custom of being a Jew at home and a citizen of your country of residence on the street?

I'd like very much to hear from those who wear, in public, headgear that clearly marks you as Jewish, or, at least, having an unusual clothing style.

For men, this refers to:

  • a kippah/yarmulke/skull cap
  • a hat, especially if your wear it indoors. (On a related note, here's a "black-hat" ["Yeshivish"/right-wing Orthodox, or Chareidi/fervently right-wing Orthodox] mystery: Will someone please explain to me why a guy who's already wearing a kippah puts on a hat over it, or, at least, instead of it, to go davven [pray]?)
For women, this refers to married women (since many in the Orthodox community believe that a married woman must cover at least part, if not all, of her hair in public) who wear:

  • a wig that's obviously a wig
  • at least two wigs or falls (partial wigs) that are so blatantly different that, though the wearer looks reasonably like the neighbors, it's still reasonably clear to anyone who's seen her wearing more than one of her wigs or falls that the hair on top of her head is not the wearer's natural hair. (By way of example, a former supervisor of mine owned two wigs, one of which had noticeably longer hair than the other.)
  • a wig worn with a hat or scarf on top of it (which, to me, is the women's version of the "black-hat" mystery-- isn't one head covering enough?)
  • a hat or tichel/mitpachat/headscarf worn indoors
  • a snood
This isn't a question of tzniut (modesty), it's a question of conspicuousness--Is a woman who follows the letter of the law, but not necessarily the spirit, by wearing an identical wig or fall every day, therefore giving the impression that the wig is her natural hair, really doing anything wrong? That's basically the same question as I'm asking of the men--Is it really such a terrible thing if a man goes bareheaded, except when praying?

2. Is is necessary for one to advertise one's hashkafah (religious perspective)?

Here's a related post, in which I discuss my decision not to wear a tallit katan. I make no bones about wearing tallit and tefillin in non-Orthodox synagogues because I figure that anyone who belongs to a synagogue affiliated with a movement that ordains women as rabbis will simply have to accept the related consequences, as long as my decision is for me only and not something that I try to force upon others. When it comes to dealing with those in the Orthodox community who disapprove, however, frankly, I'd rather not deal with their disapproval at all--As far as I'm concerned, aside from modesty issues, the way I dress when I come before HaShem in prayer is between me and HaShem, and there's no reason why anyone who disapproves of a woman wearing a tallit and/or tefillin even has to know that I do so.

I may be one of a small minority on this particular issue, but the Jewish blogosphere is full of bloggers who, though remaining part of their communities in terms of observance out of respect for the lifestyle and/or love of their families, differ sufficiently in their beliefs that the only way they can speak freely is to blog anonymously. Should I ever become Orthodox, I would certainly join them in keeping my hashkafah (religious point of view) under my hat.

P.S. Sorry about the disappearing post. I had to take down the post that I published just after this one, temporarily, while I try to clean up some formatting problems. Nu, doesn't Blogger let us use vertical lines anymore?

Apparently not--I just put one in the sentence above, and it vanished upon publication. !#$%^&!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Never mind. I'll post that one next week, as is. :( I was going to publish it on Wed., July 23, but I've gotten a request from a commenter for further discussion on the prisoner swap, so I'll publish that post this Wed., instead.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Almond butter and jelly at 2:30 AM . . .

Not the best way to start a half-fast (sunrise to sunset), but at least I'm downing it with enough water to empty a small lake.

May today's fast be easy and meaningful.

Friday, July 18, 2008

More discussion on the prisoner swap

Gila, herself a terrorism victim, had an immediate reaction, then second thoughts. I recommend that you read the comments and follow the links (to posts by David Bogner/Trep and Robert Avrech in the more recent post itself and to another post by Trep in its comments).

Aussie Dave expressed concern about the future safety of all Israelis.

Daniel Gordis's thoughts here were already copied into Gila's comments.

This Shabbat will be a picnic--or not :(

We came home last night, after a delightful evening of Israeli folk dancing, to discover that none of our lights was working. Some other residents of our apartment building are reporting electrical outages in their apartments, as well, but, oddly enough, the lighting in the public hallways is working just fine. Odder still, we have three outlets in our apartment that are working--the one into which the livingroom air conditioner is plugged and two in the kitchen, including the one powering our refrigerator (thank heaven). But the electricity that powers the pilot lights in our stove is not working. So we're now facing a "picnic"--cold--dinner for Shabbat and no air conditioning in the bedroom on a day expected to top out at 90 degrees Fahrenheit/32.2. Fun and games. :(

5:31 PM update:

The power is back on! No shvitzing (sweating) through Sunday's fast, thank goodness--At least I'll be fasting in an air-conditioned livingroom and bedroom.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Two captured Israeli soldiers come home in coffins :(

Read West Bank Mama’s post “Angry and Sad,” then follow her links to a Dry Bones cartoon (“the short version”) and Trep’s post (“the long version”). Angry and sad is a good description of my own feelings, as well.

Update, evening, same day--On taking two soldiers off my prayer list

What can I possibly say? Since the summer of 2006, I've had Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev on my Sh'ma Koleinu list. ("Sh'ma Koleinu, Hear our voice" is a petitionary paragraph in the Amidah prayer, and many people add personal prayers in the middle of that paragraph, one sentence before the brachah/blessing.) For two years, I hoped that my worst fear--that they were already gone--was not true. Sadly, it was. I can't think of a worse reason to have to make a new Sh'ma Koleinu list than having to delete two names because of death.

Thursday, July 17, 2008 updates

The Sons Have Come Home (poem by Zemer, of

Zahava Bogner’s thoughts on this tragic situation.

Kol isha may be ok (but poor translations are not)

ADDeRabbi reports on a rabbinical ruling that a man might be permitted to listen to kol isha, the voice of a (singing) woman, under certain circumstances. This is certainly good news, though many will dispute this ruling.

He wishes, though, that the reporter writing about the ruling could translate comprehensibly from Hebrew to English. The translator reported that the rabbi in question said that among the factors to be taken into considering would be " . . . the woman's vestige, and her body language". I think he meant "vestments", not "vestiges" (Rav Bigman himself refers, in Hebrew, to "levush", which I would translate here as "garb" or "costume", and not the archaic or ritualized "vestments", and certainly not "vestiges")." As the holder of a BA in French, I object, on principle, to such inaccurate translating.

For the benefit of my newer readers, I've written ad nauseum about kol isha--do a search of my blog and you'll find maybe a dozen posts that mention it--but this series was probably my most thorough treatment of the issue, though I was quite correctly taken to task for painting the entire Orthodox community with a Chareidi (fervently right-wing Orthodox) brush--many Open, Modern, and/or Centrist Orthodox have other interpretations of this law.

NYC-area bloggers picnic: Planning

Here's my original picnic proposal.

A number of commenters requested a September date. Which do you prefer, folks?

  • Sunday, September 7
  • Sunday, September 14

I'd appreciate it if we could have an early dinner picnic, starting at around 3 PM, because the hubster may be teaching a college accounting class on Sunday until 3, and, if so, couldn't get there earlier than 3:30. Sunset is at approximately 6 PM.

The Punster and I went scouting for a good location in Central Park. We found a spot that, while visible from a few paths, is:

  • a bit off the beaten track, and far enough from the entrance path that our faces would not be recognizable (for those concerned about maintaining their anonymity)
  • close to the Diana Ross Playground at the 80th Street and Central Park West entrance (for those bringing kids)
  • only about (the functional equivalent of) a two-block walk to the Delacorte Theater ladies' and men's rooms (for the benefit of the youngsters and oldsters, particularly)
  • under the trees, for those of us (me!) who prefer shady spots.

The picnic will be a kosher-food-only bash, since many of us keep kosher. The Punster and I will be bringing enough chummus, baby carrots, and potato chips to stock a store, and advise other non-Orthodox bloggers to bring something pre-packaged and clearly marked with a hechsher (rabbinical seal indicating that a product is kosher) showing that the food or non-alcoholic beverage is kosher parve, or, especially if in doubt, paper goods and plastic tableware. We'll rely on the frum folks for anything home-cooked. So nu:

  • dairy or meat?
  • Who's bringing what?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Here's Gila's droll take on the talking donkey

Go here for a nice chuckle.

Faith, or the unfortunate lack thereof

Karov HaShem l’chol kor’av, l’chol asher yikrauhu be-emet, Near is G-d to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

I'm not a believer, but I think that what Psalm 145 (Ashrei), verse 18 says is true, in the sense that those who believe that G-d is near will sense His presence when they call upon him.

I’ve seen plenty of evidence of that right here in the Jewish blogosphere, with too many bloggers having taken up writing as a distraction from grief over the loss of children, be they young, teenaged, or adult. It must be a great comfort to believe with all your heart that you’ll see your loved one again someday.

Gila, too, thanks HaShem for keeping her alive through a pigua/terrorist attach, for all the family, friends, and strangers who helped her during her recovery, for the fact that, somehow, she managed to get through the ordeal in some semblance of one piece and without going bankrupt, and for the good life that she continues to enjoy.

Would that I had such faith, that I could believe that G-d is ever with me, guiding and protecting me. It’s tough, being grateful in the abstract.

Monday, July 14, 2008

“. . . not a drop to drink,” redux

Maybe the last laugh is on us.

A few months ago, I got to wondering what, exactly, was in New York City’s unfiltered water, that some Orthodox rabbis made such an issue of it. Was the presence of those infamous copepods (tiny, barely-visible crustaceans) in our water supply an indication of a larger problem? So I suggested to my husband that we buy a couple of those faucet heads with changeable filters from good old West Side Judaica. At first, we were changing the filters about twice a week. Then we found ourselves changing them three times a week. Then, our apartment building’s roof underwent repairs, and we found ourselves changing the filters every other day, and, occasionally, even every day. To make a long story short, we get very little water out of our faucets now, even with new filters, unless we remove those new faucet heads. So now my husband wants to know what the heck is in our water! We thought of getting a permanent filter installed in the kitchen sink, but that creates other problems—a commenter on another blog said that filtering water on Shabbat (Sabbath) constituted a form of sorting (borer?), a type of labor forbidden on Shabbat. The filters we’re using now can easily be removed before Shabbat—we’d simply have to store water that was filtered before Shabbat—but a permanent filter could not be disconnected without some difficulty.

So guess who’s now drinking bottle water?

Score one for the Chumra-of-the-Month Club.

(This Chumra-of-the-Month Club post is a bit on the R side (shoo your youngsters away from the computer), and somewhat challenging for those with a limited knowledge of Yiddish, Ashkenazi Hebrew, and/or “Frumspeak” [English influenced by both Yiddish and Ashkenazi Hebrew] It’s fun, though, for Heshy’s thorough trashing of sexist attitudes.).

Speaking of links, don't forget to check out the latest Haveil Havalim link-fest! Thanks, Jack, both for putting this together and for including two of my posts.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Finally, I've met Mark/PT's tefillin challenge

I've been trying to find a good solution to this problem ever since Mark/PT wrote this comment to this post:
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Look, Shira, you're never going to get the tfillin to fit over your big-hair shaitel anyway, so let's just drop the whole thing.

Wed Mar 09, 04:35:00 PM 2005

Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Ouch! Truth to tell, I never even thought about how traditional married women who cover (at least part of) their hair in public were supposed to fit tefillin over a wig, hat, or scarf. Score another point for the tzniut [modesty] patrol. (:

Wed Mar 09, 10:09:00 PM 2005

Okay, here's the story:

1. My understanding is that halachah (Jewish religious law) requires that the tied-together strap of the shel rosh/head tefillin (singular: tefillah?) be worn directly on the head. Therefore, it would not be permissible to wear the head tefillin over a shaitel/sheitel/wig (or one of those partial wigs called a fall).

2. At the other extreme, a kippah/yarmulke/skullcap, though frequently worn by non-Orthodox women and easy to wear with head tefillin, would probably be considered a man's garment (beged ish), and, therefore, a no-no, by most Orthodox women, since halachah forbids either gender from wearing a garment of the other gender.

3. Trust me on this one: It's not physically possible to shift a hat around on, or just above, one's head (to keep one's head covered) with one hand while putting on the head tefillin with the other hand. I know, because I've tried it many times, without much success. One really does need two hands to put on head tefillin. I'll have to save my new "lampshade" hat for Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (Festival), when one does not wear tefillin.

4. While it's actually fairly easy to put the head tefillin on over a snood--all one has to do is to readjust the snood afterward to ensure that no part of the snood is underneath the tied-together tefillin strap, which must lie directly against the head--I'm not bonkers about wearing a snood in public because, personally, I find most snoods rather unattractive. See these examples of snoods, and judge for yourself.

The solution, and my response to Mark's challenge, is to wear a pre-tied tichel/mitpachat/scarf. The elastic on a pre-tied scarf keeps the scarf from falling off while one is putting the tefillin on over one's head, thus enabling one to use two hands to put on the shel rosh while still keeping part of one's head covered. As with a snood, one must readjust the scarf to ensure that the tefillin strap lies directly against the head, with none of the fabric caught underneath the strap.

Don't bother trying to tie the loose ends, if any, of your pre-tied scarf in any fancy manner, whether by bringing them around to the top of the head in front and tying a loose knot (or winding them together, turban-style) or by tying them in a bun in back, as is the current fashion. They'll get in the way and/or unravel while you're shifting the scarf around to get it out from under the tied-together tefillin strap. Just take the ends and tuck them under the elastic in the back of the scarf, to get them out of the way.

Once you've gotten the scarf's loose ends tucked away, make the brachah (blessing) over the head tefillin, place the bayit (box containing the biblical quote hand-written on parchment) at the front of the head, use both hands to put the tied-together part of the strap around the head--that's the part that's impossible to do one-handed, while wearing, and trying not to remove, a hat--and pull one untied part around each side of the neck and to the front. Then, holding the front of the scarf so that it won't fall off, move the tied-together part of the strap and the sides and back of the scarf as necessary to ensure that none of the scarf is caught under the strap, which must rest directly against the head. Finally, make sure that the bayit is in its proper place, centered, with the front lower edge above the hairline, and that the knot at the back of the head tefillin is centered at the back of the neck, just below the skull. (To the best of my knowledge, this is the halachically-required positioning of the head tefillin. Please do correct me if I'm wrong!) I believe that it's permissible to pull the scarf back over the straps, if you'd like to keep more of your head covered. (Again, corrections requested, if necessary.)

Here's the way it looks on me. (Nice photo of the shel rosh and scarf. Not such a good photo of the woman wearing them. Oh, well.)

An Orthodox married woman who believes that a married woman must cover some, but not necessarily all, of her hair in public may find this an acceptable solution for putting on tefillin in public while maintaining her tzniut (modesty), assuming that she is interested in putting on tefillin. As far as I can determine, an Orthodox married woman who believes that all of her hair must be covered in public would not be able to lay tefillin in public at all, but could do so in private, if she chose. (In addition, there's the upper-arm issue: Since nothing is permitting to come between the shel yad/hand tefillin and the arm and hand themselves, a woman whose interpretation of the laws of tzniut includes a prohibition against revealing her arm above the elbow would have to lay tefillin in a private place, since the bayit (box containing the biblical quote hand-written on parchment) of the shel yad/hand tefillin must be placed above the elbow.)

There are, of course, many women in the Jewish community who are of the opinion that a woman's traditional role in Judaism is quite honorable as it is, and feel no need for externals. That role has been the way of our mothers for generations, and has my respect, though it is not a role that I, myself, am comfortable following.

On a related note, you may be surprised to know that Jen Taylor, a soferet (scribe) and designer of Tefillin Barbie, does not think that all Jewish women should wear tefillin--and you may be even more surprised to know that I agree with her. I think she makes a compelling case.

Monday, July 07, 2008

"It isn't tzinius": A "frumspeak" mystery

Here's a pronunciation guide, for "latecomers" like me: "Tsnee-us," or, for us Sefardi-Hebrew speakers, "tsnee-ut," with the "u," in either version, pronounced like, well, "you."

I can't even count how many times I've seen that phrase since I started reading Orthodox blogs.

This is pure "frumspeak," a dialect in common usage among yeshiva students and graduates. It is not standard Hebrew.

Why does it seem never to occur to users of that phrase, most of whom speak Hebrew far more fluently than I do, that "It's not tsnuis" is grammatically incorrect? "Tsniut" is a noun meaning "modesty." If you were speaking English, would you say, "It's not modesty"?

For the record, the grammatically-correct way of saying this is, "It's not tzanuah." "Tzanuah" is an adjective meaning "modest."

Please pardon this B.A. in French for tossing in her two cents.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Round-up of my posts, June 23-July 3, 2008

For the record, I do, occasionally, publish posts temporarily just to see what they'll look like and to test the hyperlinks. So don't be upset if a post appears for a few minutes, then disappears. The likelihood is that anything that I've already "test-published" will be published permanently within a week. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A day in the life of an Israeli medic :( :( :(

Jameel gives a Magen David Adom ambulance-corps-volunteer's report on yesterday's pigua/terrorist attack in Jerusalem that left three victims dead and about 50 injured. The dead and wounded, and their families and friends, and the hope that our brethren will be spared in the future, are in my prayers.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

NYC-area bloggers, let's have a picnic!

Ever since RaggedyMom and RaggedyDad were kind enough to host a blogger bash, I've been trying to figure out how to return the favor. Unfortunately, long lunches are difficult for me, these days, now that I'm sacrificing half my lunch hour to our office Tehillim (Psalms) group and to davvening Mincha (praying the Afternoon Service), and might also be difficult for bloggers home with young children. Hosting a blogger together in our home poses three challenges. First, we live in an apartment, which means that our entertainment space is roughly the size of a postage stamp. Second, what little space we have is packed with the Punster's CPA-practice papers, college-accounting-instructor materials, and business supplies. Third, since I'm one of the oldest bloggers in the New York City metropolitan area, our apartment hasn't been child-proof for roughly twenty years, and I'm literally afraid to invite bloggers with pre-schoolers, because children that age wouldn't be safe here.

It just dawned on me a day or two ago that a blogger picnic would be ideal, since space constraints and child safety around household appliances and hardware wouldn't be issues.

Here are the dates that we have available:
  • Friday, July 4 (though we'd have to start and end early, to be home in time for Shabbat)
  • Sunday, July 6 (yes, we're the champions of last-minute planning :) )
  • Sunday, July 13
  • Sunday, August 24
  • Sunday, September 7
  • Sunday, September 14
Those of us who are non-Orthodox could be in charge of bringing pre-packaged food and/or (non-alcoholic) beverages (both/all marked parve) with a recognized hechsher (rabbinical seal indicating that an item is kosher)--the Punster and I will probably bring enough chummus, baby carrots, and potato chips to feed a small army--and/or paper goods and plastic tableware. The Orthodox bloggers get the honor of figuring how who's bringing what of everything else.

Please let me know, in the comments, what your preferred date would be. Also, please comment on the best location. We're game for any place that's accessible by public transit, be it subway, bus, railroad, or a combination therefore. I'd like to make this as convenient as possible for those with young children, so you pick the place (though, being a bit heat-sensitive, I'd appreciate a location where I could be in the shade.) And let everyone know what you'd like to bring.

We look forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wonderful news about Yonah Trep, er, Bogner

See here. Woo hoo!

Links re financial woes, private and public

NYC non-profits see red . . . ink :(

Call them discretionary funds, slush funds, pork-barrel funds, or whatever you prefer, but the New York City Council has, for many years, allocated to individual councilmembers separate funding not designated for specific expenditures to support projects in the areas of the city that they’re elected to serve. Non-profit organizations sponsor hundreds of programs, such as free or low-cost English classes for immigrants, computer classes for seniors, Meals on Wheels (non-kosher and kosher) delivered to the homebound elderly and/or ill or disabled, and after-school programs for children, in return for a commitment by their City Council member to reimburse them.

Now, hundreds of programs are in jeopardy, many have already been eliminated, and some non-profit organizations are laying off staff and even facing having to close their doors forever, because these reimbursement funds have been frozen pending a Department of Investigations look into the recent corruption scandal, in which funds were being allocated to such worthy organizations as councilmembers’ family members, etc. Two non-profits for which my husband works (one as a volunteer treasurer, one as a paid accountant) are in serious financial straits because thousands of dollars of reimbursements have not been made for programming already presented to the public and paid for. (Full disclosure: My husband’s fee is dependent on receipt of grant moneys. We have no idea when, or even whether, he’ll be paid for accounting work performed since late last year.)

Our synagogue is awaiting reimbursement of over $30,000. By the time we get paid, we may already have been forced to sell our building, which was built less than a decade ago to replace a larger building that we could no longer afford, and move into a house. This is not a joke.

The income giveth, the taxes taketh away :(

We were doing so well early this year. My husband began receiving Social Security, and became eligible for Medicare medical-expense coverage. In addition, he has more tax and accounting clients than he's ever had in his life, which is quite ironic, since he's now officially old enough to retire.

Then came the tax bill.

We haven't had a tax bill this high in years.

So, for lack of a better alternative, my husband gave it all back. Effective this month, almost exactly the same amount that he's getting in Social Security is now being withheld from his government-retiree pension to pay the taxes due April 15, 2009.

Despite a substantial increase in my husband's gross income, we are now living on almost exactly the same net income that we had six months ago.

I can't complain that we're not still in better shape than the many folks currently job-hunting, not to mention the many folks without health coverage in this country. But I also can't deny being rather depressed that our net income has now dropped by considerably more than a couple hundred dollars a month.
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