Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mrs. Balabusta's "Rosh Hashanah Primer"

Mrs. Balabusta gives wonderful advice for the holiday, especially for moms with kids still living at home, and tops her prose with a near-poem. This post is a favorite of mine.

I don't know whether I'll have time to post again before Rosh Hashanah, so I ask forgiveness of anyone whom I might have offended, and wish all of you a Shanah Tovah u-m'tukah, a good and sweet year.

Information &/or advice requested re Selichot prayers

So I go searching the Internet for information about the Selichot penitential prayers, click on a Hebrew-only text from Chabad, and am shocked to see that their PDF of Selichot is 199 pages long! I haven't even decided yet whether or not I'm going to start saying these prayers, but I can tell you right now that anything longer than about two pages is out of the question--I simply can't davven (pray) quickly enough to add massive quantities of text to my weekday morning prayers, even for only a week or so. The Orthodox Union's website says that, according to the ArtScroll siddur/prayer book, the main component of the Selichot prayers is the Thirteen Attributes ("AdoShem, AdoShem, KEl rachum, v'chanun . . . ). Maybe I'll just stick with that (unless anyone has a better suggestion). Where in the service should Selichot be recited?

I should clarify my question by mentioning that I'm not aware of any Conservative congregation that recites the Selichot prayers at any time other than "Selichot Night" (for lack of a better description), meaning the Saturday night that's at least one week before Rosh Hashanah. So the daily weekday morning recital thereof would be a completely new practice for me.

Blogger's band recording new album (yay!)

See here, and follow the link to the Moshe Skier Band's MySpace page to hear there. This is what Mark/PT calls a rough cut?! Wow!

Another kind of High Holiday prep :)

Toenails: Leave 'em too long and they make my cloth Yom Kippur shoes feel tight; cut 'em too short and they become ingrown. But how often can I go to the podiatrist? Guess I'll just have to cut 'em myself--and let the clips fall where they may. :)

Observant and a scientist: A career conflict?

Recently read online:

"Rosh Hashanah doesn't mean anything to me. It's not as if I could take off from school--that's a recipe for getting kicked out. In science, taking two days off equals failing your courses. Science builds--if you miss anything, you don't get what comes afterward.

No one hires Orthos because they keep taking off too many days. It's not discrimination, it's the real world. If a multi-billion-dollar project that needs your support is ongoing, you can't suddenly vanish for two days in the middle. That can be the difference between getting more funding and "you went over deadline--no more funding for you." Besides, some sciences are collaborative--all of you have to be working at the same time. If one person goes, the whole project can stall, waiting for that person to come back."

Comments in general would be appreciated, but comments from Torah-observant scientists would be particularly so.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Properly translating (punctuating?) the Sh'ma

My take on the last line of the third paragraph: It's not "Ani HaShem Elokeichem, I am the L-rd your G-d"; it's "Ani, HaShem, elokeichem, I, [G-d's real name], am your god."

"I, HaShem, and no other!" (as it says in the Haggaddah). HaShem isn't just making a statement, He's identifying Himself: This is my name, I'm your god, and don't you forget what I did for you, and why I did it!"

On kashrut: Eating my words re Hekhsher Tzedek

I guess I put my foot in my mouth in the last paragraph of this post.

As Rabbi Student’s commenter said, commenting on the new Rabbinical Council of America (RCA [an Othodox group]) Task Force that plans to publish Jewish Principles and Ethical Guidelines for Business and Industry,

"We owe a debt of gratitude to the Conservative movement.
hk 09.25.08 - 10:16 am #

Maybe going out on a limb, as the Hekhsher Tzedek folks do, is one good way to make people sit up and pay attention.

Credit also goes to the Orthodox organization Uri L'Tzedek for their protests against the AgriProcessor scandal.

An "open-neck" blouse: One Y that I don’t love

With apologies to Y-Love for the pun—as we sci fi fans say, “Resistance is futile” :) —I absolutely hate the latest style in women’s blouses, the so-called open- or Y-neck, created by ensuring that the topmost button on a full-button-front blouse is located at roughly the same place as the upper edge of one’s bra. Oh, great—Every time I bend down to retrieve my backpack from the subway floor, the guy on the opposite bench gets a full view. Thanks, but no thanks. :(

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Financial-crises quote of the day

"Think things are bad and looking worse now? Imagine the outlook had Bush managed to implement his harebrained scheme to privatize social security." (DovBear's commenters to that post have a few interesting responses, some in disagreement.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Three views on the current financial crises

Still Conservative after all these years

Here's my final(?) comment to my post on whether it's modest for women to be leaders.

Shira Salamone said...

JDub, you said, "Being orthodox isn't about a level of observance . . . It's a mindset, and a process. It's a belief system that says "yes, we look at the poskim and the halacha, not the situation." Either you buy the whole system, or you don't. You don't, and that's fine, but you can't get mad that there is a system in place."

"it's better that if you can't, or won't, accept the viability of these questions, that you not become orthodox, rather than bang your head against them."

JDub, the more I encounter questions of this type, the more I realize that you (and Too Old to Jewschool Steve, and sometime commenter The Rabbi's Husband) are right--in matters of principle, I really am a Conservative Jew. The "lack of any commitment to precedent and tradition" is a serious issue, but not enough of one to make me willing to surrender my freedom of thought and my freedom to make my own decisions, which is how I, personally, would experience a switch to the Orthodox camp. What I see as the Orthodox way is simply not the way that I, personally, form opinions on issues: I don't wish to filter my every thought, and even my thought process--my freedom to ask whether something should be a question in the first place--and my every decision through the eyes of others. I don't see myself ever becoming a baalat t'shuvah. Thank you, JDub, and all of my commenters, for helping me clarify my position.

Tue Sep 23, 08:16:00 AM 2008

These are my choices:

  • I stay in the Conservative Movement and put up with lax observance and a lesser sense of community (inevitable, I think, if people are not within walking distance of one another--and once you allow people to drive to synagogue on the Sabbath and Pilgrimage Festivals, they won't be).

  • I become a baalot t'shuvah--a "returnee" to Orthodox Judaism--and find consistent observance and a real neighborhood community, but give up my right to disagree (in public) with rabbinic rulings and/or halachic (Jewish legal) viewpoints.

Kvetch (complain) as I might about being relatively observant by comparison to many Conservative Jews, I know myself well enough to know that being Orthoprax--one who observes the mitzvot/commandments without accepting many of the beliefs that go with them--would be a serious challenge. Fundamentally, I'd have to keep my opinions to myself for the rest of my life. I'm not sure I'm even interested in doing that, much less capable of it. I've always been one to speak my mind, and I prefer to continue doing so. I hate to disappoint some of my Orthodox readers, but, apparently, I’m not a candidate for kiruv (“bringing close,” [“converting” to Orthodox Judaism from a different version]).

I appreciate all that I’ve learned, and all the encouragement that I’ve gotten to increase my observance, from being a blogger, and will continue to learn and grow in my Jewishness as a result of reading so many blogs by Orthodox Jews. Thank you very much for being my teachers. But I must say that the week I spent at the NHC Institute was a necessary corrective. Apparently, I have to be reminded periodically that my thought processes are much closer to those of many non-Orthodox Jews than to those of many Orthodox Jews. JDub is right—from my own perspective, there are some questions that shouldn’t even be questions, and that perspective really does make me a non-candidate for the derech (the Orthodox “path”).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Recommended for grinning: A must-see parody :)

G manages to skewer politics and the Jewish blogosphere all in one post. Priceless. :)

An early Sukkot post

Parental guidance warning: May be inappropriate for young children.




Published first as a comment to this post on Hesh's Frum Satire blog:

"I can’t believe I never posted a certain particular thought about the lulav and etrog. It’s a bit early to be discussing Sukkot, but you get to see this before I even post it on my own blog: You walk around a room carrying a long object with a round object held next to it, making a circle. Well, under the proper circumstances, doesn’t one put a long “object” with a round “object” (or two) next to it into a circular “object”? (Seriously, I can’t think of a more delicately way to say that.) I’m of the opinion that the Hoshanot ritual may be the closest that Judaism ever gets to a fertility rite."

Financial-crisis comment of the day

From SephardiLady's Big donors are going broke post on Orthonomics:

A Living Nadneyda said...

". . . Why do the least fortunate always bear the greatest burden when the rich play around with other people's money? . . .
September 21, 2008 12:35 PM

Social-issues comment of the day

From this post by Harry Maryles:

"Reb Harry, I'm hardly a feminist but when some chareidim appear to justify the physical attack on Mrs. Shear [for refusing to move to the back of a bus that was not officially designated a separate-seating bus] , the home invasion and beating of that formerly chareidi divorcée in Jerusalem, the spraying of bleach and acid on women for wearing "untznius" clothing [in one case, a 14-year-old girl was sprayed in the eyes with bleach for wearing modestly-loose pants and a short-sleeved tee-shirt], concert bans to prevent sexual intermingling, and now, a Kremlinesque erasure of women from photographs, storefronts [see DovBear's posts about the wig store boycotted for displaying headshots of modestly-dressed bewigged women in its window] and newspapers, I have to conclude that many in the chareidi community have some serious issues with women.

I don't think that chareidiville is necessarily misogynist, since little boys [see the many posts decrying child sexual abuse in yeshivot and Jewish camps] and critical thinkers [see the ban against Rabbi Slifkin's Torah and science books] are also singled out for abuse. Including molestation it's interesting how so many of the pathologies are clustered around the issue of sex.
Bozoer Rebbe Homepage 09.22.08 - 11:39 am #

Related post (in which you'll find links to posts or articles concerning some of the incidents or issues mentioned above).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Summer's end (& Sunday-Sunday posts)

When did the flowers
fall from that small tree?
I didn't see.

'Tis a sad sign of fall
But here are some recent blooms
to fend off fall's gloom
to see the purple parts
of the following pic)
A final floral fling
before next spring

May it be Your will to write me in the Book of Life
so that I'll be here to cast off my coat
and enjoy the sun
and the fun
of next summer's long days' light
and short nights

My posts, Sunday, September 14-Sunday, September 21, 2008:

Small donations, multiplied, yield large deductions

Two challot for Shabbat morning kiddush at synagogue:


x 52 Shabbatot per year


$466.96 annual tax-deductible donation, paid in roughly $9-per-week installments.

Now that's one donation that doesn't make our wallets yelp. :)

New siddurim/prayer books

Read about them here.

Not to mention a new addition to my vocabulary: "Bears for Israel"??? Oh.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A serious treatment of Reform's one-day Yom Tov

Recommended reading: BZ, a fifth-generation Reform Jew, presents the Central Conference of American Rabbis' writings on the reasons for a one-day observance of the Pilgrimage Festivals. I hope he continues this series--he said he intended to post the Conservative Movement's t'shuvot (rabbinical responsa) on the same subject next.

More Mae-West-style fun

This is not for your young daughter or son.

(Mae West at her best--not for the younger girls and boys.)



"Play ball!," says he
"Batter up!" says she
This is not as much fun
with just one
'Cause alone, you can't jump (or properly aim) the gun
But two
will nicely do

If you're not yet, but would like to be, one of two
Im yirtzeh Hashem by you!*

But know this, couples all--
You're in it for the long haul
I assume it's been years
since my mom's seen my memory-less dad stand tall

*"May it be G-d's will by you," an expression used among some in the Orthodox community to express the hope that an unmarried individual will find a spouse.

Related: "Too salty?"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

For those who think female leaders are immodest

Here's a post by Ezzie asking whether it's immodest for women to be in high-profile public positions.

And here's my response (copied from my own comment):

" . . . this way of thinking concerning women contributes greatly to keeping borderliners like me from becoming baalot t'shuvah[*].

Everything we women do is immodest. Our leadership is immodest. Our clothing is immodest. Our singing voices are immodest. Does the Orthodox community ever say this sort of thing about *men?!* I think it's very telling that the Talmud devotes an entire tractate (?) to Nashim, Women, as if we were just another subject--or object--for men to discuss, and not sister human beings.

To be blunt, this kind of discussion makes my blood boil. I'm sufficiently older than you to have grown up during the era of the Civil Rights movement. Will Orthodox men act like the racist police of that era and beat up women who dare to refuse to sit in the back of the bus? Will they spray bleach in the eyes of teenaged girls who dare to wear loose pants and short-sleeved shirts in the "wrong" neighborhood? Oh, sorry, I forgot--the modesty mobs have already done both. My nieces in Jerusalem could be the next victims.

I'm not a michshol [**], I'm a person, and I won't be part of any movement that won't treat me as one.
9/18/2008 11:08:00 AM

*"Returnees" to Orthodox Judaism
** A stumbling block (leading to sin)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Of two minds on the two-state solution

On the one hand, no one has been able truly to convince me that the presence of thousands of Palestinians within Israel’s current borders (such as they are) does not constitute a demographic time bomb that threatens to end, in the long run, the Jewish majority in, and, therefore, the Jewish character of, the Jewish state.

On the other hand, no one has been able truly to convince me that the political leadership of the Palestinians is really interested in peace with Israel, and/or would survive assassination attempts—political or physical—long to make it a reality. The last time Israel tried to exchange land for peace, it got war within less than a year, some of it originating from the very land that it had given up.

On the third hand (you should pardon the expression), the Israeli government has yet to convince me that it’s not more serious about making peace with the Palestinians than about maintaining peace among its own citizens. All this talk about ceding parts of Yehudah and the Shomron/the West Bank (pick your preferred term) is giving me a serious case of déjà vu. Does the Knesset really expect settlers to move out of their homes willingly, after seeing the evacuees of Gush Katif and the Northern Shomrom left to rot in caravilla camps (American-English translation: trailer parks) for over three years, many still unemployed?

In my humble opinion, there should be no peace agreement until two basic conditions are met:

  • The Palestinian government (such as it is, and whoever’s leading it at the time) must put teeth in their peace promises and disarm all terrorists, confiscating everything from ammo to guns to missiles and the materièl enabling the production of any and all of the above.

  • The Israeli government must build new communities for the settlers before asking them to abandon their current ones, and must also prepare for the settlers’ job retraining and placement, as necessary.

As far as I’m concerned, unless both those conditions are met, the residents of Peduel should stay put. The thought of the Israeli government creating yet another group of semi-homeless and possibly unemployed Jewish refugees and leaving yet another piece of abandoned real estate to be used for launching missiles makes me ill.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fed up, and frankly, a bit frightened

See here.

Bassless accusations: Re “kosher” music

G, posting on Ezzie's blog, lays out this issue, which has made the rounds of the J-blogs, in plain links and text. (Those whose vision, like mine, is not what it used to be can double-click on the "Rules for Playing Kosher Music" to enlarge the print.)

This on top of this. Lawyer MoChassid had a few words to say on the subject.

We’ve been down this road before. Must we go there again?

I’ll give a J-blog bass player the last, er, lyrics.

Excluded, as usual, but . . . (comment on Sefer Ha-Aggadah)

The other day, my husband was reading me the Sefer Ha-Aggadah's interpretation of what life was like in Noah's Ark. Per the aggadot (rough translation: rabbinic legends?), Noah and sons got no sleep because they were constantly feeding the animals in accordance with the animals' normal feeding times. It occurred to me that no mention whatsover was made of Noah's wife and daughters-in-law, who were also in the Ark (see B'reishit/Genesis, chapter 7, verse 7). I couldn't decide whether this was a bad thing, because, yet again, women were getting no credit for their hard work, or whether it was a good thing, because, for once, the guys were in charge of all the "childcare." :)

So much for beged isha (a woman's garment) :)

A Rasta with dreads
upon his head
all tucked into a huge knitted hat
He looked like a Caribbean dude in a snood
Now who would have thought of that? :)

Too salty? :)

Those of one who think that humor that borders on the not-quite-clean-enough-to-explain-to-the-kids is inappropriate for public dissemination might want to skip this one and keep your kids away from the screen.



When I was in my twenties, I had a co-worker who was probably then about the same age that I am now (59). One day, she told of having seen a guy whose pants were (and I quote) "so tight, he looked like he had a six-piece set."

I was reminded of that line when I realized how something I'd said to Steg and Drew at the blogger picnic must have sounded. Complaining that it was insulting that the rabbis thought women had so little seichel (common sense) that we couldn't figure out what clothing was modest unless it was measured in centimeters, I said, "You stand in front of a mirror, you bend over, and, if you see anything interesting, it's not tzanua [modest]. What's so hard about that?" I must be getting as salty-tongued as my former co-worker in my nearly-old-age. Let's hear it for Mae West, one of the all-time experts in the use of clean language to say something "interesting."

Too sweet?

Some years ago, an Iraqi Jewish friend of ours refused an invitation to our house for a holiday after I told her that I'd be cooking the chicken in fruit juice. She said that fruit and meat or poultry just didn't go together.

I thought it was just a matter of personal taste. But it turns out that I may have been wrong.

Recently, a Syrian Jewish buddy told me that her community never cooks b'sari (meat and/or poultry/fleishig) dishes with fruit, except the occasional raisins or currants, because they consider it inappropriate to mix sweet foods with savory foods. So now I know: If I invite someone from the B'nei Edot haMizrach (roughly, Children of the States of the East) community, I'd be better advised to cook the chicken in tomato sauce.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bloggers' picnic turns into YCT mini-convention :)

Much to my surprise, the only folks who showed up at the NYC-area bloggers' picnic were Steg and Drew. (Next time, methinks I'll send out an e-mail reminder two weeks before instead of the night before.) At any rate, we have a delightful time. We talked about such scintillating topics as the "forced" homogenization of the Orthodox community (which I think is a result of the ascendancy of what I described as an Ashkenazi Chareidi "Papacy"). One of the guys wanted to know why young men from the German Jewish community of Washington Heights (in upper Manhattan, New York City) were coming back from Lakewood Yeshiva speaking Eastern-European-accented Hebrew. I asked why young Sefardi women returning from a year in a Sefardi Chareidi seminary in Israel were being forced by their American seminary teachers to switch to Ashkenazi pronunciation. And what's with Rabbi Sherman, famous for fanning the flames of the latest conversion controversy, insisting that former Sefardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, known (as Steg and Drew told me) as an outstanding Torah scholar, follow the halachic rulings of the Ashkenazi rabbinate? It's insulting. (Update: Steg kindly posted the relevant Rabbi Sherman link in the comments.)

Thanks to these YCT guys for explaining Rabbi Gil Student's approach(es) to halachah (Jewish religious law) to me. I've never quite understood how a person who goes out of his way to publish Rabbi Slifkin's banned books on Torah and science could, at the same time, be so utterly opposed to any leadership role of any kind for women in the Orthodox community. (I'm not talking about his opposition to women as rabbis or even as synagogue presidents--I'm talking about his opposition to women leading even non-synagogue Jewish community organizations.) These rabbinical students explained that Rabbi Student is a Centrist* on matters of education and science, but Yeshivish* on matters regarding the Jewish community. (*) Oh, now I get it. Thanks, guys!

Photo to follow, as soon as I have a chance to upload it. In the meantime, here's the one that the hubster took with Drew's camera.

Update, 11:45 PM

Here are photos, as promised: 1) Picture by the Punster, 2) picture with the Punster (by a kindly waiter).

Lest you think that yours truly never has anything critical to say about her own gang, the Conservative Movement, I also discussed with Drew and Steg my opinion that the Hekhsher Tzedek innovators made a tactical error by insisting on using the word "hekhsher" (roughly, seal of rabbinical supervision and approval), because it was like waving a red flag in a bull's face, the Orthodox rabbinate having pretty much staked out the supervision of kashrut as their own turf. (As evidence, I'm linking to this hatchet job on Hekhsher Tzedek published by the right-wing-Orthodox Jewish Press.) Why not do what the Israelis do and just go for a social-justice seal of approval, which would accomplish the same goal with less possibility of causing misunderstanding and/or offense?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NYC-area blogger picnic rained, er, in(doors)

The weather predictions haven't changed all week--scattered thunderstorms are expected this coming Sunday. Since we'll have enough worries about being hit by metaphorical bolts of lightning on Yom Kippur (oy), I thought it best to avoid the literal lightening bolts and move the blogger picnic to Kosher Deluxe. Yes, it's a bit more public than many of us would have liked, but I chose this particular restaurant because it's somewhat more off the beaten path than the kosher fast-food places near the main Macy's store at Herald Square . Subway riders can take the F train to the 47-50th Street/Rockefeller Center station or walk from Central Central Station, which would be a good place for out-of-towners to hop off the train.

(There are plenty of vegetable and fruit salads, a salad bar, and cooked vegetarian items available for vegetarians, if you don't object to your food being prepared with meat/fleishig utensils, etc. And those of you who don't have "hollow legs" :) and wish to spare their budgets may find, as the Punster and I do, that just about all the dinners are big enough for two).

Keep your eyes open for this older woman, dressed in this and this (see second photo). (I'll probably be roasting, since the temperature is expected to hit the upper 80's, but I don't want anyone not to come just because they think my clothing is insufficiently tzanua/modest.) I'll pass around a notebook for signing in, with one column for our blogger names and one for our real ones--we can pass it around among ourselves, so that we don't have to come out of the closet as bloggers to anyone who isn't at our table(s). The Punster and I are looking forward to meeting you there at (or around) 4 PM.

So nu, who's coming?

September 11

I have no more words. Go here, click on the Music tab, and listen to "Anayni." That says more than I can.

The Hebrew part of the lyrics, from Hotza-at HaTorah l'Yom Tov, the Service for Taking Out the Torah Scroll(s) on Major Holidays (my so-called translation combined with the ArtScroll siddur's/prayerbook's):
"Va-ani, tefilati l'cha, HaShem, ayt ratzon; Elokim, b'rov hasdecha, anayni, be-emet yish'echa. And I, my prayer to You, HaShem, (may it be at)
an acceptable time; G-d, in Your great kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Last blast--summer's almost past

August flowers

Some good articles

  • Should All Barbies Wear Tefillin?, by Jen Taylor (originally published in the CJ: Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism in spring 2008). Interestingly, she says "no." But the case she makes for those who should wear tefillin, while sound, is hard to enforce, because, fundamentally, many of us (myself included) aren't willing to enforce it. (Go tell your best friend that she has to wear tefillin, I dare you.)
  • Profile: Tamar Ross, in Hadassah Magazine--go to Current Issue (August/September 2008 Vol. 90 No. 1), Features, Columns, Profile). (Here's my post on her book.)

For the tzanua swimmer

Okay, this may be a tad late for this summer, but Hadassah Magazine just published "Power Suit for Summer," a report on an Israeli company making bathing suits for modest (tzanua) women (see Current Issue [August/September 2008 Vol. 90 No. 1], Departments, Cut and Post).

Naaseh adam b’tsalmeinu*

I stay away from DovBear’s blog for less than 24 hours, and this post of his already has over 110 comments by the time I see it. Sheesh!

DB and his blog’s right-wing sometime-contributor, Bray, had quite a go at it.

Seriously, issues of sexual preference and/or identity aren’t going to disappear just because we want them to. See this post at Jewschool.

*"26 And God said: 'Let us make (a) human(kind) in our image, . . . (Parshat B'reishit/Genesis 1:26) " Doesn't that apply to all humans?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

"Daf Yomi" for Sefer Ha-Aggadah--a new study project

I apologize to my readers for not having thought to post this two weeks ago. I do hope that those of you who'd like to participate in this study project will be able to catch up.

The National Havurah Committee has organized a "Daf Yomi"-style two-year study of Sefer Ha-Aggadah, The Book of Legends, edited by Haim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky. Read about the project, and catch up on the posts, here.

The floating-staircase effect

This can happen to a building when the renovators gut the interior to add more floors, while leaving the original facade intact.

Inspired by Robert's recent photo posts.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ruttenberg's "Surprised by God": Book review on 1 foot

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg's Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion is a memoir of her voyage of self-discovery from atheist to ordained Conservative rabbi. She speaks often of spiritual practice, to which my own wry reaction is that my personal observance is much heavier on the practice than on the spiritual--I'm not prepared to do the kind of soul-searching that she's put herself through to come out a better person. (It probably doesn't help that I'm a bit of an agnostic, which makes dealing with the G-d idea a bit tricky.) I suppose that that's why my own person favorite quote from her book is, of all things, "There's a sort of machismo that permeates many religious communites that depicts religious practice as sort of an extreme sport." (Page 195) This reminds me of one of the favorite lines of a former rabbi of mine: "No matter how kosher you are, there's always someone who's more kosher than you."

Ruttenberg is now not only ordained, but also married to ". . . a secular Israeli, of all things." (Page 220) I mention this only because, as I said to my husband, "And you think we have a tough time with the 'non-interference clause'!" The two of us have had literally decades of practice in learning to live peaceably with different levels of observance under one roof. which we manage by allowing each other to be as observant or non-observant as we choose, provided that the non-observance of one of us doesn't interfere with the observance of the other. (For example, the one who eats non-kosher meat can do so in the presence of the other, provided that non-kosher meat is never brought into our home.) I would think that maintaining a 'non-interference clause' would be a lot trickier if one of us were a rabbi.

Related: "Too Jewish," or "you gotta represent" (a somewhat more lighthearted look at how one spouse's observance affects the other's.)

Reminder: NYC-area bloggers' picnic, Sept. 14!

See here. Hope to see you there!

Update--Drew asked for more information, so here's some that I copied from my previous picnic post:

"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."
I'll post more details next week.

Update, Thursday, September 11, 2008: Picnic rained in(doors).

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Comment of the day

See Rabbi Gil Student's post here:

"The greatest acknowledgment of the rhetorical power of the Judeo Christian and biblical tradition that these rabbis and priests appeal to is the demand for homosexual marriage. Basically, homosexuals are saying that the consecration a relationship by including some implicitly religious element, is important to them as well. This is a sign that the world as a whole is getting more, and not less religious. After all, the homosexuals could say that marriage is an oppressive patriarchal institution (and this is not 100% untrue). But that is not what they are saying. They are saying that marriage, which is delineated in our society by a deeply religious cultural mythos, is not only preferable, but worth fighting for. We can only hope to take a lesson from this for our own marriages; that they are incredibly sacred and allow us to draw on the deep cultural resevoir of the holy.
chakira 09.03.08 - 12:13 am #

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What or who is out of whose control? (Response to YD)

Here’s part of a comment by YD to this recent post of mine:

“Maybe tznius isn't a practical concern that a man will see something and begin entertaining sexual ideas. If that were true then clearly the theory would be completely incongruous with the application: it's crazy to assume a man who sees a bit of a woman's arm uncovered will be sexually aroused.”

If it were that crazy, then what’s the explanation for this? Why on earth should photos of modestly-dressed women with their heads tilted flirtatiously to one side be so sexually distracting to a group of yeshiva students that their rabbi called for a boycott of the wig store that displayed them?

Is the issue that men living in certain right-wing Orthodox communities have so little contact with women, particularly those outside their own families, that they have limited “immunity,” and can get “sick” at the least exposure? That’s certainly what A Simple Jew and his commenters seem to me to be saying—following the first link here.

Or is the real issue the idea that women are increasingly out of men’s control? Brooklyn Wolf seems to think that that may be the case. He doesn’t have much patience with men who insist that men should study full-time for life, but then deride women who—gasp!—go out and work for a living:

“This section caught my attention as well.

It is no secret that in other circles, the reason for deteriorating marriages, climbing divorce rates and the current shidduch crisis, is greatly due to the fact that the girls today are much more educated, knowledgeable and capable than the boys are. More than often times the bread-winner in the young family is the wife. Today with modern society and the plague of liberalism all around us, woman are no longer being taught to be mothers of children and good wives, instead liberalism is teaching them to become executives of large corporations and to try and become the man they were never meant to be!

I find it to be both extremely funny and sad that a sane person could write this paragraph. We encourage our young men to sit and learn, to eschew any education which might result in his having some marketable skills, all in the name of advancing Torah study. Since the young couple has to eat and the vast majority of us don't have wealthy parents or in-laws, the women go out and earn degrees and become the breadwinners of the family so that the husband can learn in Kollel. However, now we're decrying this as the cause for deteriorating marriages and for the shidduch crisis! Give me a break! You can't have it both ways! Don't create a situation where the women are forced to go out and work and then tell them that their doing so is the cause of broken homes and the shidduch crisis. . . .”

See also this satiric post by Harry Maryles about, among other things, recent physical attacks in Israel against women who had the unmitigated gall to seat in the front of a bus not officially designated as having separate seating for men and women. As a United States citizen and current U.S. resident who remembers all too well the Civil Right's Movement's fight for desegregated public transportation (and desegregated everything else), the whole idea of an entire class of people--in this case, women--being relegated for life to the back of the bus gives me not only a sense of déjà vu, but also, a royal case of the creeps.

Speaking of getting a royal case of the creeps, this is downright scary. May the young lady have a refuah shleimah, a complete healing.

A self-fulfilling prophecy

Mark’s musical “bookends”

At one end, Mark/PT composed “Ki V’Simcha” (scroll through the Radio Blog here—it’s in there somewhere) to words from the haftarah for the afternoon of Tisha B’Av. At the other end, he composed “Aniyah Soarah,” to words from Haftarat R'eh (the haftarah for this past Shabbat/Sabbath) in response to Hurricane Katrina. Three years later, we’re watching the Gulf Coast get battered yet again. (They could use a little comforting.)
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