Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: what cash flow? :(

  • we have about 2 cents in investments, & still managed to lose money
  • my husband, attempting 2 bring in more income by taking on more business clients, had the misfortune 2 chose a couple of start-up idiots so poor at running businesses that they can't pay their accounting bills. it is entirely possible that he will have to write off as business losses for 2008 roughly 1/2 what he earned from his tax & accounting practice in 2007
  • &, then, of course, ms. klutz (clumsy), here, breaks both wrists, leading to huge medical & other injury-related expenses, topped by a switch from paltry salary to pitiful disability payments effective jan. 1
not much to celebrate tonight

on the plus side, i still have a full-time job to go back to, my husband is still a full-time college accounting instructor, & our son, now in grad school, is almost completely self-supporting. could b worse

The Cunning of Politico-Economics (d'var Torah by my husband)

as i was reading bits & pieces of this d'var Torah (commentary on the bible), "The Psychological Brilliance of Joseph," by Rabbi Ari Kahn, posted by Chana here, to my husband, he abandoned his home office & joined me by my computer, responding with thoughts that i found interesting enuf to ask that he write them down as a blog post.

so, without further ado . . .


It all began with Joseph in prison. One fine night, the Pharaoh had two dreams. It being two dreams, even Pharaoh figured that there must be a deep purpose behind it. Neither he nor anybody else could interpret them. As it turned out, Joseph was brought out from prison and interpreted the dreams. There being two versions of the same dream, Joseph interpreted that there would be seven years of economic plenty followed by seven years of famine. Then, citing Joseph’s brilliant insight, the Pharaoh placed Joseph second-in-command to himself, essentially to run the economy of Egypt.

Joseph’s interpretation proved true. During the seven good years, Joseph had plenty of food stored away, so that, when the lean years arrived, Egypt was not short of food. The famine (depression???) being regional, not limited to Egypt, people from other nations went to Egypt to buy food. Thus, Egypt under the rule of Joseph became rich. That is the picture we see in the Torah. There is not much if anything said about the Egyptians themselves. The Egyptians were also faced with the famine and had to buy food from the storehouses maintained by Joseph. Those that did not have money had to sell themselves into servitude in exchange for the food.

Joseph’s brothers were among the foreigners who went to Egypt to buy food. That lead to a series of events whereby Joseph got his revenge for what his brothers had done to him some twenty years earlier. Eventually, Jacob and his community were invited to come and live in Goshen, with privileged status.

Now, let us stop for a moment and analyze the situation. The Pharaohs in power during the sojourn of Joseph were not Egyptian Pharaohs. They were Hyksos invaders, a Semitic tribe. In fact, these Pharaohs were more closely related to Joseph than they were to the Egyptians, and the Egyptian people knew it. The Semitic tribes were known to the Egyptians as “desert dwellers,” and considered to be on a lower level of society. Therefore, whatever good Joseph was doing for Egypt, it was only noted by the rulers, not by the people being ruled. In fact, the majority of the people being ruled had become servants (or slaves) of the Pharaoh. They hated Joseph. Meanwhile, the family of Joseph was situated in a community of its own with privileged status. What does it lead to when the majority are subservient to the small minority on top? In the last 250 years or so, what happened in America, France, Russia, and Cuba? A revolution!

It happened in Egypt too, when a militant group of Egyptians rose up and overthrew the Hyksos. Now, with the Egyptians themselves back in power, there arose a Pharaoh “who did not know Joseph.” Was this not a set-up? Now, the new dynasty of Pharaohs could do to Jacob’s descendants in Goshen what Joseph had done to the Egyptian people. Now, the Hebrews would be the slaves to build the cities and grow the food for the new rulers. Politico-economics had played its tricks.

Sun., Jan. 11, 2009 update: See The story of Yosef/Joseph for links to other recent posts re Yosef on my blog.

too quiet for my taste

with 2 broken wrists, i can’t even pop my head out the window & bang 2 pot lids together at midnight. it’s gonna b a real quiet new year’s eve

a pet peeve

latest trend: people sending e-mails without bothering 2 sign them. y should i b expected 2 recognize 100s of e-mail addresses on sight? I don't appreciate callers who expect me 2 recognize their voices, either. would it kill any1 to identify self? whatever happened 2 plain old common courtesy?

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

what will it take to stop the terrorist attacks?

when israel had settlements in gaza, terrorists were attacking israel

after israel removed all settlements from gaza, terrorists continued attacking israel

now that israel is targeting terrorists & bombing their installations in order to protect its citizens, which is 1 of the primary responsibilities of any national government, terrorists r attacking even further into israel than ever b4

these terrorists simply refuse 2 take a hint, even a deadly 1. they're suicidal, with no concern even 4 the lives of children

in my opinion, there's a theological aspect 2 the terrorist attacks

here's a way to interpret 1 of the last lines of the amidah prayer:

"For by the light of Your 'face,' You have given us the Torah of life, and the love of kindness, & righteousness, & blessing, & compassion, & life, & peace."

i think that at least part of the problem is that radical islam loves neither life nor peace, valuing death (by "martyrdom") and war instead.

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

today's big adventure--a walk 2 the supermarket :)

i've been out in snow 2 c dr., & in dark 2 go 2 eve. meeting at shul, but this is 1st time i've been out in sun since breaking both wrists. what a mechayeh (very roughly, a delight)! of course, poor hubby carried all the groceries

currently seeking home health aide. impossible 4 hubby 2 caring 4 me nearly full-time while working full-time as college accounting instructor & running tax & accounting practice, especially with tax season approaching

trying 2 get back in the habit, 2 pray 4 soldiers

i've been davening/praying irregularly due 2 general tiredness & tough time focusing--it's hard 2 find a comfortable sleep position with casts on both forearms. but i'm trying 2 daven at least once a day, so that i can pray for the soldiers of tzahal/israel defense force 2 come home b'shalom v'shalem--in peace & in 1 piece

4 shacharit/morning service, i'm relying on the teaching of a former rabbi, as i wrote in the comments here:

"A former rabbi of mine told me, if I understood him correctly, that, from a halachic point of view, the rock-bottom minimum is to say one “prayer,” namely, Ashrei [a psalm], before the Matbeah shel Tefillah, then pray the entire Matbeah shel Tefillah, then recite one prayer, preferably Aleinu, thereafter. Everything else is gravy, as the saying goes."

[Matbeah shel Tefillah--hard-core required part of service. 4 shacharit, that's every word from bar'chu--or Yotzer Or, if u don't have a minyan--thru end of amidah]

i'm pretty sure i posted, at some point, that he must have been using minchah/afternoon service as a template, since the entire minchah service doesn't contain much more than Ashrei, the amidah, & Aleinu, but i can't find that post

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chanukah War post round-ups

check jack's blog. thus far, he's already done 2 Chanukah War post round-ups

jameel & aussie dave r continuing 2 live-blog the war from israel

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

a yummy 8th-day-of-chanukah lunch

now that both my arms r in below-the-elbow casts, i can bend my elbows enough 2 reach my mouth, which enables me 2 eat finger foods. my husband just served me a sliced apple with almond butter 4 dipping, then unwrapped a whole packet of chocolate chanukah gelt 4 me 4 my final chanukah dessert. thanx, sweets!

sleepless in the city

good luck trying 2 find a comfortable sleeping position with both arms in casts. i'm sleeping a few hours at a time. on the plus side, i have very little pain now, &, now that i have below-the-elbow casts, i can sleep on my front if i want

in better news, kind friends drove us to 2 Chanukah parties & a Chanukah concert. nut that I am, I danced at all 3 (carefully)--u can't keep a dancer down :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Chanukah War begins

Jameel is live-blogging israel's surprise attack on gaza. Start with his 1st post here, & work ur way up

also recommended:

aussie dave's "israel strikes back," especially 11:45 pm & 5:56 am updates

david bogner/trep 4 commentary. c here & here, & watch for new posts

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

Friday, December 26, 2008

different perspectives re holidays

interesting discussion in comments 2 this post:

Anonymous Al said...

Right... Also, been learning a little Chanukah Halacha... it's a strange little holiday, with some rules that are in theory very rigid (lighting time, etc.), and rules that are very strange (restrictions during the candle burning).

The timing of Chanukah with the Winter Solstice is not a coincidence, IMO, and clearly Chazal was co-opting something, trying to control it.

Interesting though, that it survived and thrived, while other holidays have not remained relevant.

Who does ANYTHING for Pesach Sheini (second Pesach, one day one month later, a second chance to offer the Pesach offering)... supposedly some have a custom of eating Matza again, since it's Chag Hamatzot Sheini.

Tu B'av has completely died, though we may see Israel build it into enough of a "Hallmark Holiday" to get some traction.

Yom Hatzmaut and Yom Yerusalayim are way too young to evaluate, but I would guess that their staying power will be minor if appropriate liturgy and customs aren't adapted. There need to be customs that people DO for the holiday to having staying power.

Hence the decline of Shavuot... it's "observed" by Observant Jews, in that they take two days off of work and do the Yom Tov thing, but it's not observed by the non-Frum Jews at all (who do usually observe Chanukah, and practicing ones observe Purim in some regard)... Chazal didn't give it appropriate post-Temple ritual, and the Rabbis of the middle ages got rid of the activities (decorating the Synagogue in branches, which could have extended to the home), combined with the Omer "quasi morning" period that ties Shavuot in with an annoying period to make it less fun.

Hell, look at how Lag B'omer, a minor even characterized with delayed weddings and hair cuts by Ashkenazi Europe, has become a big celebratory event in Israel that is spreading to the US.

Something that the Jewish leadership used to understand: if the people do stuff, they remember it. If they "learn stuff," they forget it. I think that next year for Shavuot, I'm joining a Sephardi friend, they seem to have a real neat night of learning, that seems more fun than sitting around for boring Shiurim and drinking coffee.

I mean, honestly, there is nothing to do on the second day of Shavuot but try to readjust your schedule. Look at how the second day of Shemini Atzeret become important and even enhanced by the addition of Simchat Torah then, in many ways trumping the day with a new meaning.

Thu Dec 25, 08:40:00 AM 2008
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Something that the Jewish leadership used to understand: if the people do stuff, they remember it. If they "learn stuff," they forget it."

i think ur absolutely right about shavuot. by comparison 2 sukkot, it's way too low-key--it's hard 2 base a whole celebration around studying torah (which many traditional jews do every day) & eating cheesecake

Thu Dec 25, 12:06:00 PM 2008

this conversation reminded me of an old post by mark/pt:

Friday, June 10, 2005


I think that Shavuot is probably my favorite holiday. Maybe it's the nice weather, or the long daylight hours. Or maybe it's because it's stress-free. I don't have to build a hut and eat with bees, or turn my entire house upside down and abuse my digestive system, or spend hours upon hours on my feet listening to opera. It's a time to spend with family and friends and eat yummy food (mmm....tilapia....). But perhaps it is this lack of specific character that makes the holiday somewhat underrated. Most people, even Jews, have never heard of it. [bold added] Take this conversation I had with my partner today (we'll call him "Bob"):"

(do take that conversation--it's quite amusing)

i agree with Al: Shavuot as currently observed may work 4 the orthodox, but, 4 the most part, it doesn't work 4 the non-orthodox--we need bells & whistles

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

Thursday, December 25, 2008

chanukah party

good news--kind friends volunteered 2 drive us 2 Chanukah party this afternoon, door-2-door. normally, they would pick us up & drop us off at subway. really nice of them. we had a great time

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

puzzled about xmas

when in my early 20s, i once went 2 xmas midnight mass with friends, just out of curiosity. surprised 2 see such solemnity--looked more like funeral than celebration. it's the birthday of their savior, 4 pete's sake. i still can't understand y christians aren't dancin' in church aisles on xmas

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

origins of chanuka

interesting guest post by lurker on dovbear's blog

"This, in turn, brings to mind the question of the origins of Hanukah. Interestingly, Hanukah also coincides with the Winter Solstice period. More significantly, it is eight days long – just like Saturnalia was. Was this a historical accident, or is there more significance to the time and length of this holiday? Were the Christians the only ones to adapt Saturnalia to their own needs? Or Does Hanukah, too, bear a connection to this ancient Solstice festival? DovBear says that there is indeed such a connection. Is he right?"

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

update dec 25, 2008

lots of interesting discussion in comments 2 that post. recommend u read comments

politics--feh :(

with sen. hillary rodham clinton leaving senate 2 become secretary of state, new york state governor david patterson must appoint replacement 2 complete sen. clinton's senate term. many good candidates 4 job, but media mostly obsessed with caroline kennedy. she's a lawyer who's done a lot of fundraising 4 public (government-funded) schools, & i have nothing against her, but frankly, i'm tired of hearing about her. enuf, already!

also fed up with ny city mayor michael bloomberg pressuring gov. patterson 2 make quick decision. patterson wants 2 wait 'til senate confirms clinton as sec'y of state. he's right, bloomberg's wrong

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

hey, i can feed myself (more or less)!

not bad 4 some1 with both arms in casts

now that i have 2 new casts that r both below elbows, i was able bend arms enuf 2 feed myself 1/2 bowl soup, 1/2 a cut-up latke. (limiting eating due 2 last night's nausea.) nice 2 b able 2 feed self & spare my husband some work caring 4 me

more good news--pain greatly decreased. will b able 2 sleep tonight

can't sleep--right wrist hurts post-surgery

percoset aggravates acid reflux, so trying 2 get by on extra-strength tylenol. thus far, not working

writing, reading posts, watching tv as distraction

this too shall pass. soon, i hope


surgeon recommended pepto bismol 4 nausea last night, & my girlfriend the nurse suggested i switch 2 ibuprofen. i hope combo works on pain without wrecking tummy

got some sleep this afternoon

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

home from surgery

both arms now in below-elbow casts, but turning left wrist uncomfortable and, 4 time being, can't feel right arm below shoulder. limited blogging ahead

speech-recognition software design flaw?

poor husband spent who knows how long trying 2 jerry-rig platform 2 raise mike & bring it close enuf 2 my mouth 2 get it 2 work properly. 2 dragon speech-recognition software designers: look, wiseguys, if i had enuf use of my hands 2 b able 2 put a headset over my head without help, i wouldn't need this software!

we'll get it working eventually, but not 'til after this afternoon's surgery, unfortunately. don't know how much you'll b hearing from me over the next wk or so. wish me luck.

enjoy the rest of chanukuh (or xmas &/or kwanzaa). for those of the jewish persuasion--spin a dreidl 4 me

Monday, December 22, 2008

got mark/pt's new album!

my comment on his blog here:

great timing--got cd just in time 4 hubby 2 rip 2 computer b4 hand surgery tomorrow makes it impossible 4 me 2 use cd player.

holy moses, mark, what did u do 2 aniyah?! wow, i like!

Monday, December 22, 2008 8:56:00 PM

so nu? go buy yourself (or some1 else) a chanukah present, & enjoy!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

so many unemployed to add to my prayers :(

it's Katrina's turn. Ezzie's already on my list, along with my friends the "professional Jew" & the health-care professional (don't want 2 get 2 specific), my girlfriend's kids & step-kids . . .

list keeps growing. very discouraging, & will probably get worse

hope i'll still have job when healed enuf 2 return 2 work

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists


using baseball cap 2 cover head while davening/praying--it's the only head-covering i can get onto my head, because only my thumbs can reach my face. grab by brim, flip onto head, & i'm good 2 go

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

Saturday, December 20, 2008

stumbling over z'mirot

tried 2 sing 2 myself while poor overworked hubby taking shabbos nap. my luck, artscroll siddur/prayer bk (kol yaakov, nusach ashkenaz) has 2 verses 4 yom zeh m'chubad (p. 498) that i've never seen. stumbled thru verse 3 ok, but it took 4 tries 2 fit words into music on verse 4. dem bums put 3 commas into every verse except that 1--even they can't figure it out.

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

no more dancing in hall :(

after 2 days dancing in apt bldg hall, got pain in right achilles tendon. dumb dancer wasn't thinking--hall has bare stone floor, 2 hard 4 safe dancing. nice while it lasted. will have 2 dance in small but carpeted living rm, walk in hall

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

i'm here, minyan's there, part 2

no bar'chu, kaddish, or kedusha 'til i can get to synagog. major bummer. bad enuf i can't wear tallit or tefillin

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

Friday, December 19, 2008

possible surgery next wk

2nd-opinion dr. thinks surgery on right wrist advisable, since bones not quite in right place. surprising, since this is 3rd time I broke left wrist. dr.'s sec'y trying 2 schedule surgery 4 early nxt wk. will keep u posted (um, pardon pun :) )

thanx 2 hubby 4 getting me 2 & from dr., & 2 x-ray facility 4 blocks from dr., in snow. My hero

shabbat shalom

Six13 Concert in NYC, Motzaei Shabbat Dec. 20th

Thursday, December 18, 2008

nyc-area concerts

2 bad i can't go. enjoy

From: yjuskowicz


Subject: [NYCJewishMusic] Jewish Music for Chanukah

. . .

Here are some of
the events in the NY/NJ area.

PLEASE NOTE: Shivi Keller, the extraordinary musician, singer and
songwriter from Israel will be here with his band for the next 10 days
and is available on some of the days for gigs. For those of you who
are unfamiliar with Shivi, his music is some of the most beautiful and
spiritual I have ever heard in my life, and many people I know agree
with me. He was wounded seriously in two separate terrorist attacks
and sings from his heart as a way to express his thanks to G-d for
healing. He is here with his band Ein Od Milvado. For booking info
contact Yakov cohen to book him 347-743-3648. Here is a link of a video of
Shivi singing:

---Thursday, Decemeber 18th
YU and J&R Chanukah Concert
Starring Yeshiva Boys Choir, Gabay, Menucha, and Aryeh Kunstler
Benefiting Keren Achim - Tomchei Shabbos in Eretz Yisroel
Lamport Auditorium at Yeshiva University
Doors open at 7:30 and concert starts at 8:00
Tickets at
For questions: Please contact Daniel Bukingolts at
or 917-608-6218

---Sat. Night Dec. 20th
The Aryeh Kunstler Band - Live!
Admission: $20 in advance, $25 at the door
The newest Jewish Rock Sensation descends on Congregation Ohab Zedek
for a rocking Erev Chanukah performance guaranteed to get you excited
for chanukah.
Doors open 7:30 PM
Location: Congregation Ohab Zedek
118 West 95th Street New York, NY
Contact: RSVP 212-613-8300

December 21, 4:00 PM
Temple Beth O'r/Beth Torah
111 Valley Road
Clark, NJ
Neshama Carlebach and her band will be performing with Reverend Roger
Hambrick and members of The Green Pastures Baptist Choir. For
Reservations and further information, please call 732-381-8403. NOTE:

December 21, 8:30 PM
91 Main Street
Nyack, NY
Celebrate Chanukah with Neshama Carlebach in Rockland. Free Kosher
Buffet, Free Giveaways, Free Raffle, Israeli disco night with DJ to
follow concert. For further information please call 914-420-5820 or
send an email to NOTE: SEE BELOW

December 25
208 west 13th Street NY NY 10011
Neshama and David Morgan will be performing at the GLBT Community
Chanukah Party. The party will be from 7-10, Neshama's performance
will be at 8:30 PM. For further information, please send an email to or NOTE: SEE BELOW

December 27, 8PM
Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleeker Street
New York, NY 10012
Neshama Carlebach Remembers Shlomo Carlebach's 'At The Village Gate',
with special guest Jane Kelly Williams. For further information please

---Wed. night Dec. 24th
Soulfarm and The Moshav Band Hanukkah Bash!
Wednesday December 24, 2008 at BB Kings in Times Square
with special guests Peter Shapiro and America's Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
TICKETS: $17 Advance/$20 Day of Show
Students Rush Tickets at the Door $10!
Group Tickets of 8 @ 12.00 Each – Online Only – special offer code: OFFER
OR CALL THE BOX OFFICE: 212-997-4144
For more info go to

---Dec. 27th Sat night
David Ross & Aryeh Kunstler
Live in concert @ The Jewish Music Cafe
401 9th St. - Park Slope
Brooklyn, NY 11225
Tickets = $15

Dec. 26-28th
Hasheveynu presents it annual weekend retreat featuring the music of
Eitan Katz. It also features an array of inspirational speakers. It
takes place in a beautiful hotel with gourmet cuisine. For more info
call Hasheyvenu at 718 275 2200.

The 4th Annual Sephardic Music Festival - Channuka 2008 presents the 4th annual Sephardic Music Festival in NYC
Chanukah 2008 December 21-28.
The festival includes various artistic and cultural events throughout
Manhattan and Brooklyn with musical performances by Israeli artists
such as Eden Mi Qedem (joined by Yossi Piamenta), debut performances
by Electro Morocco, NYC staples Pharaoh's Daughter and many more.
Log onto to see the entire list of all the
performers as well as dates and time and prices. NOTE SEE BELOW

****NOTE: for these events, Kol Isha may apply, please consult your
local orthodox rabbi for more info.

Chanukah is such a beautiful holiday with rich spiritual significance.
What is the deeper meaning behind the story of the Jews searching the
Holy Temple and finding a small jug of oil that was untouched by
defiled hands and still had the seal of the High Priest? Harav Kook
writes that inside every Jew is a small jug of oil that sealed and
pure, untouched by the outside world. On Chanukah we have the
opportunity to reach inside ourselves and find that special jug and
ignite it. It too can burn for 8 days just like the miracle of
Chanukah. Wishing everyone a Happy Chanukah,

Best Wishes, Yisroel

To be added to this group, send email to:

fri. update:

Dear friends,

The list of upcoming concerts is growing, as more emails come pouring
in. Here are a few that were NOT included in the last email. Please
refer back to the last email for the rest of the list:

Join the Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills for their 6th Annual
Concert - Motzei Shabbat Dec. 20, 2008
At: Queens College
8:30 PM
$25, $36, $54, $72, $100 & VIP (Group Rates Available)
Call Shule -(718) 261-4130
Or Ticket Outlets - Judaica Plus (Cendarhurst)
Giftworld (Queens)
Eichlers (Bklyn)

Sunday Dec. 21st
Carnival at the West side Institutional Synagogue
11:30 AM -1:30 PM
Cotton candy, games, rides, clowns, and more!
120 W. 76th St. NY, NY
$10 per child, parents are free!
For more info: 212 877 7652

Sephardic Music Festival | www.sephardicmusicf
Dec. 21, 2p -- Sephardic Scholar Series @ Center for Jewish History |
Dec. 21, 7p -- w/ Diwon @ Le Poisson Rouge |
Dec. 22, 8p -- Asefa @ Zebulon Café |
For more info: Samuel R. Thomas, musician/academic
917-620-3998 | |

Saturday, December 27th
Concert & Chanukah celebration at the Carlebach Shul on 79th St.
Social hour at 8:00PM (with latkes and other refreshments)
Concert starts at 8:45PM.
Admission: $20 (at the door only)
For more info:

Wishing everyone a beautiful shabbos and a happy Chanukah!
Best wishes, Yisroel


see here

"tz'vakot," part 2

part 1

recently saw footnote in artscroll siddur/prayer book citing Shavuot 35a as source of idea that "tz'vaot" is 1 of Hashem's/G-d's names. "tz'vakot" still sounds weird 2 me, but at least now i understand that singers' pronunciation & artscroll's translation have legitimate source

finally saved this as e-mail draft, so u'll b seeing it often:
pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

i'm here, minyan's there :(

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

i've been the baalat tefillah/prayer leader (with Board's authorization this time) 4 Mon. & Thurs. AM minyan since sept. feels weird not being there, but shul has great substitute--my hubby. hope 2 b back on my feet (hands?) by feb., when he starts teaching 9 AM class

i miss my prayer garments

finally got in habit of laying tefillin every AM except shabbat/sabbath & yom tov/festivals. now, can't. even stranger not wearing tallit/prayer shawl, having worn 1 at every AM service since 24 yrs old. will b happy 2 cast off my casts, but must wait about a mo. major bummer

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Psycho Toddler: The Album is Done!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The "Fear of Isaac"

been reading Rabbi Shlomo Riskin's Torah Lights: Genesis Confronts Life, Love and Family. Interesting commentary.

bit late 2 discuss Parshat Vayetze, weekly Torah/Bible reading from 2 shabbatot/sabbaths ago, but had crazy thought while reading riskin's commentary--what if yaakov/jacob was being literal when he used somewhat unusual term "Fear of Isaac" here? y shouldn't he b afraid of his father, after deceiving him in order 2 steal eisav's/esau's blessing?

2 my more learned readers, does this thought appear in rabbinical commentary &/or midrashim (roughly, rabbinic legends)?

riskin says yaakov felt unloved by his father. never thought of that. while we're on subject of favoritism, maybe esav felt unloved by his mother

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

good news, bad news

good--i may lose weight, because i have no appetite

bad--because i'm getting almost no exercise, except walking & dancing around living rm.

good--yes, dancing. u can't keep a dancer down.

good--we've been spared blizzards & have heat, electricity. lucky, because i can't dress or cover myself & would b in real trouble without heat (& bored w/o tv, comp)

bad--thousands w/o heat &/or electricity in new jersey, upstate new york, new england states, western states. hope sheyna's ok.

update, 1:49

good--went 2 our orthopedist,who doesn't think i'll need surgery

bad--stuck in over-elbow casts for 2 more wks. due 2 risk of bones shifting

good--finally realized i could take advantage of living in large apt bldg & went 4 10-min walk in hall. what an adventure :)

did some dancing 2--who's gonna see?--but, after dancing past elevator, walked carefully past stairs.

bad--sheesh, this post is as boring as a twitter. will try to write something interesting

sorry, probably no videoblogs

i had hoped 2 post videoblogs--for audio only, since i can't pick up camera--but poor overworked hubby has no time 2 upload (or 2 shop 4 voice-activated software), and i can't manipulate wires. oh well, 'twas a thought. so i'm stuck typing with pencil between fingers, tapping keys with eraser. could b worse. pls b patient

Monday, December 15, 2008

re economic downturn and scandals

see recent posts at orthonomics and mochassid

2 bad i'm not a guitarist

would b used 2 having extra weight hanging from strap around neck. also, guitar more fun than 2 slings. calling billy the bard: you and ur "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." humph

mark/pt and band release new album!

see here

Friday, December 12, 2008

When I said "Give me a break. . ."

. . .two broken wrists were not exactly what I had in mind. The Punster is typing on my behalf. I seem to have caught my shoe on a rough spot on the floor at Israeli folk dancing last night, and I broke my fall with my hands. The good news is that I did not hurt my back or my head. The bad news is that I am in casts that go over my elbows on both arms, and can barely type while holding a pencil between my fingers and tapping the keys with the eraser. So you will not be hearing much from me for the next month or so. Please put in a kind word upstairs for Léah bat Esther v' Ozer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Trep & commenters discuss “the 2-state solution”

A comment to this post by David Bogner/Treppenwitz:

"There has never been any political leader in the "Palestinian" camp who has said that if we return to pre-67 borders (an insane and impractical proposition unto itself), they will relinquish all other claims on Israeli land and Israeli blood.
Posted by: triLcat Dec 10, 2008 4:23:55 AM

And a comment (in response, as it were), to Trep's follow-up post:

“Israel was formed under a U.N. charter that assumed 2 countries-- or at least 2 sovereign entities-- would exist in the space between the Jordan River and the Mediteranean Sea. It is true that the Jewish entity that existed in 1948 was savagely attacked by many Arab countries, and that we won the war and even increased the size of our country, based on armistice lines that were accepted by the U.N., but that does not abrogate the original U.N. partition plan. That is why the world expects a Palestinian State within Israel's present borders. Fair? Probably not. Legal? I'm afraid so. . . . "
Posted by: Larry Dec 10, 2008 4:46:45 PM

You might wish to join this important discussion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Confession: I benefit from Conserv.’s lax observance

Lest I be accused of only kvetching about the Orthodox community, all of these incidents involve(d) Conservative synagogues and/or individuals.

  • A congregant in a tallit (prayer shawl) was standing in front of a synagogue talking on a cell phone—on Shabbat. (The use of any electricity-based communication device is forbidden on the Sabbath and Festivals, unless there’s a life-and-death emergency.)
  • Some of the same folks who protest that it’s not traditional for women to have aliyot go out to a local restaurant for lunch on Shabbat (thereby violating the law against spending money on Sabbath or Festivals) when there isn’t a big kiddush.
  • Sometimes she’s the only “minyannaire”—male or female—who’s wearing tefillin.
  • The participants in a chicken dinner in a synagogue were so impressed by the taste of the pareve cake that one of them got suspicious, and, snooping around the kitchen, discovered that the cake was dairy. No one had ever bothered to explain the concept of pareve to the well-meaning Shabbos goy, who had carefully bought cakes with a hechsher (rabbinical seal confirming that a product is kosher).
  • He almost never wears a tallit, but his wife does—most of the time.
  • The synagogue built its sukkah indoors for many years, though it’s against Jewish law to do so. (I’m happy to report that they’ve since had their roof reinforced for the express purpose of accommodating a rooftop outdoor sukkah.)
  • The congregant claims to keep a strictly kosher home, but bought pastries from a bakery that is not under rabbinical supervision in the presence of some other members of the same synagogue—all of whom also maintain kosher homes—and served the pastries to them. All of them enjoyed the pastries thoroughly.

You might say that I had my cake and ate it, too, literally—but I broke Jewish law in the process. That’s probably a good metaphorical description of the way I observe, and don’t observe, halachah/Jewish religious law.

My personal experience has been that, while most Conservative Jews prefer a more traditional service than do most Reform Jews, the observance level of Conservative Jews outside of the synagogue is often not much different than that of Reform Jews. Speaking as a lifelong Conservative Jew, I think that many of us Conservative Jews are rather hypocritical about being more observant. (Yes, I’m among the guilty as charged—see here.) The inconsistency drives me nuts sometimes, but I also benefit from that inconsistency, in that my own dubious observance isn’t so much worse than that of many other Conservative Jews of my acquaintance that anyone can really point a finger at me. So I guess that, unless I get a sudden inspiration to go behind the mechitzah for the rest of my life and keep my big mouth shut about my beliefs (or lack thereof), I should just shut up and put up.

(You know you've been blogging for too long when you "google" the word "minyannaire," seeking a definition to which to link, and find that the very post for which you're seeking a link is being quoted! Eek! Oooooookay, let's link to minyan, instead.)

A connection among bans?

Item 1: A number of years ago, someone informed the Vaad Harabonim of Queens (known best for its reputable kashrut supervision in the New York City metropolitan area) that a young Queens girl was planning to have her Bat Mitzvah celebration at a women's tefillah group. The Vaad issued a statement banning women's tefillah groups. (The Bat Mitzvah girl and her family got around the prohibition by move the celebration to a home in the Bronx, outside of the Queens Vaad's jurisdiction.)

Item 2: The National Council of Young Israel recently banned women's tefillah groups and forbade its affiliated congregations from having women serve as synagogue presidents. I've read two things about this (sorry I can't find any links): A) Outside of the New York City metro area, the local Young Israel synagogue may be the only (formerly?) Modern Orthodox synagogue in town, leaving women (and men) who disagree with these decisions nowhere else to go. B) Since the National Council often provides start-up money for new YI synagogues, they're in a position to be able to threaten non-compliant congregations with confiscation of property.

Item 3: "The Shaigetz," a British and Chassidish blogger, has posted that, in some Chareidi communities in Britain, women are forbidden to drive on the grounds that driving is immodest. He asked why it was considered immodest for a woman to drive, but not to be alone in car with a man (the driver) or ride public transportation for hours and be ogled by every male in sight.

Item 4: In some of the most extreme Chareidi communities, women are taught from copies of sacred texts because they're not permitted to read directly from the actual books. (Sorry I can't remember on whose blog I read that, but see the related comments here).

Item 5: In some of the most extreme Chareidi communities, women have been banned from performing, even before an all-female audience, on tzniut (modesty) grounds. You can read about the latest ban here. No, I don't think this ban was a hoax. I read a letter to the editor several months ago in the New York Jewish Press by a woman who'd abandoned a career as lead singer in her own performing group when she became a baalat t'shuvah ("returnee" to Orthodox Judaism). In an attempt to continue her career within the bounds of the prohibition (accepted by some, but not all, in the Orthodox community) against a man hearing a woman sing (kol isha), she volunteered to organize a fundraising performance by women for women. The charity lost money on the show because the men of her community forbade their wives to attend, on the grounds that it was immodest for women to sing in public, period, even for an all-female audience. Still hoping to salvage something of her career, she then performed a piano concert, to avoid the kol isha issue. The men refused to attend on the grounds that they weren't allowed even to look at a woman's clothing, much less the woman who was wearing said clothing. Her entire musical career having been reduced to giving private piano lessons (presumably to girls only), she lamented what she considered the unnecessary strictness of her chosen community.

The connection among all of these bans, in my opinion, is that all of them treat women as men's property, and attempt to keep women under men's strict control by denying them any independence or leadership roles of any kind. In some segments of the Orthodox community, women may not pray by themselves as a group. In some, they are also forbidden to be president of a congregation. In some of the strictest Chareidi communities, women may not travel alone and/or may not study sacred texts by themselves (presumably lest they learn to make their own halachic decisions) and/or even entertain one another. They must be kept as completely dependent on men as possible (except, of course, for earning a living for their husbands in kollel).

As an American who grew up during the era of the Civil Rights Movement, I'm well acquainted with the idea that certain classes of people must be "kept in their place." :(

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Allison Kaplan Sommer's "An Unsealed Room"--gone?

Does anyone know where Allison Kaplan Sommer can be found online these days? Her blog (see my blogroll for the link) seems to have been hacked. I thought she might be reporting and/or blogging at Israel 21c, but I can't find her among the "regulars."

Monday, December 08, 2008

A quick thought about Rivkah Imeinu

Rebecca our Mother was the only one of the biblical Matriarchs who had no competition. Sarah had Hagar to contend with, and Rachel and Léah seem to have spent most of their lives competing with one another to see who could make the most babies (directly, or through their handmaids). Only Rivkah had her husband's full attention. Marriage was no picnic for women, back then.

The Academy of Shem and Ever??

Here's what one rabbi has to say, by way of explanation.

My question: If we're talking about Noah's son Shem and Shem's grandson Ever, how could either of them still have been alive by the time of Yitzchak/Isaac, who allegedly studied at their academy? And/or, whether or not they were still alive, could their academy have survived for, what, the 10 or so generations between Noah and Avraham? How many schools last at least 500 years?

Surprise, surprise

Recently, a co-worker with whom I have a passing acquaintance (literally--I sometimes pass her in the hall) surprised me by appearing with her hair completely covered by a scarf. Either she just got married and I didn't know it, or she's been wearing a sheitel/wig all along and I didn't realize it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Criminal negligence: Women's section as deathtrap

From Miriam Shaviv, the same person who brought us the first part of this story, comes the stunning sequel.

Actually, I can't seem to access Miriam's new blog at the Jewish Chronicle site at the moment, but thanks to reading her post, I finally caught up with this old news (ah, here's Miriam's post): Apparently, one congregation in Israel had the brilliant idea that the women should be locked into the women's section if they don't leave the synagogue before the Aleinu prayer, so as to prevent mingling of the sexes outside of the synagogue after services. Leaving aside the blatant sexism, disrespect, and lack of consideration involved in such a decision, hasn't it ever occurred to whomever made this decision that locking people inside a building creates a safety hazard that could, in case of a fire, earthquake, or other disaster, result in their deaths?! Whoever made this decision should be prosecuted!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Just how impractical is Jewish practice?

Posted on Hirhurim, Rabbi Gil Student’s blog, here:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Death & Mourning - Pouring Out the Water

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

l'zichram shel kedoshei Mumbai, ztvk"l hy"d
On This Day of Funerals, Hirhurim Staff and Readers Join in the Mourning

There is an ancient Jewish custom to pour out any bottled water which one may have in one's home upon hearing of a death in the neighborhood.[1] The "neighborhood" in this context refers to those within a three house radius, in every direction, from where the death took place. . . . “

Posted by Commenter oisek 12.02.08 - 4:56 pm #s:

From Jewish Magic and Superstition, by Joshua Trachtenberg:

1. The custom of pouring out all the water in and near a house in which a death has occurred is not mentioned in Jewish sources earlier than the thirteenth century, and is evidently a medieval innovation. It was observed by Christians in Germany and France at a still earlier date, and was no doubt borrowed from them. . . . “

So it’s okay to borrow customs—and relatively new ones, at that—from non-Jews as long as the customs A) probably originated in superstition (segulot, anyone?); B) encourage wastefulness (Tashlich, anyone? Whatever happened to “bal tashchit,” the prohibition against wastefulness?), and/or c) make our lives more difficult?

This post reminded me of another one that I’d read on Rabbi Student’s blog some time back:

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Gloves on Shabbos

As the winter approaches, it is worth reviewing the little-known rules about wearing gloves on Shabbos. The Shibbolei Ha-Leket (107) writes that it is best not to wear gloves because it is very common for someone, while walking in public, to automatically remove a glove in order to scratch or otherwise use one's hand. At that moment, one would be carrying that glove in public, a biblical prohibition. This concern is very real; I see it happen on Shabbos not infrequently. (Of course, this entire issue does not apply in places where there is an eruv.) . . . “

So people who walk a mile to synagogue on the Sabbath and wear gloves because they don’t want to keep their hands in their pockets for half an hour straight get points off for committing a sin instead of scoring major points for schlepping to shul in a snowstorm to honor Shabbat?

Gee, thanks.


(Full disclosure: The skin on my hands has been known to crack to the point of bleeding in really cold weather. I wouldn't dare go outdoors in cold weather without wearing gloves!)

Seriously, how does the Orthodox community approach rulings of this kind? Rabbi Student is, I’ve been given to understand, perhaps to be described as left-wing Yeshivish. Do those further left on the “observance spectrum” accept (or “hold by,” as they say in Yeshivish) these customs and/or interpretations as binding? In all honesty, as someone who has never been Orthodox, I just don’t understand this approach. Is it necessary, from the point of view of halachah/Jewish religious law, to go out of one’s way to make one’s life more difficult? Or is Rabbi Student a member in good standing of the “Chumrah-of-the-Month Club”?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Putting the accent where it belongs (?)

I was taken to task by one of the more learnèd members of my current favorite Manhattan synagogue for accenting the b’rachah/blessing “asher bachar banu mikol ha-amim, v’natan lanu et Torahto” when I had an aliyah recently. His explanation of the grammar went over my head, but his explanation of the logic did not—though second-syllable accents on these words are legitimate pronunciations in modern Israeli Hebrew, they switch the emphasis from “who chose us” to “who chose us” and from “who gave us” to “who gave us.” I never would have thought of that. I’ve heard Israelis use the Israeli pronunciation when reciting that b’rachah, emphasis-switch notwithstanding, so I guess this is a typical case of “two Jews, three opinions.” :)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mumbai massacre: Terrorist business as usual

Naturally, while the terrorists were taking over hotels, targeting restaurants, and pretty much shooting at anything that moved--over 170 people perished in the coordinated attacks--they just had to go out of their way, both literally and figuratively, to target a nondescript house in a residential neighborhood far from the hotel district just because it happened to be the local Chabad headquarters. (There are even reports that they may have killed the hands that housed them.) After all, what's a Muslim terrorist attack--anywhere in the world, for any reason--without a few dead Jews?

That's the most bitterly sarcastic sentence I've ever written--and may it be the only one I ever write. I pray for healing for the wounded, and for consolation for the loved ones of the deceased, targeted victims and would-be rescuers, Jew and non-Jew.

Deceased at Nariman House/Beit Chabad:

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg
Rebbitzen (rabbi's wife) Rivka Holtzberg
Rabbi Leibish Teitlebaum
Rabbi Bentzion Chroman
Yocheved Orpaz

Another Jewish victim murdered in the onslaught (per a Tuesday, December 2, 2008 update from Chabad):

Norma Schwartzblatt-Rabinowitz

I give thanks to the G-d in whom I'm not sure I believe (we'll worry about that some other time) for the release (unharmed, to the best of my knowledge) of Rabbi and Rebbitzen Holtzberg's two-year old son, Moshe, who was rescued by his Indian nanny and taken to Israel by his maternal grandparents.) He has already lost both of his parents. May he be spared any further sorrow.
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