Thursday, February 26, 2009

Accidental incomprehensibility

A few weeks ago, in a conversation with my rabbi, I used the term "davar sheh-bi-k'dushah," (literally, "a word/thing that's in holiness," meaning prayers that can't be said without a minyan). When he gave me a blank look, I assumed that I'd used the wrong term, and tried multiple variations: davar bi-k'dushah, divrei b'kodsho . . . Still, I got nothing but blank looks, which surprised me, since I'm under the impression that those terms, or some variation that I might have missed, are in common usage in traditional circles. I chalked it up to some challenges that the rabbi is known to have with reading, and forgot the whole thing.

Imagine my surprise when, several weeks later, the rabbi used the term davar bi-k'dushah in the course of another discussion. Apparently, the problem wasn't that he didn't know the term--the problem was that he didn't recognize it when it was said with the accents on the final syllables, in accordance with Modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation!

How silly, I thought--until he started talking about "roos," and I didn't realize, until he switched to the pronunciation "root" for the benefit of one of the Israeli American congregants, that he was talking about the biblical Ruth!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hebrew illiteracy epidemic among yeshiva grads

I recommend this noteworthy guest post on the Hirhurim blog.

Hebrew illiteracy is a problem not only among Orthodox yeshiva and day-school graduates. I have observed that some kids with 8-12 years of Conservative day-school education under their belts also have some problems in reading, speaking, and/or understanding Hebrew.

I posted previously about Hebrew and politics, which, in the opinion of some, may also have a bearing on the decline in Hebrew literacy.

Here's my wild theory: Is it possible that the decline in Hebrew literacy among non-Orthodox and left-wing Orthodox day-school graduates might be due, at least in part, to a desire to "make Judaism exciting," (as suggested in the post on Hirhurim), while the decline in Hebrew literacy among yeshivish (moderately-right-wing Orthodox) and chareidi (extremely-right-wing Orthodox) yeshivah graduates might be due, at least in part, to a desire to avoid appearing too Zionist?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gila wants to make up for lost time

Gila has a particular talent for putting a droll spin on the most difficult situations.

(This post comes with a parental-guidance warning--may not be appropriate for children.)

The Jewish Olympics: Speed praying

Heshy's blog hosts guest blogger Moshe Feldman's amusing post about speed davvening, the bane of late learners like me.

Put on your dancing shoes

Check out not only the video of a Jewish dance displayed onscreen here, but also, the Jewish dance videos to which there are links in the comments. Thanks, DovBear (and Heshy).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A taste of socialized medicine

The other day, my poor husband dialed the emergency number due to yet another kidney-stone attack. :( Imagine his surprise when the Emergency Medical Technicians informed him that a new regulation required ambulance drivers to take patients to the nearest hospital, rather than to a hospital of their choice. No more schlepping out to the wilds to go to the hospital where his urologist has admitting privileges. And no more nice cushy chairs in the cozy waiting room for me to nap in--from now on, I'll be resting on a metal chair with about 50 other people in a public-hospital waiting room. Oh, well, at least it's closer to home.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The sequel, as promised (re kashrut controversy)

Here's the original.

When I asked the rabbi whether he'd checked out the local bakeries and determined that they were kosher, he gave me a very interesting response. He said that he'd seen a very Orthodox man coming out of one or two of the bakeries, and, therefore, assumed that they must be kosher. Regarding another one or two of the bakeries, he said that there was nothing wrong with the ingredients that they were using, but it wasn't clear from what he said whether he himself had checked out the bakeries or whether he was relying on the word of some congregants.

In other words, he didn't actually answer my question.

He told me that, in matters of kashrut, he tends to be meikil (lenient). That, I can believe.

Bottom line:

  • I find myself in the rather dubious position of having to decide whether, regarding what I'll eat in my own synagogue, I want to be more kosher than my Orthodox-ordained rabbi.

יד לֹא-תְקַלֵּל חֵרֵשׁ--וְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר, לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשֹׁל; וְיָרֵאתָ מֵּאֱלֹהֶיךָ, אֲנִי יְהוָה. 14 Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind, but thou shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.

Since only we congregants know about the change in the synagogue's kashrut policy, any of the folks from the local Orthodox synagogues who occasionally stop by for kiddush on a Shabbat/Sabbath or Yom Tov/Holiday will think that our cakes are still being bought from bakeries that are under rabbinical supervision, especially when they see our own rabbi eating the cakes. In my opinion, this is a violation of the prohibition against "putting a stumbling-block before the blind," which the rabbis of old interpreted as meaning that one shouldn't cause a person to sin due to ignorance or temptation. But how am I supposed to explain to an Orthodox guest that our Orthodox-appearing rabbi is eating cake from a bakery without rabbinical supervision? I'll grant you that there may be nothing the rabbi can do to change the congregation's decision, especially if he doesn't want to jeopardize his job. But just because the congregants are eating the cake, does that mean that the rabbi must do so, as well?

From a comment to the linked post:

"Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

. . . Your rabbi is eating with the congregation, not leaving before kiddush. Not only may he have satisfied himself as to the bakery's kashrut, but perhaps he has decided that respect for the congregation and facilitating community is more important."

I would say that that's a possibility, but, judging by the gusto with which the rabbi's been digging into the cake--even ignoring the "real" food, such as tuna salad, which is still being bought with a hechsher (rabbinical seal certifying that a product is kosher)--I'm not sure how likely that is.

To be honest, I find this whole situation embarrassing.

  • There's also the rather pressing question of whether opening my big mouth to visitors might create a financial hazard for me, since the rabbi already threatened to sue me once for a much more trivial offense than calling his interpretation and/or observance of the laws of kashrut into question.
"Let them eat cake," huh? That was easier for Marie Antoinette to say than it is for a 21st-century Jew.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A sad reason to do a mitzvah

For the past few nights, there's been a shiva minyan at the home of a member of our local synagogue who just lost a spouse. As I was walking there tonight, it occurred to me that our local shul has never held a weekday evening minyan except when members are sitting shiva, and that we're vastly more likely to get a minyan at the home of (a) mourner(s) than in shul on a weekday morning. It's a credit to the congregation that we take care of our mourners, but I wish we'd have a minyan on more ordinary occasions.

Is this a widespread issue? For my synagogue-going readers, do you usually get a minyan in your synagogue on a weekday morning, or are you, too, more likely to see a minyan at a shiva home than in shul?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hypocrites of the left and right

I'm a hypocrite of the left. I take a subway to synagogue on the Sabbath/Shabbat, but protest when my local synagogue decides to buy cakes from neighborhood bakeries that don't have rabbinical supervision (to ensure that their products are kosher).

My rabbi is a hypocrite of the right. He studied at a well-known right-wing Orthodox rabbinical school and teaches at a right-wing Orthodox yeshiva, but doesn't hesitate to eat cake served at kiddush even though he knows that it was bought at a nearby unsupervised bakery.

On the other hand, I'm going to quote from a comment that I posted on Fudge's blog in response to this post:

"Fudge, you yourself introduced me to the phrase “dan l’kaf z’chut” several years ago in one of your posts. The translation given of this saying from Pirkei Avot (Verses [Ethics] of the Fathers) in my Artscroll siddur (prayer book) is “judge [everyone] favorably,” and I gather that this phrase is used the way we use “give [a person] the benefit of the doubt” in English. It seems to me that dan l’kaf z’chut might apply to the situation that you described."

Maybe dan l’kaf z’chut applies to the situation that I'm describing, as well. Maybe the rabbi checked out the bakery himself and found that it conformed to the laws of kashrut/keeping kosher. I'll have to ask him.

Stay tuned for the sequel.

Which one was the barbarian?

When I was in my early twenties and majoring in French, I spent a year in France as a foreign student. Among the many French people and foreign students whom I met in the dorms was a group of men and women from Thailand, and one interesting fact that I learned from them was that the movie "The King and I" had been banned in Thailand because it was considered an insult to the royal family.

Fast-forward over 35 years. Last night, flipping through the channels, my husband chanced upon "The King and I." We started watching the movie at the point at which the king was trying to figure out how to impress the soon-to-visit British diplomatic delegation and convince them that he was not a barbarian. After about 10 minutes of watching Anna feed the king ideas as if he didn't have an ounce of intelligence, I got fed up with the scriptwriter's condescending attitude and went to bed.

No wonder this movie was banned in Thailand.

My husband tells me that the book on which the Broadway musical, and, later, the movie, were based, "Anna and the King of Siam," portrayed the king in a much better light, showing him as a man determined to improve the education of his people so that they would not be subjected to colonization by Europeans who deemed themselves superior. He succeeded: Though Thailand came under strong British influence, it's the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonized.

So who was the barbarian?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hands are handy*

. . . and quite dandy. Without the complete and unrestricted use of one's hands, it can be difficult or impossible to:

  • open a lock from the inside by turning the "knob"
  • turn a key
  • pull and/or turn a doorkob
  • open a refrigerator or freezer door
  • open a spring-controlled or heavy door, such as those frequently found at business-establishment entrances. (I've acquired a profound dislike of glass doors since breaking both wrists.)
  • bathe oneself
  • brush one's own teeth
  • get dressed
  • put one's shoes on
  • cook
  • wash dishes
  • clean house, or just about anything else
  • type
  • put one's glasses on
  • wipe or scratch one's own nose
  • pick up a book, or just about anything else
  • light Shabbat or Chanukah candles at all, or light them safely

. . . and perform many other of what therapists call "Activities of Daily Living." In the course of the three months since I broke both wrists, I've acquired considerable appreciation for what those with more permanent limitations may have to deal with on a regular basis, and am grateful that I will probably make a complete, or nearly complete, recovery in the long run.

*Note: See first comment for important detail.

Back to normal (more or less)*

In accordance with my family's minhag (custom), we finished all our matzah before Purim, and will not eat any matzah until the first seder.

I'm no longer in stitches, literally--they were removed last Friday--and I'm back to wearing tefillin!

And yesterday, I returned to work for the first time in three months. I could probably still use a round of carpal-tunnel-repair surgery on the left hand, though it's not as bad as the right hand was, but I've spent quite enough time on the "carving board" for a while, and hope to delay any further surgery until after tax season next year. In the meantime, I hope my hands will hold up reasonably well as I get back to tapping away on the keyboard and "mousing around" to complete the major projects that my boss needs done.

*Note: See first comment for important detail.

all wrapped up,except in tefillin,but,in better news . . .

my right forearm, starting below the knuckles, is in a splint and cotton padding topped with an ace bandage. this pretty much puts the kabosh on my wearing tefillin until at least after my next appointment with the surgeon a week from tomorrow. :(

on the bright side, tho i must keep my right foreman dry and in a sling for at least a week, and am not allowed to lift anything heavier than a teacup with my right hand, i am allowed to use both hands to dress myself, tie my shoes, and type. i may be back to typing normally as early as this weekend.

the best news is that i don't have much pain.

yanker doodle went to town, after removing hospital gown

place single-serving "cup" of unsweetened pineapple tidbits on plate, grip tightly with good hand, grab tab of plastic cover with teeth, yank open.

press wristwatch firmly against upper forearm of opposite hand, grasp end of snap-open expansion clasp with teeth, yank open.

(more yanker doodle dandy post-surgery stories to come, probably, but i don't want to bore you.)

here's a link regarding yankee doodle for the benefit of my foreign readers, who may not understand the reference, and here's an audio link to the yankee doodle song.

Oucher the Grouch is in stitches (of the surgical variety)

can you imagine Oscar the Grouch, that cranky Sesame Street character, in stitches (that is, laughing)? i certainly can't. but i'm trying 2 laugh between kvetches (complaints).

as of this afternoon's carpal tunnel repair job, i've spent quite enuf time on the surgical "carving board," and will b quite content 2 quit lying around thereon 4 a while (no offense 2 my hand surgeon, who really did manage 2 mend my right hand and sew me up in just about 15 mins., as he'd predicted).

now, if only i could figure out how 2 wash my left hand with my left hand . . .

I'm going straight from morning minyan to surgery

See you on the other side. For those who'd like to put in a good word upstairs, my Hebrew name is Leah bat Ester v'Ozer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The good news:It's raining in drought-stricken Israel!

Ms. Politics-Schmolitics, who always votes anyway, has had more than enough of the elections here in the U.S. and those that occurred today in Israel. Here's the really important news, as reported by JoeSettler:

"12:41 AM Massive rainfall and hail on the Kinneret!
. . .
12:11 AM First of all, it is raining in Israel, and raining hard. More rain than we've had all winter long I'd say."

Baruch mashiv ha-ruach u-morid ha-gashem--Praised is the One who makes the wind blow and the rain fall!

Another round of surgery for yours truly :( :( :(

It's back to the operating room for Ms. Two-Broken-Wrists--about two weeks after the surgery on my right hand, the surgically-repaired hand developed swelling and a case of carpal tunnel syndrome that's been getting worse, rather than better. So the doctor scheduled me for surgery this coming Thursday afternoon. He says that this type of surgical repair job is so quick--about 15 minutes--that it's done under local anesthesia. I gotta tell ya, I'm pretty unnerved at the thought of having someone perform surgery on me while I'm conscious, but, on the plus side, it's apparently not that big a deal. The surgeon is still saying that I could be back to work by early March. From his mouth to G-d's ear, as they say in Yiddish. We could certainly use the money--the disability payments are peanuts. Not to mention that I have to get back to work soon if I intend to remain employed, which I do, since I can't afford to lose this job--no one's hiring anyone in this economic climate, much less 60-year-old females.

I'm also hoping that my activities won't be too restricted, as I just lost my home attendant last week--home services got cut off automatically after I started going to an out-of-home clinic for occupational therapy, on the doctor's recommendation--and I don't want to be too much of a burden to my poor overworked resident Certified Public Accountant, who's teaching college accounting full-time and is now in tax season. Yes, we just hired a cleaning person, as it's already too much for the poor hubster that he's stuck with all the cooking--I can now wash a pot, but I can't lift a pot that has food in it. Our usual division of labor is that I handle most of the cooking and cleaning, while he does most of the shopping and laundry. Now that he's stuck with 3/4 of the housework--and will be back to helping me shower and, possibly, dress, for at least 10 more days--it really takes time that he simply doesn't have, especially at this time of year. I feel almost as bad about being a burden on him as about facing surgery again. :(

The good news is that my left hand, though it didn't come out of the cast exactly straight and looks like bleep, is functioning pretty well and getting better. I can now sign my name quite legibly and at nearly-normal speed, hand-write a shopping list, and complete a fill-in-the-blank form with a pen. As of Friday morning, I get to see how good I am at shampooing my hair one-handed. Wish me (and my hubby) luck.

Monday, February 09, 2009

M'chayei ha-meitim: A thought for Tu Bi-Sh'vat

On the way to morning minyan today, I saw my first crocus leaves peeking through the soil. Between that miracle and today being Tu Bi-Sh'vat, which is the Jewish New Year for Trees, it occurred to me that the notion of giving life to the dead (a very rough translation of m'chayei ha-meitim) could refer just as easily to the rebirth of the plant world every spring as to the resurrection of the deceased. And, for me, that's reason enough to say a brachah/blessing expressing gratitude.

So nu? Tu Bi-Sh'vat is the traditional day for it, but it's never too late to plant a tree, support water projects (such as reservoir and dam construction, water conservation, river rehabilitation and recycling), build an indoor playground in S'derot . . .

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Onan’s real sin and Kol Isha

Fudge, in her song of songs post (which I strongly recommend that you read), linked to the same rabbinic source to which I had linked when I wrote my “Damned if we do and damned if we don’t” series. (I’m too lazy to link to each post—you can find the links in this summary post.) But, looking again at the source material, I spotted something in the rabbinic text (t’shuvah/response?) that I hadn’t spotted at the time.

The Parameters of Kol Isha

by Rabbi Howard Jachter

. . .

The Source of the Prohibition
The Gemara (Berachot 24a) states, “The voice of a woman is Ervah, as the Pasuk [in Shir Hashirim
2:14] states ‘let me hear your voice because your voice is pleasant and appearance attractive.’” Rashi explains that the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim indicates that a woman’s voice is attractive to a man, and is thus prohibited to him. Rav Hai Gaon (cited in the Mordechai, Berachot 80) writes that this restriction applies to a man who is reading Kriat Shema, because a woman’s singing will distract him. The Rosh (Berachot 3:37) disagrees and writes that the Gemara refers to all situations and is not limited to Kriat Shema. The Shulchan Aruch rules that the Kol Isha restriction applies to both Kriat Shema (Orach Chaim 75:3) and other contexts (Even Haezer 21:2). The Rama (O.C. 75:3) and Bait Shmuel (21:4) clarify that this prohibition applies only to a woman’s singing voice and not to her speaking voice.

. . . all recognized Poskim agree that the prohibition of Kol Isha applies today.

There is, however, considerable disagreement regarding the scope of the Kol Isha prohibition. For example, the question of its applicability to Zemirot [religious songs sung at Sabbath meals] has been discussed at some length in the twentieth century responsa literature. . . .

Recordings and Radio Broadcasts
Twentieth Century Halachic authorities have also debated whether the Kol Isha prohibition applies to recordings and radio broadcasts. . . .

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 1:6) and Rav Chaim David Halevi (Teshuvot Aseh Lecha Rav 3:6) adopt a compromise approach to this issue. They permit listening to a female voice on the radio only if the listener is not acquainted with the singer. They both rule strictly, though, even if the listener once glimpsed a picture of the singer. Rav Ovadia rules that the prohibition applies even if the singer is not alive.

Rav Chaim David Halevi asserts that there is absolutely no basis to permit Kol Isha merely because the woman is singing into a microphone. . . . Rav J. David Bleich (Contemporary Halachic Problems 2:152) notes that no recognized Halachic authority rules that the use of a microphone alone mitigates the prohibition of Kol Isha.”

Whoa, wait a minute: Rav Ovadia rules that the prohibition applies even if the singer is not alive.” ???!

Men are so obsessed with women that listening to the singing of even a dead woman is prohibited as a potential turn-on???!

Maybe my commenters can help clarify the issue.

Let's start here:

Blogger Renegade Rebbetzin said...

Shira -

As you requested, I have read your two posts and all of the comments. Re "Kol Isha," my hubby (the rabbi) and other males I know have absolutely told me that in certain circumstances, a woman's singing voice IS alluring, regardless of what she is wearing, and sometimes even when he can't see her at all. It may not be true for your husband, but I suppose everyone is different. (I personally find some *men's* singing or even speaking voices to be alluring, myself - Russell Crowe's speaking voice, for example, especially in "Master and Commander..." Sigh.)

And of COURSE men as a group have poor self-control (no offense, guys - I know it's not true with every one of you, and that we ladies have no idea how difficult it is to BE one of you)! That is quite obvious and has been proven throughout the ages, and as the wife of a congregational rabbi as well as a general person in society, I can PROMISE you that it remains true today. Why did Chazal expect women to bear some responsibility for keeping men in line? First, as was commented, men are also held quite responsible in halacha for keeping THEMSELVES in line. The reason women are expected to help out, I believe, is, for one, that Chazal were smart enough to trust women to do their part more than they trusted men. And for another, why SHOULDN'T we help out?? If we know it creates difficulty for men to remain faithful to their wives, or even to remain focused on their own lives and work - or on God, spirituality, and holiness - when we engage in certain behaviors or expose parts of our bodies, then what's wrong with making it easier on them? Do we WANT to cause difficulty? Don't we care about each other and want to raise our collective spiritual awareness as a people?

“. . . back to kol isha for a second - there's another matter that we shouldn't disregard when discussing issues of tznius, etc. and why the onus for the preservation of the purity of Jewish men may sometimes fall on women, and that is the very real and very serious prohibition against hashchatat zera (wasting sperm). The problem with arousing the poor guys is not only that we will preoccupy their thoughts or endanger their marriages - it's that sexual fantasies, not only sexual behavior, can create very serious halachic problems for men in a way that they simply don't for women. And as fellow Jews, we SHOULD be concerned to help safeguard them against that.

. . . “

Fri Oct 15, 01:00:00 AM 2004

And let's continue here:

Blogger alex said...

“. . . . in general, Halacha governs process, not result. The books of Jewish law cover the laws governing us, and how we find loopholes for them. . . . .

With the in mind, the end result is considered, but the Halachah governs the means. So, we can't prohibit Onan from not impregnating Tamar, but we can require him to "lie with her" (obligation of husband to wife) and prohibit him from spilling his seed. As long as he engages in intercourse, observes Niddah, and doesn't spill seed, it is in Hashem's hands if she gets pregnant.

So, the interpretation of the story AND the Halachot gives us a situation where a man can't refuse his wife children, because he has to sexually perform and not destroy seed.

Turning it into simple masturbation makes the story seem less poignant, but focuses on a legitimate path to Halachah, because we can't just require someone to be a good person, we need to turn it into clean and actionable instructions, which is what the Sages did.

So I don't think that your observation is wrong, and the story illustrates how disgusting the behavior is. However, since we can't govern the intent, only the actions, we structure the laws to prevent transgressions that would do this.

Shabbat Shalom, Alex

Fri Dec 07, 04:26:00 PM 2007

Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Alex, I understand your point. But there can sometimes be drawbacks to discussing actions rather than intent. Let's just say that this particular law can be very rough on single men who observe the additional law of shmirat n'giah (not touching any woman who is not a family member), and leave it mercifully at that.

Sat Dec 08, 11:35:00 PM 2007

Blogger Batya said...

The pshat, words, are very clear. It's not one of those confusing things, though the fist son/ who died may be the one with the big question, becaue no reason is given.

Sun Dec 09, 06:37:00 AM 2007

Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Batya, indeed, the p'shat is very clearly that Onan was punished for refusing to try to impregnate his wife. It's a pity that the legislation resulting from this sin ended up dealing with, shall we say, a man taking matters into his own hands, instead. I think that this is one instance in which legislation concerning action rather than intent created other challenges.

Sun Dec 09, 02:07:00 PM 2007

Jewish law forbids men from taking their sexual needs into their own hands, but, to the best of my knowledge, there’s no such prohibition for women. When one has no spouse or one's spouse is not available, and/or it’s not a permissible time, women are not forbidden to relieve sexual tension, but men are, all because of that selfish Onan. And when you can’t scratch an itch, you might not wish to be reminded that you have one.

Of course, the same applies to Orthodox women who love to sing--they, too, have an itch that they can't scratch, as Fudge pointed out in her song of songs post. And therein lies the dilemma: Halachah/Jewish religious law limits the right of self-expression of half the Jewish people because of the sexual urges of the other half.

Okay, we'll politely ignore the fact that I couldn't figure out how to get this entire post into the same font and size, but what the heck did all that copying and pasting do to my template, that the formatting of my previous posts seems to have changed?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mixed voices: A celebration or, some say, a sin?

Fudge wants to know what you think: Read her song of songs.

Update: When you finish reading Fudge's post and all the comments, please read the post that I published in response, Onan's real sin and Kol Isha.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I'm thoroughly disgusted by shul's kashrut decision

My local synagogue recently voted to ignore the lack of rabbinical supervision at local bakeries and buy dairy cakes from them anyway, based on their use of kosher ingredients. (We will continue to buy parve cakes from kosher bakeries.) I think this decision makes a mockery of our synagogue's claim to be a "traditional" synagogue. I could understand such a decision if we were located in the middle of nowhere and the nearest kosher bakery were a four-hour round-trip drive away, but really, this is New York City, for crying out loud. Will anyone die from taking a taxi to a Jewish neighborhood? I'd quite annoyed that this decision was supported by the chair of the Ritual Committee, particularly since I happen to be married to him. (Sigh--ah, the joys of a "mixed marriage." :( )

I explained my theory that it's not unusual for Conservative Jews to maintain different levels of kashrut depending on such circumstances as whether one is eating outside of one's home, in one's home, or in one's synagugue, but almost none of the other synagogue members was interested. I might as well have been talking to myself. Bottom line: I can no longer trust the kashrut of the dairy foods at any of the last three synagogues (all affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism) in which I've prayed (including the two in which I currently pray) on a regular basis, unless the foods are packaged and have a hechsher. Last Shabbat was the last time I'll be able to eat my own birthday cake at kiddush in my own synagogue unless I take a taxi and buy it myself. :(

Quick thought on Parshat Bo:"Coming out" as Jews

Exodus, chapter 12, verse 13:

יג וְהָיָה הַדָּם לָכֶם לְאֹת, עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם שָׁם, וְרָאִיתִי אֶת-הַדָּם, וּפָסַחְתִּי עֲלֵכֶם; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה בָכֶם נֶגֶף לְמַשְׁחִית, בְּהַכֹּתִי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. 13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

Nowhere in the above text does it say that HaShem/G-d needed to see the blood on the doorposts to know where the B'nai Yisrael/Children of Israel were located. In my opinion, what was important to HaShem was knowing who among our ancestors were willing to identify themselves publicly as Hebrews.

The nutty 60-year-old and her crazy birthday

You would think that a dame who's still recovering from breaking both wrists at an Israeli folk dance session would have the good sense not to go to an an Israeli folk dance session after enjoying a fancy dinner at your friendly not-so-local kosher restaurant. Naturally, you would be wrong. But I danced very carefully (meaning behind the circle, taking very small steps and skipping most of the turns) and am still in one piece to tell the tale. :)

A Shlockin' pre-birthday bash

What fun! I had a grand time dancing in the back of the room, not to mention singing harmony, at Saturday night's Shlock Rock concert. More's the pity that they won't be back in New York City anytime soon. Sorry none of my blogger buddies could make it. If you have an opportunity to attend a Shlock Rock concert, go, take your spouse (or your date, if you're not there yet), your kids and their grandma, your best buddies, the gang from shul--Shlock Rock's music and shows are great fun and squeaky clean.

Thanks to Psycho Toddler/Mark Skier for introducing us to Shlock Rock. We first saw a 1991 Shlock Rock video on Mark's music website (click on the link to the Video page [which tends to make my Firefox Internet crash when I link directly] and scroll down--it's the oldest and last video on the page) as well as some more Shlock Rock videos from 2005 (slighter farther up on the Video page), and thought it would be fun to catch the band in person. Amen to that!

This is the third Shlock Rock concert that we've attended, and I've been having fun comparing them. I first thought of this because, when Shlock Rock founder and leader Lenny Solomon greeted us at the entrance while the stage was being set up, we asked whether his sometime-sidekick, Etan G., "The Jewish Rapper," would be there, and he said that he couldn't afford to pay Etan on such a low-budget tour. Sure enough, this was the smallest version of the Shlock Rock Band that we've seen--just a drummer, a guitarist (Mo Shapiro, a good one), and Lenny on keyboard.

But that wasn't the only difference. The first Shlock Rock concert we saw was a full-band concert with drummer, lead and bass guitars, Mark Infield on woodwinds (and singing falsetto), Etan G. taking the lead on the rap songs, and, of course, Lenny on keyboard and vocal lead. Lenny took advantage of having such a full group to do several of his doo-wop songs and to get down off the stage and work the audience, which was largely a family crowd. Conga lines snaked around the room during "Into the Sea." Everyone had a blast!

The second Shlock Rock concert that we saw, apparently a moderate-budget show (without Etan G. or Mark Infield, but with Mark Skier on bass) had a mixed audience that included a few kids and a very large contingent of seniors. (Methinks 'twas no accident that the volume was a lot lower at this gig. :) .) Everyone had a grand time, but in a mostly more subdued manner (aside from Ms. Dancin' Fool, of course, who doesn't know from subdued :) ).

This past Saturday night's audience was completely different. Though there were some kids and younger people, and us old geezers in the back, the vast majority of the audience was composed of folks in their twenties, thirties, and forties. This age group had grown up listening to Shlock Rock, which has been around for 22 years. Some knew Lenny from his days with the "JyPSYs," Jewish Public School Youth, which he described as Shlock Rock's predecessor, and he greeted several of them by name from the stage, even inviting them to "give Lenny a vocal break" and sing one of his parodies. (One guy took him up on the offer.) Lenny had a great time asking people to sing along, even jokingly admitting that he knew no one listened to Shlock Rock between the ages of 12 and 18 because it was considered uncool. He also enjoyed asking this rock-literate crowd to name which bands had influenced him in composing particular songs. Everyone had a wonderful time, band and audience alike.

I think Lenny's a natural performer. Having seen him perform, with equal enthusiasm, to three totally difference crowds, I daresay I don't think Lenny Solomon has ever seen an audience that he didn't love. So go and enjoy.

Oops--almost forgot to add the photo of Lenny and the almost-birthday gal! Thanks to the Punster for taking the picture.


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