Friday, July 31, 2009

"Broccoli" in bloom

Friday, July 31, 2009

See July 28, 2009 "originals" here.

(Click on photos to see them in close-up.)

Shabbat Shalom.

*What* "other way"?

Those of you not from the New York City metropolitan area may not be aware of this corruption scandal. I suggest that you read enough of the linked article to understand what I'm discussing.

Dummy that I am, I made the mistake of mentioning this mess to an Orthodox Jew of my acquaintance. I was totally unprepared for that person's response. That individual was quite upset about the fact that one of the Jewish defendants had cooperated with the authorities and exposed other corrupt persons, including rabbis, resulting in their arrests. "There's so much anti-Semitism already, especially after the Madoff scandal. It's the wrong time for such a chillul haShem (public desecration of G-d's name). There has to be a better way."

"What better way?," I argued. "Okay, he's a scumbag, and he deserves to rot in jail with the rest, but that's what the police are for! 'Dina d'medina dina, dina d'malchuta dina' ("the law of the land is the law," "the law of the kingdom is the law," a Talmudic principle meaning that a Jew is obligated to obey the secular laws of the place in which s/he lives)!"

What other alternative is there in a corruption case? Did this individual really believe that it would have sufficed to haul the Jewish defendants before a bet din (religious court)? These people are not accused of crimes against the Jewish community, they're accused of crimes against the State of New Jersey! This isn't a Polish shtetl, nor do we live in the old Czarist Russian Pale of Settlement, nor is this the ghetto. This is the 21st century United States, where Jews are full-fledged citizens--and are hence as answerable to the federal, state, county and local governments as any other citizens.

Da'as Hedyot has quite a rant (or two) on the subject.

And of course, there's one major detail that I forgot to mention to the person in question: What would the anti-Semites have said if the moser (the one who turned people over to the authorities) had "squealed" on non-Jews only? Then they would have said that we Jews only protect our own.

Sorry, but there's no way of getting around this. Suck it up and admit that it's a chillul HaShem. Yes, the anti-Semites are going to have a field day with this. No, there's nothing we can do about it--except to try to ensure that it doesn't happen again, as the Hedyot was saying.

Our camera trumpets its (temporary?) return

And here are the trumpets :)
July 22, 2009

Pretty in pink
July 22, 2009

"Baby broccoli"
July 28, 2009

And here's the whole "broccoli bush"
(Not really--I'm pretty sure that broccoli grows closer to the ground.)
July 28, 2009

Shira's Shots
Friday, July 31, 2009 update:
Holy Moses, the "broccoli" is now blooming! I'll try to get some new photos.

6:15 PM update: Here they are.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A thought for Tisha B'Av re welcoming converts

Yes, I've been done this road before, but it seems particularly relevant to discuss this on Tisha B'Av, given the haftarah (prophetic reading) for Mincha (Afternoon Service), Yishaya/Isaiah, chapters 55-56.

Rabbi Druckman (see link above) goes for Yishaya/Isaiah 56, verse 3:

ג וְאַל-יֹאמַר בֶּן-הַנֵּכָר, הַנִּלְוָה אֶל-יְהוָה לֵאמֹר, הַבְדֵּל יַבְדִּילַנִי יְהוָה, מֵעַל עַמּוֹ; וְאַל-יֹאמַר הַסָּרִיס, הֵן אֲנִי עֵץ יָבֵשׁ. {פ} 3 Neither let the alien, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying: 'The LORD will surely separate me from His people'; neither let the eunuch say: 'Behold, I am a dry tree.' {P}

Rabbi Sherman (see link above) goes for verses 6 and 7:

ו וּבְנֵי הַנֵּכָר, הַנִּלְוִים עַל-יְהוָה לְשָׁרְתוֹ, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֶת-שֵׁם יְהוָה, לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לַעֲבָדִים--כָּל-שֹׁמֵר שַׁבָּת מֵחַלְּלוֹ, וּמַחֲזִיקִים בִּבְרִיתִי. 6 Also the aliens, that join themselves to the LORD, to minister unto Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and holdeth fast by My covenant:
ז וַהֲבִיאוֹתִים אֶל-הַר קָדְשִׁי, וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי--עוֹלֹתֵיהֶם וְזִבְחֵיהֶם לְרָצוֹן, עַל-מִזְבְּחִי: כִּי בֵיתִי, בֵּית-תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל-הָעַמִּים. 7 Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Rabbi Druckman replies:

ח נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, מְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: עוֹד אֲקַבֵּץ עָלָיו, לְנִקְבָּצָיו. 8 Saith the Lord GOD who gathereth the dispersed of Israel: Yet I will gather others to him, beside those of him that are gathered.

How are we ever going to avoid "separating 'foreigners' who have joined themselves to HaShem" if we can't even decide whether complete observance--by Chareidi standards, presumably, since I've read of a woman's conversion being nullified because she was seen in public bareheaded and in pants, which is common dress among senior Modern Orthodox women in my neighborhood--is the only acceptable standard for a convert, or whether a commitment to observe Shabbat and kashrut will do? When did standards for conversion become so strict? (Actually, see here.)

This is yet another disagreement creating (unnecessary, in my opinion) divisions in the House of Israel. It's no wonder that the third temple hasn't been built yet.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday's tossed salad: Links to today's posts

And here's a link to last Friday's post, Where are the baal*ot* t'shuvah commenters?

Some quick book notes

I keep a list of books that I've read so that I don't keep borrowing or buying the same ones. Here are some recent notes:

6?/2009 There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition

Rabbi Jill Jacobs

Her most striking point, in my opinion: “Even today, the bulk of government housing subsidies go to the wealthy and to homeowners. Homeowner tax breaks, instituted in 1912 to help family farmers, now provide more than $119.3 billion a year in subsidies, compared with approximately $37 billion/year for low-income housing.” It certainly never occurred to me that ____ and I are living in subsidized housing.

7/10?/2009 Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End

Daniel Gordis

Among other things, he urges that we get it out of our heads that Judaism is basically a pacifistic religion—we’ve fought when necessary, all the way back to the days of the Tanach. Saul lost the kingship for being too merciful to an enemy. Medinat Yisrael could be lost the same way, if Israel isn’t careful not to be too merciful to the merciless.

He also asserts that it’s vital to teach Jewish, not just Israeli, tradition to all Israeli children, so that they’ll know that what they’re fighting for is not just a Hebrew-speaking version of the U.S.

He also raises the quite distressing question of whether “transfer” is the only realistic solution to the demographic time-bomb, asking why transfer is considered a legitimate means of separating enemies everywhere else except Israel. Why is it okay for the Israeli government to forcibly remove thousands of Jews from Gaza, but not okay to ask the surrounding countries to absorb their Arab kin? For that matter, why doesn’t anyone ever mention the forcible expulsion of thousand of Jews from Muslim lands?

When I mentioned Gordis' advocacy of "transfer" (relocating all Palestinians to someplace outside of the State of Israel) to my husband, he practically laughed. "Who would take them?" Good question. It might reasonably be argued that, if the Arabs and/or Muslims of North Africa and West Asia/the Middle East had been willing to absorb the Palestinians when they were first displaced in 1948, much of the current "Middle East crisis" simply would never have existed. Instead, they've gone out of their way to leave their brethren stranded.

My mother, me, and my son were all born in the U.S. Imagine what a scandal it would be if the U.S. government suddenly stripped all of us of our citizenship, simply because my mother's mother came from Kiev Gobernyeh (Kiev County). Yet Jordan can nonchalantly strip 70% of its residents of their citizenship in 2009 simply because they or their ancestors fled from what's now the State of Israel in 1948, and no one says a thing.

On the other hand:Taking Judaism "too seriously"(?)

Here's my own response to JDub's comment to this recent post of mine:

"You have to acknowledge that you are a rarity -- an observant Conservo jew." I'm not sure I fit that description, since I still travel (by means other than my feet) on Shabbat/Sabbath, but I'm probably more observant than most of my friends and family. Recently, I mentioned to some of my oldest buddies that I'd decided, a couple of years ago, to start trying to daven (pray) three times a day because, with my only child now 26 years old, I really had no excuse not to do so. It occurred to me afterward that they probably thought I'd lost my marbles. I think I can count the number of Conservative Jewish friends of mine who pray even once a day on one hand. Maybe I'm hanging out with the wrong friends.
Wed Jul 22, 01:55:00 PM 2009

Then, of course there are the fine folks who think it's okay to skip prayers when leading a service, and the fine folks who think it's laughable when someone says they *don't* skip (at least not the most important prayers).

I described these incidents to my husband and asked how he feels about my increasing observance, and even he thinks I've gone off the deep end. Does this ever happen to Orthodox Jews?

On the one hand, I’ve been saying this for years

Veteran readers of my blog may recollect my previously-stated contention that the reason why Orthodox Judaism has become increasingly right-wing in its interpretation of halachah/Jewish religious law is that the rabbis are afraid that, if they don’t rule in the most machmir (strictest) way possible, they’ll be “accused” of being Conservative. Here’s confirmation from a scholarly source (see the comments to this post):

Professor Marc Shapiro, "The Uses of Tradition" (book review), Tradition 28:2, 1994:

"One point left unmentioned by Goldberg is that, not having to face the threat of Reform, North African halakha was able to develop in different ways from what is found in Europe. This is particularly true with regard to Morocco. Here one finds many seemingly radical decisions by eminent figures (in particular R. Joseph Messas), such as are generally not found in Europe, at least not in the writings of mainstream halakhists. For example, not only did Moroccan rabbis generally have a lenient atttude towards conversion, but rulings were given that the hazzan need not repeat the shemoneh esreh, married women need not cover their hair, the law of eruvei hatzerot is no longer applicable, non-Jewish milk is permissible, wine handled by a Muslim can be consumed, Jews can be buried in the same cemetery as Gentiles (with a separation of four cubits), and flowers may be placed on the coffin. Morocco is also the only modern Diaspora country in which the Bet Din was still a moving force behind halakhic development. Takkanot were issued on a wide range of issues, and unlike what occurred when the Chief Rabbinate of Israel issued takkanot, there was no right wing opposition. In general, the Ashkenazic trends of separatism and extremism found no echo in North Africa, or among Sephardim ingeneral, and incidentally, this is one of the reasons why the Sephardic Chief Rabbis in Israel have not had to confront a significant right wing challenge to their legitimacy from within their own communities.

Professor Marc Shapiro, "The Moroccan Rabbinic Conferences",

It is a truism that with the Emancipation and the rise of Reform and, later, Conservative Judaism, options for halakhic flexibility became much more limited. In the midst of a battle against the non-Orthodox movements, traditional Judaism retreated into a conservative mold both as a means of distinguishing itself from the non-Orthodox and out of a fear that in an era of halakhic crisis, any liberality in halakhic decision-making could encourage non-Orthodox trends. This latter sentiment was always on the minds of halakhists, even those who did not adopt lock, stock, and barrel R. Moses Sofer's famous bon mot, "Anything new is forbidden by the Torah." The above description is accurate, however, only with regard to the Ashkenazic world. The Sephardic world never had to contend with non-Orthodox religious movements, and thus it was able to develop in a much more natural-one might say organic-fashion. In particular, this was the case in Morocco, a community that had a very old halakhic tradition and whose scholars produced numerous works of responsa.
Michael Makovi Homepage 07.27.09 - 2:50 pm #

Okay, guys, 'fess up

This post is aimed particularly at Orthodox men: Since it seems to be the case that at least some Conservative laymen and laywomen skip parts of the prayers when leading daily services, I'd like to know whether some of you frum gents do likewise. When serving as baal t'fillah/prayer leader at a weekday service, do you ever skip parts of the prayers in order to finish in a locally-acceptable amount of time?

My "Kaddish minyan": Good news, bad news

Good news:
In our local Conservative synagogue, my husband is the only remaining congregant who attends morning (lack of) minyan on a regular basis who wears tefillin. The guys who used to wear them are now members of the Minyan l'Maala (the Minyan On High). Sadly, a good portion of our congregation has gone on to that big shul in the sky.

Bad news:
  • When I mentioned to one of the baalei t'fillah (prayer leaders) that I couldn't keep up with him, he actually told me straight out that he skips (doesn't pray every word). I was a bit surprised that he would not only skip, but wouldn't think anything of actually telling someone that he did so.
  • I mentioned to another minyannaire that a former rabbi (Conservative, ordained at JTS, for the record) had told me that one is not permitted to skip any of the Matbeiah shel T'fillah (the hard-core required parts of the service, from Bar'chu [or the brachah/blessing Yotzer Or, if you don't have a minyan] to the end of the Amidah), so I don't skip any of it. He actually laughed.
Bottom line:

The folks at my "Kaddish minyan" take "proper dress for synagogue" seriously--I'll ignore the shorts--and, given that they always(?) have a minyan, I can see that they take their communal responsibility seriously, but not all of them take the actual praying seriously.

Monday, July 27, 2009

An unexpected question

See the comments.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Where are the baal*ot* t'shuvah commenters?

Larry Lennhoff, Miami Al, and JDub comment frequently on my posts comparing Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, and a more articulate bunch I couldn't wish for. But, aside from West Bank Mama, I can't think of any other female former-non-Orthodox-become-Orthodox Jew (baalat t'shuvah) who comments regularly on my blog.

In my opinion, a woman who becomes Orthodox has much more to lose than a man. Long-time leiners (Torah readers, that is, those who chant directly from a Torah/Bible scroll, not an easy skill to acquire or perform) have to give it up (unless they live in a neighborhood with a Women's Tefillah/Prayer Group or Partnership Minyan). Orthodox rules don't allow the counting of women for a minyan (the 10-Jewish-adults minimum required for certain prayers), nor do they permit women to lead any public prayers, to be called for an aliyah (to have someone read to them directly from the Torah scroll) or to chant a haftarah (a reading from Judges or Prophets). What does she gain in return? Is it worth (what I consider) the sacrifice? Why? I'd love to hear from more of the women who've made the switch.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jordan strips Palestinians of citizenship,& no one cares

See Jerusalem Post article here. (Hat-tip: Aussie Dave. See also Jameel's post.)

Jordan is deliberately creating a class of stateless people (persons without citizenship in any country) just to advance the Palestinian cause (and save themselves the trouble of assuming responsibility for their own brethren, while they're at it). I'm not holding my breath waiting for a U.N. resolution condemning this inhumane and cynical move. The U.N. saves condemnatory resolutions for Israel. As Aussie Dave said, "No-one really cares unless it is Israel who is perceived to be restricting the palestinians’ “rights.” And as Jameel said, "Jordan wants to pressure Israel, and the best way of "guaranteeing" a Palestinian State is to revoke the citizenship of the Palestinians living in Jordan -- and throwing the whole mess at Israel. Nice."

Isn't stripping them of citizenship one of the first things that the Nazis did to German Jews?

Another good reason to remain Conservative

I've been trying for months to politely ignore the obvious implications of Fudge's "Song of Songs," but it's been getting more and more difficult as other bloggers keep referring to the Talmudic ruling "“Trei Kali Lo Mishtamai, two voices cannot be heard simultaneously." (Thanks--or not--to Rabbi Howard Jachter's "The Parameters of Kol Isha" for the reference: Megila 21b.)

So here's the obvious implication: The young ladies in Fudge's post had to go hide themselves on a stairway, a flight or so away from the male a capella group and completely invisible to them, in order to join them in singing z'mirot (Sabbath table songs) in harmony because they didn't consider it permissible for them to sing even such sacred songs in harmony with the guys when they were actually seated at the table, since they were visible to the young men while seated there.

Is that the thanks I would get for becoming Orthodox, that if my husband and I invited guests for Shabbat and some of them were male, I would be forbidden to harmonize during kiddush, z'mirot, and Birkat haMazon (Grace after Meals), even though I was in my own home?!

See also: Onan's real sin and kol isha

Monday, July 20, 2009

My informal survey re kippot-wearing by women

You may recollect that I was quite startled, recently, to find myself in a synagogue attending a lecture in a room full of committed Jews of the non-Orthodox variety, and see that I was the only woman wearing a kippah/yarmulkeh/skullcap. Assuming that this might be a generational thing, I queried one of the young women (most of whom were young enough to be my granddaughters), and she replied that most of the women were just not accustomed to covering their heads.
My best guess as to why that might be the case was this:
1. Many Reform synagogues still maintain a policy that head-coverings are optional, so the tradition of covering one's head in synagogue is not necessarily that strong even among the men.
2. Most Orthodox Jews have a strongly-held tradition that never-married women should not cover their heads, despite some rabbinical rulings to the contrary.
3. Only within the Conservative Movement did some rabbis insist that both males and females cover their heads in synagogue.
4. Therefore, one is most likely to find a strongly-held belief that all women should cover their heads among those raised Conservative. You might say that it's a classic case of both sides being against the middle.
I tested my theory the other day by taking an informal survey among the women present this past Shabbat/Sabbath at my current favorite egalitarian Conservative synagogue. And that was pretty much the response that I got. One hard-core kippah wearer among the women who happened to be there was raised in a Conservative shul with a rabbi who insisted on head-coverings for all worshippers over Bar or Bat Mitzvah age. A bare-headed woman said that she was taught that unmarried women don't wear head-coverings, period. (For the record, I was completely unaware of this minhag/custom until I was well into my twenties, and always felt as if I were being disrespectful when praying bareheaded in Orthodox synagogues prior to my marriage.)
I asked a female rabbi who was present, who told me that a head-covering is minhag and is not required anyway, so she wears a kippah only when officiating as a rabbi and only because people expect a rabbi to wear a kippah.
Sigh. No matter whether I hang out with the Orthodox or the non-Orthodox, I'm always on the fringe. I chose my blog name well.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pre-Nine-Days prep: See my old post and Elie's

Links to both are here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Insurance malpractice?

Everyone complains about medical malpractice.

But what would you call this?

I broke both wrists, and had surgery to fix my broken right wrist (which was more severely damaged), all the way back in December, and I had another round of surgery, to "release" the carpal tunnel on my right wrist, in February.

I have yet to receive a bill.

The surgeon doesn't know how much to charge me, because he doesn't know how much the insurance will pay . . .

. . . because the insurance company has refused to accept "fractured wrists" or "carpal tunnel syndrome" as legitimate diagnoses.

Exactly what else would one call a broken wrist, pray tell?

Now the insurance company is telling the doctor how to diagnose patients?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Eclectic Jewish Thoughts: Making the 3 weeks meaningful

Eclectic Jewish Thoughts: Making the 3 weeks meaningful: See Larry Lennhoff's attempt to find personal meaning in the Three Weeks/Drei Vachen/Shalosh HaShavuot preceding the Fast of Tisha B'Av.

Memories in a mirror

When our parents made aliyah (moved to Israel) over 20 years ago, my sister and I split up a lot of their furniture. I guess I've gotten used to seeing our parents' old dresser and our maternal grandparents' old dresser in our own apartment after all these years. But seeing Mom's old vanity in my sister's apartment yesterday really brought back memories of the days when it was laden with lipsticks, bottles of perfume, and other cosmetic items that Mom used when company was coming, when there was a simcha (joyous occasion) to attend, or for a night out with Dad.

Even though I'm saying Kaddish Yatom/Mourner's Kaddish for Mom every day, it's still hard for me to believe that she's really gone.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I saw the trees . . .

See here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Last photos for a while, maybe--camera broken? :(

Purple posies
Monday, July 6, 2009

Past, present, and future
Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunshine, brought down to earth
Sunday, July 12, 2009

Like going back to camp, but on one foot

They--okay, some of them--show up for morning minyan in shorts. (!) Then they race through Shacharit (Morning Service) as if the prayers were part of Color War. Go figure.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rabbi Yitz Greensberg's lecture at Yeshivat Hadar

This was the e-mailed announcement that led us there (where we were, as expected, the oldest people in the room, other than the speaker):

The lecture with Rabbi Yitz Greenberg has been rescheduled for this Sunday, July 12, at 7pm at Yeshivat Hadar (190 Amsterdam Ave., at 69th St.).

Rabbi Greenberg will be speaking on "The Torah of the Triumph of Life:
A Proposal for a Narrative of Jewish Religion and Halakah."

In addition, please join us for Minhah at 6:45pm and Ma'ariv at 8:30pm.

Cursed as I am with a rotten memory, I can't remember too much of what Rabbi Greenberg said, though he was an excellent speaker. I do remember being amused when he explained that your own movement is the one that you're most ashamed of because the denomination that you know the best is also the one of whose flaws you're most aware. I suppose that makes me a Conservative Jew in good standing. :)

I was quite astounded by two details that took me completely by surprise.

For openers, after last year's experience at the Havurah Institute, I came prepared not to stand out again--I exchanged the baseball camp that I'd worn at a nearby kosher restaurant for a kippah the minute I walked into the Yeshivat Hader/West End Synagogue building. But, as the Yeshiva's summer students filtered into the sanctuary from their dinner downstairs, I was flabbergasted to note that not one of the (roughly 25?) female students of this egalitarian yeshiva was wearing a kippah, and only two or three were wearing any head-covering whatsoever. Is this some kind of seismic generation shift, that a group of twenty-something women many of whom wear tallit and tefillin don't seem to have adopted what I consider the rest of the prayer "levush" (uniform), and see nothing odd and/or don't feel the least bit uncomfortable about studying and davvening (praying) bareheaded? In all honesty, I just don't get it.

I was equally flabbergasted to see Rabbi Greenberg, an Orthodox rabbi, lead Minchah (Afternoon Service) and Maariv (Evening Service) in a room without a mechitzah (physical barrier separating men and women), which is required according to Orthodox interpretations of halachah/Jewish religious law. Will wonders never cease.

Since my husband has a much better memory than I, I'll turn the rest of the post over to him.

Notes from the Punster:

Rabbi Greenberg began with the creation story as an introduction of the world in its perfection. He emphasized in particular the verse "Let us make Adam in our image, after our likeness," and went on to quote a Midrash which says that a person is born in the image, and goes through life developing the likeness, of G-d. Each person, Jew or Gentile, presents a clue as to the image of G-d. The universe, starting from the Big Bang, has been progressing from chaos to order, from less to more developed, from imperfect to perfect. Perfection does not happen overnight. The rush to create perfection overnight only results in different forms of totalitarianism. The Jewish way to do it is through Halacha. No one movement necessarily has all the right answers, not even Orthodoxy. With all movements involved, the end result will be a demonstration, over time, of this perfection, which will then influence the entire world.

Shira's notes:

The way Rabbi Greenberg described Shabbat/Sabbath made it sound rather paradoxical, yet his point made sense. On the one hand, Shabbat is a break from the constant striving to create order from chaos, progress from a less-developed state, and equality from inequality. Yet, on the other hand, it's also an inspiration to strive toward those things, because Shabbat is, to a certain extent, a model of them. Ideally, Shabbat is an orderly day in which all participate equally, in which no one goes hungry. This is the shot in the arm that we need to keep working toward making equality a daily and worldwide reality.

Monday, July 20, 2009 follow-up:
My informal survey re kippot-wearing by women.

Monday, July 8, 2019:
Once upon a time, when Hadar was really small, we could have conversations like this one with the Fellows of Yeshivat Hadar.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Is halachah/Jewish religious law invasive?

In yesterday's post, I raised questions about a discussion of whether it's permissible to serve a non-meat meal at a brit milah (ritual circumsion). While it's true that the good rabbi concludes that it is, after all, permissible to serve dairy at a bris, I have a problem with that whole discussion: Why did he ask the question in the first place?

Halachah seems to dictate everything.

It tells us what kind of watch we're allowed to wear on Shabbat/Sabbath--a gold one, according to some, so that one can assert that one is wearing jewelry, rather than "carrying" a timepiece.

It tells us whether we're allowed to wear gloves on Shabbat.

(Is it true that the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law also specifies on which day[s?] one is permitted to cut one's fingernails and in what order one is supposed to put on and tie one's shoes?)

It also tells us whether a married person is even permitted to choose not to have children--to the best of my knowledge, the answer is no (though I suspect that exceptions may be made for health reasons).

When to "pull the plug" is also a topic not only for patients, patients' families, and doctors--there seems to be a debate among the rabbanim/rabbis as to whether brain death meets the halachic definition of death, and, therefore, whether organ donation is permissible.

Isn't a Jew allowed to make any decision at all, however trivial or however life-altering, without turning to halachah? Does halachah permit us Jews to think? Whatever happened to the blessing praising HaShem for giving us intelligence (chonen ha-daat)? Is it a b'rachah l'vatalah (a "false" blessing, in which we take G-d's name in vain)?

Sorry, but, sometimes, I get the sense that halachah is a case of "Big Brother is watching you." And I'm not sure whether "Big Brother" is Him or them.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Simcha inflation—an illustration

Here’s my original.

Here’s the update.

As if the peer pressure of trying to “keep up with the Jones” isn’t bad enough, now it’s halachah/Jewish religious law??!! In all my life, I’ve been to only one brit milah (ritual circumsion) at which meat was served (to the best of my recollection). Since when does halachah dictate what foods a person is allowed to serve at his or her own simchah/joyous occasion (beyond the obvious fact that the food must be kosher)?

Lion of Zion’s response reflects my own opinion:

"If one simply cannot afford to serve meat to the many guests that are expected to attend, then meat need not be served."

the alternative is not to invite 200 people to a fancy bris. the truth is that even the "standard" milchig bris these days is not cheap. i think romer in teaneck charges more than $15-20 per person for what is essentially $3 worth of food.

"there were even communities in which the meal following a bris consisted of little more than a "l'chaim" and some cake due to the dire financial straits of the time."

i thought this was the standard in the previous generation? i don't remember my own bris too well, but my brother's was held in my grandparents' (modest-sized) living room.

Lion of Zion Homepage 07.07.09 - 8:40 am #

Our son’s brit milah was performed by a mohel (ritual circumcizer) in the hospital, where I was still recovering from a Caesarian. The only people in attendance were members of my husband’s and my immediate families, and we served bagels with dairy. What’s the big deal, that a bris has to be such a big deal?

Today’s bris is like the Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations of my childhood. Today’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration is like the weddings of my childhood. Today’s weddings? Off the chart, and guaranteed to leave a pile of debt. The Jewish community—of all denominations—has lost all sense of proportion.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bridal collection :)

Shira's Shot, Monday July 6, 2009

Monday, July 06, 2009

Missing from many Conservative Jews' observance

Why is it sometimes more difficult, if not impossible, to find a n'tilat yadayim (ritual handwashing) cup at a Conservative synagogue? Many Conservative Jews don't do n'tilat yadayim before making a motzi (praising G-d for bread), even where a washing stand is available. And I've yet to see a n'tilat yadayim cup in a Conservative synagogue's ladies' room.

Comment of the day

Marty Bluke, in a link in the comments to this guest post re hair covering for women, published by Hadassah Sabo Milner on DovBear's blog, shares his post "Why don't girls cover their hair when davening?"

"The Shulchan Aruch (סי' צ"א סע' ג) paskens [presents a ruling that's binding in halachah/Jewish religious law] that it is אסור [forbidden] to say a Beracha [blessing] without a head covering. The Shulchan Aruch is based on 1 opinion in מסכת סופרים which Rabenu Yerucham paskens like l'halacha. The Mishna Berura (סי' ב' ס"ק י"ב) paskens like the shulchan aruch.By issurim [when it comes to prohibitions], there is no distinction between men and women, issurim apply to both equally. Therefore, this issur of not saying berachos [blessings] without a head covering should apply to women as well. We don't find any source to distinguish here between men and women.

In fact, the sefer ישכיל עבדי draws exactly this conclusion. He quotes the shulchan aruch and says he doesn't understand how the Beis Yakov's [yeshivot/Jewish day schools for girls] allows [sic] the girls to daven [pray] without covering their heads.

[ . . . snip . . . ]

The Charedi [fervently Orthodox] world has adopted so many wilder chumras [stringent observances that go beyond what Jewish law requires] why is this one left behind? There is no question that this chumra has much more basis then disallowing certain color stockings."

At 11:39 PM, thanbo said...
. . . It religiously empowers women, while stockings and sleeve length are about socially repressing them. And anything that religiously empowers women is modernishe and assur [forbidden] like the plague. [bold added]

Holy Moses, I made the big-time:I'm quoted by Gil!

Rabbi Gil Student actually put my question (see, especially, Minor gripe #1 and the first two and last three comments to my post re the Koren Sacks Siddur) on his own blog. Amazing! Here it is.

Independence Day weekend views

Coney Island residents: Seagull on Steeplechase Pier, with Parachute Jump in background
Friday, July 3, 2009

A shady spot in Central Park
Sunday, July 5, 2009
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