Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday foolishness :)

Shot by a soap dispenser :)

Remember this? Well, I forgot to turn the spout so that it pointed sideways, and I also forgot to angle my hand under the spout. The upshot was that the soap stream shot straight over my hand and straight over the sink. Help--I've been hit! :) Don't worry--I was wearing something washable, so no permanent "injury" was sustained. :)

Kitchen calamity :)

The specialty of the house, Chez Shira, is fried pot.

[See below.]

Made you look, didn't I? :)

(Shira ducks. :) )

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Floral photos, maximalist and minimalist

Purple posies

Belles of the blooms
Shira's Shots
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

[ ¶ ]

[ ¶ ]

Don't forget to check out my new "recalcitrant refrigerator" shot here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chassidic groom, YU-grad-student-in-Talmud bride

Congratulations to Chana and her Chassid on their engagement.

Wow, and I thought ours was a mixed marriage, of sorts. Half the fun of this upcoming marriage is going to be deciding in accordance with which haskafah/religious perspective--"All Torah, all the time" or "college, including graduate school"--to educate their children.

It's my husband's turn for a computer crash :(

I've already been there and done that. :(

The good news:
  • His computer is back up and running.
  • He now has a contract with Dell for three more service calls within the next 12 months without further charge.
  • He took the hint, and backed up all of his most essential files.

The bad news:

  • It took the poor man two days to re-install all of his software.
  • He had to back up his files onto his flash drive, since our ancient external hard drive is incompatible with Windows 7.
  • Shelling out $450 in less than a week to have two computers resuscitated did serious damage to our bank balance. :(

Monday, April 26, 2010

Grateful for my son's good fortune

Elie recently wrote about observing the fifth yahrzeit of his son Aaron's death. I can't believe it's been that long.

I'm so grateful that our son is still alive and, well, healthy enough to be a graduate student.

I'm so grateful that his learning and social-skills delays turned out to be delays rather than permanent disabilities. Some of our friends' adult children are still challenged by learning disabilities that have plagued them since childhood. Some have adult children whose disabilities didn't manifest until their teenage years, or later. Our son's mild-to-moderate hearing loss turns out to be easier to live with than some of the other disabilities making the rounds.

I'm so grateful that our son's still employed as a lab technician in grad school, rather than being "between jobs." One childhood friend of his, having earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from top-notch universities, got a fantastic, high-paying job. It lasted for less than a year, due to the economic downturn, and a new job has not yet made an appearance.

I'm so grateful that our son has been spared, thus far.

The "Missing Child" Formation--for Elie and Debbie, his parents, on his unveiling

"The Missing," a poem by Elie

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday sundae

Will the last person out please turn off the lights?

After my husband resigned as synagogue treasurer due to lack of cooperation by the president, his place was taken by another financial professional--who also resigned due to lack of cooperation by the president. The current official treasurer is ill and being cared for out of town by family. So the president decided that half a treasurer is better than none: My husband is back on board as the synagogue's accountant, but will not take the title of treasurer and will never sign any check or any official synagogue document again, to protect himself from legal liability. Starting next fall, following the end of the rabbi's contract, he may very well be the unofficial rabbi, as well. The whole shul is being run by maybe half a dozen volunteers--when they're well enough.

See also The numbers are in--and so the water :(

Poorly-designed products

I love this soap! It's biodegradable, with no animal products, and, since it's liquid, I can use it on Shabbat (Sabbath) without breaking any rules. But check out that spout--it shoots as straight as it looks. Unless I remember to hold my hand at an angle, most of the soap ends up on the sink, floor, and/or shower door. What was the container's designer thinking?

This is one of those violin-vs.-saxophone stories. Sure, the timer on the left has fewer dials and looks streamlined, like a violin. But the looks come at a price for Ms. Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome--in order to set the timer, one must depress every single individual black tab (on the outside of the numbers and arrow) that indicates half-hour intervals during which the item on the timer should be turned on. I just bought this a few days ago, and my poor husband ended up pressing 32 tabs to set this for our bedroom light on Shabbat. Sometimes a higher-tech object, like a saxophone, may look more complicated, but may actually be easier to use.

This water-filtering pitcher is so heavy when full that one must use both hands to take it out of the refrigerator, or else it will spill on the floor. Why will it spill, pray tell? Simple--the pitcher's cover does not cover the spout. Gee, thanks. Not.

The piece de resistance is a refrigerator whose door opens only partway. Not only does the door, when open, block the kitchen entrance completely, it also prevents one from removing the crisper unless one applies brute force.

Shira's Shots
April 25, 2010

April 28, 2010 update:

April 28, 2010 update: In response to comments suggesting that the refrigerator is simply too big for the space and/or that the fridge door is being blocked by the kitchen door frame, I've taken this shot of the open refrigerator door from outside of the kitchen. As you can see, the fridge door does not touch the kitchen door frame at any point. Either the hinges are defective, or the delivery guys didn't know how to attach the door properly. One way or the other, it's not possible to open the door any farther, so moving the refrigerator or putting the hinges on the other side wouldn't solve the problem.

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Startling omissions

Here are a couple of things that I noticed this year for the first time:

  • Parshat Acharei Mot: In Leviticus chapter 18, verses 6-21, the enumeration of anti-incest laws, there's no mention whatsoever of the most obvious form of incest--there's no directly-stated prohibition against a father having sex with his daughter. Sure, it's common sense and common decency to avoid such a heinous act, but so are all the other enumerated "forbidden relationships."
  • Parshat Kedoshim: In Leviticus chapter 19, verses 20-22, the Torah says that, if a man has sex with a female slave who's engaged to a male slave, neither of the offenders has to be put to death, but the man has to bring a guilt offering to be sacrificed by the priest. On the one hand, I'm happy to hear that such an act didn't incur the death penalty. On the other hand, the callous disregard for the welfare of the woman in question is positively--or negatively--breathtaking. Of what compensation was it to the woman to have a sacrifice brought to the priest?

A guest in my own shul :(

There we were in the middle of Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) when our synagogue's renters for the evening, who'd already arrived and started setting up in the sanctuary (Seudah Shlishit having taken place in the adjoining lobby), started running an extremely noisy piece of equipment. When I asked the president to ask the renters to turn off the noisy machine until we'd finished Birkat HaMazon, he refused.

Again and again we've complained about our shul being rented out before Shabbat (Sabbath) is over. Again and again, the president has said he'd have to discuss the matter with the office employee who schedules the rentals. Baloney! That employee has been working for us for years. If the president, not a terribly observant Jew, but concerned with keeping the shul alive for those of us who are, really cared about Shabbat, he could simply have told the employee to consult a Jewish calendar and determine the ending time of Shabbat before scheduling a rental.

I've decided that I will davven/pray Minchah (Afternoon Service) and Arvit/Maariv (Evening Service) bi-y'chidut (alone) at home, and no longer at my home synagogue, because I longer feel welcome there at that time. The right of the congregation to pray in peace has been denied. We congregants have been displaced by our own renters, and no longer control our own building.

Personally, I can't wait until we sell this building and move into a house. True, we'll be limited in terms of social activities and holding our First-Night Seder, and won't be able to open our High Holiday services to non-members anymore. But at least our building will be ours.

See also Bet HaKnesset Rentals, Sales, and Storage, Inc.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Different prespectives, or talking past one another

I went to a Yom HaAtzaut (Israeli Indendence Day) celebration at my "kaddish synagogue" on Monday evening. There, I ran into a buddy, who, in turn, ran into another buddy. My buddy's friend, hearing that I was saying kaddish at that synagogue, assured me that a woman is allowed to say kaddish as long as there's at least one man reciting kaddish, too. I got quite irked, and gave him a piece of my mind: "This is a Conservative synagogue--I don't need anyone's permission to say kaddish here."

To be fair, the poor guy probably didn't know what he'd said wrong--he was probably just trying to be nice. But I don't take kindly to some Orthodox guy whom I've never laid eyes on before walking into "my" Conservative shul and telling me what I'm allowed or not allowed to do. I guess one thing that distinguishes me from an Orthodox Jew is that I prefer to choose which questions to ask and which answers, explanations, and/or interpretations to accept.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taking on the RCA re women in leadership roles

Please pardon the usual formatting problems. Note that the change in font size is not deliberate. (Grumble.) :(

Thanks to Rabbi Gil Student for the link to this post on the Sisterhood blog. Here's an excerpt from the post, which discusses a recent letter to the Rabbinical Council of America from the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, and an independent petition to the RCA from three Modern Orthodox college women, advocating the advancement of women's leadership roles in synagogues and within the Jewish community:

“Herein lies the paradox in making change within Orthodoxy, and hence JOFA’s quandary. Women, by virtue of not being rabbis, are never considered true authorities on anything, and our decisions are always subject to the approval of male rabbis. Yet, as soon as a male rabbi declares support for women, he is labeled not Orthodox by his colleagues. As if the definition of an Orthodox rabbi is this: does not support women’s advancement.

[ ¶ ]

In order to give Orthodox women an equal role, Orthodox rabbis need to support it, but Orthodox rabbis cannot support it and be called Orthodox. In order for women to have a voice, they need to be called rabbis, but even suggesting such a thing gets a person evicted from the club. This is a catch-22 if there ever was one.”

[ ¶ ]

My sincerest wishes for the best of luck to all those hoping to level the playing field (Orthodox Judaism) while still remaining on the field.

Parsha politics :(

A few days ago, I was reading a free Jewish newspaper, and practically the first four pages were filled with dire news about Obama's plans for Israel and Iranian insanity. So I was hoping eventually to find something less dire in that paper. Finally, I got to the column about the weekly Torah reading, but it was a gornisht helfen (no help). "Oh, great," I thought, "it's about last Shabbat's (Sabbath's) reading, Tazria-Metzora. Just what I want, to go from one plague to another. :("

And then it hit me: Medinat Yisrael/The State of Israel is the world's leper. :(

It's alive (yay)!

Having stayed late at the office last night to compose the previous post, I arrived home at some ridiculously late hour to the sound of a familiar hum. I grabbed the mouse of my late, lamented computer, afraid of what I would--or wouldn't--see, and was pleasantly shocked to find that not only was my computer completely rebooted, our Quicken financial records and my "home" e-mail were already open. Holding my breath, I clicked on My Documents, and all of my folders appeared. I opened a file saved late last week, and it was all still there. What a relief! Of course, I was somewhat less relieved when I looked more closely at the Quicken records and saw the $200 payment to a computer maintenance and repair company, but I daresay that the rescue was well worth the expense. Rav todot, many thanks to my husband for calling for back-up. Now we'll be able to set up my new computer, when it arrives, at a less frantic pace.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My old/new perspective on prayer and parenting

You might wish to start with my recent post, The pace and scheduling of public prayer.

Having our son home for the weekend was an interesting experience in terms of davvening (praying). It had not occurred to me that, with him having temporarily moved into the living room (his father having long since commandeered the second bedroom for use as an office), I would feel so anti-social, spending time in the same room as my son but praying instead of talking to him, that I would end up praying only through the Rabbi Yishmael quote and saying the rest of the service in synagogue.

This weekend made me realize that much of my current prayer practice is based on the fact that my time outside of the office is now largely my own. I didn't begin praying through the Amidah at home on Shabbat/Sabbath and Yom Tov/holidays (to enable me to pray at my own pace), nor did I begin praying three days a day, until our son had grown and flown. This was only partially a matter of being a late-bloomer--it was also because I got interrupted frequently, in mid-prayer, with a request for a story. At the time, I used to tell myself that HaShem would just have to count my time off from praying to do some good parenting as the functional equivalent of the first. I didn't realize how close that was to a traditional perspective.

Now, I'm beginning to understand what challenges my own current practice would have raised, had I started when the Family Physicist was a pre-schooler.

Here's the standing-on-one-foot version:

Miami Al said...
“. . . it is impossible to be Shomer Shabbat, have very small children, and participate in communal prayer. If your expectation of family size is 3-5 children, which is necessary for growth, it is impossible to include women without them losing a large chunk of their 20s and 30s... The net effect is that egalitarianism renders childbirth and nursing small children an impediment to expressive Judaism, while Orthodoxy culturally makes that the primary expression. As a result, Orthodox culture encourages having children, egalitarian culture discourages it.
. . .
MON MAY 04, 02:17:00 PM 2009
Since I'm still struggling with this issue, I also recommend Who's on first?--on raising a Jew.

" . . . nagilah v'nism'chah vo!"

" . . . let us rejoice and be glad on it [this day]!" (Verse 24 of Psalm 118, one of the Hallel psalms.) It's Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day!

What's with saying Hallel in the evening without brachot/blessings on Yom HaAtzmaut? Yes, I know that the Seder provides a precendent for saying the Hallel psalms in the evening without brachot , but Yom HaAtzmaut is more akin to Chanukah than to Pesach. I don't get it. If Hallel with brachot during Shacharit/Morning Service is kosher enough for the Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, it's kosher enough for me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good weekend, bad aftermath

Shabbat debate: "Electricity is not fire!"

Thus spake the family candidate for a PhD in Physics, and protested that we're wreaking havoc on the environment by printing reading material before Shabbat and leaving lights on for 25 hours. We compromised by insisting on the bathroom and kitchen lights being left on and ignoring the other lights. I think we might be able to put the Shabbos lamp and one of the livingroom lights on timers.

"It's in the mail," so to speak: New computer on the way!

On Sunday morning, with our son's help, I purchased a new computer (to replace my current one, which is roughly six years old), a new monitor, and a new external hard drive. Yay, not to mention thanks a million!

Explaining a high-end camera to Ms. Low-Tech

Apertures, light-exposure settings, etc., I got a "tour" of my son's fancy camera (paid for by the university, for which he's the official Physics Lab photographer). Comparing a camera with interchangeable lenses to a "point-and-shoot" camera is like comparing a saxophone to a violin--sure, it has a lot more buttons/keys, but the camera /sax does the work for you, instead of you having to find the place on the strings all by yourself.

A high-tech camera's a lot heavier, too, which could be a problem for Ms. Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome. (The promised photo is "in the mail," too--my son got so annoyed at my non-adjustable camera that he had me take the photo I wanted of him with his own camera, but he didn't have the equipment for uploading it with him.)

Current computer kaput

My computer failed to complete the reboot this morning, and I couldn't use the Norton Go-Back because the "freeze" occurred before the mouse and keyboard were working. :( The worse part is that my external drive may have died at the same time--the only files that my husband's been able to retrieve are our Quicken financial records. (Whew!) I sincerely hope that someone will be able to access my files, from the internal or external hard drive, or roughly 20 years worth of Office files (both personnel and business), photos, music and videos will be gone forever. :(

My ability to blog will probably be limited for at least a week.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fun with flowers

Floral periscope
April 14, 2010

One for the Irish
April 18, 2010

Kissing Cousins
April 18, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Family Physicist is with us this weekend!

Our son came into town in mid-semester for today's hearing--four years after the fact--regarding that idiotic auto accident in which he was involved on the way home from Japan (see here, and follow the link). Having seen the condition of my computer, which is almost six years old, he's threatening to drag me out to a store on Sunday and help me buy a new one. (He's also threatening me with a punishment worse than death if I don't start defragging, and performing other computer maintenance, on a regular basis.) Let's hope that the shopping goes well. I also hope to have a new photo of him to publish (via link to Flickr).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Better late . . . : Sign up for Sefirat HaOmer e-mails

If you haven't already done so, I strongly recommend that you sign up for the Orthodox Union's free daily Sefirat HaOmer reminder e-mail. (Explanation of Sefirat HaOmer here.) I don't think I've missed a day's count since I first signed up a few years ago.

Chodesh Tov!

Today is Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Some months have a two-day Rosh Chodesh, with the first day of Rosh Chodesh actually being the last day of the previous month and the second day of Rosh Chodesh being the first day of the new month. The current Rosh Chodesh is a two-day Rosh Chodesh, and it will still be Rosh Chodesh tomorrow (until sunset).

The extra prayers and Torah reading make the service longer, which means that, on a work day, we have to start earlier. One of the wiseguys at my "kaddish minyan" joked that, since this is a two-day Rosh Chodesh, tomorrow morning would be another "red-eye special." :)

Flowers in captivity

Blossoms behind bars
(This one looks nicer if you double-click, or even triple-click, on it.)

Framed and confined
(I thought the taxi door framed the shot nicely. )

Shira's Shots, April 7, 2010

Also in captivity:

A captive audience
A friend from my current favorite egalitarian Conservative synagogue in Manhattan is currently using a walker indoors, and a newly-acquired (yay!) scooter outdoors, to enhance her mobility, which is severely limited by a serious chronic health condition. Very recently, a new person with, to put it gently, limited social skills has begun attending the same synagogue and has become practically glued to her side. Since my buddy quite literally can't walk away from this individual, she's declared her "my friend," and is dealing with the awkward situation with her usual positive attitude and good cheer, with only a little complaining when out of earshot of her new "appendage."

A captive to outdated roles
Recently, I heard a story of a woman some years older than I waxing nostalgic about a former boss. Her boss had once called her at home in the evening to ask her for someone's name and phone number, and had then asked her to dial that person for him. They'd both gotten a gotten laugh when she'd pointed out that he'd called her at home, and therefore, she couldn't place the call for him. Personally, I couldn't understand what on earth she found so amusing about that story. If my boss ever called me at home in the evening for any reason other than an emergency, I'd be livid, and I'd give him/her a (polite) piece of my mind.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The pace and scheduling of public prayer


As threatened here :), I'm writing yet another follow-up to my "Near tears at morning minyan." I still hate "speed-davvening" because I can't keep up with speedy praying, and will probably never be able to do so. But I've had some more time to consider the question of how quickly or slowly a public prayer service should be conducted, and have concluded that the preferred pace depends on three variables:
  • Which day it is
To my way of thinking, there's something not quite right about praying on Shabbat (Sabbath) or Yom Tov (a holiday) at the same speed that's, unfortunately, probably necessary for a weekday "commuter minyan," in which everyone has to be out the door quickly to get to work on time. Isn't part of the point of Shabbat and Yom Tov to be able to slow down and smell the roses?
  • Who's there
On the other hand, as is the case with a Seder, there's a limit to how slowly one should go when there are young children present. When our son was considerably younger, I always used to hope that the cantor didn't say the Kedushah prayer so slowly that I'd have to leave the sanctuary with the Little Raashan (noisemaker) before the end.
  • Who's not there
There's also the fact that, particularly in more traditional communities, the wife is often left home alone to cope with the kids who are too young to behave appropriately in synagogue, while the husband goes to services (since, according to the Orthodox interpretation of halachah/Jewish religious law, a man is obligated to pray at specific times and preferably with a minyan, whereas a woman is not). So the service shouldn't be conducted at such a slow pace that the mom is left to manage alone for too long.


In accommodating the needs of young families, there's not only the pace, but also the time of services to consider. Some years back, I had an interesting conversation on my blog--sorry, too lazy to look for yet another ancient post :)--regarding Minchah (Afternoon Service) on Shabbat and Yom Tov. I said that I thought it was a pity that Minchah and Arvit/Maariv (Evening Service) are always scheduled together, because that scheduling prevents the attendees from being outdoors, in nice weather, to enjoy the beauty of sunset. A commenter responded that it's all very well and good for women, who are not obligated to pray at specific times and are not expected to pray with a minyan, to say Minchah whenever and wherever they want. But men must leave their homes and go to synagogue (or wherever the minyan is taking place). Scheduling Minchah and Arvit together makes it possible for men to leave the home only twice, rather than three times, and enables them to spend more time with their families. That's an excellent point.

I've also finally begun to understand the usefulness of a "Hashkamah Minyan," a Shacharit (Morning) Service held very early on a Shabbat or Yom Tov. For years, I couldn't understood why on earth anyone in his or her right mind would want to get up early on a Shabbat and Yom Tov in order to attend a minyan that started at 7 AM or so. Only in recent years have I understood that a Hashkamah Minyan is a real boon for families with very young children--one parent can go to the Hashkamah Minyan, then return home and relieve the other parent of parenting duty so that the other parent can go to the "Main" minyan, thus enabling both the husband and the wife to attend services without hiring a babysitter. I wish that more Conservative synagogues would offer a Hashkamah minyan, rather than either hiring (a) babysitter(s); drafting (a) congregant(s), usually female, to skip services and babysit; forcing parents to hire their own babysitters; or insisting that a parent (usually the mother), stay home with the child(ren) until they're old enough to sit still and be quiet. I certainly would have appreciated not having been made to feel like a pariah in my own shul.

A synagogue must maintain a delicate balance between speed-davvening and respecting the sanctity of our holy days, as well as between meeting the needs of families with young children and those of "empty-nesters" like me. Good luck getting this balancing act right.

See the follow-up post to which I refer in the comments, My old/new perspective on prayer and parenting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 update:  For the record, here's the original complaint, Morning Madness--on davvenning Shacharit.

"Archeological dig" update--missing post found!

I finally found the post I was looking for when I wrote An archeological dig on my blog :). In typical fashion, I found it quite accidentally while looking for Near tears at morning minyan, to which I want to link in a new post that I haven't even written yet! Included in "Near tears" is a link to my Thursday, April 12, 2007 post "Internal consistency," in which I state that, "“ . . . since Rosh Chodesh Adar, I've been making an effort to pray three times a day plus the Bedtime Sh'ma, even on Sundays (so much for my only day to sleep late ): ).” Sunday, February 18, 2007, Rosh Chodesh Adar would be the Sunday Rosh Chodesh to which I referred in the original "Archeological dig" post.

Okay, research project--and this convoluted post--successfully completed. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blogging--or will do so when I get around to writing that next post! :)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Ashkenazim rebel against kitniyot restriction

Thanks to SuperRaizy's "Lots and Lotsa Matzah Edition" of the weekly Haveil Havalim link-fest, I read Esser Agarot's "Qitnoyoth Wrap-up 5770", which led me via link to this post on the Kitniyot Liberation Front blog noting the increase in kitniyot (explanation here, list here) consumption among Ashkenazim. My parents gave up avoiding kitniyot after making aliyah (moving to Israel), and I probably would, too, if I made aliyah. There's no reason for the prohibition against eating legumes and seeds on Passover anymore, and I prefer to choose for myself which illogical customs I observe, rather than having the choice dictated to me. :) Sadly, the choice does seem to be dictated in the Galut/Diaspora, at least here in the United States--it seems to me that most American Ashkenazim, led by our (Orthodox and Conservative) rabbinate, still observe the prohibition.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A baby-naming!

An infant girl was formally welcomed into the Jewish people this morning at my "kaddish minyan," her mother having grown up in that congregation. What a joy!

As Miami Al and I agreed here, it's depressing to belong to a synagogue that "celebrates" nothing but funerals, so this was a delightful change of pace.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I finally figured it out

See here.

Spring has sprung!

Delightful in white

Mixed bouquet
Shira's Shots, Sunday, April 4, 2010 (Chol HaMoed Pesach)

The camera's out of hibernation. :) Now that it's not too cold for me to want to stand outdoors and take photos, it's worth risking overloading my backpack again.
Here are links to some other post-Pesach posts of mine:

Moroccan Jews are well-organized, apparently

Call it Mimuna, Maimuna, or whatever, but, for the life of me, I can't imagine getting all of our Passover pots, etc., put away in just a few hours. It takes us weeks! As of this morning, the only parts of our apartment that are back to chametz are the dining room table and the refrigerator. The rest of the kitchen gets switched tonight, if for no other reason than that the cleaning lady is coming tomorrow.

In limbo for Yizkor

My parents' rabbi was adamant--everyone was to participate in Yizkor (the Memorial Service), despite the fact that in many communities, it's traditional for folks with both parents still living and no other immediate relatives deceased to leave the sanctuary during Yizkor. He insisted that someone had to recite Yizkor for the victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who had no survivors to say Yizkor for them. So it became the established minhag (custom) of my family that even we kids, once we were old enough to behave ourselves, didn't leave during Yizkor.

My current rabbi was livid. He gave all sorts of sermons about how participating in Yizkor when one's parents were both still alive was like wishing your parents an early death, or how it created jealousy among those with (a) deceased parent(s). But I stuck to my guns: "I follow my parents' minhag, and I won't leave the sanctuary during Yizkor," I told him on many occasions.

Only recently did I begin to question whether someone without an immediate relative deceased was really an appropriate choice to pray for those who'd perished in the Shoah. But, before I could ask my mother how she felt about me leaving the sanctuary during Yizkor, she solved the problem in the most unfortunate manner, by passing away.

But now, my rabbi is equally adamant that one is not permitted to say Yizkor for a deceased parent during one's year of aveilut (mourning). (I understand that there are different opinions on this matter.) What an irony. Now that I finally have a reason, even in his eyes, not to leave the sanctuary during Yizkor, I'm allowed to pray for everyone deceased family member or friend except the most important one, whose turn will have to wait until Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in the fall.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Chocolate-covered orange peels & fond memories

Mom always loved them, so when I saw them in the Pesach section of the supermarket, I bought a box. I'm munching the last chocolate-covered orange peel as I type, and thinking of my mother.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Does "trup" trip us up?

Sometimes I think that trup, trope, or cantillation--pick your preference--is more likely to trip us up than to help us understand the divrei kodesh/sacred texts with which it's used.

The third paragraph of the Sh'ma is, to my way of thinking, an excellent example. (You can see the text, Bemidbar/Numbers chapter 15, verses 37-40 here, but, unfortunately, the Mechon Mamre website's text does not include the cantillation marks.) Here's the way the "trup marks" break up the last verse: "I am HaShem your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d, I am HaShem your G-d." (That's my translation--other versions may be better, of course.) But suppose one ignores the trup and just reads the text directly? I think it could just as easily be read "I, HaShem, am your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt, to be your G-d--I, HaShem, am your G-d." For those of you who may not see much difference between the translations, it's a question of how we name G-d. Is HaShem just another of the several names for the sole G-d (KElokim being another), or is HaShem (or, to be precise, the real name for which HaShem is a substitute) a proper name, like Chaim, Chananya, Howard or Harold? If HaShem is a proper name and is read as such in that paragraph of the Sh'ma, that changes the meaning of the text. It's not, "I am HaShem your G-d," it's "I, the one named HaShem, I'm your G-d, the one who took you out of Egypt to be your G-d"---that dude named Baal is not your god, and don't you forget it!

Feel free to agree or disagree, and/or to mention, in the comments, any other text in which you think that the trup might be tripping us up by changing the meaning.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The numbers are in--& so's the water :(

Our local Conservative synagogue now has
  • fewer than 60 "single" membership units,
  • fewer than 20 "family" membership units, meaning spouses and/or parent(s) with child(ren), and
  • fewer than 20 associate membership units, meaning mostly people who used to live in the neighborhood and have maintained a limited membership.

The bottom line is that the number of individual members of all ages and categories who currently live within walking distance of the synagogue is probably less than 100.

Last Shabbat/Sabbath morning, we got 18 attendees for services. Yesterday, we got 13. We had to send someone home to fetch their two teenage sons just to have enough people for a minyan and a Torah reading, and when the two teens went on strike thereafter and went back home, we had exactly 10 people left for Musaf/Additional Service. We did not renew the rabbi's contract, which may very well mean that, beginning next fall, many, if not most, of the sermons will be given by the chair of the Ritual Committee, also known as my husband. ("I didn't go to rabbinical school. I didn't even go to day school. And I'm going to be the 'rabbi,' " said my husband, shaking his head with astonishment.) The foolish optimism of our members, who seem to think that this shul can "run on empty" forever, is pure wishful thinking.

And to top it off, there are now three leaks in the sanctuary. :(

Hebrew homonyms

I've gotten a couple of surprises reading translations recently. "Hu asanu, v'lo anachnu" (Psalm 100) is one example. I thought it meant, "He made us, and not we ourselves." But, a few weeks ago, I was reading the translation, and discovered that I was way off base: I hadn't notice that, in this case, "lo" is spelled lamed vav, not lamed alef--it means, "He made us, and we are His . . . "

Then there's a passage from the K'dusha d'Yotzer prayer. Here's the translation from my "baby Birnbaum" siddur/prayer book (the one I have at the office--the cats are away for Pesach, so this mouse is enjoying the rare opportunity to blog during work hours): "Kulam omdim b'rum olam--all of them stand in the heights of the universe--umashmiyim b'yir'ah--and reverently proclaim--yachad b'kol, divrei Kelokim chaim . . .

Say what?

Oh, "kol" with a kuf, not a kaf! So it doesn't mean, as I thought, "all of them together, the words of the living G-d," it means "all of them 'in a voice' (that is, aloud), the words of the living G-d . . ."

I misunderstood that phrase for years! Thanks to the Koren Sacks Siddur's penchant for splitting phrases onto separate lines, with "yachad b'kol" on a separate line from "divrei Kelokim chaim," I finally noticed the spelling, and understood that I'd goofed.


Whatever happened to civil disagreement?

Say what you will about the U.S. health-care debate, I can't remember ever having experienced such vitriol in American politics. People shouting one another down at town-hall meetings? Politicians being the victims of ethnic slurs, and even being spat on?! What has become of my birthplace?

Futile efforts :(

My poor husband. For years, one of his big jobs for Pesach has been to cover the pots hanging from the wall racks in the kitchen. He had it down to a fine science. Plastic garbage bags made better covers than sheets of aluminum foil because they were lighter, and, therefore, easier to hang. Masking tape worked better than regular "Scotch" tape, which didn't "hold." But this year, even the masking tape failed--twice, the hubster carefully covered the pots so well that they were completely invisible (except for the large lumps on the walls :) ), and twice, the covering fell off the walls. Apparently, we got a bad roll of masking tape that wouldn't stick to a painted surface--a first.

For lack of a better alternative, I took all the pots off the racks, stuffed them into garbage bags (by category--parve, dairy, meat), and piled them on the kitchen floor. My husband was so disgusted by then that he actually liked that idea, and said we'd do that next year, too. Now, to figure out how to cover the racks . . .
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