Monday, May 31, 2010

They wanted martyrs, and they got them :(

". . . the enemy wanted a confrontation, a confrontation that would produce martyrs," said DovBear, discussing the Gaza Flotilla confrontation, and I agree. (His opinion, and the comments, reflect various viewpoints.) See the minute-by-minute updates on Aussie Dave's blog and, especially, on Jameel's blog. I suspect that Jameel will be called upon shortly by either Magen David Adom (Israeli Red Star) and/or Hatzalah (Rescue) to make use of his paramedic skills.

My husband says that Israel should turn the tables and accuse Turkey of being an accessory to the creation of this international incident. They knew, or should have known, that the organizers of the flotilla had non-peaceful intentions--the "humanitarian operation" was just a cover-up.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Popping peanuts in the park

Shira's Shot
Madison Square Park, May 25, 2010
(Click on the photo to see the little peanut-popper up close.)
This is the first picture that I've uploaded onto my new computer and imported into Blogger! Yay!
Okay, the printer doesn't seem to be working at the moment, and the poor hubster hasn't even gotten around to plugging in the new external hard drive, but we're getting there, slowly but surely.
For the record, I hate Windows 7! In Windows XP, I used to be able to copy from one folder to another--now I have to drag and drop, whether I want to use that method or not. And the choice of how to display one's folders is much more limited--I don't need to see an individual folder icon for every single folder in the "media" libraries, darn it, just show me the "details" list! My current favorite complaint: When I copied this photo, I discovered, much to my annoyance, that there's no "paste" option listed on the right-click menu! Who designed this thing, anyway? :( Thank goodness for the old keyboard pasting method, Ctrl-V.
7:02 PM update: The printer is now running fine, and I've already backed up Quicken on the new external hard drive. My husband, my hero!
Now, if someone could just explain to me how two USB ports right next to each other can be labelled K and M . . .
8:47 update: Interesting, not to mention annoying--Word 2002, when riding on Windows 7, does not create automatic hyperlinks (which must be specifically inserted, instead), does not create automatic emoticons, and does not automatically fill in a day or date (e.g., "Mon" doesn't automatically become "Monday").

Monday, May 24, 2010

And you think *synagogue dues* are expensive?!

Check out Parshat (weekly reading) Naso, Numbers, chapter 4, verse 21-chapter 7, verse 89, especially chapter 7, which we read last Shabbat/Sabbath--At the time of the dedication of the Ohel Moed/Tent of Meeting in the Wilderness, the prince of each tribe presented the following offerings:
  • one silver dish full of fine flour mixed with oil for a meal-offering
  • one silver basin full of fine flour mixed with oil for a meal-offering
  • one gold pan full of incense
  • one young bull for a burnt-offering
  • one ram for a burnt-offering
  • one male lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering
  • one male goat for a sin-offering
  • two oxen for a peace-offering
  • five rams for a peace-offering
  • five male goats for a peace-offering
  • five male lambs of the first year for a peace-offering
For me, one of the most flabbergasting aspects of the Torah is the number of animal sacrifices required for all manner of reasons, be they deliberate, accidental, and/or resulting from normal human activities. Even the act of giving birth subjects a woman to a requirement to bring a sin offering, of all things. If you think it's expensive to be a Jew now, imagine what it must have been like in Temple times, when even the poorest person had to bring a small bird for a sacrifice, and a rich one had to show up with lambs, calves, and/or who knows what else. It's not only the existence of the countless sacrifices themselves that I find flabbergasting, but the fact that I don't see anyone talking about the cost. I'm far from a scholar, so please excuse me for asking what may be a dumb question, but are there rabbinic discussions concerning the financial ramifications of the sacrificial system?

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Book of Ruth: This is a blessing?

Here's something that I notice about Megillat Ruth this year.

Chapter 4:

"12 and let thy house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.'"

[ ¶ ]

Um, considering how Peretz came to be born , I can't quite decide whether that was an appropriate wish.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Starting Shavuot early (by R. Enkin at Hirhurim)

In this Hirhurim post, Rabbi Ari Enkin presents various opinions as to whether any aspect of Shavuot observance may be performed before sundown. This post of his is of interest to me because I think our current rabbi, who doesn't wait for sundown to start Arvit/Maariv (Evening Service), doesn't agree with a former rabbi, who insisted on waiting until sundown. Personally, I go with the former rabbi, on the grounds that we haven't counted seven full weeks and/or 50 days (the verse on which Sefirat HaOmer/the Counting of the Omer is based isn't clear) until after sundown. But it's good to know that my current rabbi has a halachic leg to stand on in his disagreement.

The Book of Ruth: Disposable heroes??

Here are my thoughts (for this year) about Megillat Ruth/the Book of Ruth, traditionally read on Shavuot, which begins at sundown tonight. (Chag Sameich/Happy Holiday!)
[ ¶ ]
First, there's Megillat Ruth itself: In the final chapter, chapter 4, verse 16-17, Ruth's baby is symbolically taken away from her and given to her mother-in-law.

[ ¶ ]
“16 And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.
[ ¶ ]
17 And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying: 'There is a son born to Naomi'; and they called his name Obed; he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
[ ¶ ]
Then, there's a Midrash (rabbinical interpretation of the text) that says that Boaz lived just long enough to impregnate Ruth, then died after their wedding night.
[ ¶ ]
So the only point of the story is to get a woman born non-Jewish to marry a Jew and bear a child who would be the ancestor of David HaMelech/King David, from whose line the Mashiach/Messiah will be born, just to prove that it's possible for a person who's not a literal descendant of Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Father) and Sarah Imeinu (Sarah our Mother) to become a Jew? Ruth and Boaz, as human beings, are irrelevant?
[ ¶ ]
Did it never occur to the author(s) of that Midrash that killing off Boaz also destroys the very reason for the "shotgun wedding," namely, to provide Ruth with the security of marriage, as Naomi states clearly in chapter 3, verse 1?
[ ¶ ]
“1 And Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her: 'My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?”
[ ¶ ]
I can hear Ruth now. "Great, here my mother-in-law and I schemed so nicely to get me remarried so that I'd have someone to support me, and no sooner do I put aside my widowhood than I find myself widowed all over again the very next morning."
[ ¶ ]
What were the rabbis thinking?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shabbat: Turn off, tune out, drop in*

"One day of the week, we should be free of the incessant demands of never-out-of-reach modern communication technology," commented yours truly here.

Sometimes I think that many of us non-Orthodox Jews simply don't understand the function of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. This obsession with always being chained to our computers, video games, cell phones, iPods, Blackberries, etc.--devices some of which didn't even exist as recently as 10 years ago--is ruining our lives. Shabbat should be the one day of the week when we turn off all electric gadgets, tune out the business world and the noise, and drop in to synagogue and to one another's homes. Shabbat should be a day when we hang out with HaShem and connect with one another face to face, a day to drop the WiFi and go wireless the pre-radio way. One day of the week, we should take the earbuds out of our ears and actually listen to the people we're with.

I truly believe that, whether or not HaShem created the world in seven days, the idea of the Sabbath--that there should be one day every week when we don't work--is one of Judaism's greatest contributions to humankind. Let's enjoy it.

In case I don't have time to blog tomorrow, I wish all of you a tuned-in-to-Torah Z'man Matan Torateinu. Chag Sameiach/Happy Holiday--Enjoy your Shavuot.

*For those not ancient enough to recognize the reference, see "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

My first time back

I gave myself a day off from minyan the day after Mother's Day :), and davvened/prayed at home. So this morning was the first time I'd attended a workday Shacharit (Morning Service) at our local synagogue in the 11 months since my mother died, when I started commuting by subway to another synagogue that gets a minyan in order to say Mourner's Kaddish. On the one hand, it was nice to be able to roll out the door on foot and be in shul in about five minutes. On the other hand, our shul has a minhag/custom to chant the Torah reading from the back of the siddur/ prayer book when we don't get a minyan, which can be problematic, considering who our workday leiner/Torah reader is. It takes a certain amount of patience to sit through three aliyot when they take eight minutes to chant, and those rushing off to work risk being late.

For the record, the total attendance was one baal tefillah (prayer leader)/leiner Torah reader and three other people. I can't honestly blame the shul president for complaining that continuing to run Shacharit on Mondays and Thursdays is a waste of electricity.

Sunday sundae (three scoops) :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Street scene

Our synagogue's semi-annual street fair took place today, and, since it was a gorgeous day, many congregants turned out not only to help but to hang out and take in the scene. It was a delight to see so many of our members, not all of whom are always well enough and/or interested enough to attend services. The conveyances of the congregants, though, were more of a reminder of the age and fragility of our members than I would have liked: I counted two wheelchairs, one crutch, at least three walkers, and more canes than I could keep track of. Some folks came with home attendants. There was also considerable shouting into nearly-deaf ears. But at least everyone enjoyed letting the sunshine in.

A case of the tail wagging the dog :(

First, we had to yell loudly enough to get the tenth person to stop talking to the chief maintenance worker/Shabbos Goy (who was in the kitchen preparing breakfast) and get back into the sanctuary so that we'd have a minyan for the Chazarat haShaTz (Reader's Repetition of the Amidah prayer--the repetition can't be done without a minyan). Then, the president up and left the building before the end of the service, presumably to help with the synagogue's street fair just getting under way, leaving us without a minyan for kaddish. Nu, I thought we were all there to davven (pray). The street fair couldn't have waited another 10 minutes?

The president had been talking about running card-based (but no-poker-allowed) legal gambling in the shul to raise money. It was bad enough when we ran bingo years ago, but at least that was off-premises. The thought of having my synagogue became known as the local gambling den made me ill.

Fortunately, the prez seems to have come to his senses. He's thinking of scheduling a board meeting to vote on selling our current building and moving into a nearby house that's become available. The sooner, the better, I'd say.

Related: A guest in my own shul

My most likely reason to become Orthodox is . . .

. . . cell phones in synagogue on Sabbath.

Yes, it's a problem on weekdays, too--BZ and I discussed that in the comments to this post:
Blogger BZ said...

The chief drawback is the relative lack of shared observance. I hate it when people's cell phones ring in shul on Shabbat!There are reasons beyond "observance" that cell phones ringing in shul are inappropriate. Would it be ok if their cell phones were ringing during weekday minyan?

Wed Apr 22, 10:20:00 PM 2009
[Interjection between consecutive comments: One of the more clueless members of our congregation was about to answer a cell phone while on the bima during the Torah service until we yelled at him.]
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

No, now that you mention it--I hate that, too, since a ringing cell phone distracts from the sanctity of a service. But on Shabbat or Yom Tov, when one isn't even supposed to be using a phone at all (barring a life-threatening emergency), a ringing cell phone is even worse. One day of the week, we should be free of the incessant demands of never-out-of-reach modern communication technology.

Wed Apr 22, 10:36:00 PM 200

In my former synagogue, there was a pay phone on the floor above the social hall. Anyone who absolutely insisted on making a phone call on Shabbat/Sabbath could at least be discrete about it. In my current favorite egalitarian synagogue, there seems to be a policy that no phone calls are permitted within the building on Sabbath or Chaggim (holidays), resulting in the rather distressing phenomenon of people standing on the sidewalk in a tallit while talking on a cell phone on Shabbat. Honestly, I don't know which is worse, offending the congregants or offending a good chunk of the neighbors. (In both cases, there's an Orthodox synagogue on the next block, making it quite likely that an outdoor offender would be caught in the act by some local frum folk.)

Obviously, I'm the queen of hypocrites. I benefit from the fact that many non-Orthodox Jews have a very lax attitude toward Jewish observance, yet I'm upset, or sometimes even offended, by that same lax attitude.

I wish we non-Orthodox Jews would take our observance a bit more seriously. It would be nice to see a full house in synagogue on a weekday holiday morning (even if some of the people in attendance went to work afterward--sigh), instead of having to pray that we got a minyan. (Our all-time low--thus far--was 13 people). It would be nice for my husband and me not to be the only people eating in the synagogue's sukkah on Erev Shabbat Sukkot/the Sabbath Eve during Sukkot (when the kosher restaurants in whose sukkot we eat are closed). It would be nice for us to give out roughly 20 mishloach manot packages and get more than two in return, rather than having our synagogue's seniors regard the giving of mishloach manot as something that they remembered from childhood but that didn't applied to them. (I don't think we've ever gotten more than six mishloach manot packages at this synagogue). It would be nice if some of the same folks who object to women having aliyot in our local synagogue wouldn't call us on Shabbat and leave messages on our answering machine. It would be nice if everyone who showed up for seudah shlishit between Minchah (Afternoon Service) and Arvit/Maariv (Evening Service) also showed up in time for Minchah.

Okay, shutting up now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tower towers over treetops

Shira's Shot
American Museum of Natural History
Taken from the northwest corner of 79th St. & Columbus Ave.
Mother's Day, Sunday, May 9, 2010

We spent many happy hours with our son at the American Museum of Natural History, so it seemed an appropriate place to spend Mother's Day.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Natural History Museum is only a few blocks from one of our favorite kosher restaurants. :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Reunification Day

After careful consideration, I finally decided to say Hallel with brachot (blessings) on Yom Yerushalayim (which is today), for the same reason that I say it on Yom HaAtzmaut/Israeli Independence Day--both are days on which the many were defeated at the hands of the few (rabim b'yad m'atim), as the Al HaNassim (For the Miracles) section added to the Amidah prayer on Chanukah and Purim says. Whether the liberation of Jerusalem was a divine miracle and/or a human one, I'll happily give thanks to HaShem for it.

Er, does one remove one's tefillin before Hallel on Chanukah (for which I'm trying to parallel the customs), or did I goof, for a change?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An hour away

Recently, an old friend of ours and I were discussing the "fun" we have, getting to synagogue on a Saturday. She and her husband have both had some health problems recently, and since, their shul is about an hour away by subway, they haven't been to shul in about a month. My preferred shul is also about an hour away by subway.

There's an upside and a downside to the Conservative t'shuvah (rabbinical response or ruling) permitting driving to synagogue on Shabbat/Sabbath. On the one hand, you can drive or ride to synagogue. On the other hand, the religious community to which you belong is not necessarily located in the community in which you live. This can make davvening/praying with a minyan quite challenging in case of ill health and/or advancing age. It can also make visits and help from your fellow or sister congregants more difficult--who wants to drive an hour to deliver a Shabbos dinner to someone who's just had surgery?

If we end up staying in this neighborhood, I have no idea where we'll be praying in 20 years. Nor do I have any idea who'll still be alive, in our elderly congregation, to sit shiva with me when my father dies.

[Note: Sometimes my comment-count is correct, but the most recent comment isn't visible unless one clicks on "Post a comment." So, if you don't see a response to your comment, please click.]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Flowers for Mother's Day (slightly belated)

Mother and Child
Shira's Shot
Sunday, May 9, 2010, Mother's Day

Friday, May 07, 2010

Google's getting on my nerves :(

Sometimes my comment-count is correct, but the most recent comment isn't visible unless one clicks on "Post a comment." At other times, the most recent comment is visible, but the comment-count is incorrect. Grrr. Is anyone else having this problem?

If you don't see a change in the comment-count, please click anyway, just in case. And please click on "Post a comment" even if you're just lurking (reading without commenting), just in case there's a comment "in hiding."

As I've mentioned previously, I miss the good old days when Blogspot was independent.

Quick kvetch concerning "stuff"

Whatever happened to "things?" And do the words "possessions" and/or "belongings" have too many syllables for texting?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

My milestones as a mourner

And now:

  • Saying Kaddish as a mourner for the last time, this past Monday. This past Shabbat, I was very conscious of the fact that that was the last Shabbat on which I'd be saying Kaddish for my mother as a mourner.
  • Going to my "Kaddish synagogue" today for morning minyan, as I said I would try to continue to do on Thursdays, and not saying Kaddish for the first time in a minyan in 11 months.
Yet to come:

  • My mother's first yahrzeit (anniversary of death).

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Empire State Building topped by tree :)

Leaf-topped Empire spire

Shira's Shot
From Madison Square Park, 5th Ave. & 23rd St.
April 29, 2010

Monday, May 03, 2010

11 months

My mother died and was buried in Jerusalem on the 20th of Sivan last year. Today is the 19th of Iyyar, the last day for me and my siblings to say kaddish for her. I can't honestly say that the 11 months have gone quickly--it'll be nice to be able to sleep an hour longer tomorrow. But I miss my weekly phone chats with Mom.

This morning, the other minyannaires at my "kaddish synagogue" wished me "long life." I wish the same for my father.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Must customs be cast in concrete?

See the comments.

What we do for friends . . .

Two friends of ours are participating in a group adult Bat Mitzvah celebration. All of the participants will be leining Torah (chanting from the Torah scroll), which is really neat.

But there are two problems:

  • The service will take place on a Friday night. Traditionally, the Torah reading on Shabbat/Sabbath takes place on Saturday morning.
  • The Friday night in question is the Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve) immediately following the holiday of Shavuot. According to the invitation, this service is being considered a Shabbat Shavuot service.
Did I mention that musical instruments are welcome, and that we have no idea whether the refreshments will be kosher or not?

Yes, we're going.
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