Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Public consequences of privacy's disappearance

I've discussed the disappearance of personal privacy previously, but the WikiLeaks revelations are something new (at least to me). Pardon my political naivete, but what, exactly, do these people intend to accomplish, other than to make diplomacy impossible?

Deciding factors

Start here.

An old friend pointed out, in response to my complaint that standards seem rather lax in the non-Orthodox world, that the problem is not a lack of standards but differing priorities. So, for example, a non-Orthodox synagogue might decide that it's more important for congregants to share a Shabbat kiddush lunch in the synagogue that to worry about who's kitchen is kosher enough. But I still can't get over the ubiquity of cell phones in synagogue on Shabbat/Sabbath in non-Orthodox synagogues. Call it standards or priorities, I'm no longer comfortable with what I see in the non-Orthodox world.

I asked my husband what would induce him to choose an Orthodox synagogue rather than the Conservative one or the independent egalitarian minyan that are also in our future neighborhood. His response: study opportunities. He'd really love to do more studying once he's retired. When we visited the friends who hosted us for Sukkot last Sunday, they gave us a recent synagogue bulletin. It listed classes on Sunday mornings, Monday evenings, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, and Shabbat afternoons. Unless the Conservative synagogue, the independent minyan, or the other Modern Orthodox synagogue in the same neighborhood can match that . . .

I'll be on the receiving end, this time

Years ago (pre-kid), my synagogue friends and I mocked another synagogue member who was in the process of changing affiliations--she'd decided to try going to an Orthodox synagogue.

Fast-forward about 35 years or so.

A girlfriend and I were yacking on the phone about a mutual friend of ours who recently joined an Orthodox synagogue after a lifetime as a Conservative Jew, and I could practically see her rolling her eyes right through the phone line.

I told my husband about that conversation, and reminded him that we're already getting flack from friends for even considering joining an Orthodox synagogue, suggesting to him that we'll probably get even more flack if we actually go through with it.

We've already decided that there are limits to how Orthodox we're willing to become. We intend to continue doing partner dances and holding hands with persons of the opposite gender during circle dances when we go Israeli or international folk dancing--we'll reserve shmirat n'giah, the rule against touching a member of the opposite gender who's not a close relative, for synagogue. We also decided that neither of us is sufficiently willing to shove our Orthodoxy into our non-frum friends' faces to cover our heads in their presence. My husband will not wear a kippah to the annual Chanukah party except when we light the chanukiah (Chanukah menorah), and I will not cover my head outside of synagogue.

Given the flack and our discomfort with appearing "frummer than thou," what would induce us to make the switch?

Monday, November 29, 2010


When my husband retires in about two years, our income will plummet like a rock.

Unfortunately, I've long since concluded that there's no such thing as a Jewish neighborhood that's as cheap as the neighborhood in which we're now living, so our housing expenses will go up at roughly the same time.

We'll finally be living within walking distance of kosher restaurants, but we won't be able to afford to eat out.

Lucky, thus far

When I broke both wrists almost two years ago, my husband took care of me, feeding me every day until I could hold a fork, and bathing me every day until those yo-yos at the hospital finally sent me a home health aid a month after my fall.

My girlfriend's husband, plagued with physical and emotional problems since he underwent a couple of surgeries a couple of years ago, is in no condition to help his wife now that it's going to be her turn to undergo surgery shortly. She'll have to hire someone to take care of their home because he can barely wash a dish--and he's only roughly the same age as my own husband.

I consider myself very fortunate, indeed.

Recommended reading

I started to write a review of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' Future Tense: Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the Twenty-First Century, but I see that Eugene Korn did a much better job in the most recent Meorot. I recommend both the review and the book.

See also neurosurgeon Noam Stadlan's article on some serious problems posed by the halachic definition of death held by some Orthodox rabbis.

For that matter, see just about every article there.

There are plenty of other goodies on the YCT Learning page, too. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tefillin challenge: Surprise ending (I hope)

Once upon a time, I tried to meet the challenge of laying tefillin without uncovering my head in synagogue by using a pre-tied scarf. This is a challenge specific to Orthodox women, as many Orthodox Jews hold the opinion that halachah/Jewish religious law forbids a married (some say divorced and widowed, as well) woman from baring her head in public.

[ ¶ ]

[ ¶ ]

[ ¶ ]
Just a few days ago, I had one of those [smack-forehead-with-palm]-“Why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-before?” moments. So, this morning, I tried out my idea with my husband as my witness, and he said it worked, though it did make me look as if I were “duchening."

[ ¶ ]
Here’s the procedure:

  • Put on your tallit as usual.
  • Put on your hand tefillah/shel yad as usual, up to, but not including, the hand-wrapping part.
  • Before putting on your head tefillah/shel rosh, put your tallit over your head, covering it completely.
  • After your tallit is over your head, remove your kisui rosh/head-covering (hat, pre-tied* scarf, or snood), and put it on your chair. Don’t worry, you won’t have any opportunity to sit on your hat by accident! Note that you cannot wear a sheitel/wig with tefillin, as it is not permissible to have any item of clothing between the tefillin and the body.
  • While your head is still completely covered by the tallit, put on your head tefillah/shel rosh, adjusting the bayit/box and retzuot/straps as required. When you have completed all adjustments and are ready to continue wrapping the hand tefillah/shel yad, and while your head is still completely covered by your tallit, put your kisui rosh/head-covering back on, adjusting it so that the scarf or snood, or the crown of the hat, sits just behind the bayit of the shel rosh.
  • After you put your kisui rosh back on and adjust it, remove the tallit from your head and continue laying tefillin, wrapping the shel yad around your hand.

[ ¶ ]
After the end of the service, reverse the procedure. At no point will your head be uncovered.

[ ¶ ]
It may be harder not to trip on the tzitzit of a nearly-knee-length tallit, but a nearly-knee-length tallit has this advantage--it's easier to pull one over one's head.
[ ¶ ]
Friday, November 26, 2010 update: I've revised this post to make it clear that my suggestion is intended for my female readers. (No, I didn't "revise" the font, and I haven't a clue why that happened.)
[ ¶ ]
I've also done some further experimentation. I tried this method with a brimmed hat, a plain scarf, a pre-tied scarf, and a snood. It worked for all of these kisuiei rosh/head-coverings except the plain scarf--*I found it impossible to tie a scarf behind my head while my head was covered by my tallit. So those who like to feel the wind in their hair and prefer untied scarves or bandanas/kerchiefs would need to wear a different kind of kisui rosh when laying tefillin in public. I assume that it would be possible to use a baseball cap or other visored hat, but be sure to turn the hat backward, to get the visor out of the way of the bayit.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blu Greenberg's book may be more my speed

I got up to about page 114 in Forst's The Laws of Kashrut (see here) and gave up (or, at least, took a break)--the charts that Larry recommended are about the only things I can understand. I decided to read Blu Greenburg's How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household instead--and already, on pages 45 and 46, I learned two things that I didn't know. On page 45, Greenberg says, concerning Erev Shabbat/Sabbath Eve (Friday evening), that "There is no partaking of food from the time candles are lit until Kiddush is recited at dinner . . ." Apparently, this is not just a chumrah (extra stringency not required by halachah/Jewish religious law), as I thought it was when our last rabbi, the Yeshivish one, complained about not being able to eat before our 8 PM Friday service--if someone as famously *Modern* Orthodox as Blu Greenberg follows this rule, I think it's reasonable for me to assume that the acceptance thereof is probably widespread in the Orthodox community. Next Friday, remind me to grab a handful of nuts before two minutes until z'man l'hadlik nerot/licht bentchen/candle-lighting time. I also learned, on page 46, that just because we switched from using tea bags to using tea essence (made by brewing a bunch of teabags in much less water than you would usually use, so that you can dilute the essence with pre-heated water for hot tea) on Shabbat out of concern that dipping the bags on Shabbat might constitute cooking, that doesn't mean that we're allowed to put the tea into the cup first--we must still pour the pre-heated water into the cup or teapot first, then add the tea essence.

Hmm, maybe I just need the right teacher.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shivering on Shabbat

Start here.

The president of our local synagogue has put his foot down--there will be no heat in the sanctuary for Friday night services, because he says it's not worth running up the bill when there are rarely more than half a dozen people there, including the chazzan/cantor. I was absolutely freezing this past Friday night in shul.

As for Shabbat/Sabbath morning, the heat gets turned on when people kvetch (complain)--and the minute everyone gets warm enough to stop kvetching, the heat gets turned right back off. Some of our members have already stopping attending because they can't take the cold, and one woman wore pants to synagogue this morning for possibly the first time in her life. :(

I will not go to our local synagogue again without a windbreaker until next spring--I'll need it to wear indoors.

There's a rumor afloat that some Alaskan Jews have dubbed themselves the "Frozen Chosen." I guess we're the southeast branch.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Parshat Vayishlach: An old but good post

Here's a summary of, and link to, Parshat Vayishlach.

[ ¶ ]

I think I said it all in my 2004 post, Vayishlach: A family of con artists benefits from a rape. I'm sorry that I didn't notice that 2008 comment until now--it's a good one, mentioning the possibility that the rape of Dinah may have been a statutory rape. (Update: I posted a reply on Friday, November 19, 2010.)

[ ¶ ]

For my thoughts re Esav/Esau bringing an army with him to the reunion with his brother Yaakov/Jacob, see my Midrash Madness.

[ ¶ ]

Update, Friday, November 19, 2010:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What's logic got to do with it?

Start here, and pay particular attention to the comments.

As far as I can determine, the difference that most of the women of our local synagogue perceive between women being counted for a minyan and women being given aliyot is that being counted for a minyan requires nothing other than showing up, whereas getting an aliyah means actually doing something.

It has been remarked that some of the senior women who can't read Hebrew feel hesitant about reciting b'rachot (blessings) in front of the congregation even though there's an English-alphabet transliteration on the "b'rachot card," whereas some of our less-literate men feel no compunction about possibly stumbling over the Hebrew in public. But some of the senior women who can read Hebrew are no less uncomfortable about having aliyot. It's just too much of a change for them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Worse than a computer manual :(

I took Larry Lennhoff's recommendation (posted here) and bought Rabbi Forst's Laws of Kashrus.


It's dry as a bone, technical, and not the least bit interesting to read. (I generally do my reading on the subway, and prefer something that doesn't put me to sleep while I'm standing up.) And I've barely gotten to the chapter about nullifying, or not being able to nullify, accidental mixtures of kosher and treif (non-kosher).

There's a big difference between a computer manual and a kashrut "manual." If you can't figure out what the heck they're talking about in the computer manual, you can always call a computer repair person. But if you mess up the kashrut of your kitchen, who you gonna call, Ghostbusters? Er, Chabad? Those who want to keep a kosher kitchen must be able to do so independently, consulting a rabbi or other halachah expert when necessary only: If you "treif" a spoon (make it non-kosher), you have to know how to "kasher" it (make it kosher) yourself--you can't call the rabbi every time you need to kasher something.

If this is what we have to learn to maintain a kosher kitchen in accordance with Orthodox interpretation . . .

Tell you what, why don't we just serve you kosher take-out on paper plates, or an Ashke-fardi/S'fard-kenazi feast of chummus and herring?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend round-up: My Nov. 13-14 2010 posts

Cheap manufacturers, or anything to save a buck :(

No wonder all of my newer blouses gap open between buttons at exactly the spot where I don't want them to gap open between buttons--my newest blouses have only seven buttons rather than eight. The photo illustrating this post should give you a pretty good idea of what I'm kvetching (complaining) about. (Cynic that I am, I wonder whether the trend toward so-called "split-necked" tops is just a money-saving move--notice that there's absolutely nothing where the top two or three buttons should be.) Thank you so much for keeping a woman's modesty in mind. Not. :(

Bottom (or top) line: Since I have fairly narrow shoulders, either I can buy a size 12 blouse and look like I'm wearing a potato sack, or I can buy a size 10 and risk ending up with, you should pardon the expression, a visible means of support.

This post is the most recent addition to my "design" series.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"In the freezer," Conservative-style :(

"In the freezer" is a term used in the "Yeshivish" and/or Chareidi Orthodox community which, if I understand it correctly, refers to young men forbidden to date because they're attending a post-high-school yeshiva that considers them too busy studying to be ready for marriage.

In the case of our local Conservative synagogue, I'm afraid that "the freezer" is much more literal--the Shabbos Goy is constantly battling the shul president for the right to leave the heat turned on, because we're too broke to pay the heating bill. :(

The results are predictable: Some of our members have stopped coming to Shabbat (Sabbath) morning services because they're too cold. Others, among the older women, have started or said they will start wearing pants to synagogue, despite having believed, all their lives, that pants are not proper attire for a woman to wear to services. :(

Today, we didn't have a minyan for the Shacharit Amidah prayer, despite the fact that we count women in a minyan. And since we don't give women aliyot, we were forced to wait until 11 AM to start the Torah reading because it took 'til then to gather seven men. Three aliyot went to Leviyim (though there's supposed to be only one aliyah for one Levi). The service ran so late that we ended up doing a heichah kedushah (short version: an abbreviated Amidah prayer) for the Musaf service.

This is the future, folks. It's not going to get any better--it's only going to get worse. The congregation is dying in front of my eyes. And you wonder why I can't wait to move.

Congregation B'nei Akiva

No, that's not their real name. But here's why I chose it.

Some of my readers may recollect that I've mentioned the new unaffiliated but Reform-ish local synagogue that was founded within recent years. They're struggling along, meeting once or twice a month in rented rooms for Friday night services or Saturday morning Tot Shabbat, with occasional holiday observances and/or parties and the occasional Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration. They can only afford to bring in their rabbi roughly every two-three months.

Since we know a few of the more active members, we're on their mailing list, and were happy to see that they were having a Friday service this past Friday. Methinks they were glad to see us not only because we're friends with some of them, but also, because we're among the more learned attendees. We ended up doing a lot of the leading.

On the one hand, it's a bit sad to see a group of people, most around our age and probably none (other than the few school-aged kids) under 35, who're at roughly the same level of learning that I was at about 30 years ago, or not even "there" yet. (Some of the folks in Friday's minyan have just recently learned to read Hebrew.) On the other hand, I'm happy to help folks play catch-up. Better late than never. (According to tradition--see here--Rabbi Akiva was an ignoramus until starting his studies at the age of forty, encouraged by Rachel, his wife.) Their company also helped me appreciate just how far I've come. How fortunate I am to have gotten a Hebrew-School education and lessons in home observance from my parents! How lucky I am to have received so much help from rabbis, cantors, teachers, family, and friends--not to mention my husband! All of this has enabled to get to where I am in my Jewish knowledge today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Parshat Vayetze, and a "family round-up"

I didn't see anything new when I read Parshat Vayetze yesterday, but maybe I'll spot something later.

I must admit, though, that, when reading Genesis, chapter 31, verse 30-35, I've sometimes wondered whether HaShem was really Elokai (the G-d of) Rachel.

Here are some previous posts of mine:

Update: DovBear chimes in.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Please help me reconstruct my blogroll

Fashion (junior division): Bah, humbug! :(

See here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

“Canaries in a coal mine,” revisited

Remember this post? It got mixed reviews, but certainly engendered an interesting conversation.

[ ¶ ]

I did neglect to include another set of "canaries in a coal mine"—gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, transsexuals, intersex, “gender queer,” etc. Heshy has corrected that oversight. As he and many others have pointed out, gay sex is not the only sin, nor is it the only one that the Torah/Bible describes as an “abomination (toeivah)." But it certainly is a hot-button issue. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever threatened to withhold synagogue honors from a person seen eating in a non-kosher restaurant.

[ ¶ ]

I confess to having been rather amused to read this post by Rabbi Maryles, given the fact that my husband and I had discussed exactly this possibility the very day that this was published. The most interesting thing about the controversy regarding a woman becoming a member of the Orthodox Jewish clergy is that the objections seem to be about inconvenience—a female Orthodox rabbi couldn’t be counted for a minyan or be a witness at a conversion—or about “the mesorah/tradition," meaning that it just isn’t done. It seems to me that nobody’s saying that it’s actually against halachah/Jewish religious law. This leads me to what I consider the obvious question: Is the Orthodox Union and/or the Rabbinical Council of America following in the footsteps of Young Israel and moving to the religious right? If even the OU is complaining about a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat, who’s left? Feel free to interpret the word “left” in more way than one.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Parshat Toldot & Haftarat Machar Chodesh

Quick thoughts:
  • Parshat Toldot

Genesis Chapter 26

5 because that Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.'

[ ¶ ]

What commandments, statutes, and laws? As best I recollect, the only laws that had already been given were "p'ru u-r'vu, be fruitful and multiply," and the law of circumcision.

[ ¶ ]

I'm guessing that it's from this verse that the rabbis derived the highly-anachronistic notion that the Avot and Imahot (Patriarchs and Matriarchs) knew of and obeyed all of Jewish law, even thought it wouldn't be given until after the Exodus.

  • Haftarah Machar Chodesh

1 Samuel 20:18–42

41 And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the South, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times; and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded."

[ ¶ ]

Before we get all excited about David having loved Jonathan more or having been the better person, I think we might wish to consider the possibility that David cried longer because he'd just been told to run for his life.

[ ¶ ]

[ ¶ ]

See also Parshat Toldot links.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Blogger envy

In my Kvetching Post, I discussed “blog envy.” I’m past that, now, and have advanced to envying a blogger herself.

How did Elianah-Sharon manage to have an article published by the Orthodox Union? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were trading tales of raising a child with challenges on my blog and the blog that she was writing at the time? Some of that conversation is preserved in the comments to my Park your ego at the door: On raising a child with disabilities series—Elianah-Sharon was then blogging and commenting under the “name” Z. Now she’s a big shot, and blogs under a real name.

[ ¶ ]

Well, enough griping. Mazal Tov, Z, er, Elianah-Sharon. Your article is recommended reading.

Parshot Toldot links

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why I have trouble buying hats :)

Going . . .

Going . . .

Gone :)

(Hair today, gone tomorrow :) )

(No, this shot is not "Photoshopped" or edited in any way--I'm too tech-challenged to know how! Believe it or not, this one-size-fits-all beret is not even tight when I pull it down over my glasses and face!)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fall flowers



Shira's Shots
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Quote of the day, swiped from today's NYTimes.com

"I'd like to get to the bottom of what's really right for this country, and that's kind of hard while they're all calling each other names."

TONY PERELLI, 75, voting in Chicago.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Blogrolling.com closes shop with no prior notice

I had a blogroll yesterday morning. By the afternoon, it had vanished. When I checked Blogrolling.com last night to see whether there was a problem, this was all that was left. Now what? Suggestions--and assistance for Ms. Tech Challenged--would be appreciated.

Many thanks to Sheyna Galyan for all of her help in setting up my now-defunct blogroll. It worked very well for almost four years, until Blogrolling.com went out of business.

Getting his revenge by upping the ante

No sooner had my husband reminded the congregation of the Ritual Committee's recent ruling that even dairy cakes must be bought from a bakery under rabbinical supervision than the president got up and "clarified" that the bakery must be Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath-observant, or, in commercial usage, closed on Sabbath). To say that I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. The Ritual Committee had never said any such thing.

Since the nearest bakery under rabbinical supervision also sells non-bakery items that are not under rabbinical supervision, we assume that it is not Jewish-owned and is open on Shabbat. We also assume that the president knows this. His stated reasoning was that only a Shomer Shabbat bakery's kashrut is really trustworthy, and also that, as a "traditional" synagogue, we should be supporting a Shomer Shabbat business. But I take it for granted that the president's real motive for insisting that we use a Shomer Shabbat bakery was to take his revenge on the Ritual Committee, especially me, for having overturned his previous decision to buy dairy cakes from a local unsupervised bakery. Bottom line: My poor husband will now have to take not only a subway, but, also, a bus, to buy dairy cakes for the synagogue. :)
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