Friday, March 30, 2012

Pre-Pesach pig-out :)

As you may remember from this post, we forgot to take the mishloach manot packages to the synagogue and give them out, so we still have tons of cookies in the apartment. And three of the five guests whom we invited to our Seudat Purim were unable to join us, so we still have leftovers from the Seudah in the freezer. I usually try to behave myself during the work week, but with less than a week until the cleaning person comes to scrub the oven, etc. . . .

By the time Pesach is over, I'll probably need to do some major work on my diet. But, in the meantime, I'm enjoying myself. :) Leftover hamantashen, anyone? :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Parshat Tzav, 5772/2012 thoughts

You can read the basics of Leviticus 6.1–8:36 here.

More blood, guts, and gore. Sigh. This reading's from Vayikra/Leviticus, so what else is new?

On the other hand, at least I have the official answer to my Tuesday, February 26, 2008 post “My kingdom for a dry cleaner,” or Mrs. Cohen’s complaint--the wives of the Kohanim/priests did not clean their husbands' bloodstained clothing.

Vayikra/Leviticus, chapter 6, verse 20:
כ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-יִגַּע בִּבְשָׂרָהּ, יִקְדָּשׁ; וַאֲשֶׁר יִזֶּה מִדָּמָהּ, עַל-הַבֶּגֶד--אֲשֶׁר יִזֶּה עָלֶיהָ, תְּכַבֵּס בְּמָקוֹם קָדֹשׁ.
20 Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy; and when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof upon any garment, thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in a holy place.

See also:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"halakhic consultation subscription service"

Replying to Rabbi Gil Student's (Hirhurim/Torah Musings blog) e-mail re my previous post, I said that "Next time, maybe I should engage brain before putting blog in gear. :) happy" So, in the spirit of engaging the brain, I copied the following from a comment by Rabbi Ethan Tucker, co-founder, rosh yeshiva, and chair in Jewish Law at Mechon Hadar (responding to the linked post):

"I think there is something to be said for some kind of centralized, halakhic consultation subscription service that would enable a knowledgeable, ideologically broad person to help communities like yours and others. The question would be one of economics and time management (i.e. how much time that person needs to earmark to answer how many questions and the amount of money needed to support that person to do an excellent job). Would be interesting to hear your and others' thoughts on this idea and the business plan that might sustain it."

The floor is open.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The blind leading the blind :(

When the chazzan/cantor of our local Conservative synagogue announced that he be would our synagogue's agent for mechirat (the sale of) chametz this year, I asked him, point-blank, whether he was sure that he knew how to do a chametz sale correctly. He protested that he'd certainly seen this done enough times, but I insisted that he consult a rabbi. To be honest, I would vastly have preferred to appoint the rabbi of my "kaddish-minyan's" synagogue as our agent for mechirat chametz, but I was concerned that I might offend our cantor even more than I had already offended him and risk creating friction between him and my husband (our shul's "acting rabbi," for lack of a better description).

Fast-forward about a week.

As I was completing the contract authorizing the cantor to be our agent for mechirat chametz, and after hearing his assurance that he'd consulted two rabbis, I asked him when the contract would become effective. What I wanted to know was the last hour and minute that we would be permitted to eat chametz. Apparently, I didn't phrase my question clearly enough. (In retrospect, I should have consulted a calendar and/or a Jewish website, instead of asking that question. I just got the answer from But his answer still came as a most unpleasant surprise.

"The contract becomes effective immediately."


I looked at him as if he had two heads.

"It can't become effective immediately! If it did, [our synagogue's senior Shabbos Goy] would already own our chametz and we wouldn't be allowed to eat it!"

[For the record, I said this in the presence of the senior Shabbos Goy, who probably found this a most informative conversation.]

The cantor went to an Orthodox Jewish day school of outstanding reputation. I went to an afterschool-and-Sunday-morning Hebrew School run by a Conservative synagogue. How did it come to pass that I understand this and he doesn't? Um, logic scores one over education?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Larry explains the categories of sin

This is copied from a text that was linked in a comment to my Bewildered by some brachot (blessings). I’m saving this as a separate post for my own benefit and that of my readers, since it’s not possible to search the comments on this blog. Thanks, Larry!

Larry Lennhoff
. . .
. . .
Newsgroups: soc.culture.jewish.moderated
From: (Larry Lennhoff)
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 14:04:54 +0000 (UTC)
Local: Thurs, Sep 26 2002 10:04 am
Subject: Re: State of Mind Relevance

Steve G . . . .
A key piece of the puzzle that I don't fully > understand yet is the issue of intent when committing > an act, and how that is treated in halacha.

Some background. There are four different Hebrew words for sin:
1) pesha - This is an intentional sin, in absolute defiance of God.
2) ovon - This is a knowing sin, but a sin of lust or uncontrollable emotion, not to defy God.
3) cheit - This is an unintentional sin, but a sin nonetheless.
4) aveira - This is a catch all word, which covers all of the above categories
> Imagine I'm sitting down to eat a bowl of soup.
> (1) If I have the intention of eating kosher, and I > have a reasonable belief that the soup is kosher, but > it turns out that someone slipped something treif into > the pot without my knowledge, have I committed a sin?
As I understand it, you have committed a cheit, an unintentional sin. Should you ever find out, when the beit hamkidash has been restablished (bimhayra v'yamenu) you will have to bring a cheit offering. The fact that the sin is unintentional makes a difference in its 'weight'. This sort of thing is mentioned in Psalms, when David says "Who can escape mistakes? From unintended faults forgive me.."
> (2) If I have the intention of eating trayf, and I > have a reasonable belief that the soup is trayf, but > unbeknownst to me someone has secretly replaced my > bowl with kosher soup, have I committed a sin?
I'm less sure about this. Personally, I would say you have committed a pesha in seeking to violate the halacha, but not the aveira of eating treif.
I'm not very learned on these matters and will cheerfully acceptany corrections.
Kol Tuv

Friday, March 23, 2012

Parshat Vayikra, 5772/2012 thoughts

You can read the basics of Leviticus 1:1–5:26 here.

As I said in Parshat Vayikra (Friday, March 11, 2011), I have no interest in the restoration of animal sacrifices, so this parsha/weekly reading, and much of Sefer Vayikra/the Book of Leviticus, is of limited relevance to me. (Reform Baal Teshuvah's comment to the linked post is worth a look.)

That said, I'm curious to know why some ancient altars had horns, and why the blood of animal sacrifices was put on them. Calling all archeologists!

I recommend Conservadox's D'var Torah - Vayikra post, which is certainly more interesting than this one.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Israeli Spring" (Dry Bones cartoon)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bewildered by some brachot (blessings)

I've taken Larry Lennhoff's advice (see the comments to A mourner missing in action) and am trying to get in the habit of doing a bit of Torah study every day in memory of my father, since, being frequently a bit under the weather in recent months, I've found it quite difficult to commute half an hour to a minyan (there being none within walking distance) so that I can say kaddish for my father. So I was reading today and ran into some interesting difficult with the following passage from this page:

"Almost all of the morning blessings are in the positive, except for three: “who did not create me as a member the other nations of the world” "who did not make me a slave" and (for men) "who did not make me a woman." Why are these blessing phrased negatively?

Our Sages saw fit to establish these three separate blessings in order to give us the opportunity to express our appreciation for every facet of Hashem's kindness. If I would simply thank the One "who made me a Jew," thanking Hashem for not making me a slave or a woman as well would seem superfluous. Additionally we should not say the blessings in reverse order, for the last blessing implies the praise of the first two. Saying these blessings in the negative allows us to recite all three blessings, thus increasing our praise of our Creator (Mishna Berura 46,15)."

I always reverse these blessings, which I always recite in the positive (which is what we Conservative Jews do) because I could be a woman and a free person and still not be a Jew. Why should thanking HaShem for making one whatever gender one happens to be and thanking HaShem for making one a free person preclude thanking HaShem for making one a Jew?

Double-Parsha Vayakhel-P'kudei, 5722/2012

Due to the vagaries of the Jewish calendar, we're reading both Parshat Vayakhel and Parshat Pekudei this coming Shabbat.

Alternate-spelling fun:
  • Vayakhel, Wayyaqhel, VaYakhel, Va-Yakhel, Vayak’hel, Vayak’heil, or Vayaqhel (וַיַּקְהֵל
  • Pekudei, Pekude, Pekudey, P’kude, or P’qude (פְקוּדֵי
My thoughts:
  • This is a rerun--much of what's in these two parshiot already appeared in parshiot from recent weeks.
  • Whatever happened to Yitro's/Jethro's suggestion that Moshe/Moses delegate labor? Why did HaShem command Moshe himself to do everything to set up the Ohel Moed? See for yourself--every single command in Exodus, chapter 40, verses 1-15 is in the masculine singular in the Hebrew. I thought the Superman role was restricted to HaShem. :)
Previous post:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

To the rescue :)

The senior maintenance person of our local synagogue, being non-Jewish, has had many years of experience in functioning as a "Shabbos Goy" both for the synagogue and, when necessary, for our former rabbis. And he's a friendly guy, too, well known for escorting some of our seniors to and/or from synagogue on Shabbat/Sabbath, whether they're on foot or in a wheelchair. So when my husband cordially invited him home for dessert and "to show him something" last Friday night, he ambled amiably over to our apartment, and, without missing a beat, said, "Stuck?" Sheepishly, I admitted, "Well, we did forget to turn the oven off." He went straight to the kitchen and turned off our oven. We offered him dessert, which he refused. But we insisted that he had to have something, and, telling him that we assumed he'd eaten enough hamantashen to last him a year :), invited him to help himself to some butter cookies, which he did. We're lucky to have such a good and kind Shabbos Goy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ki Tisa, 5772/2012 thoughts: Questions & quotes

I was having too much fun on Purim to post this on time. :)

You can read the basics of Parshat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11–34:35) here.

Some questions of mine
  1. HaShem took the Israelite slaves out of a land rife with the worship of humans (the Pharoah), animals (such as cats), and idols of both of the aforementioned. So why was HaShem surprised when the ex-slaves, panicking at the absence of their leader, Moshe/Moses, built and worshiped a golden calf? Shouldn't HaShem have seen this coming? And why did HaShem keep Moshe on the mountain for long enough to make the people panic?
  2. What kind of a G-d-and-Moses cult did HaShem create, that it never occurred to the Israelites to appoint Aharon/Aaron as their temporary leader?
  3. Aharon's excuse for building the golden calf (Exodus 32:22-23) is laughable. (It would have made more sense if he'd said that he was afraid the people would kill him if he didn't make an idol for them.) Why was he not taken to task by either Moshe or HaShem?
  4. Why, in the Torah/Bible, do our ancestors get lauded and/or rewarded for wholesale slaughter? Was it really necessary for the tribe of Levi to kill thousands? (For that matter, was it really necessary for Esther to ask for permission to slaughter the enemies of the Jews for a second day?)
  5. Am I the only one who finds it most interesting that, almost immediately after the Israelites have been punished for worshiping a golden calf, Moshe asks to see G-d's glory?
Famous quotes from Parshat Ki Tisa

  • Exodus, chapter 31, quoted in the Maariv/Evening Service, Shacharit/Morning Service , and the Kiddush (sanctification of the holy day over wine or grape juice) of Shabbat/Sabbath:

טז וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-הַשַּׁבָּת, לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת-הַשַּׁבָּת לְדֹרֹתָם, בְּרִית עוֹלָם. 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
יז בֵּינִי, וּבֵין בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--אוֹת הִוא, לְעֹלָם: כִּי-שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים, עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, שָׁבַת וַיִּנָּפַשׁ. {ס} 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.' {S}

  • Exodus, chapter 34, quoted at least in part in the services on Shalosh Regalim/Pilgrimage Festivals and Yamim Noraim/High Holidays:

ה וַיֵּרֶד יְהוָה בֶּעָנָן, וַיִּתְיַצֵּב עִמּוֹ שָׁם; וַיִּקְרָא בְשֵׁם, יְהוָה. 5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
ו וַיַּעֲבֹר יְהוָה עַל-פָּנָיו, וַיִּקְרָא, יְהוָה יְהוָה, אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן--אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, וְרַב-חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת. 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed: 'The LORD, the LORD, God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth;
ז נֹצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים, נֹשֵׂא עָו‍ֹן וָפֶשַׁע וְחַטָּאָה; וְנַקֵּה, לֹא יְנַקֶּה--פֹּקֵד עֲו‍ֹן אָבוֹת עַל-בָּנִים וְעַל-בְּנֵי בָנִים, עַל-שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל-רִבֵּעִים. 7 keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and unto the fourth generation.'

  • Exodus, chapter 34, part of verse 9, quoted in the prayers on the Yamim Noraim:

וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲו‍ֹנֵנוּ וּלְחַטָּאתֵנוּ וּנְחַלְתָּנוּ.

and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance.'

  • Exodus, chapter 32, part of verse 12, a quote that appears in the "Long Tachanun" (recited on non-holiday Monday and Thursday mornings only) that's so obscure that neither the Birnbaum nor the Koren-Sacks siddur/prayer book cites it, but the ArtScroll siddur does:

שׁוּב מֵחֲרוֹן אַפֶּךָ, וְהִנָּחֵם עַל-הָרָעָה לְעַמֶּךָ.

Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Thy people."

(For more fun from my "quote-hunter" series, start here, and follow the link.)

Woodrow/Conservadox posts some interesting thoughts.

See also my previous posts:

Friday, March 09, 2012

Post-Purim post, Shushan Purim, 5772/2012

For "observance information," see Purim and its Mitzot [commandments]. Sigh. Why is there such a song and dance about having meat for a holiday meal? Is it asur/forbidden to be vegetarian? Give me a break. We had dairy for our Seudat Purm, and enjoyed our festive meal quite nicely, thank you.

Purim eve:
  • The Punster, being the "acting rabbi" (for lack of a better description) of our local synagogue, stayed local. He told me that our local shul got about 15 people for the Megillah (Book of Esther) reading.
  • Since there's no issur/prohibition against traveling on Purim, I took the opportunity, not to mention the subway, to go to my favorite egalitarian Conservative synagogue in Manhattan. I estimate that that minyan got at least twice as many people as our "home" one. And there were kids there! And both kids and adults wore costumes! And someone was walking around with a bag full of mishloach manot packages, giving them out. Yep, I plan to go there again next Erev Purim.
  • Neither minyan remembered to collect machitzit ha-shekel, but at least both minyanim did a full Maariv/Evening Service (which I was concerned might not be the case--I was prepared to daven Maariv on the subway ride home).
  • The "home" minyan got an indoor picnic of hot dogs, knishes, cole slaw, etc., plus hamantashen, after the reading. The minyan at which I heard the kriat haMegillah/Megillah reading served a pot-luck potpourri of whatever people felt like bringing (all cold food), plus hamantashen.
  • I wasn't home to take the big bag of mishloach manot packages to our local shul, and my husband forgot, so this is the first time in probably over 15 years that we didn't give out any mishloach manot after the evening Megillah reading. That may be just as well. It does mean, though, that we have less than a month to nosh our way through over 20 packages of mishloach manot. And I weighted myself this morning. Don't ask. On the other hand, if that's our worst problem, I can't complain. :)
Purim morning:
  • I didn't have the koach/strength to get up at 4:15 AM to commute half an hour to my "kaddish minyan's" 6:15 AM Shacharit/Morning Service with Megillah reading. So I walked to our local shul's 6:30 Shacharit, instead. We got exactly a mezuman (three people)--the cantor, my husband, and I were the only ones there. As usual, we took turns leining/reading, with my husband and me each chanting one chapter and the chazzan chanting the rest. You can't make much noise with three groggers. Oh, well. At least the shul provided us with goodies after the service, so we got to "nosh some hamantashen" on the house.
Purim afternoon
  • We invited some friends to our apartment for a Seudat Purim (Purim Feast). Fortunately for all, one of them volunteered to "cater" the Seudah--she enjoys cooking, and is much better at it than either my husband or I. So we pigged out nicely, and talked for hours. It was fun, which, in my opinion, is what Purim is for.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Purim links and thoughts, 5772/2012

I'll work on this between phone calls and assignments, so check for updates. I offer my standard apology for idiotic formatting--for whatever reason, I can't delete blank lines on my office computer, so you'll see a lot of empty space here. And I'll probably be too busy tonight to do any reformatting on my home computer. :) [Reformatted on Purim day. (Deformatted on Shushan Purim. This happens every time I edit a post on my office computer--the more I edit, the worse the formatting gets. I give up.)]

One highlight among many: "Chabad would send another shaliah to Shushan, to re-enforce the staff already there at the Chabad House. Cholent (Persian style) would be dished out each Shabbat morning along with prayers for the Queen’s prompt release from bondage in the palace."

My favorite paragrah: " * Why didn't they have co-ed parties in ancient Persia? I mean, how pious were these people, that Vashti and the women were kept separate from Achashveyrosh and the men? And if all that separation didn't help the ancient court of Persia stay proper and moral, why do 21st century Jews think it's worth doing?" :)

  • And here are some Purim cartoons from Dry Bones.

From the oldies but goodies department:

Speaking of sober notes, don't drink so much that you get sick or stupid. Have fun and stay safe!

I'm off to a Megilla reading! Purim Sameach!

Last-minute link as I shut down my office computer: this year's The Jewish Daily Forward Purim Page.

  • Purim Day update (and formatting clean-up)

More oldies but goodies:

My current thoughts:

  • Esther turns Achashverosh's sexist response to Vashti's declaration of independence on its head--by the end of the book, she's making the decisions, even though Mordechai ends up with most of the visible power.

  • Why does Esther request an opportunity to slaughter enemies for a second day? Isn't that a bit bloodthirsty?

Shushan Purim update

I was working on my office computer when I posted this update. There goes the formatting, again. Oh, well.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Next up: Shabbat Zachor (tonight & tomorrow)

The second of the special parshiot (Torah readings) preceding Pesach (Passover) is read tomorrow morning.

You can read the special pre-Pesach Maftir readings in English here.

According to tradition (rabbinic?), Haman, the villain of Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther), which we read on Purim, was a descendent of Amalek, hence the choice of this maftir reading for the Shabbat (Sabbath) preceding Purim.

The latest Egyptian fundraising technique :(

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