Friday, May 24, 2013

I went to a wonderful Cantors Assembly concert

. . . and all I got were these, er, awful, photos (because I stupidly left my camera in my backpack in the cloakroom and couldn't figure out even how to take close-ups from the balcony, much less shoot videos, with my Android).  The concert was wonderful--hope my local readers were there!

I confess that I have ulterior motives for hoping the Cantors Assembly recorded this concert.  I let out a Mizrachi "trill" in response to a "trill" by one of the singers--it came automatically, because that's what Israeli folk dancers do--but it would be a delightful irony if, over 30 years after having been turned down for admission to cantorial school, I ended up on a cantorial recording.  :) :) :)

An interesting week

First, I got bypassed, cane and all, by a woman young enough to be my daughter, who took the subway seat that I was hoping to get.

Then we found out that the family two floors above us now has a baby in addition to a toddler, meaning that the noise from upstairs is going to get twice as bad before it gets better.  And we're still waiting to see, or, rather, hear, who's going to move into the apartment directly above us.

Last, but not least, I've now had my last-ever moo-shoo chicken--apparently, I'm now getting sick even from cooked cabbage.  Oh, well, I can think of worse health problems.

But, hey, at least I went to a good concert.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Halachically unjustifiable?

Our synagogue is a halachic anomaly.  A literally-dying congregation, we began counting women in a minyan probably over a decade ago as we started running out of men.  But the counting stopped there.  Except when necessary.  And, more recently, not always when necessary, either--in the past three-six years, we've started to hire female cantors as guest cantors when our regular cantor wasn't available and no one else could substitute, at first with apologies and assurances that no precedent-setting was intended, but in the past couple of years, just as a normal procedure.

Now that you have some background, let me present you with the most interesting recent twist.  Only seven men were present for the Torah reading on Shabbat morning, so my husband volunteered to take not only the Maftir aliyah, but also sh'vii (the seventh aliyah, which proceeds it).  Not being one to keep my big mouth shut, as my readers certainly know :), I approached the reading desk and advised the cantor not to call my husband for the Maftir aliyah or have him recite a second b'rachah/blessing because it wasn't necessary, since, to the best of my knowledge (at that time--I learned something new from that Maftir link), the whole point of the Maftir aliyah was to give an honor to someone who hadn't already had one.  It occurred to me afterward that there was an even more important reason--saying the same b'rachah over the same mitzvah/commandment (in this case, Torah study) twice in a row might be a b'rachah l'vatalah (see the "Safek berakah" paragraph here).

After the service, the cantor, my husband (head of the Ritual Committee) and I discussed the situation further, as it's likely to occur in the future, and I promised the cantor that I would pose a sh'elah (question of Jewish religious law) to my "G-d squad" of rabbis, cantors, and rabbinical and cantorial students whom I've encountered online or in person.

It wasn't until later that I realized what an idiot I was.  I couldn't ask the Orthodox folks on my "G-d Squad," because, obviously, they'd say that, without ten men for a minyan, we shouldn't be doing a Torah reading in the first place.

But then I realized that my question would sound equally absurd to a non-Orthodox rabbi.  Think about it for a minute.  When you go to an Orthodox synagogue and they have a minyan on a day when the Torah is read, everyone who's eligible to be counted in the minyan is also eligible to get an aliyah.  Why on earth would the same not be true of a synagogue that counts women in a minyan?  How could it be, that a synagogue/chavurah/etc. that has a minyan doesn't have enough people for all of the aliyot?

Is there any possible halachic justification for excluding from eligibility for an aliyah anyone who's eligible to be counted in a minyan?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Modern Marketing, or Caveat Emptor/Buyer Beware

Read the Ingredients
In the interest of maintaining our health, we're been trying to cut down on chemical additives in our food.  But sometimes, we run out of luck without even knowing it.  My husband bought a box of cookies labeled "all natural," and they turned out to have both vanillin and mono- and di-glycerides in them.  I didn't do any better--the "all natural" cookies that I bought had sodium acid pyrophosphate in them.  Next time, maybe we should try organic.

Bricks vs. clicks
I just saved roughly $5 by buying a book online and having it delivered rather than buying it in person at a book store.  Yep, some modern retailers actually discriminate against people who do their shopping the old-fashioned way.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Parshat Naso, 5773/2013 thoughts

Nothing new on Naso for now, but here's a link to all my previous Naso posts, and one of Elie's, as well.  Shabbat Shalom.

On second thought, I just took another look at Haftarat Naso and noticed that Manoach's unnmamed wife had the good sense not to ask the angel his/her/its name, but Manoach did not.  As I said in a previous post, the man had no seichel/common sense.

Conservadox looks at the Sotah ritual from a completely different angle.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gathering thoughts for our shul's Tikkun Leil Shavuot

It occurred to me, when I was writing my recent Parshat B'midbar post, that the role of some of the women of the Tanach, as with some of the men, is also "in keeping with the biblical pattern of (almost) always avoiding giving leadership positions to person(s) who would have been the obvious choice(s), back in biblical times."

It's Sarah who insists that Yitzchak, Avraham's second son, be his heir, and Rivka/Rebecca who schemes to get Yitzchak/Isaac to bless Yaakov/Jacob instead of firstborn Esav/Esau.  I wouldn't think that having women determine the line of succession would have been particularly typical back then.

Miriam shows nerves of steel in approaching Par'oh's/Pharoah's daughter, and, for that matter, Par'oh's daughter takes quite a chance in harboring and raising a condemned child right under her father's nose.

Devorah is not only a judge, but also a general--she's the one who proposes the attack on the local enemies.  Not to mention that Yael, also female, is the one who ends the battle definitively by killing the fleeing enemy general.  (See here for more re Devorah.)

Last but not least are the women about whom we read on Shavuot in Megillat Rut.  Rut/Ruth takes the brave step of following her late husband's widowed mother home in order to ensure the older woman's survival, replacing the no-longer-living men who would normally have assumed that responsibility.  Naomi, in return, sets up something resembling a shotgun wedding to ensure Rut's long-term survival (since the job market for single female foreigners was pretty tight) once she realizes that the surviving relatives aren't going to do their job without, ahem, some serious encouragement--see a previous Tikkun prep of mine.

On a more pessimistic note, here's my The Book of Ruth: Disposable heroes??

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Showering on Yom Tov" rules, reposted (again)

As a public service, I'm posting a link before Shavuot, which begins tomorrow night, and suggesting that you follow the links.

Orthodox Rabbi Eliyah Fink re N'shei HaKotel/Women of the Wall

You can read his post and comments here.

"Go back a few months. Imagine the Kotel authority just looked the other way when a small group of women prayed in a different way than the other women. The Women of the Wall were not proselytizing, they were not trying to win converts, they were not trying to make a revolution at the Kotel. They just wanted to pray they way they like to pray. Is it the way orthodox Jewish women pray? Not usually. Is it halachically acceptable? Barely. But there is definitely room to allow it. The Women of the Wall would be a small blip on the Kotel radar as they have been for several years now. Especially now that the court sided in their favor, this Rosh Chodesh would have passed with little fanfare. The Women of the Wall would have done their thing without threat of arrest and no one would have been in the news or in jail.

Instead a massive counter protest was manufactured. Not too many people seemed bothered by the small group of Women of the Wall. No one really felt so outraged that they needed to do something about it. People noticed, or didn’t notice, and that was it. No big deal. Until last week. Until people were told to care, they didn’t. As was appropriate.

The organizers tapped into the two things that are guaranteed to draw big numbers: Daas Torah and paranoia about non-orthodox Jews. The rabbis said to go protest and so they went to protest. The pretext for the protest was that the Women of the Wall were out to uproot the sanctity of the Kotel and over time they were out to erode the very essence of orthodox Judaism. If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is. How can a few dozen women carry so much power? Why do the ultra-orthodox even care what they are doing? I don’t have the answer to that question and I have yet to see a satisfactory answer from anyone else.

They should have been left alone. Instead, thousands of people came to the Kotel on Friday and turned it into a battleground. And for what? Is there really any legitimate fear that charedi Judaism is in danger of being subverted by a few dozen women? Are we so paranoid, so insecure about our frumkeit? Is seeing some women praying in non-traditional ways such a danger?

The part that hurts me the most is that these women are not sinning, they are praying! While many may not agree with the manner in which they are praying, it boggles the mind that orthodox Jews would stifle prayer at the Kotel or anywhere for that matter. If we really believe that prayer is a mitzvah, and praying brings us closer to God, why would we deny others the same opportunity?"

Mazal Tov to the 1st graduates of Yeshivat Maharat

See the Jewish Daily Forward's report here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Right idea, wrong way

If all went according to plan, there was a Shacharit/Morning Service held in Madison Square Park this morning, Rosh Chodesh Sivan, in support of N'shei HaKotel/the Women of the Wall.  I debated whether to attend, and finally decided against going.  The problem is that the supporters planned to hold an egalitarian minyan, but that's not what the Women of the Wall do--in order to include all women, they exclude all prayers that can't be said without a minyan.  Theirs is a Women's Tefillah (Prayer) Group, not a minyan, so holding an egalitarian minyan misses part of the point, which is to include both Orthodox and non-Orthodox women.

Monday, May 13, 2013 update
Tablet Magazine report:  NYC Prayer Service Supports Women of the Wall.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Parshat B'midbar, 5773/2013 thoughts

Basics here.

Okay, first of all, if they list the leaders of the tribes one more time, I'll shoot someone (with phaser on "stun" setting, of course).

Second . . . well, yes, let's talk about "seconds," etc.  Avraham's/Abraham's firstborn son, Yishmael/Ishmael, was expelled from the family compound, and his place as family leader was given to secondborn son Yitzchak/Isaac.  Yitzchak's firstborn son, Esav/Esau, was hoodwinked out of both his birthright and his blessing by secondborn son Yaakov/Jacob.  Reuven/Reuben, Yaakov's eldest son, had the leadership role taken from him and given to Yehudah/Judah.  Even Yosef/Joseph, Yaakov's favorite child, was the firstborn of his mother (Rachel) but not of his father.   And, to boot, when the time came for Yaakov to bless Yosef's sons, he blessed Efraim/Ephraim, the younger son, before Menashe/Manasses, the older son.

Fast-forward to Moshe Rabbeinu/Moses our teacher--Perhaps one reason why HaShem chose Moshe was that he was his parents' third child, after Miriam and Aharon/Aaron.  His father, Amram, was an exception to the rule--he was K'hat's oldest son.  But K'hat was Levi's second son.  Yet the descendents of K'hat through Amram got not only the K'hunah/Priesthood, but, at least in the Midbar/Wilderness years, the privilege of transporting the most sacred components of the Mishkan/Tabernacle.

In my opinion, the selection of Aharon and his sons as kohanim/priests and the assignment of superior "portage" honors to the remaining descendants of K'hat are not only classic cases of nepotism (be it HaShem's or Moshe's, depending on your point of view), but are also in keeping with the biblical pattern of (almost) always avoiding giving leadership positions to person(s) who would have been the obvious choice(s), back in biblical times.

Conservadox thinks that "Torah’s devaluation of the first-born . . .  is part of its devaluation of paganism . . . "

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Yom Yerushalayim begins at sundown tonight

Monday, May 06, 2013

Creating my own cookie sandwich

No, I didn't say sandwich cookie, I said cookie sandwich.  If one's too spicy but moist, while the other is just right, taste-wise, but gritty, why not put one on top of the other and eat them together?  :)

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Unanticipated expenses :(

To buy, or not to buy--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and search for replacement for "dead" hard drive
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by buying new computer end them . . .  

The good news is that, at least, my computer gave me fair warning, displaying a notice on my screen that my hard drive was no longer functioning properly and that I should back up everything immediately.  So everything (I hope) is now on my husband's external hard drive, which has a higher capacity than mine.

The bad news is that the poor Punster spent about two hours on the phone with HP yesterday, but was unable to bring my hard drive back from the dead.  Bless that patient husband of mine for his hard work, though it proved futile in this case, unfortunately.

So here we are, smack dab in the middle, or rather, the beginning, of a major apartment renovation, and we have to shell out for a new hard drive or computer on top of all the money we're already shelling out.  (Suggestions would be appreciated.)

To make matters even more interesting, we recently added the phone of a close relative, who's on a budget so tight that it squeaks, to our phone plan, and our current phone bill is about $150 higher than typical bills of the past.  Since we expect to be paying this relative's phone bill for the rest of his/her life--may it be a long and happy one--this is, apparently, really gonna put a crimp on our budget.

Friday, May 3, 2013 update:
My husband decided he'd rather pay for a new hard drive than a new computer at this time, and our son volunteered to buy us a good one at a good price, have it shipped to us, and serve as tech support when his dear olde dad installs a hard drive for the first time in his life.  Wish all of us good luck.
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