Monday, June 24, 2013

Baruch Shehecheyanu--some good news before The 3 Weeks

  • No more mortgage payments!
We just received the official papers from the bank a few days ago--our mortgage is now paid in full, over a year early!  Yay!!!  Now, to use that money to help pay down the home-equity line of credit before the Punster retires . . .

  • Traditional egalitarian at last!
Our local Conservative synagogue finally went egalitarian this past Shabbat!  I was looking forward to being the first woman ever to have an aliyah there on a regular Shabbat--we're been "cheating" on Simchat Torah for years--but, fortunately, I caught myself, and suggested to the only female congregant who gets to shul even earlier than I do--a woman considerably my senior--that she have that honor.  It seemed only right to defer to my elders.

I'm looking forward to leading Shabbat Minchah as soon as I get my voice back from that stupid cold I had a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Gingi,"* the red-headed kitchen :) -- progress to date

Original here.

Here's the latest view, complete with Electrolux "Shabbos-mode" dishwasher (still under wraps, literally), GE "Shabbos-mode" stove, the granite counter-top and stainless-steel sink that were just installed last night, and the faucet installed this morning along with new pipes:

Here are a couple photos of our choice of floor tile color (they'll use a larger size):

To be continued.

*"Gingi" is the contemporary Israeli Hebrew word for "red-head."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Double Chai: Our 36th anniversary

. . . was actually yesterday, but I was too tied up with a major project at the office, followed by an anniversary dinner, to blog about it.  Wow!  We've really been together that long?  (And we're really that old?  :)  )  Hoping for many more.

Here's a tale telling how the whole thing started, and here's a post about our wedding, complete with appropriately-ancient photo.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Jewish Costs of Jewish Education (Elizabeth Mandel)

"So, I went back to work when my baby was four and a half month old. Now, six months later, I am stepping back to see what we have given up in order to give our children a Jewish education. Here is my shortlist: an extended maternity leave with my new baby, significant time at home with my older kids, my deep involvement with their schools, my almost-guaranteed presence at every play, trip and pre-Shabbat sing-along, Fridays home to prepare Shabbat meals and to prepare to host company, modeling a creative professional life devoted to social justice, money for college, for retirement, the ability to give the kind of tzedakah we would like to give. . . .

I am left confronting a great irony – has organizing our lives around affording day school tuition so our children can learn Jewish values turned out to be antithetical to propagating and modeling Jewish values?"

I recommend that you read the rest of this Lilith Blog post.

That post reminds me of an old one of my own, discussing motherhood from a different angle.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Parshat Chukah, 5773/2013 thoughts

Basics here.

I am indebted to Rabbi Ethan Tucker for pointing out, in his shiur last night at Mechon Hadar on "Moshe and the Rock and a Commitment to Justice," that one possible explanation for why Moshe/Moses was condemned to die before entering the Promised Land is that "the captain goes down with the ship," meaning, in this case, that Moshe had to suffer the same fate as the rest of that generation.  This is also a possible explanation for why Aharon/Aaron was also condemned to die when it was Moshe who'd struck the rock--see my 2011 question here.

My husband is of the opinion that Moshe had to go because he wasn't suited for the new job of conquering the land--he was a shepherd, not a general.

Here's a link to my previous Parshat Chukat posts, asking questions such as:
  • Why would G-d tell Moshe to commit avodah zarah/idolatry by setting up a brass snake?
  • "I honestly don't understand why there are those who believe that a woman shouldn't touch a Torah scroll until she's gone to the mikveh. What makes a man any more tahor (ritually "pure"), given that no one has been sprinkled with the waters of the ashes of a red heifer since the destruction of the second Temple?"
Conservadox learns a lesson about speaking in public from Parshat Chukat.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us," by Michael Moss

In my opinion, Salt Sugar Fat is a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in health and/or nutrition.

Lessons learned


  • Don't be deceived by the innocent sound of the name "fructose." A natural sweetener, fructose is "far sweeter than sucrose, the other component of table sugar," and is, therefore, frequently used as a cheaper substitute, but since it cakes more easily, it must be mixed with "agents like calcim citrate tricalcium phosphate and silicon dioxide to prevent the caking." (Pages 130-131) [Keep in mind that just about every ingredient ending in "ose" is a form of sugar.]
  • We're more likely to "OD" on sweetened beverages because the body doesn't notice sweetness in liquids as well as it does in solids.
  • Fruit-juice sweetener is no more healthy than any other form of sugar--it's been stripped of all nutritional value. (See p. 134.)
  • "Cheese has become the single largest source of saturated fat in the American diet . . . " (Page 163).  We're eating much more of it than we used to eat because it's being slipped into other foods as an ingredient (e.g. cheese-stuffed pizza crusts, cheese-drenched vegetables) in and/or on other foods. Another major source is red meat.
  • Just about every ingredient that includes the word "sodium" is a form of salt.
  • We're born loving sugar, but we have to be taught to like salt--and the younger one is taught, the more likely one will get "hooked."

Sugars and salts are used not only to enhance flavor, but also to help extend shelf life. "Convenience" is a big selling point for food producers, and removing the fear of spoilage is a form of convenience (for both retailers and consumers).

The take-away: If you're truly serious about your health, it's essential to read the ingredients!

P. 340: "The bigger challenge lies in closing the price gap between processed and fresh foods so that blueberries could better compete, as a quick snack, with a Snickers bar."

P. 340-341: "We're hooked on inexpensive food, just like we're hooked on cheap energy," said James Behnke, the former Pillsbury executive. "The real question is this price sensitivity, and, unfortunately, the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots. It costs more money to eat fresher, healthier. And so, there is a huge economic issue involved in the obesity problem. It falls most heavily on those who have the fewest resources and probably the least understanding of what they are doing."

Here's something that hadn't occurred to me, from p. 342:

Drexel University clinical psychology professor Michael Lowe pointed out "a tear in the social fabric that first appeared in the early 1980s, as the obesity rates started to surge. 'When a lot of us grew up,' he told me, 'there were three meals a day, and maybe a planned snack at bedtime--and that was it. You never ate outside of those times because you would spoil your appetite. That changed. People began eating everywhere, in meetings or walking down the street. There's no place where food isn't acceptable now, and people are so busy they don't make time to sit down for meals. We have to work to encourage families to eat together, and that used to be automatic.'"

I think Prof. Lowe has a point. It seems to me that the whole concept of not eating between meals lest one spoil one's appetite has disappeared.

Maybe we Americans should just call ourselves a nation of snackers.

Related--today's bad news from NY1:  DOH: Diabetes, Related Illnesses Now A Citywide Epidemic; Some Need Clearer Idea Of How Many Calories They Are Consuming

Mr. Moss doesn't discuss the role of religion in eating habits, but that certainly won't stop me.  My husband has been working crazy hours for over two decades, frequently working evenings.  One of the extra added benefits of Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (major holidays) is that, in observing them, we eat (and, when he was still young enough to be living with us, we and our son ate) dinner and lunch together at least once every week.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Parshat Korach, 5773/2013 thoughts, round 2

Here's the original (or round 1, if you will).

I give up:

  • Korach and his followers could not have been swallowed up by the earthquake near their tents because they weren't there--they were at the Ohel Moed/Tent of Meeting with their fire-pans, as instructed.
  • Datan and Aviram (and their followers?) were the ones swallowed up in the earthquake, yet they're not mentioned.
Sorry, folks, I'm calling scribal error on this mess because nothing else makes any sense to me.  The Redactor(s) (Ezra haSofer/the Scribe[?], Anshei Knesset Ha-G'dolah/The Men of the Great Assembly[?]) is/are guilty of poor proofreading.  If you're going to try to preserve and combine two received traditional stories, you have to be much more careful regarding how you weave them together.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Parshat Korach, 5773/2013 thoughts

Basics here.

It appears to me that Korach himself died at the Ohel Moel/Tent of Meeting, so why doesn't the text say that Datan and Aviram and their followers were the ones who were swallowed up in the earthquake?

יא  וְזֶה-לְּךָ תְּרוּמַת מַתָּנָם, לְכָל-תְּנוּפֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--לְךָ נְתַתִּים וּלְבָנֶיךָ וְלִבְנֹתֶיךָ אִתְּךָ, לְחָק-עוֹלָם:  כָּל-טָהוֹר בְּבֵיתְךָ, יֹאכַל אֹתוֹ. 11 And this is thine: the heave-offering of their gift, even all the wave-offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, as a due for ever; every one that is clean in thy house may eat thereof.

And what were the members of the Kohen's/Priest's family supposed to eat when they weren't "clean"?

Links to my previous Korach posts are here.

Conservadox derives another interesting lesson from Parshat Korach.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

No room in the shul :( , & other unpleasant news

Upon arriving for Shacharit (Morning Service) today, I was dismayed to discover that every single meeting space in the entire synagogue building was either rented or being used for Thrift Shop storage, and that our Shacharit had been relegated to the postage-stamp-sized inner office.  I refuse to subject myself to the indignity of davvening (praying) in a room so small that I'd practically be sitting on someone's lap, so I turned around and went home, where I davvened bi-y'chidut (alone).  It pains me that keeping the doors of this dying congregation open seems to necessitate occasionally locking out the congregants.  :(

Sorry, no Celebrate Israel parade, concert, or soccer game report here :(
You'll have to get your Celebrate Israel news from another source--I'm still too debilitated from the stupid cold that I've had since last Sunday to risk the long walk from and back to the subway, the hours of standing, and/or lengthy exposure to the heat.  It would also be too frustrating to go to the parade unable to sing or cheer.

Ooo, cool--you can watch live video of the parade here!

I certainly hope I get my voice back by next Shabbat (Sabbath), which is Shabbat Rosh Chodesh (Head of the Month).  I love to sing Hallel, and I also have a haftarah to chant.
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