Saturday, November 30, 2013

Some Chanukah links

Parashiot Miketz (the cliffhanger) & Vayigash, 5774/2013 edition

Slightly belated for Miketz, which we read this morning.

In last year's edition, I quoted from a few previous editions, included 2010's, in which I wrote, “"Yosef was one smart cookie. He also created what may have been one of the earliest recorded feudal societies. No wonder the later Egyptians hated him—he’d made them all Pharoah’s surfs [oops--that should be "serfs"].”

Looking at the situation from a different perspective, I think that perhaps I should give Yosef a break.  After all, I’m not sure that he really had other good options—when the people came to him for food with nothing to offer but themselves as slaves, what else could he have done?

I also said that “I read this parsha [Vayigash] every year, and it still brings tears to my eyes when Yehudah (Judah) pleads with Yosef (Joseph) to let him take Binyamin's (Benjamin's) place as a slave, lest their father die of a broken heart (B'reishit/Genesis chapter 44, verses 18-34).”

Yep, that made me cry again this year.

And to top it off, I happened to be listening to a "shuffle" of Aron Razel's songs on my iPod on the way home on Wednesday night, and the first song to play was the "Vayigash" special.

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 years

Has President Kennedy really been gone that long?  I was in class in high school when I heard the news.  And I can still remember watching the funeral past a bucket in the livingroom--we couldn't get a plumber to fix the leaking showerhead upstairs, because everyone was at home watching the funeral.  In retrospect, it seems to me that that was the end of the naive (white) American belief that such violence didn't happen here.

Parashat Vayeshev, 5774/2013 edition

Nothing new at the moment, but here are some oldies.

Conservadox discusses borrowing from the language of the surrounding culture.

Monday, November 25, 2013 updates:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Second thoughts re going dairy-free

This past Sunday evening, I was noshing some of the junk food that’s frequently served at Israeli folk dance sessions when it suddenly occurred to me:

“Hey, lady, aren’t you supposed to be dairy-free?”

“Well, yeah, but M&M’s have never bothered me.”


Over the course of the evening, I experimented with maybe three of those miniature Hershey’s candy bars in addition to the M&M candies, and my tummy wasn’t troubled in the least.  It may well be that quantity is the issue—I seem to be able to get away with eating the small amount of dairy that’s included in many candies, but not a full serving of dairy, such as a mozzarella cheese stick, a small bowl of yogurt, or a scoop of ice cream, all of which have hurt my stomach in recent months.

So that’s the good news—I can’t eat cheesecake, but at least I can still eat a chocolate bar (for now).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Requiem for a Movement (by Daniel Gordis)

Parashat Vayishlach, 5774/2013 edition

Basics here.

Old thought, now being reconsidered, from Parshat Vayishlach--old and new thoughts (Saturday, December 10, 2011):

"When Avraham's nephew Lot was captured, Avraham sent an army to free him.  When Yaakov's daughter Dina was raped and abducted, Yaakov did . . . nothing, and then complained that his sons had taken matters into their own hands in a manner that endangered him.  Yaakov doesn't come out of this story looking particularly good.  :("

New thought:  How big a “household” did Yaakov have at the time of Dina’s rape (or seduction, depending on your point of view)?  Could he have mounted an armed attack to rescue Dina, or did he really not have enough adults in his camp to serve as an army?

Some of my old posts (and/or the comments thereto) aren’t bad.  Last year’s post includes a nice collection of links to my previous ones.

Speaking of old posts, I should have posted this excerpt this week, instead of last:

Midrash madness (Sunday, December 06, 2009)

“I'd also be curious to know whether it occurred to any of the midrash-writers that Esav actually had a perfectly legitimate reason to bring 400 (presumably armed) men with him to his reunion with Yaakov/Jacob: Yaakov had already taken Esav's birthright and blessing, so why should Esav have trusted him not to come back for more?”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An accidental vegan (kinda) :)

Since our son didn’t care for fleischigs/b’sari/meat (red meat or poultry) as a child, my husband and I got very much out of the habit of cooking fleishigs at home, and have long considered it a treat to go to a fleishig restaurant.  After roughly a week of being dairy-free (in addition to gluten-free), however, it finally occurred to me that eating out, even in a dairy restaurant, left me with a small problem—just about all restaurant desserts other than fruit contain wheat, dairy, or both.  Nu, if I want fruit for dessert, I can get it straight from the ‘fridge at home—I don’t need to go to a restaurant to eat fruit.

Fortunately, a vegetarian friend had introduced us to a kosher vegan restaurant that offered gluten-free desserts.  So we went there on Monday night before Israeli folk dancing, and to a different kosher vegan restaurant last night before a lecture at Drisha.  I never thought the day would come when I’m rather eat barbecued tempeh than chicken kebab, but it’s worth it for the cashew or pumpkin “cheesecake.”

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pineapple upside-down, er, non-cake :)

It was a typical Friday afternoon--lots of work to do before the beginning of the day of rest, but not enough time.

"Oh, darn--I forgot to cut the pineapple and I don't have time now.  If you have a minute, could you just cut off the top?  That way, we can slice it tomorrow without having to "sort."*

Imagine my surprise when I went to slice the pineapple at Shabbat lunch . . . and found all the leaves still attached.

"I thought I asked you to cut off the top off the pineapple."

"Well, I did."

Three-second pause.

"You think that's the top?!  Have you ever seen a pineapple standing on its leaves?!"  :)

*(. . . by throwing away an inedible part before eating the edible part--according to halachah/Jewish religious law, on Shabbat/Sabbath, when "selecting" is forbidden, one is allowed to pick the seeds out of watermelon while one is eating it, but one is not allowed pick them out in advance ).

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Post round-up, Mon., Nov. 4-Thurs., Nov. 7, 2013

Close encounter of an unusual kind

Either that was one very fat cat, or else I just saw a raccoon in my neighborhood for the first time.  Judging by the rings on the tail, I'd say it was a raccoon.

Parashat Vayetze, 5774/2013 edition

Basics here.

יג  וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה נִצָּב עָלָיו, וַיֹּאמַר, אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ, וֵאלֹהֵי יִצְחָק; הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה שֹׁכֵב עָלֶיהָ--לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה, וּלְזַרְעֶךָ.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood beside him, and said: 'I am the LORD, the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed.
יד  וְהָיָה זַרְעֲךָ כַּעֲפַר הָאָרֶץ, וּפָרַצְתָּ יָמָּה וָקֵדְמָה וְצָפֹנָה וָנֶגְבָּה; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כָּל-מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה, וּבְזַרְעֶךָ.
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. And in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

HaShem has been making promises like this one since the days of Avraham, Yaakov’s grandfather.  Pardon my skepticism, but why does Yaakov believe HaShem?

Here’s a link to my oldies. 

My favorite point, from Midrash madness:

“I'd also be curious to know whether it occurred to any of the midrash-writers that Esav [Esau] actually had a perfectly legitimate reason to bring 400 (presumably armed) men with him to his reunion with Yaakov/Jacob: Yaakov had already taken Esav's birthright and blessing, so why should Esav have trusted him not to come back for more?

A new addition to my gluten-free food sources

I recently discovered another brand of gluten-free oat rolls, Heaven Mills, at Kosher MarketplaceHeaven Mills gluten-free oat challah rolls are less sweet but also less crumbly, more like bread and less like muffins, than Katz gluten-free oat rolls, (available at the Manhattan Seasons store—I don’t know about branches in other locations.)

Kosher Marketplace also carries Lucy's and Enjoy Life gluten-free kosher parve cookies.  I was told by an employee that they recently hired an in-house baker, and hope to start baking their own gluten-free brownies and/or one or two other gluten-free bakery products within the next few months. Stay tuned.

Cell-phone sickness, part 2: Reaching new heights of stupidity

Part one here.

This word is new to me: “selfie” = a photograph that one takes of oneself, usually, in recent times, with a cell phone.

Heard on the radio this morning: Some people are now taking selfies while driving.  What, texting while driving isn’t dangerous enough???!!!

Has the advent of the cell-phone age led some to take leave of their senses in addition to their civility?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Cell-phone sickness

Thank G-d (literally) for Shabbat/Sabbath, or some of us would never turn off our cell phones.  This is your official rant warning.

Must everything be a game?
Have you ever seen a person walking down the street while playing a game on his/her smartphone?  I certainly have.  I'm as guilty as the next person of whipping out my smartphone when waiting in line or waiting to meet someone.  But I'd love to know just when such everyday activities as walking down the street turned into something in need of a boredom cure.  I find the search for constant entertainment, encouraged by the use of mobile devices, really problematic.  Have we become incapable of enjoying ourselves by talking to one another face to face and/or looking at our surroundings and/or the people whom we see in passing?  Do we now have to be reminded to stop and smell the roses?

Not a hostile takeover, just an unconscious one
They're everywhere, with their faces in their cell phones, usually standing at the top or middle of a flight of stairs in the subway station, lest, if they go too far down the stairs, they "lose the signal."  Sometimes, in stations with good cell-phone reception, they might even get daring and stand near the bottom of the stairs, just so they can use the handrail as a public leaning post, while they yack, text, or check their e-mail.  The fact that they're blocking a public thoroughfare and/or making it difficult for elderly and/or mobility-challenged persons to use the handrail doesn't seem even to occur to them.

Where do they think they are?
Been there, blogged that, but the situation certainly hasn't gotten any better in the intervening years.  Many cell-phone users continue to conduct long-winded, and, occasionally, inappropriately-personal, conversations on their cell phones in public places as if they were sitting in their own homes.  I don't wish to appear unsympathetic, but I really don't want to listen in while you break up with your current suitor.  Zeesh, who needs to eavesdrop anymore when the very concept of a private conversation seems to be an endangered species?

A true story, heard through the grapevine
Two good friends got together.  After they'd been chatting for a good while, the host did something totally unexpected—checking his/her cell phone while they chatted, she/he suddenly stopped talking right smack-dab in the middle of a sentence and returned a phone call.  The startled guest, unaccustomed to such rude behavior from this old friend, waited patiently for a few minutes.  But when it became clear that the host wasn't going to put down the cell phone any time soon, the guest said his/her goodbyes and got up to leave.  The host, who been on the phone for perhaps ten minutes at that point, walked the guest to door, and, still on the phone, simply said goodbye.

Is this just a new way of trying to tell a person that she/he has overstayed his/her welcome?  Or do folks who benefit from the (un?)wired world of instant communication consider responding immediately to any form of communication, even in the presence of guests, the new normal?  Has the widespread use of cell phones and, especially, smartphones, changed our perception of what constitutes courteous and considerate behavior?  If so, I daresay that we're the worse for it.  It saddens me that talking to someone who's not with you is becoming more important that paying attention to someone who is.  Whatever happened to "Let me call you later—I have guests"?

My late mother flatly forbade us to turn on the television when we had company.  "If they want to watch TV, they can stay home," she used to say, insisting that guests and hosts should talk to one another, not to an inanimate object.  :)  I feel the same way about cell phones.  If we get together for lunch, I expect you to talk to me, not to someone who isn't there, whose call can jolly well wait.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Off to a rough start on Rosh Chodesh—& off of dairy

Yes, it was probably cumulative—lactose-free yogurt plus a handful of fresh blueberries plus eight or nine fresh strawberries plus tuna salad with fresh onions and black pepper (both of which bother my tummy) plus a date with my husband at the local ice-cream place—but I still think the dairy was both the first and last straw that started the, um, trouble. Both doses of dairy made my stomach hurt.

I was told some 40 years ago that I was lactose-intolerant, but it’s only been recently, through my reading on the Internet, that I’ve learned that dairy contains more irritants than just lactose—one can also be allergic to casein and/or whey. Well, methinks my bod is trying to tell me something. I’ll worry about the formal allergy testing later—effective yesterday, I am now both gluten-free and dairy-free.
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