Sunday, March 30, 2014

A pleasant surprise on Shabbat

Yesterday was the first time in ages--possibly years--that our congregation got a minyan early enough in the morning services to recite Kaddish d'Rabbanan.*

[On an unrelated note, I updated my Tues., March 25 Tazria/Metzora post today--see below.]

*"D'Rabbanan" link includes only the Ashkenazi transliteration, solely because that's the only one I could find online.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Parashat Tazria, & Parashat Metzora in advance, 5774/2014 edition

Said it all here (or in the linked posts from previous years).  Got nothin' more to say about my least favorite parashot (parshiot?).

 ~ Rav Shai Held holds, with Everett Fox, that the correct translation of "korban chattat" is "decontamination offering," and reminds us that childbirth is still life-threatening in too many parts of the world.

~ " . . . really stressful experiences can sometimes make prayer hard," which, according to Conservadox, may be one explanation for why women had to wait after childbirth to bring a sacrifice.

Sunday, March 30, 2014 update

~ Rav Dov Linzer, in connection with the way "lepers" are discussed in this parashah, reminds us that there's a delicate balance between objectively diagnosing and treating, on the one hand, and remembering that patients are individual human beings, on the other.

It occurred to me that Tazria is a sort of diagnostic manual for "paramedics."  Our ancestors had no trained doctors, but someone had to treat the sick, so the Kohanim/priests got the job, then had to be taught how to do it.

The daffs are here--let's give a cheer! 1st daffodil sighting today--hurray!

Baruch shecheyanu--I'm thankful to have lived through another winter.

Now all I have to do is get through tonight's snowfall.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Parashot Tzav (belated) & Sh'mini, 5774/2014 edition

. . . or Shemini, if you prefer. Either way, more animal sacrifices.  And you know how I feel about animal sacrifices.

But you can read Parashat Tzav (Leviticus 6.1–8:36) starting here.

And here's a link to some previous thoughts of mine concerning Parashat Tzav.

While you're at it, you can read about Parashat Sh'mini (Leviticus 9:1–11:47) beginning here.

And you can read some of my previous thoughts regarding Parashat Sh'mini here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014 update:

Leviticus Chapter 11 וַיִּקְרָא

כ  כֹּל שֶׁרֶץ הָעוֹף, הַהֹלֵךְ עַל-אַרְבַּע--שֶׁקֶץ הוּא, לָכֶם. 20 All winged swarming things that go upon all fours are a detestable thing unto you.
כא  אַךְ אֶת-זֶה, תֹּאכְלוּ, מִכֹּל שֶׁרֶץ הָעוֹף, הַהֹלֵךְ עַל-אַרְבַּע:  אֲשֶׁר-לא (לוֹ) כְרָעַיִם מִמַּעַל לְרַגְלָיו, לְנַתֵּר בָּהֵן עַל-הָאָרֶץ. 21 Yet these may ye eat of all winged swarming things that go upon all fours, which have jointed legs above their feet, wherewith to leap upon the earth;
כב  אֶת-אֵלֶּה מֵהֶם, תֹּאכֵלוּ--אֶת-הָאַרְבֶּה לְמִינוֹ, וְאֶת-הַסָּלְעָם לְמִינֵהוּ; וְאֶת-הַחַרְגֹּל לְמִינֵהוּ, וְאֶת-הֶחָגָב לְמִינֵהוּ. 22 even these of them ye may eat: the locust after its kinds, and the bald locust after its kinds, and the cricket after its kinds, and the grasshopper after its kinds.
כג  וְכֹל שֶׁרֶץ הָעוֹף, אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ אַרְבַּע רַגְלָיִם--שֶׁקֶץ הוּא, לָכֶם. 23 But all winged swarming things, which have four feet, are a detestable thing unto you.

It stands to reason that locusts would have to be kosher, for the sake of survival--after a locust swarm chomps just about every plant in its path, the locusts themselves might be one of the few things left to eat.  :(

~ Conservadox advocates moderation.

~ Rabbi Shai discusses what we can learn from the laws of kashrut.

~ Rabbi Dov Linzer writes about prioritizing religious rules over religious passion without losing the passion.

~ Rabbi Shlomo Riskin posits a connection between the deaths of Nadav and Avihu and the laws of kashrut.

~ Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb learns a lesson about religion vs. sprirituality.

~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes about the importance of understanding that there are different kinds of leadership.

Correction: Katz gluten-free apricot hamantaschen are all-natural

Apparently, the online ingredients list is outdated--there are no artificial ingredients listed on the box of apricot hamantaschen that I'll be munching until I run out, and the box is marked "all natural."

Correction:  On closer inspection, it appears that I misread the webpage--the apricot hamantaschen were always all-natural, but the raspberry and chocolate ones are not.  Phooey.  Looks like I'll be sticking to apricot, even though I prefer the other flavors.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Better late than never: "Who is Achashveirosh?" (by The Evolving Jew)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Some insight into the "stairs" problem

I'm standing in the lobby of the synagogue in which we enjoyed a Seudat Purim (the festive Purim meal that one is obligated to eat on Purim afternoon) and complaining that the lay-out of that building, with the sanctuary on the second floor, makes it impossible for people with mobility challenges to daven/pray there. A member of the congregation chimes in that, well into the twentieth century, most buildings were "walk-ups" (buildings without elevators), so people were very much accustomed to walking up stairs to go just about anywhere, and, therefore, having a "walk-up" sanctuary would have been considered no big deal. "Hmm," says I, "that's probably true, now that you mention it--I hadn't thought of that. But I'm glad that we're now more aware of the need to make buildings accessible to all.”

Shushan Purim Sameach

Thursday, March 13, 2014


"Twice exceptional."  This relatively-new educational term sounds like a description of something with which we're well acquainted.

I'd love to link to the "Mind Over Manners" article by Mrs. Rivka Schonfeld (published in the Friday, March 7, 2014 edition of the Jewish Press) in which I read about 2e, but it's almost impossible to find and link to an article on the Jewish Press website.  So, for lack of a better alternative, I'll just have to quote, paraphrase, and/or summarize.

" . . . twice exceptional children are gifted intellectually, and also can have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Aspergers Syndrome, Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD), or dyslexia.

Many times, children who are twice exceptional can become problem students . . . " Mrs. Schonfeld mentions that Einstein "exhibited behavioral issues, was a terrible speller, and had trouble verbally expressing himself.  In many subjects, his report card grades were close to failing.

. . .

Research has also established that children who are 2e are the most underserved populations in the school system.  Most of the time, children who are twice exceptional go through school without recognition of their considerable talents.  Instead, they enter adult life without the necessary skills to compensate for their learning disabilities, Therefore, may of these children develop low self-esteem and believe that they are simply stupid and 'not good at school.'  The shocking news is that the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 2%-5% of all students are both gifted intellectually and suffer from some form of learning disability."

". . . children who are 2e are the most underserved populations in the school system."  We can tell you all about that.  Our son went through three different special education placements and one year in the mainstream before we finally fought for and received authorization to place him in a state-[under]funded private special education school.  The problem was that the New York City public school system had no idea how to educate a child who had both special needs and above-average intelligence, and was simply letting our son rot intellectually (by, for example, placing him in a special-ed. class in which the teacher saw no need to have him write book reports even though he was in fifth grade).
. . .

What teachers can do:
Look for discrepancies:  . . . between a child's 'potential' and his actual work."

. . .

"Differentiate instruction:"
Good luck with that, in a class with more than 20 students.  One of the reasons why mainstreaming didn't work for our son was that the teacher, though well-meaning and even willing to work with our son before the start of the school day, simply didn't have enough time to give our son the extra help that he needed.

"Raise awareness:"

. . .

"What parents can do:
Don't ignore the giftedness while trying to fix the disabilities:. . . . Because they are gifted, they will get depressed if they do not learn anything new."  We read to our son until he was in about fifth grade because he was delayed in learning to read and we were concerned that he would be bored by books that he was capable of reading by himself.

"Don't ignore the disabilities while trying to feed the giftedness:"
The short version:  Giftedness without skills is just frustrating.

"Trust you child:"
If she says she can't do something, find another way.

If anyone had told me, when our son was 10 and having a tough time learning the multiplication tables, that at 20, he'd be a physics major, I would have thought they were nuts.  On the other hand, it isn't every kid who can use the word "malfunctioned" correctly at about the age of 5 (which was our first clue that our son had an interesting brain in there somewhere), or who can tell his evaluator, at the age of 6 or 7, that he wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up, or whose favorite exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, when he's still in elementary school, is a film about plate tectonics.  So all I can say about this article is been there, know that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Saved by the bell

It finally dawned on me that some of the accounting classes that my husband teaches are in "Black-Hat" Brooklyn.  So I asked him to save me from hamantaschen deprivation, and he was kind enough to take a side trip to Pomegranate kosher supermarket this afternoon between classes. Thanks to him, I can now celebrate Purim with my own stock of Katz gluten-free apricot hamantaschen.  My hero!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Note to self: Either start bakin' or stop, er, kvetchin' :(

Sure, I could buy gluten-free hamantaschen online.  But first, I'd have to "pick my poison," pretty much literally--either artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oil.  Then I'd have to pay the mind-boggling shipping cost:  $7.99 for $5.99 worth of hamantaschen???!!!  Looks like the hamantaschen that I ate last Purim, just a few months before realizing that I'd become gluten-intolerant, may have been my last ever.  Sigh--another holiday treat bites the dust, along with honey cake, kreplach, matzah balls, matzah brei, blintzes . . .  (:  But I have good news, too--since I usually go food shopping at Fairway, Seasons kosher supermarket, and/or Kosher Marketplace on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at least once a week, at least I'll be able to treat myself to kosher and vegan pumpkin cheesecake for Shavuot without paying a shipping fee.  :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014 correction: Katz apricot hamantaschen are all-natural.

Friday, March 07, 2014

A logical division of labor

During Standard Time, my husband does most of the preparation and cooking for Shabbat/Sabbath because, even though my Jewish employer closes the office early, it's difficult for me to get home with enough time to spare for cooking.

During Daylight Savings Time, or, at least, at the beginning thereof, I do most of the preparation and cooking for Shabbat, because the beginning of Daylight Savings Time coincides with "tax season" in the U.S., and my poor husband the Certified Public Accountant is usually up to his eyeballs in tax returns to be completed and submitted.

During the late spring and summer, in between tax seasons, we usually share the prep and cooking, and can often be found tripping over each other in our not-so-big kitchen.  :)

Now, if only we could find a way not to share one another's cold germs . . .

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Parashat Vayikra, 5774/2014 edition

Basics here.

Links to my previous posts hereI’m still recommending that you read the comment by Reform Baal Teshuvah, which is better than anything I’ve written regarding this parashah.

Leviticus Chapter 2 וַיִּקְרָא

יא כָּל-הַמִּנְחָה, אֲשֶׁר תַּקְרִיבוּ לַיהוָה--לֹא תֵעָשֶׂה, חָמֵץ: כִּי כָל-שְׂאֹר וְכָל-דְּבַשׁ, לֹא-תַקְטִירוּ מִמֶּנּוּ אִשֶּׁה לַיהוָה. 11 No meal-offering, which ye shall bring unto the LORD, shall be made with leaven; for ye shall make no leaven, nor any honey, smoke as an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

יב קָרְבַּן רֵאשִׁית תַּקְרִיבוּ אֹתָם, לַיהוָה; וְאֶל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לֹא-יַעֲלוּ, לְרֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ. 12 As an offering of first-fruits ye may bring them unto the LORD; but they shall not come up for a sweet savour on the altar.

יג וְכָל-קָרְבַּן מִנְחָתְךָ, בַּמֶּלַח תִּמְלָח, וְלֹא תַשְׁבִּית מֶלַח בְּרִית אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מֵעַל מִנְחָתֶךָ; עַל כָּל-קָרְבָּנְךָ, תַּקְרִיב מֶלַח. {ס} 13 And every meal-offering of thine shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meal-offering; with all thy offerings thou shalt offer salt. {S}

A former rabbi of ours taught that leaven and honey were forbidden in a meal offering because the local pagans used both as sex symbols in their fertility rites. Using salt instead may have been an in-y0ur-face rejection of the prevailing practice.

Leviticus Chapter 3 וַיִּקְרָא

ג וְהִקְרִיב מִזֶּבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים, אִשֶּׁה לַיהוָה--אֶת-הַחֵלֶב, הַמְכַסֶּה אֶת-הַקֶּרֶב, וְאֵת כָּל-הַחֵלֶב, אֲשֶׁר עַל-הַקֶּרֶב. 3 And he shall present of the sacrifice of peace-offerings an offering made by fire unto the LORD: the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards,

Here, the punctuation indicates that what’s being discussed is fat, cheylev.  Elsewhere in the Torah/Bible, we’re commanded not to boil a kid (of the baby-goat variety) in its mother’s milk, chalav.  The only difference is in the punctuation.   But the original text doesn’t have any punctuation!  So how do we know that the prohibition is against boiling (cooking?) a kid in its mother’s milk, rather than in its mother’s fat?  Is our current understanding and practice of the prohibition based solely on rabbinic interpretation?

טז וְהִקְטִירָם הַכֹּהֵן, הַמִּזְבֵּחָה--לֶחֶם אִשֶּׁה לְרֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ, כָּל-חֵלֶב לַיהוָה. 16 And the priest shall make them smoke upon the altar; it is the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savour; all the fat is the LORD'S.

יז חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, בְּכֹל מוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם--כָּל-חֵלֶב וְכָל-דָּם, לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ. {פ} 17 It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that ye shall eat neither fat nor blood. {P}

Ah, maybe this is the answer:  The rabbis had to interpret the mother’s ch_l_v as chalav, milk, because we’re already forbidden to eat kol cheylev, all fat.

יא וְאֶת-עוֹר הַפָּר וְאֶת-כָּל-בְּשָׂרוֹ, עַל-רֹאשׁוֹ וְעַל-כְּרָעָיו; וְקִרְבּוֹ, וּפִרְשׁוֹ. 11 But the skin of the bullock, and all its flesh, with its head, and with its legs, and its inwards, and its dung,

יב וְהוֹצִיא אֶת-כָּל-הַפָּר אֶל-מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה אֶל-מָקוֹם טָהוֹר, אֶל-שֶׁפֶךְ הַדֶּשֶׁן, וְשָׂרַף אֹתוֹ עַל-עֵצִים, בָּאֵשׁ; עַל-שֶׁפֶךְ הַדֶּשֶׁן, יִשָּׂרֵף. {פ} 12 even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire; where the ashes are poured out shall it be burnt. {P}

So the Sin Offering isn’t eaten at all by anyone?  . . .

יג  וְכִפֶּר עָלָיו הַכֹּהֵן עַל-חַטָּאתוֹ אֲשֶׁר-חָטָא, מֵאַחַת מֵאֵלֶּה--וְנִסְלַח לוֹ; וְהָיְתָה לַכֹּהֵן, כַּמִּנְחָה.  {ס}
13 And the priest shall make atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in any of these things, and he shall be forgiven; and the remnant shall be the priest's, as the meal-offering. {S}
. . . unless it’s a sacrifice for a sin mentioned in Chapter 5?

כ וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. 20 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:

כא נֶפֶשׁ כִּי תֶחֱטָא, וּמָעֲלָה מַעַל בַּיהוָה; וְכִחֵשׁ בַּעֲמִיתוֹ בְּפִקָּדוֹן, אוֹ-בִתְשׂוּמֶת יָד אוֹ בְגָזֵל, אוֹ, עָשַׁק אֶת-עֲמִיתוֹ. 21 If any one sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and deal falsely with his neighbour in a matter of deposit, or of pledge, or of robbery, or have oppressed his neighbour;

כב אוֹ-מָצָא אֲבֵדָה וְכִחֶשׁ בָּהּ, וְנִשְׁבַּע עַל-שָׁקֶר; עַל-אַחַת, מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה הָאָדָם--לַחֲטֹא בָהֵנָּה. 22 or have found that which was lost, and deal falsely therein, and swear to a lie; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein;

כג וְהָיָה, כִּי-יֶחֱטָא וְאָשֵׁם--וְהֵשִׁיב אֶת-הַגְּזֵלָה אֲשֶׁר גָּזָל אוֹ אֶת-הָעֹשֶׁק אֲשֶׁר עָשָׁק, אוֹ אֶת-הַפִּקָּדוֹן אֲשֶׁר הָפְקַד אִתּוֹ; אוֹ אֶת-הָאֲבֵדָה, אֲשֶׁר מָצָא. 23 then it shall be, if he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took by robbery, or the thing which he hath gotten by oppression, or the deposit which was deposited with him, or the lost thing which he found,

כד אוֹ מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר-יִשָּׁבַע עָלָיו, לַשֶּׁקֶר--וְשִׁלַּם אֹתוֹ בְּרֹאשׁוֹ, וַחֲמִשִׁתָיו יֹסֵף עָלָיו: לַאֲשֶׁר הוּא לוֹ יִתְּנֶנּוּ, בְּיוֹם אַשְׁמָתוֹ. 24 or any thing about which he hath sworn falsely, he shall even restore it in full, and shall add the fifth part more thereto; unto him to whom it appertaineth shall he give it, in the day of his being guilty.

Finally, a little justice sneaks in alongside the no-longer-practiced sacrifices!

~ Rav Shai Held writes about the sacrificial system as “a small pocket of reality in which God’s will is heeded and perfectly executed, in which chaos and disorder are kept at bay.”  Personally, I can’t see how a giant ritual slaughterhouse can meet that description, but you can  judge for yourself.
~ Rav Shlomo Riskin writes about love and sacrifice.

~ Rav Dov Linzer discusses the human need for a physical form of worship.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sometimes, beauty is a beast

Some of my long-time readers may remember the kick I got out of finding The Netilat Yadayim Cup That Ate Manhattan.

It was beautiful, easy to clean, and comfortable to hold.

I loved it.

But apparently, it didn't love me.  :(

It was bad enough when one of us knocked it up off the rim of the bathroom sink for the umpteenth time and it made a dent in our brand-new bathtub.

But when it fell into our brand-new bathroom sink--or rather, our newer sink, the replacement for the new sink that turned out to be a hunk of junk--and left two metal marks so dark that it took me ten minutes of hard scrubbing with baking soda and biodegradable cleanser to get them out, I decided that I wasn't willing to pay the price of such beauty.

Into the breakfront went my beautiful stainless steel netilat yadayim cup, where it now sits on display, dents and all.

And out of banishment came the old plastic version.

It's ugly, hard to clean, and uncomfortable to hold. 

But we can't afford any more damage to our new $510 sink.

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>