Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Not ready for prime time

There are kosher restaurants and there are "kosher" restaurants
Kosher restaurants are closed on the Jewish sabbath and holidays, and their teudot hechsher (certificates of kashrut) call them kosher.  "Kosher" restaurants are open on Shabbat and Yom Tov, and their teudot hechsher say that all the food served in them is kosher, but not that the restaurant is kosher.

On one hand, I think that a restaurant claiming to be kosher should be closed on Shabbat and Yom Tov.  On the other hand, since I, myself, still eat in non-kosher restaurants (avoiding meat, poultry, and shell fish, which I haven't eaten, even accidentally, in over 15 years), who am I to refuse to eat in a restaurant that serves only kosher food just because it's open on Shabbos?  Bottom line:  I'm trying to stick with Shomer Shabbat (Sabbath-observant) kosher restaurants, but if I'm with other people who want to eat in non-Shomer Shabbat kosher restaurants, I'll join them.

There are tzitzit and there are tzitzit
In my opinion, there's a big different between a tallit gadol and a tallit katan, and not just in terms of size.

The tallit gadol, or large tallit (garment with tzitzit/ritual fringes) is worn over one's clothing, and only at Shacharit (Morning Service).

The tallit katan, or small tallit (as known as "arba kanot/four corners), is usually worn under one's clothing, and is worn all day.

I've now been wearing a tallit gadol for 41 years.

But I can't picture myself wearing a tallit katan anytime in the foreseeable future.

For openers, I'm a coward.  I never take off my jacket in the office before noon, lest anyone see my tefillin-strap marks.  I'm simply not prepared to stand up--or, rather, to stand out--and be counted.

For closers, I think that the wearing of a tallit katan says something about the wearer's observance level that the wearing of a tallit gadol doesn't say.  And I'm not ready to make that commitment.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our sedarim with an old-fashioned Orthodox rabbi

Not only am I quite late in writing about our sedarim, but I'm sitting here shaking my fist at my computer, too--the nice photo of our  kashered-for-Pesach renovated kitchen that was supposed to accompany this post won't be found on my blog until this recalcitrant contraption decides to start recognizing my smartphone again.  :(  (New software download needed, once I figure out which software.)

In the interim, let me tell you how delighted I was with the way the Orthodox rabbi led both sedarim that we attended at his synagogue in our neighborhood.  When I call him an old-fashioned Orthodox rabbi, what I mean, in this case, is that he doesn't follow the current trend of being as machmir (strict) as possible in interpreting the requirements of the seder.  For openers, almost all of the bottles on the tables were bottles of kosher grape juice, not wine.  Why on earth some folks in the Orthodox community insist that only wine is acceptable for the four cups drunk at the seder is beyond my comprehension, since we say the same b'rachah/blessing over both wine and grape juice.  The last time I actually drank four cups of wine at a seder, I got drunk as a skunk, and I've refused to drink wine ever since--how on earth is one supposed to "tze l'mad/go and study" when one can hardly think straight?  The seder is supposed to be a serious religious ritual and study session, not a frat party!  In addition, the rabbi had everyone make the b'rachah on pieces of matzah that were actually literally "k'zayit"-sized, that is, the size of a flattened olive, as opposed to something like a sheet and a half of matzah, and he didn't get too fussy about how we were supposed to eat it, either.  Nor did he insist that we eat more than a mouth-burning taste of raw horseradish.

I continue to be of the opinion that the seder is supposed to be a study opportunity, not a torture session or a ritual that requires one to make oneself ill.  For many people, myself included, drinking wine simply isn't healthy.  For many people, eating one and a third square matzot isn't healthy, either.  And eating 7 fl. oz. of pure grated horseradish would probably put me in the hospital.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why Sephardim Eat Kitniyot but Ashkenazim Don’t (by Elli Fisher)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Post-Pesach 5774/2014 report, part 2

From chaos . . .
We chose to have our new kitchen cabinets built all the way up to the ceiling so that we'd have extra shelves on which to store some of our lighter-weight Passover items, such as tableclothes and dish towels, and would no longer need to store all of our Pesach things in boxes.  It had not occurred to us, however, that storing some Pesach items on separate shelves in the Chametz cabinets meant that, rather than taking out individual items as we needed them, we'd have to take out everything Pesachikeh at once, before Pesach, so that we could lock up the cabinets.  We left for the first seder with Pesach things piled up willy-nilly on the kitchen table and counter-tops.  What a mess!

to order, or some semblance thereof . . .
Years ago, an old friend thanked a group of us for being her Shabbat (Sabbath) guests, saying that we'd done a maaseh tov (good deed)--knowing that she was having guests had forced her to clean her apartment.  :)  I felt exactly the same way about the guest we'd invited for Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach dinner--in order to be good hosts, we had to know where everything was, and were forced to get our kitchen into something resembling order.  We did exactly that, and a delightful dinner was enjoyed by all.

and back to chaos :(
While I was reading some Haggadah commentary on the seventh day of Pesach, I heard a helicopter buzzing persistently over our neighborhood.  That turned out to be a television-news helicopter.  As we walked to Mincha-Maariv (Afternoon and Evening Services), we saw thick, black smoke curling over some apartment buildings a few blocks away.  When we got to the street on which our synagogue is located, we discovered the source--there was a massive fire in a commercial building only a few blocks from the shul.  Firetrucks and ambulances lined the street for several blocks.  The fire was so severe that there were still two groups of firefighters hosing the building with water when we came back to shul for Shacharit (Morning Service) the next day.  Gone, at least for the foreseeable future, are a restaurant that had been at that location for roughly forty years, the office of the otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors) whom we'd been seeing since our son was a toddler, and many other commercial, medical, and non-profit renters.   The good news is there don't seem to have been any serious injuries.  Thank G-d for big favors.

Post-Pesach report 5774/2014--why didn't I think of that?

I hope I'll have time to write more regarding this Pesach past, but I'm posting a quick word between rounds of our annual post-Passover put-away party.

An old friend called in the afternoon before the first seder to wish us a Chag Sameach/Happy Holiday.  In the course of our chat, I mentioned that we wouldn't be having chicken soup this Pesach because I had no idea what I could put in it, now that I can't eat knaidlach/matzah balls (and, being Ashkenazit, can't use rice, either).  So my friend suggested that I use kasher l'Pesach potato-starch noodles.  Don't laugh too hard, folks, but I'm 65 years old and had never tried potato-starch noodles.  Fortunately, we were able to pick up some chicken soup and potato-starch noodles during Chol HaMoed.  My verdict:  They're a bit gummy, but fill up the bowl quite nicely.  I would definitely buy them again.

We also discovered that there's a good substitute for crumbled-up matzah in soup (gluten-free oat matzah being strong enough in taste to ruin it)--crumble in Absolutely Gluten Free original-flavor flatbreads, instead.  Which reminds me . . .

It turns out that only some, not all, of the Absolutely Gluten Free flatbreads and crackers are kasher l'Pesach/kosher for Passover.  Please be sure to follow standard kosher operating procedure and check every food product on an individual basis, even if they're made by the same company.  This is especially important regarding kosher for Passover products, as some of them may lose their kasher l'Pesach status between one Pesach and the next.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Attitude adjustment, part two

Part one is here.

But my commenter is correct in suggesting that I still have some more work to do.

My wheat-free co-congregant advised me, "Always eat before you go."  That's going to be my new approach.  There will always be those who don't understand "gluten-free" at all, those who make an effort to accommodate my dietary limitations but don't get all the details quite right, and those who really "get it" and are happy to provide what I can eat or to have me bring my own.  I'm already grateful to those who understand and provide, but I'll change my attitude toward those who try, and give them the proverbial "A for effort."  As for those who just don't get it, there's no point complaining about it, so I won't.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Adventures in "eating out": Bring your own . . . everything

Okay, so I'm gluten-free and dairy-free.  Big deal.

But when my good buddy carefully avoids inviting me to her matzah lasagna party--and then serves me a main course of which the third ingredient is matzah meal . . .

Seriously, exactly what part of "wheat makes me sick" don't you get?

Not only did our host seem completely oblivious to the fact that I'd carefully eaten only the meat (in the hope of avoiding as much of the matzah meal as possible) and had left close to half of the main course on my plate, she insisted on sending us home with leftovers.  (I found it almost amusing to see how clueless she was.)  And, trying, to be helpful to Kitchen Klutz me, she offered to cook something for the dinner to which we'd invited her.  For lack of an alternative, I finally had to tell her, point blank, that it would be better if she didn't bring any food, as I had to be sure that I could eat what I served.

Some people simply seem unable to understand health-based food limitations, no matter how carefully and how many times one explains them.

Note to self:  Sometimes, there will be little or nothing that you can safely eat.  (A refreshments table of cheese, crackers, and pastries, anyone?)  Get used to it, and be prepared--never leave home, if you can help it, without a bag of nuts or a Larabar and, if possible, a box of gluten-free crackers and a gluten-free dessert.  Thank heaven for parve chocolate.  :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holiday hijinks and highlights

Another wiseguy heard from :)
My husband considered it rather ironic when he was dubbed the acting rabbi after our synagogue ran out of money to pay a real one, since he never even went to yeshiva, much less rabbinical school.   Perhaps equally ironic is that the shul president has taken to calling me the rebbetzin (Yiddish for "rabbi's wife").  This has given my husband yet another way to tease me, and he certainly had fun this past Monday afternoon.

"May I make myself tea tomorrow morning?"

"Yes, sure.  It's Yom Tov (a holiday), not Shabbat (Sabbath), and on Yom Tov, you're allowed to cook using a pre-existing flame . . .


Pointing at the clean pots that I'd parked on the stove because I'd been too disorganized to think of another place to put them, I yelped, "We gotta get all these pots off the stove so we can light a few burners before Yom Tov!!!"

"I thought you were the rebbetzin.  How could you forget?," said my husband, grinning.

I'll never live it down.  :)

Wild weather
On the way to the first seder, I took off my raincoat because I was hot--it was roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fortunately, my husband had printed out three days of weather reports before Yom Tov, and it was a good thing that he checked them before we left for the second seder and warned me to change back to my winter coat.  This saved me from some serious misery on the 20-minute walk home, because, by the time we left after the seder, it was snowing.  Incredibly, the temperature had dropped about 35 degrees in less than 48 hours.  There was still snow on the cars and lawns this morning.

A kasher l'Pesach Ashke-S'fardi "PB&J" sandwich
For those Ashkenazi Jews who observe the minhag/custom of not eating kitniyot during Pesach (and whose families consider peanuts kitniyot), and who miss their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, here's a fix:  Spread some kosher-for-Passover almond butter or cashew butter on some matzah or kosher-for-Passover crackers (such as Absolutely Gluten Free original flavor), then top with homemade (sample recipe here) or store-bought Sefardi charoset.  Yum!  We were lucky enough to find made-in-Israel Sefardi charoset --Oxygen's version is quite delicious, though, unfortunately, it does contain sulfite and potassium sorbate.  Perhaps you can find an all-natural brand.

Moed Tov!

IMPORTANT KASHRUT NOTICE, Wednesday, April 23, 2014 (post-Pesach) update:
It turns out that only some, not all, of the Absolutely Gluten Free flatbreads and crackers are kasher l'Pesach/kosher for Passover.  Please be sure to follow standard kosher operating procedure and check every food product on an individual basis, even if they're made by the same company.  This is especially important regarding kosher for Passover products, as some of them may lose their kasher l'Pesach status between one Pesach and the next.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The 5774/2014 Pesach prep party progresses

He failed his annual stress test :(
I sent my husband out to the not-so-local kosher supermarket for some last-minute Pesach shopping, and he came home empty-handed because he was attacked by yet another kidney stone.  :(  I'm sorry to say that I wasn't surprised.  Fortunately, the Percocet is working, so we'll be spared a trip to the Emergency Room.  But my resident CPA will be filing extensions for the rest of his tax clients, rather than risking running around tomorrow before Yom Tov.

Simchat Bet HaShoeva, so to speak, considerably out of season :)
We bought granite counter-tops for our renovated kitchen for the precise purpose of being able to kasher them for Pesach by pouring boiling water over them.  It was a messy process, but I'm delighted that we'll be able to put our Pesach pots and other kitchen items directly on the counter-tops for the first time ever.

Anyone need some large plastic boxes?
We got smart in our old age and removed all the Pesach storage boxes from the tops of the bookshelves last year, since we're at an age at which taking heavy items down from high shelves is no longer a good idea.  But now that the boxes are permanently ensconced in their new home on the the floor, I've discovered that we need drawers, not boxes--it's a pain in the neck to have to lift one still-heavy box to reach something in the box underneath.  Back to the store we go--probably after Pesach--to buy portable, stackable drawers.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sheh-asani . . . (updated)

Start with the original.

I should have taken a hint from "sheh-asani bat chorin"--the obvious answer to the grammatical/modern history problem created by the use of the word "Yisraelit" is to use the very traditional term "bat Yisrael, daughter of Israel."  The b'rachah/blessing, in its egalitarian form, would then be "Baruch . . . sheh-asani bat Yisrael, Blessed [is the One who] made me a daughter of Israel (a descendant of Yaakov Avinu/Jacob Our Father)."  It shouldn't have taken a year and a half for this to dawn on me, but better late than never.

Okay, back to the Pesach preparations (also known as the Kashering-for-Pesach Kitchen Capers  :) ).  Pesach Kasher v'Sameach--Have a Kosher and Happy Passover.

Last word for 2014 re Acharei Mot: A shocking (lack of) choice

Leviticus Chapter 18 וַיִּקְרָא

כג  וּבְכָל-בְּהֵמָה לֹא-תִתֵּן שְׁכָבְתְּךָ, לְטָמְאָה-בָהּ; וְאִשָּׁה, לֹא-תַעֲמֹד לִפְנֵי בְהֵמָה לְרִבְעָהּ--תֶּבֶל הוּא. 23 And thou shalt not lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith; neither shall any woman stand before a beast, to lie down thereto; it is perversion.

After some 20 verses delineating with whom a man is forbidden to have sex, the only thing the Torah has to say on this subject regarding women is to prohibit her from engaging in bestiality??!  Was an animal the only sex partner that a woman could choose without her father's permission??!  Judging by the text, I would say that that might very well have been the case.

After such a charming thought (quoth she sarcastically), I should probably refer you to yesterday's link fest.  Or maybe this would be a good time to write about my recent bright idea.  I feel a new post coming on.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Link fest (to tide you over 'til after the sedarim): A week's worth of my posts

~ Here's a blast from the (parashah) past:  Tzav, Metzora, Behaalotecha: Sneaking a woman in through the back door  (Sunday, April 06, 2014), with further links regarding Parashat Metzora
~ Toxic shock, of sorts, from our self-cleaning oven (Tuesday, April 08, 2014)
~ Parashat Acharei Mot, 5774/2014 edition (Wednesday, April 09, 2014):  regarding pre-rabbinic kashrut
~ Cell-phone follies: A first that our shul could have lived without (Wednesday, April 09, 2014)
Little cell-phone yacker, shah, shtil
Little cell-phone yacker, pray first
Then you'll talk   
~ My first Pesach without matzah balls--and my last complaint about it (Thursday, April 10, 2014)
~ "Outsourcing" our observance (Friday, April 11, 2014)--we have often relied on the kindness of synagogues.

"Outsourcing" our observance

Naturally, I can’t find that post (or that comment), but some years ago, I complained on my blog that our synagogue, which sets up its sukkah under an open skylight in the lobby, was preventing us from observing Sukkot by renting out the lobby.  One of my commenters took me to task, explaining that, since the obligation to eat in a sukkah applies to the individual, no Jewish community organization, not even a synagogue, is obligated to provide a sukkah—rather, it’s up to the individual to make arrangements for eating in a sukkah.  Since we’re apartment-dwellers and have nowhere to build our own sukkah, we usually end up eating out for most of Chol HaMoed Sukkot in whichever kosher restaurant(s) happen to have their own sukkot.

Sometimes, we “outsource” our Purim observance, as well, since observing Purim has presented its own interesting challenges.  We’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to two Seudot Purim in private homes , and to host a few ourselves, with greater or lesser success—there have been years in which none of our invited guests was able to join us, and others in which guests have brought way too much food and talked our ears off.  But we find ourselves in a bit of a scheduling bind—my husband’s always in the middle of tax season at Purim time, so we’ve occasionally found it easier simply to attend a Seudat Purim in a synagogue.  When Conservadox suggested that we join him at his shul’s Seudat Purim this year, we were happy to do so.

Pesach (Passover) is, of course tough to prepare for, all the more so when one party involved in the preparation is also busy preparing tax returns to meet the annual April 15 deadline.  This makes it a prime candidate for “outsourcing,” and, from our perspective, for even more reasons than mentioned above.  My Orthodox readers may be amused to know that Pesach sometimes presents a challenge for non-Orthodox Jews that it probably doesn’t present for most Orthodox ones, namely, the difficulty of finding knowledgeable people to invite to a seder.  Years ago, we had a few sedarim in our own home, and got stuck with guests who knew very few seder songs and/or didn’t know anything about a seder at all—one guest actually asked how long the seder was going to take because s/he had to get up early for work the next day.  Then there were the seder guests who left after dinner, before the second half of the seder, because their youngest child refused to nap on our couch and insisted on being taken home.  We stopped making our own sedarim because it simply wasn’t worth doing all that cooking if we weren’t even going to enjoy ourselves—why invite guests if we were going to end up singing duets with one another anyway?  In later years, we were fortunate enough to be “rescued” by invitations from various friends, in whose homes we had a wonderful time singing seder songs and, as the assorted children in attendance got older, discussing the magid/story of the Exodus.  Of late, though, seder invitations haven’t been a possibility, due to either health or (lack of) kashrut issues, so we’re now attending sedarim in the local Orthodox synagogue.

A couple of our previous rabbis complained that some of the observances now taking place in synagogues are really home-based rituals.  That’s certainly true of the seder, which has been family-based from the very beginning, as described in Sefer Sh’mot/the Book of Exodus.  In theory, we shouldn’t be “outsourcing” our observance by depending on synagogues to enable us to perform mitzvot (commandments) that we should be performing on our own.  In practice, though, that seems to be what works for us.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My first Pesach without matzah balls--and my last complaint about it

It has been politely pointed out to me that my constant kvetching about my now-several-months-old gluten-free, dairy-free, and yeast-free diet is getting really tiresome, and that it's well past time for me to change my attitude.  I'm reminded of what an old friend's late mother, who was slim the last time I saw her, used to say when asked whether she ever cheated on her doctor-prescribed diet:  "Cheat who?".  That's the attitude that I'm going to adopt.  So I'm adjusting the tone of my conversation.  This is the last time you'll read and/or hear me gripe about my dietary restrictions.  I'm ditching my complaints along with my chametz.

Pesach Kasher v'Sameach--Have a Kosher and Happy Passover.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Cell-phone follies: A first that our shul could have lived without

Not only did this congregant let his/her cell phone ring repeatedly throughout the Shabbat/Sabbath service without making any move to turn it off, or even to reduce the volume, but she/he actually answered a call without leaving the sanctuary, and conducted an entire phone conversation while my husband was giving a d'var Torah (Bible discussion).  Talk about distracting!  Let's not even discuss the fact that. barring an emergency, carrying anything in a public place on Shabbat is a violation of halachah (Jewish religious law)--in this case, I think that the more important issue was the complete lack of derech eretz/common courtesy.  Seriously, how rude can you get?  It's a given that one doesn't leave a cell phone turned on and let it ring throughout a concert.  Why would anyone think that it's any less rude to let a cell phone ring while people are trying to pray?

See also My most likely reason to become Orthodox is . . .

Parashat Acharei Mot, 5774/2014 edition

Basics here.

Pre-Rabbinic kashrut:

Leviticus Chapter 17 וַיִּקְרָא

יג  וְאִישׁ אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּמִן-הַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכָם, אֲשֶׁר יָצוּד צֵיד חַיָּה אוֹ-עוֹף, אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל--וְשָׁפַךְ, אֶת-דָּמוֹ, וְכִסָּהוּ, בֶּעָפָר.

13 And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that taketh in hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten, he shall pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.

 . . .


טו  וְכָל-נֶפֶשׁ, אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכַל נְבֵלָה וּטְרֵפָה, בָּאֶזְרָח, וּבַגֵּר:  וְכִבֶּס בְּגָדָיו וְרָחַץ בַּמַּיִם, וְטָמֵא עַד-הָעֶרֶב--וְטָהֵר.

15 And every soul that eateth that which dieth of itself, or that which is torn of beasts, whether he be home-born or a stranger, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even; then shall he be clean.
According to the rabbis of the Talmud, only animals slaughtered using shechitah (the kosher slaughter method) are kosher.  Neither an animal killed in the hunt nor an animal that died by itself would be kosher by rabbinic standards, and since the days of the Talmud, no kashrut-observant Jew would be caught dead eating either one.

Some previous Acharei Mot posts of mine:

~ Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Startling omissions (Sunday, April 25, 2010)

Highlight:  It's a bit shocking to me that the Torah Sheh-BiCh'Tav's/Written Torah's anti-incest laws don't specifically condemn father-daughter incest.

~ Parshat Acharei Mot and Parshat Kedoshim (Thursday, April 28, 2011)

Highlight:  "Do not mock the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind" should be interpreted literally (p'shat), in addition to midrashically.

D'vrei Torah (Words of Torah) from other folks (always welcome):

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Toxic shock, of sorts, from our self-cleaning oven

When our new stove's instruction manual advised us to remove pet birds from the kitchen before using the oven's self-cleaning cycle because they might be harmed by the fumes, I should have known, but apparently, I was too dumb.

Dumb enough to be surprised when my chest starting tightening--I have asthma--minutes after we started the oven's self-cleaning process, and even more so when my eyes became irritated shortly thereafter.

Even with all the windows in the apartment opened and the fan turned on in the bedroom, where I was "hiding" because our bedroom is the room farthest from the kitchen, I still couldn't tolerate the fumes.  Finally, my husband turned off the self-cleaning process and promised to run it the next morning, before he left to teach his class and while I was at the office.

I'm livid.  The whole point in us buying a stove with a self-cleaning-oven feature was that we wanted to avoid using toxins to clean our oven.  But apparently, the only thing that makes using the self-cleaning feature safer for cleaning an oven than using Easy Off is that no one will accidentally get toxic chemicals on his or her skin or in her/his eyes.

Meanwhile, back at someplace other than the ranch-house, yours truly spent last night in a hotel, lest I come home to find fume residue in our apartment.  Talk about distractions, good luck trying to davven Shacharit (pray the Morning Service) while facing a mirror, which was in the only place where I could both sit (other than on the bed) and stand facing east--I had to be extra careful to keep my eyes on my siddur (prayer book) at all times, lest I end up with the odd feeling that I was worshipping myself instead of HaShem.

And last, but not least, just to add to the "fun," my cell phone is currently on the fritz.  I'm hoping to be able to get it repaired during my lunch hour.  What a way to spend a lunch hour.

But hey, there are still a few more days left in this week.  With any luck, they'll be better than the last few.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Tzav, Metzora, Behaalotecha: Sneaking a woman in through the back door

Leviticus 8:23 (from Parashat Tzav):
כג  וַיִּשְׁחָט--וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה מִדָּמוֹ, וַיִּתֵּן עַל-תְּנוּךְ אֹזֶן-אַהֲרֹן הַיְמָנִית; וְעַל-בֹּהֶן יָדוֹ הַיְמָנִית, וְעַל-בֹּהֶן רַגְלוֹ הַיְמָנִית. 23 And when it [the lamb of consecration] was slain, Moses took of the blood thereof, and put it upon the tip of Aaron's right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot.
The above is part of the procedure for consecrating Aharon/Aaron as Kohen/priest.

Leviticus 14:17 (from Parashat Metzora):
יד  וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן, מִדַּם הָאָשָׁם, וְנָתַן הַכֹּהֵן, עַל-תְּנוּךְ אֹזֶן הַמִּטַּהֵר הַיְמָנִית; וְעַל-בֹּהֶן יָדוֹ הַיְמָנִית, וְעַל-בֹּהֶן רַגְלוֹ הַיְמָנִית. 14 And the priest shall take of the blood of the guilt-offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot.

The above is part of the procedure for rendering a cured "leper" tahor/ritually "pure."

Numbers 12:10 (from Parashat B'haalot'cha/Behaalotecha/Behaalotcha (whatever):
י  וְהֶעָנָן, סָר מֵעַל הָאֹהֶל, וְהִנֵּה מִרְיָם, מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג; וַיִּפֶן אַהֲרֹן אֶל-מִרְיָם, וְהִנֵּה מְצֹרָעַת. 10 And when the cloud was removed from over the Tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow; and Aaron looked upon Miriam; and, behold, she was leprous.

And how do you think that Miriam was cured?  Rabbi Jill Hammer was right when she said that "the banishment of Miriam for having criticized Moshe’s (Moses’s) marriage resulted in her receiving the same purification rite as that undergone by a kohen/priest being anointed—the purification for a “leper” consisted, in part, of having blood from a sacrifice smeared on the right ear, thumb, and big toe."

More's the pity that Miriam disappears from the Torah after this incident, until her death.  Maybe nobody wanted to deal with the possible implications of her having undergone a ritual identical in some aspects to the consecration of her brother Aharon.  And/or perhaps nobody wanted to deal with the fact that Miriam had complained about Moshe's marriage to a non-Israelite because she felt that she, herself, was not getting the recognition she deserved as a n'viah/prophet.  As Rabbi Shai Held pointed out in his recent discussion of Shirat Yam Sof/The Song of the [Crossing of the Reed] Sea, it's likely that the song of Miriam and the women actually preceded that of  her younger brother Moshe because it was customary at that time and place for women to welcome victory with song, yet the mention of Miriam leading the women in song appears after Moshe's song in the text.

On a more general note, I find it interesting that the ritual "cure" for "leprosy" may have been the closest that any non-Kohen/priest ever got to being treated like a Kohen, all the more so when the non-Kohen was female.

For more on yesterday's parashah (weekly Torah reading), Metzora, see these posts of mine:
~ Haftarat Metzora: A nasty piece of work (Wednesday, April 02, 2014)
Tazria & Metzora: A straight line from tzaraat to Shoah (Saturday, April 05, 2014)

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Tazria & Metzora: A straight line from tzaraat to Shoah

During our Torah study session at Seudah Shlishit today, one of the other congregants posed a question:  Since the rabbis of Talmudic times claimed that the illness called tzaraat was a punishment for lashon hara/malicious gossip, how would they have explained the Shoah/Holocaust?  So I opened my big mouth and protested that that's exactly why I object to the rabbinic explanation of the reason for tzaraat--if you blame the victim for one thing, what's to keep you from blaming the victim(s) for another?

Is Pinocchio based on a midrashic interpretation of Tazria & Metzora?

Think about it, folks--the rabbis claimed that tzaraat--usually mistranslated as leprosy--was a punishment for lashon hara/malicious gossip.  Centuries later, we get the story of a living puppet, still wooden but alive, whose nose grows every time he tells a lie.  Hmm.

Friday, April 04, 2014

R. Dov Linzer: " . . . people with disabilities, but not disabled people."

In discussing Parashat Metzora, Rav Dov Linzer reminds us that "This [labeling] might be somewhat necessary in legal texts, but it is dangerous at the human level. When dealing with people, labeling is reductionist and it dehumanizing. The Torah's careful use of descriptors rather than labels reminds us that we should think of these individuals as people, people with special conditions, people with disabilities, but not disabled people. These are states of being; they are not who the person is."

Thursday, April 03, 2014

May I have your attention, please?

Whatever happened to the good old days when a conversation between two people was just a conversation between two people, and everyone actually had time for a life?

These days, when I call someone, I can often hear the clicking of a computer keyboard in the background.  I've been known to work on the computer while on the phone, as well, so I, too, am guilty as charged.  Still, the delayed responses of a person who's clearly listening with only one ear can be disconcerting--it's sometimes difficult for me to tell whether the callee has heard me or not. 

Then there's the business owner and/or private practitioner (including one who will remain nameless) who answers phone calls during dinner.  Nu, must everyone answer every call immediately?  Isn't a person entitled to take time off to eat (not to mention to talk to the spouse and/or child[ren] over dinner)?  Isn't that what answering machines and/or Voice Mail are for? 

And what's so great about Call Waiting?  If I'm already on the phone, why must I be put on hold so that a later call can be answered and attention can be paid to someone else?  What's so polite about that?  Whatever happened to "first come, first served?"

Most egregious, in my opinion, is answering or making a phone call while in the middle of a conversation with someone else (and, worse yet, forgetting to hang up).
Nowadays, it seems that everyone is expected to be an expert multitasker who responds to any form of communication immediately if not sooner (as the saying goes), no matter what the price in terms of quality of life and/or relationships.  Sadly, giving anybody one's undivided attention seems to be a lost art.  :(

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Haftarat Metzora: A nasty piece of work

See 2 Kings, chapter 7, verses 3-20, especially verses 17-20.  Apparently, the lesson being taught is that one who verbalizes doubts about a prophesy does so at the peril of his or her life.

[Those linking in from another blog might find my Wait and hurry up amusing.]

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Wait and hurry up :(

Yes, the saying is usually "Hurry up and wait," referring to a situation in which one rushes to do something and is then delayed.  For example, if I rush to the subway station in the hope of getting to work at a decent hour, but then, my subway train is held in the station (or, worse yet, in the tunnel), that would be described as a "Hurry up and wait" situation.  In this case, however, the problem is the opposite.  I've been working on this darned project for over two years, and now they're in a hurry?!  If I weren't 65, I could have had a baby--no, two babies--in the amount of time it's taken for everybody and his or her cousin to provide updates, additions, and corrections, give final approvals, etc.  When this document finally gets published online, I'm going to crack open a bottle of, um, whatever they'll let me drink at the office and then say a shehecheyanu.
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