Thursday, May 29, 2014

Parashat Naso, 5774/2014 edition


I went to an allergist yesterday for testing.  She didn't find any allergies (though she said that I could still have sensitivities, for which there is no test).  But the process of testing involves pricking the skin with tiny, very short needles.  So I now have a double row of "track" marks on both forearms.  Since I wasn't looking forward to putting tefillin on top of these puncture wounds, I decided to stay within the rock-bottom halachic minimum and wear tefillin for the Matbeiah (core of required prayers) only, and delayed laying tefillin until after the Yishtabach prayer, taking them off after the Amidah prayer but before the Tachanun prayer.  It's a good thing--they were pretty uncomfortable.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Last-minute reminder--today is Yom Yerushalayim

See here.

I've decided to stick with half-Hallel for both Yom HaAtzmaut/Israel Independence Day and Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Reunification Day, because many people died to bring us these days of celebration.

I've also decided to skip the last line of each Al HaNissim prayer, since the last lines are petitions for the future, whereas, traditionally, HaNassim has been a prayer of gratitude for HaShem's help in the past.

In addition, I'm editing out the phrase "u-r'shaim b'yad tzadikim/and the wicked at the hands of the righteous."  I'm not prepared to call all of our enemies wicked--they're just enemies.  Oyvim/enemies, not r'shaim/wicked.  That's my own approach, and I'll admit that it's rather non-traditional, since the Al HaNissim prayer for  Chanukah uses the phrase "u-r'shaim b'yad tzadikim/and the wicked at the hands of the righteous,"and the one for Purim describes the villain Haman as "rasha (wicked, evil)."

Next-day update:  Oops, forgot--see here, too, for some more Al HaNissim options.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Missing the obvious

"You can eat this--it's just made with matzah meal."


"Does this have wheat in it?

"It's made with flour."

(Third person):  "Most flour is made of wheat."

[Mentally, to Third Person:  Thank you.]

I just don't get it--what the heck do some people think that most matzah and most flour is made of?

Maybe they think we gluten-intolerant folks can eat this stuff because we're gluttons for punishment.  :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

A waste of my time

Start here.

So I return to Best Buy to pick up my replacement smartphone.

And it takes them a few minutes to find it.

Okay, it happens.

But when they try to turn it on, surprise, surprise--it has no battery.

The guy who took my old phone was supposed to have given me back my battery.  He did not.

So the guy who's trying to help me this time goes running around the store to get me a battery.

It gets better, folks.

Not only did the first guy forget to give me back my battery, he also forgot to give me back my SIM card.

It's been years since I've had to replace a "dead" cell phone.  Did they expect me to remember that I had to save my old battery and SIM card, and to remind him to give them to me?!

This time, the guy now working with me schlepps/drags me with him to the cell-phone sales department upstairs to get a new SIM card.  Why I have to go with him, I have no clue.

Believe it or not, it gets better yet, folks.

When I try to log into the new phone, the last four digits of my Social Security number don't do the job.

I try again.


It turns out that, since our phone account is in my husband's name, I need to submit the numbers from his driver's license and his Social Security card.

They couldn't have told me this before I came to pick up the phone?!

Bottom line:  I spend roughly 45 minutes at the store on Thursday evening, and I still leave without a phone!

And I have no idea how much of the information that was on that gone-forever SIM card will be retrievable via Google.



The good news is that I seem to have all my contacts.

The bad news is that I lost all my photos.

The consolation prize is that the geek working with me this afternoon showed me how to attach photos from my Gallery to a Gmail.

Total time in store today, counting both having the phone activated at the Geek Squad counter downstairs and having a new screen protector "installed" upstairs at the cell-phone sales desk:  Over an hour and a half.  Unbelievable.

Not a perfect choice, but a better one

When it comes to pareve "creamers," you can use Coffee Rich, which is, basically, corn syrup, coconut oil, and chemicals, or you can use Almond Breeze, which is, basically, water, almonds, tapioca, and, well, some chemicals, but not as many.  I'm sure you could find other examples of both types of coffee "creamers."  We're using a creamer with fewer chemicals, rather than one that's loaded with chemicals.  You might wish to consider it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

“Sugar is poison”

So said my husband to me, recently. 
Methinks he’s been paying too much attention to our wheat-free co-congregant, whose mantra is “Skip the junk food and eat fruit!”  I’d love to, but there’s a limit to how much fruit I can eat, too, for, um, the usual reasons.  In fact, just a few days ago, I added dried fruit to my “can't eat” list, since it seems to have a particularly deleterious effect on my digestive system.
Nevertheless, I’ve been making serious efforts to reduce my sugar consumption.  My luck, it was just this year that I finally found, for the first time, an all-natural brand of one of my Pesach/Passover favorites, good old “fruit slices” candy.  Unfortunately, after indulging in about two boxes worth, I finally realized that, all-natural or not, “fruit slices” candy is, basically, the kasher-l’Pesach/kosher-for-Passover equivalent of jelly beans, which I gave upbecause their high sugar content was contributing to my leg crampsOff to the synagogue went the remaining box, to be “demolished” by the gang at Seudah Shlishit.  I don’t intend ever to buy “fruit slices” candy again.
I’m too much of a sugar addict to give it up altogether, but I’m renewing my resolution to be much more careful about how much sugar I eat.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Good practice

Apparently, studying with a chavruta (study partner) in a bet midrash (study hall) full of other study pairs provides excellent training for being able to concentrate through all manner of commotion.  It has not exactly escaped my notice that, when I'm in the bet midrash at my office davvening Mincha (praying the Afternoon Service)--batei midrash often double as prayer rooms--in between the Nusach Ashkenaz minyan and the Nusach Sefard minyan (there's no mechitza there, so I don't have much choice), the gents arriving early for the later minyan think absolutely nothing of conducting a full-volume conversation practically under my nose while I'm in mid-Amidah-prayer.  They're apparently so used to ignoring any conversation other than their own that it doesn't even occur to them to give a davvener (pray-er) a little peace and quiet.  I assume that this was one reason why our synagogue's former rabbi was downright offended at being asked to either join in or keep the conversation at a low volume while someone else was leading Birkat HaMazon/Grace after Meals.

More's the pity that I don't have practice in bet-midrash study.  It would come in handy on late-ending Shabbotot (Sabbaths), when we're davvening downstairs in the "dungeon" (basement chapel) while a renter is hosting a noisy party upstairs in the sanctuary.  I find that I have no choice but to leave after Birkat HaMazon following seudah shlishit and go home to davven Maariv/Arvit (pray the Evening Service) because I simply can't concentrate on silent prayer with loud music playing on the floor above.

You're cordially invited to add your thoughts to the very interesting--and serious--conversation taking place in the comments to my Why does an injection need to be kosher?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Back to the 20th century :(

My smartphone has gone the way of all electronic devices, and it'll be several days before the replacement arrives.  It's been years since I left home without a cell phone, except on Shabbat (Sabbath) and Yom Tov (major holiday).

My kingdom for a phone booth.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why does an injection need to be kosher?

Here’s the latest news from the OU Kashrut Division:

“May 14, 2014

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) today announced that the Orthodox Union (OU) has granted kosher certification to ELELYSO™ (taliglucerase alfa) for injection, an enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) for the long-term treatment of adults with a confirmed diagnosis of Type 1 Gaucher disease. ELELYSO is the first prescription medication to be certified kosher by the OU, a milestone for the brand which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2012.”

I honestly cannot understand why an item that cannot be eaten or drunk and is not for use in food preparation, serving, or clean-up needs to have a hechsher (rabbinic seal certifying that it’s kosher).  If someone would kindly explain this to me, I’d appreciate it.

Salad for supper? Maybe not

In my experience, there are three kinds of "meal salads."

First, there's "standard American," often tuna.  It's almost always accompanied by potato salad, which gives me gout, and cole slaw, which gives me . . . um, you don't want to know.

Then, there's "fancy."  (By way of example, Salade Nicoise is one type of what I'd call a "fancy" meal salad.)  The main problem with "fancy" meal-salads is that they're often super-sized.  I simply can't eat that much, and I'm not always going straight home, so I can't necessarily "doggy-bag" it.

Finally (?), there's middle eastern.  Not only are they super-sized, they're also often very high in fat, due to the ingredients used (such as techina), cooking method (deep-fried falafel, anyone?), etc.  And not only is it too much food for me, it's often just greasy enough (especially shwarma) to make me a tad queasy.

Looks like my gluten-free default dinner out, especially when I'm in a rush and can't wait for a cooked meal, may very well be a Larabar.

A cross-cultural misunderstanding?

Someone from another office was kind enough to invite us to help ourselves to left-overs from a lunch meeting.  Which led to an interesting conversation.

"Just salad?  No tuna sandwich?"

"Wheat and I don't get along anymore."

"That's okay.  We have some white."



"No, I mean wheat grain.  I can't eat white bread or whole wheat bread."

They finally persuaded me to snitch the tuna filling and leave the bread behind--I'd never get away with that if I had Celiac Disease, because I'd have to worry about even minute quantities of gluten--so I ended up with the innards of a tuna wrap, and everyone was happy.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Christians and Muslims are trading places

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

News from the Jewish world

From Israel:
“Women Move Towards Approval as First Israel Kosher Supervisors—9 Take Test”

From New York City:
In a move with questionable timing, two well-known Conservative synagogues have already held or will shortly hold concerts, even though it’s currently Sefirah, the seven-week semi-mourning period between Pesach and Shavuot during which rabbinic tradition forbids listening to (at least live) instrumental music.   I’ve already e-mailed the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly to ask whether its Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has a different approach to Sefirah observance.

Oops, correction:  One of the concerts will take place this Sunday, on Lag B'Omer, an officially-recognized "break" in the semi-mourning period, when live instrumental music, haircuts, and weddings, otherwise prohibited, are permitted.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book review: Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”

Here’s the part that I just posted on the Goodreads website:
“Ari Shavit pulls no punches. Settlers and peaceniks, Ashkenazim and Sefardim, young and old, military and civilian, business and recreation, not to mention a barely-functional government, are all scrutinized under his microscope. That said, "My Promised Land" reminds me of the Hebrew word "beinonim," possibly rabbinic in origin, meaning an individual who is neither a complete tzadik/righteous person nor a complete rasha/wicked person. This book is full of "beinonim." Ari Shavit loves his native Israel, and understands why some of the dirty little secrets of its origin took place. He's hoping that some semblance of sanity can be salvaged, so that Israel can continue to live, preferably in peace, for a long time to come.

What I didn’t post there was my more personal reaction, as a non-Orthodox Jew living in the Galut/Diaspora—I found it discouraging, but not really surprising, that Shavit insisted that there was no future for secular Jews outside of the Jewish State because they’d all assimilate.  Sounds like some of the findings of the recent Pew Survey.  L

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cramming them in like sardines, 2

Here's the original.

It turns out that public-health-and-safety regulations have prevented the pharmacist from dispensing prescriptions from our synagogue's lobby, but the lawyer and the ESL class have made themselves right at home.  This past Shabbat (Sabbath) morning, we had another renter using our basement "chapel," so the ESL class took over our lobby, forcing us to set up kiddush in the back of the sanctuary.  And, to boot, the sanctuary was rented out at 12:30 PM.  So when we had to wait until almost 10:30 to begin the Torah reading because we didn't have a minyan until then (Chazarat HaSHaTZ/Reader's Repetition--what Chazarat HaSHaTZ?), we were forced to resort to a Heicha Kedushah for Musaf.  Squashed in and rushed out.  That's the way our congregation davvens/prays, these days.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Parashat Behar, 5774/2014 edition

Ms. Kitchen Klutz plans baking binge

See also Another gluten-free find: Orgran Crispibread.

I've decided that, beginning next year, I'll take a few days off before Pesach (Passover) to do some baking.  I was surprised to find that my formerly-favorite Pesach cookies are now a bit too sweet for me.  I'm also fed up to here with the artificial ingredients found in almost all Pesach baked goods.

Years ago, my son and I used to enjoy making matzah-farfel cookies together, using my late mother's recipe.  I think she would have been pleased to see me try my hand at baking for Pesach again.  But this time around, my homemade Pesach cookies will have to be gluten-free.  If you have any recipes (of which I have only one,* thus far), or can recommend a good cookbook or website where I can find some, I'd certainly love to hear from you!

*I copied this particular recipe from a wheat-free friend's cookbook (the name of which, I think, was Simply . . .  Gluten Free Desserts) because, being Ms. Kitchen Klutz, I particularly appreciated the fact that it had only three ingredients and simple, three-step instructions.

Flourless Almond Cookies

1 cup almond butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

~ Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees [Fahrenheit].  Beat sugar, almond butter and egg in large bowl with electric mixer until blended and smooth.
~ Shape dough into 24 balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Flatten slightly with fork.
~ Bake 10 minutes or until set.  Remove to wire rack; cook completely.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Another gluten-free find: Orgran Crispibread

I've slathered almond butter on Rice Thins for a few years now, and I recommend them as a gluten-free alternative to "standard" crackers.  But I also like the combination of grains found in Orgran Multigrain Crispibread with Quinoa.  It's the only one of Orgran's crispibreads that's made with brown rice instead of white rice, and also contains wholegrain sorghum, which, I suspect, is what helps keep it from being too bland.
Both Rice Thins and Crispibread with Quinoa have a major advantage over Absolutely Gluten Free flatbreads--they're made with no sweeteners of any kind.  It took me a while to figure out, but I finally realized that the reason why I find the Absolutely flatbreads so yummy that I could eat half a box at a time if I didn't force myself to stop is that they contain just enough honey to be "addictive."  I now reserve them for Shabbat (Sabbath), Yom Tov (holidays), and Pesach--the "Original" flavor is kasher l'Pesach/kosher for Passover, whereas Rice Thins and Crispibreads are not.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Yom HaAtmzaut oldie but goodie

Zeh HaYom Asah HaShem is a favorite of mine, expressing my approach to the miracle--created by G-d and/or by the Jewish People--of the existence of Medinat Yisrael/the State of Israel.

Added to the end of the post are links to discussions regarding the recitation of Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut, which is a practice not universally accepted, or even where accepted, not observed in the same manner by all--some say the b'rachah/blessing, some do not; some say Full Hallel, some say Half Hallel, etc.

Al HaNissim prayers (your choice) for Yom HaAtzmaut/Israel Independence Day

Here's the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly's version.

Here's the Machon Shilo version (courtesy of Miami Al a few years ago).

Personally, I prefer the Conservative version--though my Hebrew comprehension is limited, it seems to me that the RA's version more closely resembles the traditional Al HaNissim prayers for Chanukah and Purim.

On second thought, I think I was thrown some by the grammatical switch in the Machon Shilo version--being Israeli, their version says "we," rather than "they."  I'm not quite sure how I feel about their prayer's last line mentioning the future, which the other Al HaNissim prayers don't do.

Update, same day:  See four versions of Al HaNassim for Yom HaAtzmaut.  I just found this webpage via internet search, and haven't read all four yet, but I did read the Kibbutz HaDati version and found it way too expansionist for my personal preference.

Later update, same day:  Of the four versions above, my favorite is the Israeli Reform version.  Editor Rabbi Yehonatan Chipman, who gathered these four version onto one webpage for comparison, is correct, in my opinion, in criticizing the American Conservative and Israeli Masorti versions for putting too heavy an emphasis on the Holocaust and not enough on pre-Holocaust Zionist history.

He's also correct, I believe, in stating that the section of the Amidah prayer in which Al HaNissim is included is the section for praise, not requests.  Therefore, whether I choose the Machon Shilo version or the Israeli Reform version for future use, I will refrain from reciting the final sentence, which, in both versions, asks for G-d's present or future help.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Cramming them in like sardines

The calls to our synagogue started coming in within days of the fire (see "and back to chaos" here).

There's now a displaced English as a Second Language class meeting in one of the shul's basement rooms.

A free-standing, wheeled cabinet, formerly used in the shul kitchen, has now been furnished with a padlock, and is being used for files by a displaced lawyer, who's renting space in our lobby . . .

. . . along with a displaced pharmacist, who's dispensing prescriptions that he's storing under lock and key in our basement.

And I think there's a good chance that another one or two renters who've been displaced will end up in our shul building temporarily, especially given its proximity to their burned-out former home.  As the old saying about the real-estate business goes, "The three most important things are location, location, and location."

It's a good thing we haven't sold our shul building yet.

Friday, May 02, 2014

I’m running out of blogging ideas

Don't be surprised if my posts become a bit less frequent.

After some nine and a half years of blogging, I’ve already written pretty much everything I can think of about the parashot/parashiot/parshiot(?)/weekly Torah readings.   On that subject, I do more linking than actual writing, these days.

Regarding other Jewish topics, I’ve often been nagged to write more about Conservative Judaism, but my place in the Conservative world can make that somewhat challenging.  By way of explanation, see the name of my blog.

The first synagogue to which I paid membership dues was a dual-affiliated Reconstructionist/Conservative congregation, so I started  my adult Jewish life on the left fringe of the Conservative Movement.  But when we first joined our current shul in the fall of 2004, the place was so right-wing that some congregants literally could not believe that the Conservative Movement would ever ordain women, even though JTS had, in fact, already ordained the first female Conservative rabbi, Amy Eilberg, roughly nine years before, in 1985.  By the time our shul went egalitarian last summer, our congregation was down to about 50 members, and hadn’t been a United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism member for several years, for lack of funds to pay dues, so it was pretty much irrelevant in terms of the Movement.

Then there's my personal manner of observance, which, while highly inconsistent, probably leans slightly more toward the "observant" end of the Conservative spectrum, a minority position among Conservative Jews.  Between my personal observance and my shul affilation, I'm so far from the center of the Conservative Movement "action" that I'm practically off the fringe.

So what’s left for me to write about that won't bore you?  I wish I knew, because I have few enough readers as it is.
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