Monday, June 30, 2014

A tragic end for the three kidnapped Israeli teens

The bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil'ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach have been found.  The search that began June 13 has come to a sad conclusion.

HaMakom y'nachem, may HaShem comfort the families of the murdered.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Parashat Korach, 5774/2014 edition: Literal overkill, in my opinion

I was too busy this week to post until now--sorry for the delay.  And since I'm still pretty busy, this'll be quick.

Basics here.

Link to my previous Korach posts here.

One of the best Korach posts ever, by DovBear.

My thoughts for this year regarding this morning's reading:  Was all this bloodshed really necessary?  Couldn't Korach, Dathan and Aviram and their followers have been punished in a less deadly manner?  And why were their families punished?  And why the plague against the people for protesting against the bloodshed?  Sometimes I think HaShem is pretty bloodthirsty.

My husband's contribution:  In 40 years of wandering, these were the only rebellions?!  Were there other rebellions of which we have no written record?  Why were these rebellions reported in the Torah, whereas others were not?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Three Israeli students missing & presumed kidnapped

Three students of Makor Chaim Yeshiva went missing last night. This is being treated by the Shin Bet and the IDF as a kidnapping by terrorists and they are currently engaged in a massive manhunt. Please pray and say tehillim for their welfare and safe return. Their names are:

Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devora

Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim

Eyal ben Iris Teshurah

Please share this message.

[Copied from an e-mail sent by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School.]

From the Orthodox Union OU:

f we have not received good news by later today, please take a moment when lighting Shabbos candles to think about them and recite Tehillim chapter #121.

Tehilim = psalms.  Tehillim chapter 121 is Psalm 121.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book review: "Of Virgins and Martyrs: Women and Sexuality in Global Conflict," by David Jacobson

Copied from my review on the Goodreads website:

The author did a nice job of pointing out the connection between the freedom to choose to enter the job market and choose one's job, on the one hand, and women's freedom in general, on the other--for a woman to be free to leave the home unescorted is a big deal in some cultures. According to the author, some cultures are so dead-set on keeping women in "traditional" roles that they'd rather sacrifice half of (what might be) their gross national product, even though this would not be in their own interest, than allow women the freedom to enter the workforce. This can be what happens in an "honor"-based, as opposed to an interest-based, culture. In an "honor-based" culture, simply being employed gives women not only more freedom in general, but also more freedom to associate with men who are not relatives, which puts employed women at serious risk of being considered, and treated as, engaged in what's considered improper sexual behavior for a woman.

Mr. Jacobson also helped me understand the thinking behind suicide bombings. In my own culture, we are taught that G-d loves life and peace. If I understand Mr. Jacobson correctly, the emphasis, in some tribal and/or patriarchal cultures, on honor, and its corresponding restrictions on roles for both women (daughter, sister, wife, mother)and men (warrior), means that the individual's right to consider his/her body her/his own, to do with as s/he pleases, is also restricted. Since the body is considered "tribal/community property," as it were, sacrificing it for (what's considered) the greater good is held in high regard. Not my cup of tea, obviously, but at least I understand the attitude better.

See also Thoughts re Megillat Rut/Book of Ruth, Shavuot 5774/2014 edition (Tuesday, June 03, 2014).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Parashat Sh'lach L'cha, 5774/2014 edition--regarding individuals with multiple names

Here are links to my previous Sh'lach L'cha posts:

~ Sh'lach L'Cha: HaShem rubs their noses in their sin (Sunday, June 21, 2009)

~ Oo, a neat post about tzitzit! (Friday, June 26, 2009)

~ Parshat Sh'lach L'cha (Wednesday, June 15, 2011)

~ Parshat Sh'lach L'cha, take 2 (Tuesday, June 21, 2011)

Numbers Chapter 13 בְּמִדְבַּר

ח לְמַטֵּה אֶפְרָיִם, הוֹשֵׁעַ בִּן-נוּן. 8 Of the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun.

. . .  
טז אֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת הָאֲנָשִׁים, אֲשֶׁר-שָׁלַח מֹשֶׁה לָתוּר אֶת-הָאָרֶץ; וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה לְהוֹשֵׁעַ בִּן-נוּן, יְהוֹשֻׁעַ. 16 These are the names of the men that Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.

Excuse me, but we've known Yehoshua/Joshua since Sefer Sh'mot/the Book of Exodus, and he's never been called Hoshea before.  Is this the same guy, or have two different oral traditions been conflated/combined into one text and person?   For that matter, how many names does Moshe's/Moses' father-in-law have?  Is Yitro(Jethro)/Reuel/etc. all the same person, a composite, and/or a reflection of several oral traditions?

~ Conservadox is not crazy about the interpretation of this parashah in the chumash that he's currently using--he's concerned that "lack of halachic literacy (or attempts to go too far in dumbing down your literacy for others) leads to oversimplification, and that oversimplification is just as likely to lead to too much stringency as to too much leniency."

~ Rav Shai Held finds it important for us to have faith that HaShem will provide possibilities, just as HaShem had faith that B'nei Yisrael/The Children of Israel would eventually make the best of the possibilities provided by HaShem.

~ Rav Dov Linzer:  "Tzitzit, then, come to serve as a corrective to the sin of the spies, encouraging us to see through the lens of the Torah."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vodka (to 4 parts water) as a biodegradable granite cleaner?!

Not only is it biodegradable, it also kills bacteria.  (Vinegar, my usual favorite, can damage granite.)  Now I've heard everything.

See also, courtesy of OK Kosher Certification's "Kosher Spirit" magazine, 8 Ways to Replace Toxic Cleaning Supplies in the Home.

Friday, June 06, 2014

More Than A Hashtag: Nigerian Girls, Social Media, and Bruriah

Lest we forget that those kidnapped schoolgirls are still in captivity.  May the Matir Asurim/the One Who Frees Captives (help us) keep them in mind and (do what we can to) come to their aid.

Birnbaum seconds my husband

Tachanun or no tachanun? My husband said that one skips this prayer on the day after Shavuot.  My Koren-Sacks siddur/prayerbook disagreed, and so did my ArtScroll siddur, but my trusty Birnbaum (the first Orthodox siddur I ever bought--I've had it since my late twenties) backed him up.  So I went with Birnbaum's opinion, and kept both of us happy--any excuse to skip Tachanun will do. :)

Shavuot, my fishy festival :)

No more dairy for me, so I had a salmon Shavuot. Yum!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Thoughts re Megillat Rut/Book of Ruth, Shavuot 5774/2014 edition

Here are links to some of my oldies:

Tikkun Lel Shavuot prep: I’m writing something resembling a d’var Torah on the connection between Tamar, Ruth (& her fearless leader, Naomi),& agunot (Sunday, June 12, 2005)

The Book of Ruth: Disposable heroes?? (Tuesday, May 18, 2010)

Gathering thoughts for our shul's Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Tuesday, May 14, 2013)

In light of the recent kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria by the extremist-Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, I decided to read a book I'd heard about, Of Virgins and Martyrs:  Women and Sexuality in Global Conflict, by David Jacobson.  I'm about two-thirds of the way through this book, and I've found it quite an eye-opener.  (You can read some reviews here.)  Davidson posits a clear connection between the freedom to choose to join the workforce and to choose one's own job and/leading to women's rights, not to mention men's--in tribal societies, roles are fixed, with women being, for all practical purposes, family possessions, and men being warriors, neither having any more right to choose their roles than a medieval serf could choose to become a landowner.

I see this clearly played out in Megillat Ruth.  Naomi returned to Bet-Lechem/Bethlehem "empty" because women didn't have any inheritance rights.  Ruth had to glean in the fields for both of them for the same reason.

Alternatively, women had inheritance rights, but couldn't use them without a man representing them.  Not only that, but the women were sold with the land.  No, I kid you not:

Megillat Ruth/Book of Ruth, chapter 4

ג  וַיֹּאמֶר, לַגֹּאֵל, חֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר לְאָחִינוּ לֶאֱלִימֶלֶךְ:  מָכְרָה נָעֳמִי, הַשָּׁבָה מִשְּׂדֵה מוֹאָב. 3 And he said unto the near kinsman: 'Naomi, that is come back out of the field of Moab, selleth the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech's;
ד  וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי אֶגְלֶה אָזְנְךָ לֵאמֹר, קְנֵה נֶגֶד הַיֹּשְׁבִים וְנֶגֶד זִקְנֵי עַמִּי--אִם-תִּגְאַל גְּאָל, וְאִם-לֹא יִגְאַל הַגִּידָה לִּי ואדע (וְאֵדְעָה) כִּי אֵין זוּלָתְךָ לִגְאוֹל וְאָנֹכִי אַחֲרֶיךָ; וַיֹּאמֶר, אָנֹכִי אֶגְאָל. 4 and I thought to disclose it unto thee, saying: Buy it before them that sit here, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it; but if it will not be redeemed, then tell me, that I may know; for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.' And he said: 'I will redeem it.'
ה  וַיֹּאמֶר בֹּעַז, בְּיוֹם-קְנוֹתְךָ הַשָּׂדֶה מִיַּד נָעֳמִי; וּמֵאֵת רוּת הַמּוֹאֲבִיָּה אֵשֶׁת-הַמֵּת, קניתי (קָנִיתָ)--לְהָקִים שֵׁם-הַמֵּת, עַל-נַחֲלָתוֹ. 5 Then said Boaz: 'What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi--hast thou also bought of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance?'

. . .

ט  וַיֹּאמֶר בֹּעַז לַזְּקֵנִים וְכָל-הָעָם, עֵדִים אַתֶּם הַיּוֹם, כִּי קָנִיתִי אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר לֶאֱלִימֶלֶךְ, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר לְכִלְיוֹן וּמַחְלוֹן--מִיַּד, נָעֳמִי. 9 And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people: 'Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi.
י  וְגַם אֶת-רוּת הַמֹּאֲבִיָּה אֵשֶׁת מַחְלוֹן קָנִיתִי לִי לְאִשָּׁה, לְהָקִים שֵׁם-הַמֵּת עַל-נַחֲלָתוֹ, וְלֹא-יִכָּרֵת שֵׁם-הַמֵּת מֵעִם אֶחָיו, וּמִשַּׁעַר מְקוֹמוֹ:  עֵדִים אַתֶּם, הַיּוֹם. 10 Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I acquired to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place; ye are witnesses this day.'

Notice that exactly the same Hebrew word, "kaniti," is used for both the land and Ruth--the cowards translate it as "bought" with reference to the land, but as "acquired" with reference to Ruth.  Methinks not--Ruth was purchased along with the land.  Which she couldn't sell until Boaz was shamed into "representing" her at the "court" in the city gates!  It's no wonder that the Torah insists that widows be aided--clearly, they had no other recourse.  Even if they had "inherited" land, they couldn't sell it without a man's intervention.  And since the women were sold with the land, I suspect that it wasn't uncommon for them to be left beggars for the rest of their lives because no one wanted to be responsible for supporting them, and there was no incentive, either, as the land would automatically revert to the family upon their deaths.

Bottom line, Boaz was watching the bottom line.  If he'd been a true hero, he would never have left Ruth and Naomi to their own devices, forcing Ruth to glean as a beggar in the fields instead of helping her sell her land and settle down with a husband.  Instead, he tried to help her on the cheap, by instructing his workers to leave extra sheaves for her.  Ruth rescued Naomi from starvation, then Naomi rescued Ruth from starvation.  The men didn't give a hoot.

And if you think tribal(-style) patriarchy is a thing of the past in the Jewish world, think again.  Said ex-Satmar writer Frimet Goldberger, "Tznius (modesty) is what we were taught is at stake when a woman drives a car. But I believe there’s something else. Driving gives you the keys to freedom and independence; it opens the road to opportunities beyond grocery and hosiery shopping. For Satmar women to be banned from the wheel means being tied to their husbands and to their communities, bags and kids at their feet, waiting for a cab — just the way misogynistic and paranoid men like it."

Not only could it happen to contemporary Jewish women, but, in some of the most right-wing Orthodox communities, it already has.
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