Saturday, December 26, 2015

Agricultural crisis coming?

The weather in the New York City metropolitan area has been bizarre in the extreme.  As recently as a week ago, there were still some decent-looking flowers growing in neighborhood gardens, which is downright unheard of for December--normally, all the flowers and deciduous-tree leaves would have been gone at least a month and a half ago.  Our Christian neighbors got T-shirt weather instead of a snow-on-the-ground white Christmas, with the local temperature yesterday hitting a record-high 70-something degrees Fahrenheit (over 21 degrees Celsius).  It was so warm that we had to reopen a couple of windows.

But today's news was almost shocking--on the way to shul (synagogue), we actually saw newly-sprouted crocus leaves.  We wrote off the first bunch of crocus leaves that we spotted as possibly left over from last winter, but when we saw a second bunch in a different garden, it became crystal clear that the leaves were neither old nor figments of our imaginations.  And they weren't just barely poking up through the ground--they were already at least a couple of inches (5.08 centimeters) high.  We hadn't noticed them before because, hey, who looks for crocus leaves in December?  Normally, crocus-flower leaves would not appear in this area until mid-January, at the very earliest.  I'm afraid to think what this radical change in the local weather could do to the local agricultural cycle.

Speaking of radical weather, here's my note to California farmers:  Please, please switch to drip irrigation wherever possible as soon as possible, before the whole state turns as dry as the Gobi Desert.

Heaven and/or conservation and/or climate-change planning help us all.

Is anybody home? :(

My husband came down with pharyngitis, and didn't have enough voice to chant a haftarah.  Unfortunately, there are now only two other congregants who can chant a haftarah with no advance notice--I'm not one of them, I'm sorry to say--and neither of them was there this morning.  So the poor chazzan (cantor) ended up chanting the haftarah in addition to leading the Shacharit (Morning) service, leining (chanting) the Torah reading, and leading the Musaf  ("Additional" [for Sabbath and Pilgrimage-Festival]) service.  That's what happens in a declining congregation, says my husband.  I suppose I should be happy that we can still get a (women-included) minyan, even if we have to wait 15-20 minutes.  Given the toll taken by the Mal'ach HaMavet/Angel of Death, it's just a matter of time before that won't be possible anymore, either.  Sigh.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Escape from Alcatraz :)

My surgeon gave me the head's-up to lift my head up--I no longer need to maintain the face-down position.  Today was the first day since my Dec. 10 vitrectomy surgery that I left our building without my husband as my "guide dog."  It was certainly strange walking around the local business district with only one eye working normally.  And I had to walk more slowly than usual, as my balance has not yet readjusted to my return to the fully-upright position.  It will still be at least another two months before I'm allowed to sleep on my back, though, which means that, with me sleeping on my side, my pain in the neck has shifted to my hips.  And it'll be roughly another month before the surgeon can determine whether the surgery was completely successful.  Wish me luck.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Parashat Vayigash 5776/2015 thoughts: It's not all about Binyamin

Better late than never--we already read Vayigash this morning.  Basics here.

I find it noteworthy that Yehudah (Judah), in speaking to the "Vice Pharaoh" whom he doesn't recognize as Yosef (Joseph) keeps referring to Binyamin (Benjamin) as a na'ar (youth) and a katan (little one) even when Binyamin, already a father of ten who is, no doubt, visibly too old to be so described, is standing in Yosef's presence.

I also find it noteworthy that, as in the case of Dinah, Binyamin is never once given an opportunity to speak for himself and/or to participate in any decision regarding his own part in the "story."  No one ever asks him whether he is willing to go to Egypt, or whether he consents to let Yehudah take his place as a slave.

In my opinion, Rabbi Eliyahu Safran is right on the money:

" . . . why does the passage focus only on Yaakov's [Jacob's] devastation?  Yes, Binyamin is Yaakov's son, but he is also a father in his own right.  The narrative not only ignores Binyamin's feelings but it also completely overlooks the certain emotional devastation of Binyamin's own ten children!  Why is there no concern shown lest Binyamin's children not survive the loss of their father?

Why are these narratives so father-driven?"

I think that this story has less to do with Binyamin and more to do with Yaakov.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Our new pool table, so to speak :)

Since my recent eye operation, only my left eye has been fully operational, which means, among other things, that I have very little depth perception at the moment.  So every time I try to pour myself a glass of water, I end up leaving a pool on our table.  :)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Computer "surgery" coming up

Son tried everything he could think of to fix cantankerous comp, but ran out of ideas.  He'll begin reformatting internal hard drive shortly.  Hope to be back on computer by Wed.  See you later.

Tues., Dec. 15, 2015, 6:50 PM update:
"Surgery" successful--I'm back on my computer, thanks to my son.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Post-op progress

Eye-patch gone, still no pain.  At least, no pain in eye.  But maintaining face-down position is giving me a literal pain in the neck.

Many thanks to our son, who enabled me to use my computer during recovery by tilting my monitor into a horizontal position so that I could look down on it (while standing).

Vision in right eye shimmery because of gas bubble, & extremely blurry.  But at least I can see colors.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Peggy the Pirate :)

Eye-patch, yes; pain, no.  Pleasantly surprised.  But blind in right eye for 3 months.  Will write more when surgeon removes eye-patch & I can put on my glasses.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

An eye-opening experience, literally--my 2nd round of surgery

Talk about ruining my Chanukah, my surgeon scheduled my vitrectomy surgery for this Thursday.  (I had cataract surgery about a month ago.)  Since a vitrectomy is much more "serious" surgery than cataract surgery, with a longer and more difficult recovery period, I'm not sure when I'll be able to use a computer again, so this may be my last post for a while.  See you on the other side.  Please keep Léah bat Esther v'Ozer in your thoughts and/or prayers.

Monday, December 07, 2015

We do it our way (oy)

You may have heard of male pattern baldness.  Well, try this version of baldness on for size--I've noticed that my hair seems to be thinning at roughly the place where the back edge of my shel rosh/head tefillin is bound to my head by the r'tzuah/strap.  Is this typical for people who wear tefillin?

Here's another version:  I've read complaints on the internet that some Orthodox married women who cover their hair suffer not only from headaches, but also from hair loss.

And my husband tells me that it's not only traditional women, but also traditional men, who suffer hair loss from following a traditional practice--he says that some men who wear kippot (yarmulkes, skullcaps) at all times (as opposed to, for example, when praying, studying, and/or eating) lose the hair under their kippot.

Maybe we should call this "Jewish pattern baldness."  Oy.

On a more cheerful note, Happy Chanukah!  Here, have some Chanukah links--they're less caloric than either latkes or sufganiyot.  :)
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