Sunday, April 30, 2017

Double-parashah Tazria-Metzora--5777/2017 thoughts, take 2

Tzaraat/"leprosy" of a garment?

Tzaraat/"leprosy" of a house?


Yes, seriously, but only if one trades biblical terminology for 21st-century terms.

The garment and/or house, as described in this reading (see Leviticus 13:47 and 14:33-57), probably have mildew and/or mold, and while we, today, wouldn't call the garment or the house sick, we might speak of toxic substances, indoor pollution, and/or allergens, which can make people sick.

Case in point:  When we were renovating our bathroom a few years ago, we were required by law to hire a firm that specialized in hazardous-waste removal to pack up everything that was ripped out or otherwise removed and take it to a hazardous-waste disposal site, in case the waste contained asbestos, a known carcinogen.

The Torah/Bible comes surprisingly close to taking the same approach when it requires that the "leprous" stones and plaster be removed to a place outside of the city.

For the curious, here's the end result of that renovation.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Double-parashah Tazria-Metzora--5777/2017 thoughts

Never mind, just see here--I haven't been able to bring myself to read this, this time around.  Please excuse my cynicism.

On a second thought, see here, too--Rabbi Avital Hochstein has something interesting to say:

"One of the ways in which a society builds and sustains hierarchy is through directing and restricting sight lines—determining who are the seers and who are the seen. Those who see are those who have status and power. The chapter reveals who has the knowledge and the power by highlighting the sight lines."

See part 2.

It's about profit, stupid

I'm finally beginning to understand, rather belatedly, why we can't get a decent health-care system going in the U.S.--the insurance companies are in it for the money, and put profit ahead of people.

This article may be almost six years old, but it's still right on the money (both figuratively and literally).

It's the economy, stupid.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Does Trump only care about work for whites, preferably male?

The YUGE job losses Trump is ignoring: retail workers.

Apparently, job losses in coal mining and manufacturing matter to Trump, but job losses in retail don't.

"Work is gendered and it is racialized. What work matters is often tied to who performs it. It is no accident that those professions dominated by white men tend to bring the most prestige, respect, and pay, while those dominated by women—and especially women of color—are often ignored, disdained, and undercompensated."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Both sides against the middle,plus special sauce:(

The Russian government is trying to destabilize Western democracies.  Thus far, they seem to be doing a pretty good job.

Islamist extremists such as ISIS, the Taliban, Al-Queda, Boko Haram, etc., are also trying to destabilize, and/or conquer, Western democracies, and just about everyone else.

Top that off with the wild card, North Korea, and we have one heck of an indigestible sandwich.

Just when some of us thought that we'd made social progress, the world has gone backward, politically.  We're living in very dangerous times.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


I'm happy to report that not all of the local daffodils were killed in that late-winter cold snap--plenty bloomed later.  The neighborhood gardens are now full of daffodils and hyacinths, and there are also blossoms on the trees.  It's gorgeous outdoors!  Yay, spring!

The original DYI Judaism

This post was inspired by an incident described in my previous post.

Being 68, when I think of do-it-yourself Judaism, I think of the Jewish Catalogs and the Chavurah Movement of the 1960-1970's, not to mention the more recent Independent Minyan trend.  But it might be argued that the original DYI Jews were/are Orthodox women.

Think about it.  Since women are not counted in Orthodox minyanim, many Orthodox women don't go to synagogue on a regular basis, but, rather, davven bi-y'chidut (pray alone).  Depending on the interpretation of Jewish religious law/halachah that's accepted in their communities and/or depending on their family's tradition, they may even choose what they pray.  My understanding--and please correct me if I'm wrong--is that some opinions hold that a woman is obligated to pray three times a day (as men must), other opinions hold that a woman is obligated to pray only twice a day, and yet other opinions hold that a women is obligated to pray only once a day.  What gets even more interesting is the question of what prayers a woman is obligated to pray.  There are Orthodox women at my office who pray only the first paragraph of the Sh'ma plus the Amidah, and others whose only daily prayers are Tehillim/Psalms.  Others, if I'm not mistaken, recite only the Birkot HaShachar/Morning Blessings.  And women who recite prayers and/or perform rituals that they're not obligated by halachah to say/perform, such as counting the Omer, saying the b'rachot/blessings over a lulav and etrog, and/or reciting the blessing for, and sitting in, a sukkah, are on their own--they may or may not get any support from their communities and/or families.

Regarding other aspects of traditional Jewish practice, women who bake their own bread are trusted to separate the "challah" portion without supervision, and women are also trusted to go to the mikveh when required.  In addition, the kashrut (kosher status) of a couple's or family's kitchen is often entrusted to the woman of the house--you assume that the food is kosher when you eat in an Orthodox home because an Orthodox woman is considered "neemanah" (trustworthy) in keeping her home kosher without outside supervision.

Contrast that with Orthodox men.  While it's permissible for a man to davven bi-y'chidut, it's considered strongly preferable for a man to pray with a minyan.  Much of a man's observance is public.

The bottom line is that we should give credit where it's due, and acknowledge Orthodox women's practice when we talk about DYI Judaism.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pesach-in-progress report

Don't ask, don't tell . . .
worked beautifully, in this case--we were warmly welcomed to both s'darim/seders, despite me making a grand entrance in a wheelchair topped with two canes for walking.

"Momma's little baby loves gluten-free oat matzah,  . . . "
. . . not to mention quinoa, because they're just about the only sugar-free starches that I can eat during Pesach/Passover.

What's omitted from some haggadot gave me food for thought
When I mentioned to the rabbi leading the second-night seder that only those who'd attended Maariv/Evening Service had recited S'firat HaOmer/the counting of the Omer, he brushed it off as no big deal.  Hmm.  Stay tuned for my next post.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Killing the living to save the unborn

See here.

I've been meaning to post about this, but I don't what to say that I haven't already said.  See my War on Women and "Personhood" for embryos:Unborn=person,woman=0

It's not getting better, it's getting worse.  :(

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Hopalong Cassidy rides again :( . . .

. . . in a wheelchair (borrowed from our synagogue), this time.  I've come down with a whopping case of tendinitis (inflammation in a tendon) on my right foot, and have been ordered to stay off of it until it gets better.  Seriously, this couldn't wait until after Pesach/Passover?  It's a good thing we had a cleaning person, and also that most of the shopping, and half of the planned baking (oh, well) are already done.  But my poor husband now gets to finish the rest of the pre-Pesach preparations while also trying to finish all of his tax work in time for his last-ever deadline.  (Retirement awaits at year's end.)

There's also the interesting question of how I'm going to get to at least one seder to which I can no longer walk.  Fortunately, there's a bus stop about a block and a half from home, and another bus stop about a block from the seder, and all New York City buses are wheelchair-accessible.  The leader of both seders/s'darim is an Orthodox rabbi.  Let's just say that we hope "don't ask, don't tell" applies.

As for the rest of this spring, I guess I won't be going Israeli folk-dancing anytime soon.  Sigh.

For those who'd like to put in a good word for me Upstairs (or who'd like to keep me in their thoughts), my Hebrew name is Leah bat Ester v'Ozer.

Hopalong Cassidy

Friday, April 07, 2017

Everything's blowing up :(

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Tale of a toxin

Start here.

Is the insecticide chlorpyrifos safe or not?  Dow Chemical says that the proof of this chemical's toxicity is not conclusive.

The scientists of the Environmental Protection Agency beg to differ.

But Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, has decided to ignore the concerns of his agency's own researchers and reject a petition to ban chlorpyrifos anyway.

Agro-chemical companies and farmers say that this chemical protects crops, while scientists and environmental protection advocates say that children and farm workers can be poisoned by it.

Unfortunately, those most likely to suffer will now find out who's right the hard way.  :(
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