Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bameh Madlinkin

On Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve) during the service, it is customary to read Bameh Madlinkin (Mishna Shabbat, chapter 2.  To read the whole text, scroll down to " "With what [wicks] may one light [Shabbat lamps], and with what [wicks] may one not light?" End with the paragraph "At dusk on the eve of shabbat, a man must make three statements: Have you separated the tithe? Have you prepared the Eruv [the halachic merging of separate domains by means of setting aside an amount of food in a designated place]? Light the lamps!"

I've never actually read all of Bameh Madlikin during the service because it would take me forever--my Aramaic (Mishnaic Hebrew?) is non-existent.  There's also the major detail that I find most of this text irrelevant in this era of electric lighting--the candles that we light these days before Shabbat are not intended to provide the only light in the room, as seems to have been the case originally.  So I've always started with paragraph 5:

"[If] one extinguishes the lamp because he is afraid of non-Jews, of bandits, of an evil spirit, or that the sick may sleep, he is exempt; but [if his intention is] to preserve the lamp, to preserve the oil, or to preserve the wick, he is liable. Rabbi Yose exempts in all [these cases] except the [act preserving the wick], because he thereby creates a coal [Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' translation--"charcoal"]."

And that's where I stopped dead last night, in mid-paragraph--now that I've made my recent decision, the fact of the matter is that I am "extinguishing the lamp . . . to preserve the oil . . . "  Sigh.  But at least I have Rabbi Yose on my side.

I think I also have my late parents on my side.  As children, my siblings and I were told time and time again never to leave the lights on when we left a room.  And I remember well that, after we'd all grown and flown and they didn't have to worry about being responsible for our health, our parents turned the heat down during the winter and wore sweaters indoors.  The importance of not wasting home-utility energy was a lesson I learned from Mom and Dad.

Bameh Madlikin also challenges me on a completely different topic--I've always simply refused to recite the next paragraph:

"Women die in childbirth for three transgressions: If they are not careful with [the laws] of menstruation; and if they are not careful [to separate some] dough [when baking to give to the priest]; and if they are not careful with the lighting of the [Shabbat] lamp."

I've always had a problem with the belief in reward and punishment because that belief seems to lead too often to a classic case of "blaming the victim."  It's not bad enough that women die in childbirth?  Are we truly supposed to believe that the reason for their deaths is that they sinned?  Does not our tradition teach us to refrain from speaking ill of the dead because they can no longer defend themselves?

Women die in childbirth because that's the way our bodies work, or, in this unfortunate case, don't work, or because of poor health and/or poor medical care.  I find the whole idea that a woman's death in childbirth is her own fault insulting.

See also my Reward and punishment:  Blaming the victim, which includes a link to my "Meteorological Judaism:  What did *anyone* do to deserve a tsunami?" and some interesting links provided by my commenters.

Speaking of tsunamis, let's keep the people of Texas in our thoughts and prayers--Hurricane Harvey isn't over yet.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The doctor and the prescription

The good news about my recent colonoscopy and endoscopy is that my gastroenterologist saw no sign of either Crohn's Disease or Celiac Disease.

The bad news is that she did see a hiatal hernia (which is almost undoubtedly contributing to my acid reflux) and a stomach ulcer.

The good news is that the ulcer is already partially healed.

My doctor recommended that I be treated for about two months with one of those stomach-acid-reducing medications--I believe she mentioned Nexium, Prevacid, and/or Prilosec--then undergo another endoscopy to determine whether the ulcer was cured.

Having already been told in the Recovery Room that I had an ulcer that was partly healed, I'd done some research on the internet, and made a counter-proposal--since the healing had already begun and I saw no reason to "bring out the big guns," I would use probiotics and deglycyrrhizinated (deglycyrrized?) licorice, rather than prescription medicine, to complete the cure.

That's where our conversation turned, to my mind, a bit weird:  My doctor made it crystal clear that she had no intention of performing another endoscopy to confirm that my ulcer was cured unless I consented to the treatment that she was prescribing.

Ensuring that my ulcer was cured seemed to be of less concern to her than ensuring that I followed her recommendation to the letter.

I'd be very interesting in reading your reactions, particularly if you're a physician, pharmacist, or other health-care provider.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Now we know :(

I thought Russia would be Trump's chosen war target.  My husband thought ISIS would be it.  But President Trump has apparently set his sights on North Korea.  Is he serious?  Unfortunately, that's a very serious question.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Planet Earth: 1; Hilchot Shabbat: 0

It was a typical summer-Sabbath dilemma--we knew that it wouldn't be hot enough for us to need the air conditioner on Friday night, but that it would be hot enough on Shabbat afternoon.

The problem was that I could no longer justify using the traditional Shabbat work-around.

This planet is currently facing the most serious ecological disaster of my lifetime, namely, global climate change.  How could we waste precious resources by running our air conditioners for 25 hours straight, rather than turning them on and off as needed? Even the energy-saving setting on an air conditioner uses electricity, as do the numerous timers that we've always used.

And so, for the first time in over 30 years, I unplugged the hot-tray after dinner on Shabbat.

The only appliance that we left plugged in for the entire 25 hours was the urn, which we used in order to avoid violating the prohibition against cooking on Shabbat.

Not cooking on the Sabbath continues to make sense to me.

Leaving an air conditioner on for 25 hours just to avoid pressing a button does not.

We will continue to turn off our television and our computers before Shabbat to protect the health of both the earth and ourselves--our eyes need a break from the constant glare, our minds from the frequent intrusion of often-bad news, and our souls from the "glass mechitzah" that tempts us to forego in-person conversations.  And we'll continue to restrict the use of our phones to emergency calls only.

But we'll no longer flip out about flipping on a light switch on Shabbat.  Given a choice between respecting rabbinic regulations or protecting HaShem's creation, we'll choose to protect HaShem's creation.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 update:
A more traditional approach can be heard in Rabbi Ethan Tucker's "electronic responsa" regarding electricity here.

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