Wednesday, July 31, 2019

"Erasing Women Erases Halacha," by Noam Stadlan

Here's an important article by an Orthodox man opposing the growing tendency in the right-wing Orthodox community to refuse to publish photos of women.  (Link found on Facebook.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Nobody hijacked Israel. It’s just not what its pioneers thought they’d created

"It’s not European. And it doesn’t divide into right and left, religious and secular. Matti Friedman, author of a new book about Mizrahi spies, on why Israel baffles and infuriates"

This interview is a must-read.  I first saw it linked on Facebook.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Interesting teachings re prayer from Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, of Hadar

Rabbi Kaunfer always has something interesting to say about prayer.  (And I'd better post this before I lose track of these links!)

 How Can I Pray If I Don't Believe The Words?   

"Prayer is not a statement of belief, but a literary creation -- with all the power, nuance and complexity of literary creations."

"The prayer does not praise (or even name) God. Here’s why.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Learning, the hard way, or learning from the inside out: An am haaretz teaches herself to davven

Am ha-aretz:  a Jewishly-illiterate Jew.
Davven:  Pray (Yiddish)

These are the three most important things that I learned from the first rabbi whom I chose as an adult:

~ Since he was a hard-core classical Reconstructionist, he taught me that the Jewish People was at the heart of Judaism.  (Of the traditional three components of Judaism, the other two are Torah [and other traditional Jewish religious texts such as the Talmud], which, in the 1970s, some would say was at the heart of Orthodox and Conservative Jewish practice, and God, which, in the 1970s, some would say was at the heart of the Reform Jewish approach).
~ He introduced me to a critical and not-necessarily-literal approach to the Bible.
~ He disagreed radically with Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan and some of the early leaders of the Reconstructionist Movement on one major point--he hated the fact that different denominations used different prayer-books.  He posited that the denominations divided us enough already, and that we should all use the same prayer-book, either reinterpreting the prayers or, if necessary, simply thinking of them as quotations from our ancestors.  (I have since learned that there's no such thing as "the same prayer-book"--we're still divided among users of Nusach Italki, Nusach Ashkenaz, Nusach Sfard, Western and Eastern versions of Nusach shel Ha-S'faradim, and the various nuschaot used by B'nai Edot HaMizrach such as Syrian and Iraqi Jews, not to mention Yemenite nusach and whatever nuschaot the Ethiopian Jews and the various Indian Jewish groups use.  I hope I didn't miss anyone).

At first, I really loved the (original) Reconstructionist prayer-book because it didn't "force" me to say anything that I didn't believe literally.  But I ran into a logistical problem--since our synagogue followed the Reform practice of not observing the second and "last" days of the Shalosh Regalim (Pilgrimage Festivals), I often found myself praying at Conservative or Orthodox synagogues on second and "last" days, and the fact that I'd never learned to pray in Hebrew, much less from a non-Reconstructionist siddur (prayer-book), interfered with my ability to participate in services there.

Besides, how was I supposed to pray the rest of the time?  I had no idea how to pray a weekday service.

So, one fine day, I bought myself a copy of my rabbi's favorite Orthodox prayer-book, the Birnbaum Siddur.  Then I started teaching myself to use it.

But, rather than starting from the beginning, I decided to start from what I understood to be the heart of Jewish prayer, the part that all serious pray-ers considered required:  the Sh'ma section followed by the Amidah ("Standing" Prayer).  And I decided to learn it the way it's prayed:  not b'rachah (blessing) by b'rachah or page by page, but as one unit.

Given the limitations of my Hebrew-reading ability, it took me something like five months.

And that was just the beginning.  First, I worked my way backward and learned P'sukei D'Zimrah, then the beginning section including Birkot HaTorah, Birkot HaShachar, L'olam y'hei adam, Rabbi Yishmael Omer, and Psalm 30 (known as Mizmor, Shel Chanukat HaBayit, L'David).

Then, I worked my way forward, learning Psalm 30 (known as La-m'natseach), Kedushah D'Sidra, and all of the Shirei Yom (Psalms of the Day).

And finally, I resigned myself to learning at least part of Tachanun for the sole reason that I couldn't see skipping an entire section just because I didn't much appreciate it.

But that's not all, folks.  Given the fact that we say the Musaf of Shalosh Regalim only 10 times a year (I think) and the Musaf of Rosh Chodesh (New Moon/New Month) only 12 times a year (or 13 in a Jewish Leap Year), you shouldn't be surprised that it took me well over a decade to learn each of those!

And I did finally pick up another few sentences of Tachanun within the past decade or so, due to, first, a switch to the Koren Sacks Siddur, in which the "beginning section" was divided differently and, then, to the fact that I began to feel uncomfortable about skipping the entire "shuv me-charon apecha" subsection.

I started teaching myself to davven at roughly age 27, and just finished--maybe--about six years ago.  Somewhere along the way, I also taught myself Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) and how to put on tefillin without them sliding down my arm.  :)

It's been one heck of a learning project.

See also:

Near tears at morning minyan (and the posts to which I linked there)

Learning from the inside out

A word on behalf of the rest of us


Friday, July 19, 2019

Rabbi Miriam Margles makes marvelous music

Here's the livestream of Tuesday, July 16, 2019's album release concert for Rabbi Miriam Margles' "Zeh HaYom - This is the Day."  I hope it doesn't "stall" too much.  (Note: Rabbi David Ingber seems to have ended up in the audience, his role as singer taken by another man.  But otherwise, the line-up was pretty much as stated in the "concert" link).

This was a new experience for me.

For one thing, I've never attended a concert at which the singer who was celebrating the release of their album had so many "back-up" singers supporting them and blending both singing in rounds and singing multi-part harmony into the show.  As a former synagogue choir alto who's been improvising vocal harmony since I was 11 years old, I loved it!

For another thing, I've never been at a concert at which the audience responded to a number of songs with a moment of contemplative silence, simply drinking in the beauty of the music.

Then there was the fun of seeing Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, co-founder, co-president, and CEO of Hadar, whose classes and lectures we've been attending for 10 years, up on his feet at a concert, dancing a hora.  According to Rabbi Margles, Rabbi Kaunfer encouraged/nagged her to record her music, co-writing a grant request with her to undertake this project with Hadar's music branch, the Rising Song Institute.

I can hardly believe that this entire concert was put together with only one rehearsal.  It's no wonder that Aviva Chernick, who was "conducting," more or less, from behind a microphone, was giving visible hand signals all evening.

The older I get, the more I realize that I like songs best if I can sing them.  Fancy chuzzanut does nothing for me--given a choice between chazzanut and nusach, I'll choose nusach every time.  I like Rabbi Margles' music not only because it's delightful and meaningful, but also because her songs are for anyone who likes to sing and can carry a tune (or enjoys listening)--she doesn't sound like an opera singer.  (The same is true of the very fine singers in the Chaverai Nevarech recording, as well as those in the Hadar Ensemble.)  And, of course, any singer with whose music I can sing harmony earns extra points in my book.  I am quite literally incapable of hearing Rabbi Margles' delightful Adon Olam in my head without any harmony.

Many thanks to Rabbi Margles and all those involved in this concert for getting me and my husband dancing and singing.    We had a wonderful time.

You can buy Rabbi Margles' album, "Zeh HaYom - This is the Day," here.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Reminder not to order from Amazon (courtesy of Facebook)

Please avoid ordering from Amazon this Monday and Tuesday (July 15 and 16, 2019).  The workers are striking.

My late father was a "union man."  I always try to avoid crossing a picket line.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Discovered on Facebook: Concert this Tuesday evening

Courtesy of Deborah Sacks Mintz's facebook page:


Zeh Hayom: This is the Day - Rabbi Miriam Margles New York Album Release Concert and Song Circle

Featuring this amazing lineup of musicians —

 Rabbi Miriam Margles
Aviva Chernick
Hazzan Basya Schechter
Deborah Sacks Mintz
Aly Halpert
Gayanne Geurin
Rabbi David Ingber

Jessie Reagan Mann - cello
Rich Stein - percussion
Nadav Lev - guitar

Presented in Partnership with Hadar’s Rising Song Institute
Tuesday, July 16
Romemu Center: 176 W 105th (corner of Amsterdam Ave).

Join us for a Romemu Yeshiva & Hadar Rising Song Gathering featuring singer, composer and Romemu Yeshiva faculty member, Rabbi Miriam Margles. We'll sing together and hear original music performed by Miriam, contemplative prayer leader & award-winning musician Aviva Chernick, Romemu’s Hazzan Basya Schechter, and other Rising Song Fellows.

This event is the NYC debut of Miriam's new album, 'Zeh HaYom: This is the Day' (produced by Joey Weisenberg and the Rising Song Institute). Check out the album here:

Rabbi Miriam Margles is a singer, composer, artist, educator, and activist. A graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, she serves as rabbi of the Danforth Jewish Circle in Toronto. Her original compositions of Jewish music for prayer are sung by communities throughout North American, Israel, and Europe, and can now be heard on her first album, 'Zeh HaYom: This is the Day.'

This event will be livestreamed. Want to be sure this event and those like it in the future will be live-streamed? We encourage those watching via livestream to purchase a “livestream” ticket. 

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Parshat Chukkat, 5779/2019 thought

I don't find it so surprising that the person who sprinkled the water of the ashes of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) to purify someone or some object became impure himself.  After all, a person who changes a diaper is likely to get dirty, and a person who gives a child a bath is likely to get wet.  :)

Here's a previous entry of mine concerning Chukkah, in which I protest that Moshe wasn't given time to mourn for his own sister.

My posts are standing-on-one-foot average-person versions.  Here's what a scholar, Dena Tannor Weiss (Rosh Beit Midrash at Hadar), has to say about Parshat Chukkat.


Monday, July 08, 2019

A blast from the past (mostly about Hadar)

As far as I can figure out, this was the first time that my husband and I attended a Hadar learning event.  You might find the linked posts interesting, too.

If you live within commuting distance of New York City, I hope to see you tomorrow night!

Posted by Rabbi Shai Held on Facebook:
One of the innumerable privileges of working at Hadar all these years has been my partnership, both intellectual and institutional, with Rabbi Ethan Moses Tucker.
We talk a lot... and tomorrow night, we're going to talk in front of an audience-- and interact with their questions and ideas. NY-based friends, please consider joining Ethan and me tomorrow evening at 7:30 at B'nai Jeshurun, as we discuss "Double-Edged Torah: Texts and Ideas that Redeem and Destroy." As a Talmudic Sage already notes, Torah can be an elixir of life, but it can also be a deadly poison. We'll spend the evening thinking through what that means, what the implications are, and what the challenges are for teachers and students of Torah. It'll be pretty much totally unscripted and fun... Hope to see you.


Monday, July 01, 2019

Floral fun under the sun

  Blue beauties

Pink and purple posies

Thanks to the bees for all of these!
(Look closely by double-clicking on the photo and you'll see one)!

Shira's Shots, June 21, 2019
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