Monday, August 29, 2022


Chodesh Tov! It's Elul, time for reciting Psalm 27 morning and evening. So I'm posting two songs from that psalm in the order in which they appear. First up is Chava Mirel's beautiful Achat Sha'alti. ❤️
Achat Sha'alti A Setting of Psalm 27 by CHAVA MIREL

Rabbi Josh Warshawsky and Coleen Dieker in concert, recorded live

Here's a treat, if you happen to have about an hour and a half to spare--it's a live recording of the Rabbi Josh Warshawsky and Coleen Dieker concert at Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta last Saturday night! They have quite a "house band" there--it includes the soon-to-be-wed Rabbi Sam Blustin and Allison Goldperson, and frequent Shabbat-services co-leader Melissa Geneviève Baden (on the far left, on hand-drum). The concert starts at about the 6-minute mark.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Some songs for Rosh Chodesh Elul (slightly belated)

Chodesh Tov (slightly belated)! It's Elul, time for reciting Psalm 27 morning and evening. So I'm posting links to some songs based on that psalm.

Here's Chava Mirel's "Achat Sha'alti."

Here's Eliana Light's "Koli Ekra."

(Eliana also posted what I think she would call a learning guide to "Koli Ekra" here.)

Also, you might want to check out Eliana's "If Only" (Lulei).  Here's the audio-only link--it's #6.

And many thanks to  Cantor Jacqueline Rafii and Josh Goldberg for this Ashke/Mizrachi mash-up of "Achat Sha'alti."

More music mañana!

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Hadar's RSI Summer Gathering 2022

Here's Hadar's description, copied from Facebook:

Nearly 150 folks gathered for a day of immersive music, learning, and communal conversation at Hadar’s Rising Song Institute Summer Gathering [which took place last Sunday, August 21, 2022, at the beautiful Bet Am Shalom Synagogue in White Plains, NY]. 
It was a joyful and heart-opening experience of sinking into song - taking deep dives with our faculty into nigunim, piyyutim, and even some brand new compositions. We can't wait for the next opportunity to gather and sing again!

And my own comments, also copied from Facebook:

It's not often that we have an opportunity to sing with people who aren't shy or self-conscious about singing in public, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Harmony heaven! 🙂

It was definitely a good time not only for the attendees, but also for the faculty--this was Hadar's Rising Song Institute's first in-person musical event since Dec. 2019.


This will be our next opportunity to sing together:


Ahat Sha'alti: Song and Study for Elul
Rabbi Deborah Sacks Mintz


When? Tuesdays, 7:30-8:45 PM
Sept 6-20 (3 sessions)

Recited each day of Elul and throughout the yamim noraim (Days of Awe), Psalm 27 serves as a core liturgical anchor of the season. Over the course of 3 sessions of singing and learning together, we'll root ourselves in both the soundscape and reflective potential of this important prayer. Join us and help create a unique space of song, spirituality, and connection as we prepare for the High Holidays together. Light refreshments will be served at 7:00 PM.

Register here.

Hadar is not live-streaming this, unfortunately, but I hope they'll record it and make the recording available.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A walk in Central Park's North Woods

We took advantage of the relatively decent weather (low 80s Fahrenheit) to go for a nice long walk around the northern reaches of Central Park, where it seems to me that most of Central Park's waterfalls are located.  I love waterfalls, even if they're small--there's nothing Niagara-sized around here.  :)  Here are a few falls, and other goodies, that we saw.

A couple of kind strangers offered to take pictures of us, and this is one.  Many thanks!


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Parashat Vaetchanan, slightly belated: Great explanation of why the Torah proclaims that G!d is One

Read here.

Shema Yisrael: In What Way Is “YHWH One”?

The Shema has many interpretations, philosophical, eschatological, national, etc. A historical-critical way to understand the Shema is to read it (and Deuteronomy more broadly) against the backdrop of Assyrian domination, when Assyria touted their god Ashur as the supreme master of the world.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

the light lab: fascinating podcasts about Jewish prayer

Fascinating discussions about Jewish liturgy (the written text) and prayer (the "text" of the heart) take place every other Thursday on Jewish educator/singer/songwriter Eliana Light's light lab podcast.  You can listen on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Most of the episodes are discussions among the co-hosts, but some are interviews.  My favorite interviews thus far are today's Episode 28: Excavating the Secrets (with Rabbi Deborah Sacks Mintz), Episode 18: Siddur as Work of Art (with Rabbi Elie Kaunfer), and Episode 10: Why Worship? (with Cantor Rosalie Will), and this episode advocating the inclusion of worshipers with chronic health problems and/or disabilities: Episode 24: Chronic Congregation (with Rabbi Emily Aronson).  Each episode comes with a full transcript (handy for those with hearing problems) and separate show notes (highlights, with definitions, explanations, texts, and links.)

If you're interested in tefillah (Jewish liturgy and prayer), these podcasts are well worth an hour or so of your time every other week.

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

I finally joined "headband nation." Or maybe not. :)

Given the so-called speed with which my grows--I haven't had a haircut since before Pesach--this is as close as I'm likely to get. :)  But at least a headband keeps my hair out of my eyes and off my neck (which is nice in 90-degree weather), and is a lot easier on my scalp than hair-clips and/or barrettes.

See the original, from March 7, 2021--I've had only two haircuts since then, and my hair has hardly grown an inch.

Olivia Newton-John, R.I.P. :(

I'm not going to lie about it--it's unnerving when people my own age or younger die.  :(

I have fond memories of "Grease," in which Olivia Newton-John co-starred, except for the ending, which I wrote about here.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Touro Synagogue (in Newport, RI)

The weather decided to cooperate, much to our pleasant surprise, so we were able to go on a tour of Jewish Colonial Newport after all.  Rhode Island was a haven for religious freedom in colonial times, though Jews couldn't be citizens.  But they certainly could be wealthy merchants, and some of them were.  Some of the Jewish homes were quite extravagant.  The Jewish community of colonial times in Newport was Sefardi, as was and is the Touro Synagogue, which we toured next.  Here are some photos.

Exterior of synagogue, and "annex" across the street.  The "annex," where Kiddush is held, was actually moved from another location when it was in danger of being demolished.

 Interior, with our tour group

Interior, from the back

Interior, in the back near the entrance.  That's my husband in the "duckbill" mask.  :)

"Boutique" hotels & bed-and-breakfasts may not be for everyone

A few days before Rosh Chodesh Av, we decided to sneak out of town for our first overnight trip since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, now that we're both double-vaxxed and doubled-boosted.  Taken aback by current hotel prices, we decided to try a boutique hotel to save money.  Little did we know that we were in for some unpleasant surprises.

We arrived in Newport, Rhode Island looking forward to seeing the Touro Synagogue but not knowing how to get to our hotel, and I gave them a call while my husband--our "designated driver" since I've had four rounds of eye surgery--handled the wheel.  Boy, was I surprised when my call went straight to voice mail.  That's never happened to me before.  And they never called back, either.  Since neither of us has ever gotten around to installing a GPS app on our phones, we just checked a few maps until we were able to figure out how to get there.

It gets worse, folks.

When we pulled up to our hotel at roughly 5:45 PM, there was not a single staff member on duty.  All we found, lying on a table at the entrance, was an envelope with our name on it, which contained a note stating our room number and telling us that the key was inside our room.  We looked around and realized that this beautiful old mansion had no elevator.  So my poor husband, who's been spared two broken wrists, ended up bumping our suitcase up two flights of stairs, and carrying it down again the next morning.  This is not a job for an 80-year-old. 🙁  At least the staff member who was on duty in the morning got our suitcase down the porch stairs and across the parking lot to our rented car.

Mind you, this was a beautiful place, well stocked with toiletries and absolutely spotless.  But a place like that is not for older people and/or people with health problems and/or disabilities.  This is just a fair warning that you get what you pay for.  It's worth the extra $100 for us to stay in a "real" hotel that offers an elevator and actual service.

How a Child-Killer Set the Stage for Today's Republicans to Revel in Cruelty

"It turns out this is not just politics; the roots of this brutal movement in today’s GOP run from a 1927 child murderer, through a greedy real-estate lobbying group, to Ronald Reagan putting both of their philosophies into actual practice and bringing morbidly rich right-wing billionaires into the GOP fold.

. . .

In 1980, billionaire David Koch ran for vice president on the newly formed Libertarian Party ticket. His platform included calls to privatize the Post Office, end all public schools, give Medicare and Medicaid to big insurance companies, end all taxation of the morbidly rich, terminate food and housing support and all other forms of “welfare,” deregulate all corporate oversight while shutting down the EPA and FDA, and selling off much of the federal government’s land and other assets to billionaires and big corporations.

Reagan, who won that 1980 election, embraced this view in his inaugural address, saying, “[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” He then doubled down on the idea by beginning the systematic process of gutting and crippling governmental institutions that historically had supported working people and the middle class.

The child-killer who inspired a movement

Reagan wasn’t just echoing the Libertarian vision; he was also endorsing Ayn Rand’s “objectivist” view of the world, which traces its roots to a murderous sociopath in 1927."


See the whole article here.

Last fast?

Last night, after breaking my Tisha B'Av fast, I joined A Mitzvah to Eat Community Group. Tisha B'Av is only manageable for me because I can observe the entire fast in the comfort of my air-conditioned apartment, attending services and classes online, and resting whenever I need to do so. But fasting in synagogue, as I would on Yom Kippur, might aggravate my balance problems because I wouldn't be able to rest when necessary. Given that I've already broken both wrists and injured both knees by falling, I simply can't continue to take chances at my age (73). Once upon a time, I was an avid Israeli folk-dancer, but I think my dancin' days are done. 😢 As an old friend of mine said recently, "I don't mind growing old, but the side effects are killing me." 🙂
This is a true story, and a cautionary tale:
In 2019, one of our senior co-congregants decided to fast on Yom Kippur despite being in very poor health. He got through the fast, but fell in the men's room and hit his head. The ambulance folks carried him out on a stretcher, taking him to the hospital for stitches. He went from there to a rehabilitation facility. His wife died while he was there, so the only thing we know is that he's not in that facility anymore. We have no idea whether he's in a seniors' residence or is deceased. 😢 I have no intention of following his dubious example and being a martyr to fasting, and my 80-year-old husband intends to decide on the spot whether he'll continue to fast or whether he's too dizzy.
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