Friday, November 28, 2008

Hamokom Yenachem - Hamokom Yerachem

Words do not come as I sit down to express my grief at the tragic loss of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka .

I did not know them.

And yet I knew them.

For upon dissection, aren't we all the same? They were young frum Jews, trying to raise a family and trying to serve Hashem in whatever way they could. Their house was full of guests passing through. They will be remembered fondly by many - those who had the zechus of knowing them personally, if only for a short visit, and those that didn't.

They were brutally murdered for no fathomable reason.
I feel confusion. I feel grief. I have no words..... only tears.....and prayers......

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Life's Conundrum #613

Because this is Thanksgiving week, my local supermarket has all sorts of wonderful sales:

Kosher Turkeys $1.99/lb
Sweet Potatoes $.49/lb
Fresh Mushrooms $.99/box
Oil $7.99/gallon
....... just to list a few.....

Now why is it, that when the non-Jews have a "holiday", their prices go DOWN, and when we Jews have a holiday, our prices go UP??!??!

Random Things I'm Thankful For - Both Big and Small

In no particular order:

  • I'm thankful for my family (There's a BIG one right off the bat)
  • I'm thankful for good health (another biggie)
  • I'm thankful for the amazing colors in nature
  • I'm thankful for religious freedom
  • I'm thankful for seashells washed ashore
  • I'm thankful for music
  • I'm thankful for extra long straws that stick out of 20 oz. soda bottles
  • I'm thankful I live in a place that has seasons
  • I'm thankful for good smelling soaps and scented candles
  • I'm thankful that insects are small and the Alps are large
  • I'm thankful for antibiotics (based on a book I'm reading)
  • I'm thankful I can reserve library books online
  • I'm thankful for the guy who had the guts to figure out how to prepare & eat artichokes
  • I'm thankful for Picasa
  • I'm thankful for YOU

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

History - our vast early warning system

I was prompted by ProfK's post, which I consider almost a cautionary tale, to air my views on the way history is taught today.
I would love to see the implementation of an integrated curriculum for General and Jewish History in Yeshivos.
Our history did not occur in a vacuum. What was going on in the rest of the world at the time of Rashi? The Rambam? How did seemingly unrelated world events shape our Jewish History? Not only do I believe that it provides important perspective but it would also make history more palatable for those who find it difficult to swallow.
Just my two cents..... stepping off my soapbox now......

Monday, November 24, 2008

U/D on Thanksgiving - Great Minds Think Alike

I thank Elliott Resnick over at the Jewish Press for linking my blog in his recent (re)post on Thanksgiving.
I'm heartened by the fact that there are other people out there of like mind.
{Of course, I now feel kinda bad that I sorta made a little fun of his prestigious publication ;) . He did do a lovely article this past week on Leah Larson - so kudos for that}.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Hakoras Hatov (Thanksgiving)

It is a disturbing trend that being patriotic has fallen out of fashion with the Yeshivish set.

We aren't allowed to Pledge Allegiance anymore, to say nothing of singing our National Anthem.

And celebrate Thanksgiving??!?! Why, in some circles, buying a turkey is looked upon as something akin to installing a Norway Spruce in your living room....

Please forgive me, but I'm not sure why this is.

It seems to me that our country has done a lot for us - especially since we are in Golus and some of us take far more liberties than we have rights to.

It also seems to me that the segment of the population that is most vociferous in railing against celebrating our national holiday of thanks, are the same ones that have no compunction in availing themselves of the services and programs that our wonderful country offers. In my humble opinion, if you are on Medicaid, Food Stamps, Welfare, collect Social Security and/or Section 8, you should have MORE to give thanks for this week rather than less!

And don't give me that tired old response, "In Judaism, every day is Thanksgiving (or Mother's Day, etc.). I'll give you my favorite response, "In Judaism, we are also required to remember Yetziyas Mitzrayim every day of our lives, and yet...Hashem still gives us a special holiday (Pesach) to commemorate it". If our country sets aside a specific day to give thanks, it is a TREMENDOUS chillul Hashem for us to davka ignore it. And please don't quote me as saying you must have Thanksgiving Dinner.... just taking a little notice of the day would suffice.

I wonder if part of the problem isn't the "Es Kumpt Mir" generation. Those that don't work and are used to getting everything handed to them on a silver platter, do not feel that they need to give thanks.... worse than that, they do everything in their power to get out of giving our country it's due ("so how much is it if I pay cash?").

I for one, have no difficulty saying a proud "THANK YOU" to my country this week. If not for this country, my family would have died out in the holocaust. This country has bent over backwards to provide for my religious freedom, so much so that when my dear brethern get themselves arrested or worse, they are given kosher food, minyonim and mikvo'os......

I thank you, I thank you and I deeply apologize to my country for any of my own that don't feel the need to do the same.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm Not Great With Change

Have I mentioned this before?
So yesterday, in the middle of the day, I notice my Gmail account looking a little bit different. OK, I'm a big girl, I can deal with this, right? Sure! (one more time with feeling please....)
Let me just tell you that it distracted me all day.
If that wasn't enough though, when I logged on at home last night, I discovered that I now have options for my Gmail "theme"....
Of course I could revert back to the "classic" version if I'd like, but now that I know I have choices, I sort of feel obliged to try them out....
So for those of you who are interested, I've decided to give the "Planets" theme a try. (but I'm still distracted.....)
Anybody else out there dipping there toes in the theme water?

Hang in there... SHABBOS is coming!!!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

And Now A Word From A Universal Recipient

I recall vividly when I was a little girl and my father would come home from a hard day's work sporting that little round red button which read, "Be nice to me..... I gave blood today". Remember them? Those were the days where all you got for your precious pint was that button, a feeling of satisfaction in doing a good deed, and the unwavering admiration from a daughter who thought her father hung the moon.

Nowadays we've gotten t-shirts (Sloane Kettering), coupons for ice cream and this coming Monday night in my neighborhood they'll be offering Starbucks gift cards. I guess lately people need more of a push to be altruistic.

But whatever your motivation, giving blood is a tremendous mitzvah and I encourage everybody to donate in their neighborhood (call your local Red Cross if you don't know where).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Gingko is Falling, the Gingko is Falling

Don't you just love this time of year?

The temperature dips, the air is crisp, the sky is blue, and in my neighborhood, the GINGKO BERRIES begin to fall......

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of meeting up with a female gingko tree this time of year, let me enlighten you. The stench emanating from the ruptured berries has alternately been described as dog excrement, rancid butter or vomit. Frankly, I think they smell like dog excrement, smeared with rancid butter that was vomited upon.

Isn't it heartwarming to know that just a few steps away from the front of my shul grows such a tree? This way the maximum number of people can step on gingko berries that litter the sidewalk on their way to daven and track the lovely aroma into shul.

Year after year I wonder why they don't just cut the trees down!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Lesson in Linguistics

Our friend Eric just came back from a trip to Germany. He said something so interesting. He said that you can tell a lot about a culture by the words in its lexicon..... What does it say about a language that has a word for Schadenfreude - something it takes FIVE words to describe in our language (deriving pleasure from another's pain)?

Another good example would be the fact that we Jews have a word for Mechutanim... something not 100% translatable into English.... ("in-laws" would be the closest match but not 100%).

But that got me thinking about the German language in general. They have the craziest LOOOOONGEST words you've every imagined. Some guy way back when must have lived with the credo "Why say 6 or 7 separate words, when you can combine it into one awesomely long word?".

Don't believe me?

Try these on for size....

Herzkreislaufwiederbelebung (heart-circle-run-again-enlivenment) = C.P.R.

Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung = speed limit

Geschwindigkeitsüberschreitung = speeding (noun)

Hoechsgeschwindigkeitsbegrenzung = maximum speed limit

Gepäckaufbewahrungsschein (luggage-up-hold-certificate) = luggage check ticket

Hubschrauberlandeplatz = helicopter landing pad

Oooooh and let's not forget the 1999 German Word of the Year, (you can't make this stuff up folks....) Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz = beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law

So I suppose English isn't such a bad language after all... if we can only get people to USE IT more. Don't get me started again on the corruption of our language.... I get overly excited and it's too early in the morning (Have I mentioned that Joey has started using the word (if you can call it that) "B-T-W" conversationally...grrr.... oh, and I really need a separate post on the fact that he's trying to introduce his own new word into the English language and uses it every chance he gets - "funsies" {insert eye roll here}).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mazal Tov Leah!!!!

Thanks to all those people who took the time to vote for Leah Larson in the Wells Fargo Someday Stories contest.

Leah Larson has won the $100,000 grand prize, which will allow her to expand her wonderful Yaldah Magazine.

You wouldn't believe me anyway, so why even try...

I've been thinking for two days now as to how to describe our Friday night dinner this week. We had lots of company, lots of dishes and lots of fun. But if I told you all of it you won't believe me. It's not even worth it trying.

We'd have to begin by reviewing my post on the many colored crayons. Then I'd have to remind you how when you were a kid and you had a lot of crayon stubs left over, you would melt them all together in a muffin tin and you got a crazy sort of rainbow crayon that looked like this:

Meet Peter A.'s crayon... ;)
Now mix that with all the other varying hues of crayons present this weekend at our table and you have our Friday night dinner.

I would tell you that Peter A. has an imaginary girlfriend (by his own admission), but you might not believe me.

I could tell you that said imaginary friend has succeeded in waking Peter A. for minyan six out of the last seven days, but you definitely wouldn't believe me.

Perhaps I should just give up and leave you with a quote I once read:

"The imaginary friends I had as a kid dropped me because their friends thought I didn't exist"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's Your "Order"?

To varying degrees (probably stemming from your ancestor's country of origin) everybody has specific "order"s to things in their life.
For instance, I eat my pizza the same way every time - crust first.... followed by the rest of the pizza from the tip upwards. This may sound obsessive to you, but at least I don't use a knife and fork, as is Avram's preference....
But I digress.
The pizza was only an "opener".
What I really want to know how everybody reads the Jewish Press. Yeah right, I know, you don't read it. You don't get it. It's tarfus. (Frankly, Dr. Yael is getting fairly pornographic even to my mind... what's up with that?). I'm thoroughly snowed ahem, convinced. But HYPOTHETICALLY, if you did get it (if you or your children weren't "in the parsha" {wink}), would you read it from front to back, or would you have a set order, like almost everybody I know?
I'm not asking IF you have an order, but rather which comes first? Agunah Chronicles or IY"H by You? Do you even bother with Arnold Fine and/or do you still check every once in a while if "The Nice Jewish Boy Who Kills Bugs" still advertises in the classifieds?
C'mon, you know you want to share...... :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Being Anonymous

This post is loooong overdue.

Did you ever notice that the commenters on blogs who request or divulge the most information from or about the blog owner are the Anonymous ones?

Now don't go picketing my front door people - I love ALL YOUR COMMENTS, really I do - please keep them coming! And I understand full well that many of you are all motivated by the fear that either you or your children will not find shidduchim if you are yourself, because after all, as Groucho Marx once said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member". {Heaven forbid we should be OURSELVES when we approach shidduchim}

But for Pete's sake:
a) Give yourself a "handle" and stick with it so that when you post repeatedly I can follow your {trust me on this!} sometimes scattered trains of thought. ( I promise not to tell the shadchan who Herr Aufshnit really is.....).
b) Although my blog is far from anonymous, kindly refrain from using my full name in your comments if you don't have the inclination to do the same.
c) Just stop and consider for a moment, if you are unable to do both a) and b), what does that say about the content of what you have to offer?

The Insomnia Chronicles - Chapter 1

  • The house is actually noisier than you would expect at 3:30 am. The steam hisses in the pipes, the refrigerator motor can at times sound like a Mac truck and various electrical appliances emit strange beeps and blips that are inaudible with the usual "family noises" to drown them out.
  • Studies show that adults change their sleeping position 11-13 times per night. My observations lead me to believe that these studies are flawed and that the actual number is two to three times higher.
  • The internet never sleeps... there's always somebody awake somewhere in the world to converse with.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Only Thing I Dislike MORE Than Boro Park...

.... is Boro Parker's that have escaped their enclave and wreak havoc on other neighborhoods by behaving the way they do at home.
I posted recently on the fact that I truly dislike Boro Park (see how I've mellowed?).
But in that post I didn't mention the inhabitants at all.
Now mind you, I don't usually complain about them when I go there, because it is their "home" and I am a guest (sort of). So I can deal with the rudenes, the pushing, the shoving, the sense of absolute entitlement (with no realization that we are in golus at all) and the fact that when my kids were small and I travelled with them in strollers by subway, the ONLY station where nobody EVER offered me assistance on the stairs, was in Boro Park.
But when they venture into MY neck of the woods, and behave badly, the average Joe on the street doesn't say, "Oh gosh... there goes that Boro Parker again" - he says, "There goes that Jew again" and that makes me mad.
Today we were robbed by a Boro Park lady. Suffice it to say, she "borrowed" something (small) from my husband because hey, a guy in a yarmulke HAS TO lend her anything she asks for and with promises to be right back, she ran off and never returned it. I told my husband he should stay with her until she returned it, but he said, "She's a frum lady. She'll be right back". Oh, how I wish I had his faith in humanity....

Friday, November 7, 2008

Marking The Passage of Time On the Linen Closet Door

Where have all the treasured baseball cards gone?

When was the last time there was a sheet doubling as the walls of a secret clubhouse slung across a framework fashioned from building blocks?

When did our medicine cabinet supply revert back to flesh colored band aids instead of cutesy characters?

Time marches on. With happy tears, they grow up fast.

And yet, a record remains. Memories written on the pages of my mind, captured in photographs and videos....and then.....there's the inside door of my linen closet.......

We moved into our current apartment just shy of twenty years ago. Joey was attempting his first tentative steps and Jennifer was still an angelic soul waiting to join our fold. Michael and Erica were walking hand in hand wearing matching black and white saddle shoes.

It was that very first year, on the first of January, that I began marking time on the inside of my linen closet door. The children lined up in stocking feet as I painstakingly measured each one and drew a pencil line with their name and the date beside it. Every New Years Day thereafter, until such time when I grudgingly had to admit that a particular child had indeed reached adulthood, I drew those lines - sometimes with little footnotes for posterity. As the children grew, we allowed them to measure US, so there was a record of each one as they inevitably climbed higher than their parents.
Every so often I would find a childish scrawl in crayon on the inside of that door where a child particularly proud of his progress that year would leave an autograph.
When guests have attained "like family" status, we measured them one time as well.
I've always said that if we move out of our current apartment that door comes with me; where I would put it or what I would do with it, I have not yet figured out.
We were discussing over Shabbos how it is time to add Kayla to the door.
This New Years we will iy"H begin to mark the growth of a THIRD GENERATION. Time cycles on... I can't wait to stock princess band-aids in my medicine cabinet again.....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hang In There...Shabbos is Coming

To those of you who asked for more (OK, newer) table pics, you're getting your wish.

As you can see, we've got a full house tonight. Erica, Moshe and Kayla are coming. Jen has a friend sleeping over and my non-stop accosting of new faces in shul has yielded me two new girls this week ;) . (Don't tell them that along with the peanut butter mousse for dessert, I'll be serving leftover cookies from the Chosson Bereishis kiddush)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"It`s not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw."

So begins the autobiography of one of my favorite authors.
I pride myself on discovering authors BEFORE they become popular and commercialized. In fact, I tend to get a bit miffed when my admired authors do gain any wide acclaim, because the quality of their work tends to spiral downwards shortly thereafter and/or I lose the joy of the "well-kept" secret (I gave my son a copy of Harry Potter to read when the "average Joe" on the street would have said J.K. Who??).
Long before the television show ER, long before Jurrassic Park- the movie, I was stealthily sneaking my father's well worn copy of The Andromeda Strain off his night table and reading it under the covers.
Michael Crichton died today at the age of 66, after a very private battle with cancer.
If you haven't read any of his books, I highly recommend (almost) ALL of them. {I see you non-scientific history buffs ducking for cover.... try Timeline....}

Bonus Michael Crichton quotes of the day:

“If you don't know [your family's] history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree”

"In the information society, nobody thinks. We expect to banish paper, but we actually banish thought"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Stop In and Say "Hi"

Starbucks is offernig a free large coffee to anybody who votes today.

My office happens to be located on the same premises as a polling place.
I'll go one better.
If you stop in to my office today to say "Hi" and tell me you voted, I'll give you your choice of coffee, tea, juice or milk! (I might even be convinced to throw in some cookies) :)
And please don't ask me why in a country this large these are the best two candidates we could come up with, because frankly, I can't figure that one out either........

Who Thinks This Stuff Up???

Sometimes I wish I could get into people's brains so I could follow their thought processes.

Jen's school has instituted a new program entitled "Bas Melech", designed to teach the girls tznius in a comprehensive way, not only in dress but in action as well - - - what it truly means to be the daughter of a King. It is an exciting endeavor, being taught in a fun and interesting manner and those who conceived and executed it should be commended. (Please bear that in mind when I digress a bit and poke some fun...)

Now obviously somebody thought that "Team Tznius" could use a mascot. Doesn't every team rally around a good mascot?
What was chosen to be the ICON of the Bas Melech program, you ask? The symbol plastered along the walls of the school building, on notebooks, flyers, etc. and recreated in three dimensional effigy to continually inspire our girls?
Mr. Potato Head. {I kid you not}
Would somebody please explain to me why a NAKED MALE POTATO is the most fitting available representation of a Bas Melech?