Friday, February 27, 2009

Have You Seen My Alps?

A story is recounted about Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch zt"l, that after taking a trip late in life to Switzerland he explained his journey to his students thusly:
Rav Hirsch said that when his time arrived to come before the Heavenly Court at 120, he would not only be asked the questions by Hashem as to whether he set aside time for Torah study and whether he dealt honestly with his fellow man, but in addition he would be asked, "Have you seen my Alps?". Rav Hirsch knew that it is incumbent on all mankind to enjoy and appreciate the beauty in nature that Hashem has laid out before him.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mishenichnas Adar

Good Chodesh everyone!
A pre-purim slideshow for you to enjoy...
For those who remember the day:

Monday, February 23, 2009

How I Spent My Sunday Morning....

What nicer way to spend a blustery Sunday morning than in a somber meeting about shul finances ;) ?
Isn't it the same everywhere nowadays?
Did I hear somebody ask for my opinion? 
No? Are you sure?

Well here goes - 

Instead of picking the lowest paid employee of the organization and slashing his/her salary by 50%, I propose that it might be more cost effective to give an ACROSS THE BOARD cut of a mere 1% to all wages ... according to your own figures that should more than TRIPLE how much you'd be saving by doing things your way.....

If nobody sponsors a shul shalosh seudos... then DON'T HAVE ONE.  If they don't put their "money where there mouth is" then let them eat at home. It's obviously not that important to them.

If we paid property taxes on a building until we were able to establish to the government that we are a tax exempt organization, aren't those monies REFUNDABLE once we've proven our status?  I work for a tax-exempt organization as well, and we do this retroactively for sales tax all the time.... shouldn't it work that way for property taxes as well?

And in addition...... maybe it's time to do a little "fence mending" with those disenfranchised people who used to do the "bailouts".  People who care deeply and have the means to provide emergency funding to our mosdos deserve our highest respect.  
Eitz Chayim Hi LAMACHAZIKIM Boh.

How I Spent My Sunday Evening....

It was a difficult choice to make....
Spend an hour ALONE going to a Shovavim lecture on marriage or spend two hours WITH my husband  at a lecture that interested us both.  I decided that spending quality time with my husband was the best way to honor my marriage - so we went together - as one attendee joked - "with all the other apikorsim from our shul" to listen to two fascinating back to back lectures given by Rabbi Natan Slifkin.
I must admit that since I have a background in science, I was a huge fan of Rabbi Slifkin long before he was on anyone else's radar.  I am even more inclined to sympathize with his plight, as I have a relative who is considered a respected member of the chareidi world (a talmid chacham and a scientist) who has written extensively on issues regarding Torah and science and who too has suffered through an attempt to put one of his (surprisingly non-scientific) works into cheirem.
Aside from a very cogent, informative and non-heretical lecture on some very difficult scientific topics as they relate to the Torah, I was impressed with the respect that Rabbi Slifkin continues to give to the gedolei hador who so harshly criticized him and how he tries to explain and even validate their stance against him.  Would that everyone else was that way......

How I Spent My Sunday Afternoon

It was a busy Sunday - busy morning, busy afternoon, busy evening......
But to borrow (and mangle) a phrase much discussed during my busy evening, "Ein Mukdam u'm'uchar baBlog...."

I figured 120 was a pretty auspicious number at which to conclude my Hamantaschen baking. I hope a few will last until Rosh Chodesh....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hang In There - Shabbos IS Coming...

Despite the fact that the freezer had a meltdown (pun most decidedly intended) and needed to be replaced this week -

Despite the fact that my debilitating cold virus has taught me that although Nyquil Cold & Flu works wonders for me, I have a pretty nasty reaction to the Nyquil Cough Formula -

Despite the fact that I still haven't identified the source of that sweet (not unpleasant though unusual) odor that only I seem to be able to smell in one certain spot in my kitchen and it is driving me batty -

Shabbos IS INDEED coming with guests [though fewer than I would have liked].... (let's hope that my bordering-on-compulsive hand washing ensures that I don't turn into "Typhoid G6"...)

Oh and for Brunhilda (I refuse to call you Anonymous any more - that would be giving tacit approval so I picked a name that I think would most likely encourage you to pick one of your own!), I made an awesome fish salad with scallions, celery and pickles.  I was also scrounging in the freezer for anything that would  allow me to spend extra time hovering over the humidifier inhaling vapors instead of baking and I found a treasure! Banana chocolate chip muffins that will do nicely for Friday night dessert (it's amazing that nobody snitched them out of the freezer ~ I have to label my baked goods "Raw Chicken" more often, lol...)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Have A Coke & A Smile....

I am a very big fan of Rabbi Horowitz.  This man is a visionary in these radical and fanatical times. He has a new post up on his website that I think is eerily prescient.  He compares the state of education today with a Coke Classic vs. New Coke analogy.

A very small excerpt here [Coke analogy excluded]:
(please read the whole thing... it is so worthwhile)

I think that you and your generation followed that sage advice when you passed on the Torah values of your parents and grandparents to us. You kept things simple. In fact, I could probably fit all the instructions you gave us on the back of an index card. Be a mentch. Learn and master our Torah. “Farbreng nisht der tzeit -- make the best use of every minute of every day. Make a kiddush Hashem wherever you go – don’t ever forget that you are wearing a yarmulke. Get an education, be self-sufficient, and give something back to the community. Yet these simple themes encapsulated all the major components of our tradition.

At our Pesach sedarim, you didn’t distribute ‘matzoh cards’ to make sure that we had the proper shiurim or share profound divrei Torah with us, but your eyes brimmed with tears when you spoke to us about our gloriousmesorah. You didn’t speak much about your generation’s extraordinary success in rebuilding your individual and collective lives after the Holocaust, but you taught us by example, what it means to sacrifice for Yiddishkeit and how we should treasure the gift of freedom you were denied. You didn’t deal much with segulos for parnasa like chai rotel andshlissel challah but always stressed the importance of ehrlichkeit in our financial dealings, living below one’s means, and scrupulously givingtzedaka.

I am tempted to draw further parallels on his exposition (please read his Cola analogy before reading my comments).  In my own community, there is a move afoot to create a "New Coke" - it will surely fail but will the recipe and the machinery and the means to return to the "Classic Version" still be available after the destruction?  I am sure that the people attempting these changes have only good intentions... but they will be no less culpable in the aftermath.......

P.S. Actions speak louder than words.... you cannot say you are not making changes when your very actions belie your assurances.....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shabbos Wrap Up (Recipe Included)

Moshe, Erica and Kayla were in for Shabbos.  I spent the majority of the day delighting in watching the unfolding miracle of a child learning to crawl.  I read somewhere once that a good book ideally should be read three times during the course of one's life... once as a child, once in adulthood and once again in old age.  The premise to this is that perspectives change at different times in our lives and different aspects of these books can thus be appreciated under different circumstances.  I felt like that this weekend as the pages of Kayla's 'early chapters' began to turn.  The vantage point of a grandparent is shifted somewhat from that which I experienced as a parent.  There are new wonders - new miracles...

... and new recipes ;)

This recipe for fried mushrooms is just a very crisp breading on a fresh mushroom. They'll 'pop' when you cut into them they are so fresh.

(...and an added bonus... as far as I know {do *not* tell me if I'm wrong!}, nobody has banned them yet...)



  1. 1
    Mix flour, cornstarch, baking powder, soup base and salt in a bowl.
  2. 2
    Add water to make a batter.
  3. 3
    Dip clean mushroom into batter letting excess batter drip off.
  4. 4
    I find it easier to stick a toothpick into the mushroom to dip it.
  5. 5
    After dipping into batter roll in breadcrumb mixture to coat.
  6. 6
    Fry in oil until golden.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Recipe For Anonymous....

I'm going to put in my two cents one more time and request that all of you who wish to remain anonymous (pretty please) continue to leave your comments but give yourself a pseudonym, so at least I can feel like I know you..... (it also becomes vital when several "Anonymous"es are commenting one after another on the same post)

So while I could get away with entiteling this post "Hang in There, Shabbos is Coming", the real reason I am posting it this is because {said while gritting my teeth} Anonymous {ungritting....} took the time to write a comment on my Blogiversary post and I enjoy and appreciate all comments. The least I could do in return is post a recipe as requested.  Since I'm making this salad for Shabbos I decided to share it with all of you as well.  (I have a confession to make: this post gets me off the hook on the Kosher Cuisine blog as well.... I haven't contributed yet and have been feeling sort of guilty ever since I was invited to join the team and I accepted...)

I love salads with red cabbage in them.  An added benefit is the fact that if you make them for Friday night, the leftovers can still be served Shabbos morning.
The dressing for this particular salad is a bit different from the standard.
Sorry, I don't have a picture but I like to dress it right before serving and I usually serve it on Shabbos ;)


2 Bags Red Cabbage
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
1/4 cup Sesame Seeds
2 cups Chinese Noodles


1 cup Oil
1/4 cup Vinegar
2 Cloves Garlic (I personally love garlic, but sometimes go easy on this amount...)
2 Tbsp. Peanut Butter
1/2 cup Sugar
Dash of Salt and Pepper

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Time To Beat The Dead Horse.... (pun intended)

I know that the comments on my anonymous guest poster's review of the Annual Dinner are finally quieting down and I should probably not add any fuel to the fire, but this separate seating issue seems to be a hot button topic for many.

Citizen of Brooklyn North posted this (as yet unconfirmed) report that Puppa has "separate seating" in their CEMETERY. (here's where I wistfully return to my Our Town analogy ...)

If this is indeed true (and I am interested in feedback on this point as well...) I have two (or more) questions:
A) ummm....... why exactly?!?!?
B) Can women visit the kevorim of men at this cemetery and vice versa?

The Pickle Principle

I'm sure you've heard the analogy that families celebrating a simcha - particularly engagements - tend to have another simcha/engagement follow quickly on the heels of the first ~  Kind of like a jar of pickles.  It's a bit difficult to ease that first pickle out of the jar, but once you do, the rest follow much more easily.
My theory (which only applies to engagements) is that an event such as this thrusts the whole family into the limelight, often reminding shadchanim and friends of others in the family who are also searching for their mate.
Others have told me that when Hashem blesses a family with a simcha, they must immediately daven for MORE.  Upon first glance this may sound greedy, but I was advised that at a time when Hashem is obviously looking kindly upon you, you should quickly ask for additional kindnesses.
So keep davening... for yourself... for others.... and let's get some more of those pickles out of the jar [and maybe have them with a little ice cream afterwards ;) ].
This post is inspired by Bad For Shidduchim's post about today being "National Make a Shidduch for Chaya Day".  I don't know Chaya, but there's no harm in raising awareness.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Joey's 10 Year Project

When Joey was in 5th grade The United States Mint commenced its
50 State Quarters program.  Joey remembers thinking as his grandmother presented him with a lovely collection board that, "there was no way" he was still going to be doing this when he was in college (remember: to a 10 year old, college is right up there before collecting Social Security), but he sure wanted to try.
50 states - 5 a year - for 10 years.... today Joey triumphantly arrived home and purposefully drilled the last quarter (Hawaii, for those who are curious) into its designated spot.  He recalled that in the very beginning Mrs. Berger, his school librarian helped him look up Cesar Rodney, whose portrait graced his very first quarter (Delaware).
(By the way... Joey says that there's a story that goes along with each and every quarter - including the one he won gambling on a Chanukah dreidel game....)

Decorum In Shul - A MUST READ

Rabbi Gil Student over at Hirhurim has what I feel is a must read post on decorum in shul.
I am reposting it here, in its entirety because I feel that it is very valuable in its clarity and simplicity:

How to Daven Without Bothering Others
R' Shlomo Aviner - link

If you are the one leading the davening
Do not daven slower or faster than what is acceptable. Do not place "a burden on the congregation." If you daven too slowly you will cause others who have to go to work to leave before the end of the davening, and you will delay the next minyan from starting on time. If someone davens too quickly, do not admonish him in the middle of the davening and embarrass him. Talk to him as a friend after davening. If speaking to him gently does not work, do not ask him to lead the davening.

Shul is not an opera house
Use the accepted tunes of the community. Do not use tunes with which the community is not comfortable. This causes the community distress, besides the halachic question involved in acting this way. If the person leading the davening acts differently than the accepted practice, please do not embarrass him, as we said above. If you ask your guest to lead the davening, advise him of what is expected of him in order to prevent unpleasantness. guest to lead the davening, advise him of what is expected of him in order to prevent unpleasantness.

Shul is not a day care center
Do not bring young children who cannot remain quiet. It is permissible to bring a quiet child. If he begins to make noise please take him out immediately, even in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei, and especially in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei.

Shul is not a club house
Please take an urgent conversation outside, and "Hashem, the Beneficent One, will forgive." If you talk inside and disturb others who are davening, however, it is not certain that they will forgive you. If the conversation cannot be delayed and it is impossible to take it outside, please whisper and "Hashem, the Beneficent One, will forgive."

Shul is not a carpenter's workshop
Close chairs and folding shtenders quietly without banging them.

Shul is not a place to create work for others
Please return siddurim to their places. The Gaba'im are not your slaves,
Shul is not a welfare office
Pay your dues and donations, and do not perform mitzvot with money that does not belong to you.

Shul is not a Chasidic Rebbe's court
Do not make a long "Mi She-beirach," no one listen. A blessing will come to someone who is strict to forgo a "Mi She-beirach." Donate money when you receive an aliyah, and I promise you that the Master of the Universe will bless you even without the Gabbai's announcement.

Shul is not a "Sheibel" (one's personal shul)
If you are late, repent. Do not organize a private repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei which prevents others from leaving and places a "burden on the community."

Shul is not an election rally
Do not shout out "Yasher Koach" to people who receive an aliyah or led the davening. They will be happier to receive a personal "Yasher Koach" with a smile.

Shul is not Hyde Park in London
Try, as much as possible, to hang announcements on the bulletin board.

The Netilat Yadayim room is not a club house for Cohanim and Levi’im
Conversation and the usual "jokes" are usually at the expense of the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei and others people's ability to concentrate.

The Silent Shemoneh Esrei is exactly that: Silent. 
Our Sages said that one should not daven the Shemoneh Esrei out loud in the presence of others, since a person is not permitted to increase his own concentration at the expense of another person's concentration. Do not clap your hand in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei "to expel external distractions." Ask Mekubalim (mytics) how to attain this result without making noise.

If you see a new face in shul

Smile at him, extend a handshake and greet him. The usual crowd in shul should also be viewed as a new face.

If you have an obligation to lead the davening, forgo it
The merit of forgoing it will benefit the ascension of the soul of the deceased even more than the merit of prayer.

A Torah class is not less important than a concert
Do not walk in late and do not leave until it is over.

If you are looking for challenges in mitzvot between one person and another – come to shul. If you are looking for challenges in mitzvot between a person and Hashem, fulfill these mitzvot between one person and another. They are also the will of Hashem.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

On The Shloshim Of Uncle Jerry z"l

Last night I had the privilege to attend a siyum commemorating the shloshim of our dear Uncle Jerry, z"l.
Leave it to Uncle Jerry to get the whole family - children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews together (in the same room he got married in, I might add) to laugh, to cry, to bond and to introspect.
It was mentioned in passing last night that the credit for the family being as close as we are is due in large part to actions undertaken by Uncle Jerry himself, together of course, with Tante Meta.  Uncle Jerry loved his family unwaveringly and their attendance and remarks last evening are a testament to how much we all loved him in return.

Mann tracht und Gott lacht

For all I complain about the silly little edits being done on the Sisterhood play, I must say that I am very proud to be working with such an esteemed group of women -  many of whom hold down full time jobs and run busy households, who will go out night after night and practice into the wee hours at the expense of their families (even my own Jen said to me last night, "You know Mom, I haven't said 'Good Night' to you in weeks.....").  This performance will be held iy"H this Sunday evening and we have stepped up our rehearsals to EVERY NIGHT.
Sadly, yesterday, dear Aviva's (who is responsible for not one but TWO roles) father was niftar. A mad scramble ensued for somebody to take on the daunting task of learning pages and pages of (properly accented) dialogue in a mere FOUR days. Jennine has agreed to undertake the larger of the two roles in addition to the parts she was already playing so I sure hope that those of you who are coming on Sunday night will give her a hearty round of applause.
I've got to tell you that one thing I love about these women, particularly the director (or as Aviva calls her, "Mitzvah Sonja")  is the "can do" attitude and the devotion to a cause.  I'm proud to be counted in their ranks and to be involved in any Klal project that they undertake.

Monday, February 2, 2009

If You Don't Have Something Nice To Say....

... find an Anonymous guest poster.  

The following is a post mortem of last night's Yeshiva Dinner, which I received via email.
If anybody else has a review they would like to submit, my email button is on the right hand side bar.
(Please hold your tomatoes - I didn't write it and I'm not related to the author)

It was a lovely shmorg/buffet/call-it-what-you-will dinner. While I might have preferred to have seen some stations offering more substantial fare than hamburgers and hot dogs (note: this critique does NOT cover franks in blankets, which are an essential component of any fancy simcha), I can't imagine anybody walking away hungry. As far as I'm concerned, if saving on a full service dinner means that more of our donations cover the shul/yeshiva costs, go for it.
The separate seating thing has got to go. Period.  I want to sit with my wife. This is not a wedding in Boro Park, this is a dinner of an institution that has had mixed seating for over two generations. If this continues, then I will attend alone in future years when the dinner honors someone I'm close to; otherwise, I will simply sit out.
Are we going to pretend that women don't exist anymore? R' Gelley's published comments in the journal thanked "the men" who worked to make the dinner, there was ZERO presentation to/for the women's alumnae, and while two of the honorees were couples, their video presentations featured the women sitting quietly saying nothing. I kinda/sorta understand not having the women come up to accept their plaques with their husbands (okay, strike that: I don't understand it at all, but if you think that getting official pictures into Hamodia and the charedi press helps things out, then I'll bite my tongue), but why show Morah Ettlinger at all, if she's just going to sit demurely like a statue?Even more bizarre: why can't women speak during the video awards presentation, but suddenly are allowed during the video YRSRH presentation?
I know that we'll have peace in the Middle East before this happens, but I wish the Breuer's ignoring/ distaste for YU would end. I saw two YU roshei yeshiva (R' Sobolovsky and R' Simon) present at the dinner. Both are talmidei chachamim of the highest caliber, and both deserve as much kavod as any out-of-town rosh yeshiva who would never deign to send his children to YRSRH. I've lost count of the number of YU roshei yeshiva who have sent their children through Breuer's: can't we have SOME reciprocity already?

If I may add a quick thought of my own:
If you tell an aging population that it is their duty to come and support their mosdos, it becomes your duty to ensure that there is sufficient and comfortable seating for them.....

Disclaimer: Any critique/criticisms contained herein (and I'm taking the liberty of speaking on behalf of Anonymous as well) in no way negates my recognition of all the hard work that COUNTLESS individuals put into this evening or the worthiness of supporting our institution. 

Happy Groundhog Day....

Apparently, Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow this morning.
And you know what THAT means, don't you?
It means you don't have to see another groundhog for a whole year..........

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Releases Signed - Legal Mumbo Jumbo Disposed Of...

.... her people have spoken to our people.....

You've all waited so patiently and Louisa has kindly permitted me to post her New Year's Eve performance of William Balcom's Graceful Ghost.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! (I even learned what pizzicato is!)

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

A male member of my household (who is sick of having his name mentioned here, hence the anonymity) mentioned to me recently how he couldn't understand a conversation that went on around him a week ago.

It was a particularly snowy day and the area he was in had turned into a slushy bog of sorts. Safely ensconced in a building, he was informed by one of  a bevy of young ladies that she and her cohorts couldn't go outside because they "didn't want to ruin their boots".

THEIR BOOTS?!??!, he wondered.....

This makes perfect sense to me, as a woman (who herself owns three pairs of boots she wouldn't trudge through the snow in - and the one pair of boots that WOULD qualify for this journey would NOT be worn under any other circumstances.....) but no sense at all to the male mind.

I guess it's just one more of those things.......

Super Bowl Soliloquy

A) Since I know nothing about football and my son is a precocious genius of a wunderkind  (ok, he told me to write that...{actually he sat down at my laptop and TYPED THOSE WORDS IN HIMSELF!!!}) and

B) I'm stuck attending (but not necessarily staying at) my childrens' Yeshiva's Annual Dinner tonight [I'm going to show support but whether or not I stay depends entirely on how the thing is run] {As an aside, you know you don't have to know ANYTHING about football to enjoy a really good superbowl party - - - I've actually attended some where NOBODY watched the game at all - - - some of us just like any excuse for festivities}

I have agreed to link you all to my son's Super Bowl blog post - even though he hasn't posted on his blog in almost a year and takes every opportunity to bash blogs in general and mine in particular.  He is "claiming" to have written this post especially for me and my readers "because he 'loves me' " {yeah, right.... he already had his dinner so I'm not quite clear on the motivation}.

I , on the other hand, truly do love him enough to 'forget' (temporarily) how often/badly he derides my blog and send you to this post.

I tried to read it so that I could tell you it was good, but all I can tell you is that it is ALL about sports, not amusing, and if you don't know football you won't know what on G-d's green earth this guy is talking about.  Don't say I didn't warn you..........

Oh, and for those of you NOT so into sports, here are my thoughts on the Super Bowl:  What's with the slapping each other on the behind bit??!?!? :)  {grin}