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Showing posts from March, 2008

Broken Engagements and Shidduchim

I've heard of people cautioning young people who change their minds after getting engaged that they are better off going forward and can always get divorced if things don't work out after all. A broken engagement, on the other hand, could stigmatize one forever after in the world of shidduchim. That does not sound like sound advice to me, but now I understand where such well-intentioned people are coming from. In the "Ask the Shadchan" piece in Jewish Insights Magazine, a broken engagement follows "hospitalizations for psychiatric disturbances" on the list that answers the question "Which pieces of information are grounds for exercising caution?" While the writer acknowledges, "these issues do not necessarily mean that the person hasn't grown beyond old issues or beyond some family issues -- they just mean that you have to look into the person a bit further," that would probably not be very consoling to someone who realizes that …

Another observation on the "new" magazine

One of the features billed on the front cover is called "Ask the Shadchan." That page says: "In respone to your many requests, we have expanded and added our new series, 'ASK THE SHADCHAN', [sic for comma placement error] where JEWISH INSIGHTS MAGAZINE poses your questions to the professional staff at the Make a Shidduch Foundation."

Just a minute, did you not declare this to be your first issue? Then how could you have expanded? You can only expand by enlarging what already exists. If you are creating it anew, you are not expanding but simply adding. They do also use the "added," but in context it sound like they have expanded the magazine -- which implies it had to exist -- and added on this new series. Again, though, how is this series newer than anything else? If the magazine is new, then everything in it should be new, as well. Oh, well, so long as there are nice graphics, I doubt anyone notices these things.

But stay tuned for the next …

What's in a name change? The magazine formerly known as JE (not)

Putting out one's own magazine leads to paying much closer attention to other publications than). the average person does. This week Supersol was dumping out a magazine entitled Jewish Insights (with a spare modern all caps font for the word "Jewish" and a serifed lowercase, slightly angled font for "insights." The subtitle all fits under the first word and is in a similar font" "Where to see what's Now, Next & New in our world" is what it says.) So the date appears in the upper right hand corner as March/Adar 2008 and the upper left hand corner declares this to be "Issue #1." So a new magazine, right? But the content, design, and even the ads all evoke the Jewish Entertainment magazine that has been around for close to two years now. In fact, I am fairly certain, that the name Zweig that appears in this magazine is one and the same as the one that appeared in JE. So what gives with the change of name and disassociation…

Pesach recipes -- desserts, main, and sides all gebrokts

The following appeared as last year's spring issue of Kallah Magazine's Kallah in the Kitchen feature, but I don't need to grant any other credits as I wrote the article based on recipes I prepare regularly.

As I have a long-standing family tradition ofenjoying gebrokts on Pesach, my Pesach menu includes not just matzah balls and matzah brei, but matzah kugel, matzah lasagna,and desserts made with matzah cake meal.I’ve included some of my favorite recipes for you to try this Pesach.I guarantee that they are all easy and delicious (unless you don’t follow the recipe correctly).As I am writing this while it is yet Adar, we will flip the order and begin with dessert:

Apricot squares (really, as good as anything chametz and perfect for mezonos for Kiddush – the standard Pesach cakes and cookies are shehakol.)Dough ingredients:½ lb. softened margarine2 egg yolks2 c. cake meal (that’s extra finely ground matzah meal)1 cup sugarpinch of salt1 tsp. vanilla2 tsp. grated lemon rind …

The Latest Scandal and Tzedaka

I won't get into all the sordid details surrounding the arrest of the mother of 12 in Israel. Many bloggers have already offered their 2 cents and more. But one of the things that struck me was the fact that the father of these children was said to have just returned to the country after spending months abroad collecting for his family. So he would have been one of those people who ask for tzedaka for themselves. Certainly, anyone who gave did so in good faith, but I wonder about this. If the money one gives goes to perpetuate a family life that leads to abuse and actions that clearly fall into the category of yehareg ve'al ya'avor, that would not seem to be a very good use of funds. While the halacha is that on Purim, we give to anyone who approaches without question, that is not the case the rest of the year. Should people really investigate these families that ask for our tzedaka?

Kosher Cooking Carnival hosted by

A Mother in Israel will be hosting the next Kosher Cooking Carnival on April 7, so get cooking! Topics will include Pesach recipes, kashruth on Pesach, preparing for Pesach, Purim accomplishments and recipes for getting rid of hametz. And anything else relating to kosher cooking. You can submit your own posts here, as well as any other posts you would like to recommend. Check out the most recent one, KCC #28 over at Frumhouse. Special thanks to Batya, who organizes the whole thing.

Sheasani Kirtzono -- a different view

First to give credit where credit is due -- most important just after Purim, for Esther is the one who illustrates kol haomer davar beshem omro mevi geula laolam -- I have to say that this thought came tome when my husband told me about Brooklyn Wolf's posting that you can read at http://wolfishmusings.blogspot.com/2008/03/parody-or-touch-of-reality.html.
That poster is actually mild compared to some of the books that mean their advice seriously. See http://www.sarahchanaradcliffe.com/Aizer_Kenegdo.htm It's subtitled: The Jewish Woman's Guide to Happiness in Marriage. For another example kept current in print, read Rabbi Miller's "Ten Commandments of Marriage" reprinted each year in the Chosson Kallah Guide (completely unaffiliated with Kallah Magazine). Yes, truth is more extreme than fictional parodies. I have quoted from such seriously intended sources in my now lost WordPress blog.
But that is not the point of this post.
The though that occurred to me w…

I've accepted the approach of Pesach

About a month ago (back when I had the Wordpress blog) I posted about Stop and Shop setting out matzah already, not just weeks, but a couple of months before Pesach. As Purim and even Shushan Purim and even the third day for Purim Meshulash is not behind us, I have accepted that I must start thinking about Pesach and even purchased the first of the new batch of matzah ($2.99 with $50 purchase -- only the Israeli brand is free as all brands used to be a few years ago). I haven't completely caved in, though. I did walk into the separate Pesach store set up by Gourmet Glatt, but I didn't even browse. It's just too early to start buying the ketchup, mayo, dressing, etc., etc. I would first need to clear out cabinets. But I do have a lot of certified seltzer and grape juice.

Thoughts on Mishloach Manos

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This is not ideas for themes as some people requested on a neighborhood email list. Actually, I think that the theme notion sometimes obscures the real point of the mishloach manos. The mitzvah was not instituted to show off one's originality, creativity, or cute packaging. It was established to stress connection. By sending food (that is intended to form part of the Purim meal) to our friends, we reinforce the closeness that usually is signified by sharing a meal-- like having dinner together or even "doing lunch." The interconnectedness of the Jews was an important component of their coming together at the time of Esther to do tshuva, re-accept the Torah, and vanquish Amalek. I really doubt that they pondered over themes to distinguish their mishloach manos, as the focus would have been over the food rather than packaging -- or substance rather than style. There is nothing wrong with style, but one should not lose focus. So I am not certain that on has fulfi…

The Shidduch Crisis -- a matter of perspective

I don't presume to offer the right perspective on the situation of shidduchim today. I am merely observing the differences in perspective on whether or not the situation should or could be called a crisis. And the crux of the matter seems to be whether or not you are concerned with the female end of things. Last Shabbos some women were discussing this. Only one of them had a daughter of marriageable age. Her view was that there are more "top girls" than "top boys." Of course the definition of "top" here is very much tied to where one sees oneself on the spectrum. Another woman is already worrying about this situation, though her oldest daughter is not yet 12. She has sons who are older than that but is not at all concerned about how they will fare in shidduchim. A third woman has only sons, and her eldest is approaching shidduch age. She has no worries about a crisis situation. Yet another woman who has a whole string of boys and whose dau…

The Evolution of the Sheitel

I actually wrote a paper on the advancements of sheitels that was printed in The Queens College Journal of Jewish Studies in spring 2004. pp. 93-101. (If I could pretend to have been a student at the time, i could try to pass for much younger than I am ;-), but the bio gives that away, alas.). The essay's argument was that as American woman accepted the practice of hair covering, they also demanded sheitels that didn't merely cover their hair but gave them the perfect hair of the American beauty standard. I observed how the standards and prices for shitels have escalated just in my own lifetime and looked back at how unpopular and basic sheitels were earlier in the 20th Century. We have come to the point that rabbis like Rabbi Falks exhort women to forego the scalp lining and indecipherable hairlines of the more expensive sheitels that make them appear to not be covering their hair at all.

But while the sheitel-wearing women have popularized the lace front wig, I learned …

FYI for those who may have forgotten something

My husband told me that a certain blogger put out a taharas hamishpacha related question to her audience. Someone did offer some advice in response. ( I suppose that as she is one of the bloggers who keep their identifies a closely guarded secret that she did not regard this as something not very discreet to post to the world.) Actually, I've heard that particular question addressed in both a refresher class for married women and also online in the Kallah Companion on the yoatzot site. The answers of both differed from each other. I think the reason for their difference in views stems from the assumption of the status of paper. But anyway, should someone find herself in such a situation and cannot reach her own rav or kallah instructor, she can use the internet without putting her query out to the world. She can contact the Yoatzot either by emailing and calling their hotline. Their site is www.yoatzot.org

My rant on shopping for girls

This could also be titled "Why frum people must pay top dollar for their girls' dresses." I've already accepted that fact for my older girls, and dutifully went to Brooklyn where a regular (not outstanding) Shabbos outfit from the new line in sizes 12 and up would run you $78-$100 easily. But now it looks like this state of affairs may apply even for my six-year-old. In a standard store, just about all the dressy dresses are sleeveless and many of those are styled not to work well with sweaters on top And some go even further, or should I say skimpier, with their dresses for little girls. I was just on the Kohls site and found that quite a lot of the dresses in the range of size 7 and up look like costumes worn by adult women figure skaters. Anyway, I don't get it. These dresses are really intended to be worn on Easter, which falls out in March. Hello, March is not summertime, daylight savings time notwithstanding. March temperatures rarely rise above …

Parshas Shekalim and Purim

Someone already made some observations on the mitzvah to give 1/2 shekel. See
http://divreichaim.blogspot.com/2008/02/do-women-have-to-give-machatzis.html
I wish to look at a different point. "Reish Lakish said, 'It is revealed and known to He who created the world that Haman was destined to measure shkalim on Yisrael; therfore, He brought their shkalim before his, as we learn that on the first of Adar we read Shkaim'" [Megillah 13b]. So the shkalim given by Yisrael counterbalanced those of their adversary. Haman could have made the case that he was offering the same sum as Yisrael, so his money should count just as much as theirs.
But one of the key lessons is that the whole -- the entity of klal Yisrael -- so much exceeds the sum of its parts. The 1/2 shekel illustrates the point that the parts have to combine to make a whole. It's not just a matter of "no man is an island" but an interconnectedness that brings together the separate strands to form somet…

14th Birthday

[End of duplication of salvaged recent posts and beginning of new post]
Yesterday was my son's 14th birthday. That must be such anti-climactic event for a boy. Anyway, I made him a cake and even put up a "Happy Birthday" sign and some balloons. But he took no notice and only blew out the candles my 6 year-old had placed on the cake to oblige her ... and get the light switched back on.

While I was typing this, I got I call from my sister, who is making her third son's bar mitzvah next week. She called to verify that my husband will speak and asked if I still have the centerpieces I made for my son's bar mitzvah last year. It's nice to get more use out of such things.You can read about them in the Do-It-Yourself Ideas archived on the Money Matters page of www.kallahmagazine.com or read about it in the PDF of last year's issue.

Thank you, Haman

I know this sounds perverse, but it occurred to me that we really owe quite a bit to Haman, and by extension to his forefathers, Aggag and Amalek.� Without this Jew-hater acting on his desire to exterminate our people, we would never have had the triumph that is celebrated in the holiday of Purim.�� And as a result of the Purim episode, we gained an entire sefer in the canon of TaNaCh—Megillas Esther, and that leads to much more Torah to explain the halachos involved in the holiday and the fast the precedes it, as well as insights into the megillah.�� So we do seem to owe quite a bit to our oppressor, who came from the person who represents absolute evil that must be destroyed without mercy.� Perhaps� the Torah and mitzvos that we gained did form a type of zchus for him after all.� The Gemara relates that bney banav shel Haman lamdu Torah biBnei Brak

Rabbi Akiva: Before and After

Rabbi Akiva said of himself that before he learned Torah hesaid, “give me a Talmid Chacham and I will bite him like a donkey!”When sked, “Why not like a dog?” he answered: “A dog’s bites tears the flesh, but a donkey’s bites breaks the bones.”( Pesachim, 49b).
[BTW the animal imagery is interesting because there is the famous story of R’ Akiva with the donkey, rooster, and candle. Also his rather unwilling father-in-law’s name was Kalva Savua—a reference to a dog there.]
But I’ve been thinking about this point. I am sure I have come across a Maharal that explains the chamor [donkey] further as the embodiment of chomer, which is antithetical to the spiritual/intellectual. As an am ha’aretz, Akiva (not yet R’) was immersed in a physical existence. Yet, still to have such antipathy to the talmid chacham that he would wish to bite him all the way down to the bone would seem as something one would never expect any person to sink to. So I have in the past thought of this R’ Akiva statement …

Tzedaka

What do you think of very aggressive fundraisers?You know the type whose knee jerk reaction to any offer on your part is a demand (not request, mind you) that you increase it.� The type who insinuates that this is not a donation but money you MUST fork over.� The type that makes assumptions about your disposal income without actual knowledge of your situation?I am not of the belief that the end justifies the means.� In other words, just because you are attempting to raise money for a good cause, you are no longer exempt from the obligation to treat people with respect and honesty.� It amazes me that people think otherwise.� They seem to take it as a given that fundraisers will adopt aggressive and even rude tactics to gain their ends.When it comes to such things, I am very much of the belief that vinegar will draw less than honey.� Not to say, I seek honor and flattery—just a thank you that acknowledges you could have chosen to spend your tzedaka dollars anywhere you like and selected…

Valuation of Donations

I don’t seek plaques or honorable mentions and have no desire to see my name on a donor list. (My grandmother a’‘h told me that she always made her donations to her local school anonymously.) So I don’t care about getting macher style kavod. But no one has the right to disparage what another offers.
You know the Gemara relates that the rich people offered their bikkurim in elaborate baskets woven from precious metals. These were returned to them. But the poor people’s baskets woven of reeds and such were kept by the kohanim. On the cynical side, we can say the poor grow poorer, as even their homemade containers are not returned. But the real lesson here is that their contribution was so valued that even the containers earned a place of honor. In contrast, the wealthy gave the bikkurim with little self-sacrifice and much self-importance. Such containers are not worthy of a holy place.
In this week’s parsha, we see that the maros hatzovos earned a place of honor in the mishkan. They wer…
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[Note I was able to recover some posts, so I will repost from what I can and consider worthwhile] Oh, I’m not offering any here.� I am merely observing the very popular use of such titles, and of late in talks like a lecture in Queens this Sunday called “The Mystery of Marriage?” and of course, there is the popular “Dating Secrets” book, now more frumly entitle,d Shidduch Secrets.� But this is not an altogether new phenomenon.� Tehilla Abramov’s book on the topic of taharas hamishpacha, The Secret of Jewish Femininity was published back in 1988.� Interesting that the one review that shows up here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Jewish-Femininity-Tehilla-Abramov/dp/0944070043

has reservations about the book being locked into an Orthodox practice.� I don’t know if� a comprehensive guide to taharas hamishpacha that would not be bound by halachic determination is conceivable.� But the reviewer does try to be fair and makes some other valid observations like her last two points:

2. Following t…

New Beginnings and Issues

The blog I was running for the past few years on WordPress is now lost in cyberspace somewhere. So I begin anew with Blogger. Other announcements: the spring issue of Kallah Magazine is now out and available in the 5 Towns. It should makes its way into Queens, Brooklyn, etc. within the next couple of weeks.