Monday, March 31, 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 his/her mistake in getting engaged to the wrong person will count as a black mark just as institutionalization would. also how do you "look into the person a bit further?" Do you get a microscope and ask for tissue samples? Somehow I don't think this means you can ask the person him/herself about it, for all these things are presented as "issues" to be assessed before even going out. In my next post, I plan to go over some of the questions that the writer suggests to include "when doing a background check on a prospective date." Note the wording, it is a check to do before even agreeing to meet the person in question.

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 post in which I share some of the insights offered by the unnamed shadchan who offers the answers.

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 with the former name? Usually, one works hard to build up name recognition, and that is actually assigned a value in terms of good will. So why the break? Is this like the case of the performer formerly known as Prince who took on a new name and a new identity? In that case, though, everyone had to keep referring to him as "the performer formerly known as Prince," for his new name was a symbol that could not be pronounced. But here the former identity is erased as this magazine declares this to be its very first issue. I wonder if this is some type of response to whole Lipa Big Event concert. Perhaps the people behind this magazine feared that the title would make it subject to a similar ban due to its stress on entertainment, which may be viewed as threatening in the same way Lipa was seen to be threatening. Of course, that is pure speculation on my part, but given the timing of this issue, it would make sense.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

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 of enjoying 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 margarine

2 egg yolks

2 c. cake meal (that’s extra finely ground matzah meal)

1 cup sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. grated lemon rind (you could skip this in pinch)

Filling

1 lb. jar apricot preserves

½ to ½ c. lemon juice

½ c. chooped nuts (may be omitted if necessary)

Combine all dough ingredients. Spread ¾ of it in a 9 x 13 pan . Bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees. Refrigerate remaining dough.

Spread filling over crust while hot. Put nuts on top, then crumble remaining dough to form a crumb topping. Bake again for 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into squares when cool.

Matazah Lasagna (Dairy) (I recommend that once you open the cottage cheese, you use the whole thing by doubling the recipe and preparing two tins.)

4 square matzahs

1 15 oz. jar spaghetti sauce

8 oz. cottage cheese

8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Spread sauce on bottom of 8” square pan, to with one quarter of cottage cheese, sauce, shredded cheese. Repeate until ingredients are finished. Toop with last matzah, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Kiglach

4 c. matzah farfel

salt and pepper to taste

3 c. boiling water

6 eggs beaten

Combine farfel, salt, and pepper with boiling water. After water is absorbed add beaten eggs. Spoon into greased muffin tins. Bake for ½ hour at 400 degrees. You can serve as muffins with jam or syrup.

Matzah Farfel and onion sauté (great side dish)

2 lg onions, minced.

½ lb mushrooms, sliced (may be omitted if you have people who don’t like mushrooms)

¼ c. margaine

3 ½ c. matzah farfel

¼ tsp. pepper

1 tsp. sal

1 c. chicken soup

1 c. water

Sauté onions and mushrooms in margarine until soft. Add farfel and stir until klightly browned. Add seasonings then the liquid. Cook over low heat and stir often until all liquid is absorbed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

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.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

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 was the sheasani kirtzono could serve as a very positive idea. In a world in which women are always looking at their physical attributes to find flaws and then seek to correct them through artificial means, expressing acceptance of what one is by nature is a radical notion. Rather than seeking the solutions of Botox or what touts itself as Better than Botox or collagen injections or various other procedures in pursuit of greater beauty, women can declare, "
sheasani kirtzono; Hashem made me according to His will, and so why should I tamper with a Divine masterpiece?" The look of supermodel perfection is not the ratzon Hashem. Even the women you see in magazine pictures do not look quite as perfect in real life without professional hairstyling, makeup application, airbrushing, wind, and lighting effects .
Sheasani kirtzono could be a new feminist rallying cry to refuse the dictatorship of the fashion and beauty industry and now the plastic surgery industry and gladly accept ourselves as we are -- laughlines and all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

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

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 fulfilled the mitzvah by giving, say, a package of gum (which may not constitute food at all) and a little chotchkela in a too-cute-for-words teeny container.

Many stores sell prepackaged mishloach manos that are beautifully wrapped. Some include a dish that would afterwards be used as a serving dish; in fact some of the stores specialize in these dishes and just add on a bottle of wine or grapejuice and some wafers so that the package would actually contain something edible. One such store advertised with words to the effect of "Give them something that will last." That may be a nice sentiment, but it is not really relevant to mishloach manos.

Mishloach manos only qualify for the mitvah if they are edible (for some of the finer points related to halachic considerations for such you may see some of the posts at divreichaim.blogspot.com). And as they are supposed to be incorporated into the Purim seudah, they should also be eaten -- that is to say completely consumed -- on Purim day itself. That is not to say that there is a din of nosar in relation to Purim comestibles but that the mishloach mano are for the day. The gift is supposed to be enjoyed as part of the Purim celebration and in the process consumed; it does not linger in the china cabinet. What lingers in the china cabinet cannot be mishloach manos, though it may be a separate gift.

Carpe diem -[seize the day] could be applied to Purim, as well as other yomim tovim. Each holiday offers its own experience with unique halachic requirements to reflect on the spiritual meaning behind the day. We should do the mitzvahs with an appreciation of the significance of the day and live the moment, so to speak. We should not bemoan the fact that what is eaten is gone and may not be remembered as well as the decorative platter it came with. The point is to eat the mishloach manos, and just like the upcoming mitzvah of eating matzah, the ingestion serves a spiritual purpose. So the gift one offers on Purim is meant to enhance the experience of the day. It's what's inside that counts.

That brings me to one other point I think people forget about. The first consideration for any food item should be that it is actually something people will enjoy eating. Some people go for highly decorated food stuff that has all the taste appeal of a piece of cardboard coated in wax. We once had the misfortune to receive a platter of cookies that fit just that description, and what's incredible to me is that the person who bought them knew full well, in the words of her daughter, that "they are nasty," but thought that appearances trump taste. In truth I was not impressed by how they looked -- very tacky to my taste -- and it would have been better to buy regular bakery cookies that people would actually eat. I don't even like to take a chance on buying chocolates for people if I don't know what exactly is inside them. While any chocolate piece can look attractive in colorful foil, the filling may make it something only worth seeing but not worth eating.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

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 daughter is only 2 is already sympathizing with the plight of the nubile female, asserting that only the most beautiful girls get matched up, and that looks trump even money. As I am not anticipating marrying off my children for quite a number of years yet, I see no point in worrying about it now, though my husband and I joke that we will offer our son in trade for matches for out daughters. Yet I don't know if one can uphold such a contract if my son is to marry years before his youngest sister.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

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 that the technique for it actually was developed long ago -- back in the 1920's. It was not the demand of frum American women -- who still associated sheitels with the old world and old women, as Ruchama Shain points out in All for the Boss -- that was behind the development. The demand was for films. On the stage, actors wore wigs sewn on to bands -- like the falls of today. That worked fine at the distance between actors and audience in the theater but not for the closeups of film. So the lace front wig with its natural-looking hairline was made to help make movie magic. That is one of the interesting things I learned on a trip to the museum of the moving image in Astoria, Queens.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

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

Monday, March 10, 2008

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 60 degrees, and often fall out in the 40's -- not exactly sundress friendly weather. So why don't the dress manufacturers make something more appropriate to this season, not to mention appropriate in general?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

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 something that is more than just a gathering of pieces -- like the reeds woven together to form a basket. And each Jew has an equally important part in making up the whole, which is why all must give the same 1/2 shekel -- neither more nor less -- whether you are wealthy enough to endow the building or poor enough to have to fit this amount into your budget for the month.
That is what makes this particular contribution so pure. It is given with no hope of personal distinction. It does not augment one's status to say, "I gave 1/2 shekel," for the rejoinder would perforce be, "Well, so did everyone else!" One does not get any recognition like a plaque or journal ad for this yearly contribution, in which everyone counts equally. There is no contest to prove one's worth by giving an impressive amount. That is not an option for the 1/2 shekel offering. It is a reflection of each individual's worth becoming great as an indispensable component of klal Yisrael.

That is something Haman was completely unaware of. He sought self-aggrandizement by showing how he alone could match the amount of money offered by all the Jews together. But he completely missed the greatness of the forest by only seeing separate trees. It is not the money but the cohesiveness of the people it represents that makes the 1/2 shekel so valuable in Hashem's eyes.

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 as a reflection of the idea the Maharal conveys. Who could imagine any Jew having such hatred for another Jew to wish to crush his bones? It seems impossible. But now I know it is possible. I have encountered just such an individual (happily, not in person).
You should not think that R’ Akiva thought of himself as a Reform Jew. While he was not yet a talmid chacham, he would still have been called a shomer Shabbos Jew. He may well have contributed to his local shul, etc. But he had cut himself off from Torah learning and resented those who had it. Once R’ Akiva became the Gadol that he was, he became famous for saying, “Vehavta lereacha kamocha; zeh klal gadol baTorah.” [Love your neighbor as yourself; this is a major rule or premise in the Torah.] Only his saying is taught to children, even though other rabbis offered other opinions, citing other phrases from Tanach as klal gadol mizeh. I would suggest that it is not only that the “Golden Rule,” as it is sometimes called is key to what Torah is about but that learning Torah is key to the ability to exercise it. R’ Akiva confessed that as an am ha’aretz, he was, in fact, consumed with a raging hatred toward those in possession of Torah he lacked.

Once he became a talmid chacham himself, he recognized that loving one’s neighbor is the ultimate achievement. And it is only achievable to someone so immersed in Torah that he recognizes himself not as an individual apart but as part of the collective of klal Yisrael. As the Maharal says, the Torah was given not to a group of individual but the single, united entity of klal Yisrael. If one cuts himself off from Torah and chooses to remain in ignorance, he is also cutting himself off from the interconnectedness to others that is only possible through full participation in the teachings shared by the people. An am ha’aretz alienates himself from Torah teachings and so poses a threat to the very essence—and etzem [bone] also refers to essence—of what ultimately binds Jews together as one.

Related post: http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/05/quality-of-infinity-and-pardes.html

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 this particular cause to support.

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 were not very precious in and of themselves, for the metal was not silver. But they were precious because of what they represented and the women’s personal exertion that cannot be assessed in monetary terms. A further point: Rashi cites that Moshe did not want to accept the mirrors at first because he though the associations could be viewed at less than positive. But Hashem assured him that this offer was most precious. It seems clear that while Moshe may have thought of objections, he did not voice them to the donors, conveying the insult implicit in such a thought.

But today, the values are all skewed. An offer of a piece of base metal would be flung back in the donor’s face. The person in charge would say, “You dare to make such a lowly offering? Look at the precious stones I gave. I show true love for the Temple by bestowing great donation, while you give what is hardly worth the petty cash box. You have the audacity to consider the Torah learning you (or your husband) do and teach your children to be of real value? That doesn’t buy anything!” And people would back this on the grounds that it takes money to keep the place going. They may even pay lip service to the fact that Torah is valued. But the macher still takes pride of place.
[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 these laws provides a strong foundation for a marriage. This argument is more shaky, considering the large number of happy marriages all over the world that thrive without the spouces [sic] ever having heard about Taharat haMishpacha. However, this too is an argument that can be couched in logical terms. . . .

3. Keeping these laws is good for a women’s health, creates fertility and stops disease (specifically cervical cancer). Abramov also hints that healthier children are born to women who keep these laws. This argument, which Abramov is by no means the first to offer, has long annoyed me. Billions of women all over the world reach a ripe old health in perfect health despite not keeping these laws. While it is true that Orthodox women have a lower incidence of cervical cancer, this is most probably related to a lower number of sexual partners and has nothing to do with immersing in the mikveh. I find it pitiful that in our day and age, Orthodoxy seems to need to frighten women into keeping Taharat haMishpacha laws.





[In truth, I do not think that taharas hamispacha is the essence of femininity, but I suppose that Laws of Niddah, as Rabbi Eider’s sefer is entitled (also published 1988 BTW), would not be considered particularly appealing to a female market, and it has none of the fluff stuff meant to make the laws more palatable.� Yet it is much more detailed.� If you have� a question on harchakos, this is a good place to look it up—no secrets here, though.]

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.