Thursday, July 29, 2010

The issue of women's ordination

Divrei Chaim: Rabbi Riskin on women's ordination: "On Shabbos I had the privilege of hearing Rav Shlomo Riskin speak, and one of the topics he addressed was the issue of women’s ordination. ..."
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concerned about intenet privacy?

See this article with links to sites that let you see what others could see.

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Free and very low cost live entertainment : a true New York bargain and a LI one, too

For Broadway and Off Broadway show deals, see
Free and very low cost live entertainment : a true New York bargain

For a Sunday outing that free, educational, and fun for the family see

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Friday, July 23, 2010

You don't always save money when you do it yourself

DIY projects appeal to thrifty minded people because they often do save them the cost of labor.  But some DIY projects actually can end up costing you more than buying the finished product that is cheaply made in countries where labor costs are very low.  That doesn't mean you have to always choose the more economical option, but you should consider that the impact on your budget.  If you are really interested in the DIY project as a hobby, then you may find the extra expense warranted.  What brought this to mind was a post I saw about making your own eyeshadow.  No, it did not reveal how to do it but advertised a workshop on it with a fee of $35.  For me, $35 would cover more than a lifetime supply of eyeshadow (honestly, I almost never wear it) and that does not even include the materials one may have to buy in order to mix up their own batches.  So if you get a real kick out of mixing colors, it may be worth it, but if you wish to save money, you may want to check the sales at your local store instead.

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Making money on people who seek a shidduch

 I don't knock  amuka and I don't knock tzedaka,  but I do find something rather exploitive in the way the two are dovetailed in this post:
RARE TEFILLAH OPPORTUNITY FOR SHIDDUCHIM CALL IN YOUR NAMES NOW!1-866--- This coming Monday – TU B’AV, July 16th , ט"ו באב The auspicious day deemed by Chazal as a special day to pray for a Shidduch, A minyan of Talmidei Chachamim (Torah Scholars) will pray for you or a loved one in AMUKA, The resting place of Reb Yonasan Ben Uziel רבי יונתן בן עוזיאל בעמוקה Where thousands have already been answered Send in your name for a donation of $72 to ____to assist in Pidyon Shvuyim For your Donation of $180 you can give in an unlimited amount of names and receive 2 gifts to grace your Shabbos table.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

What is Shabbos Nachamu?

What is Shabbos Nachamu?
I got some odd comments on the groups that linked to this article.  I don't think those people read it through.  They seemed to stop after the first few lines and then commented that they were confused about the relevance of the article.  When I review a book I read it -- I don't merely skim a couple of pages -- I would expect that before people comment, they should at least read through the post that is just a couple of hundred words long. 

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

recommended reading

I just finished reading A Match Made in Hell: The Jewish Boy and the Polish Outlaw Who Defied the Nazis  by Larry Stillner with Morris Goldner.  It is  an account of Holocaust survival based on a unlikely partnership.  Morris, who was named Moishe and known as Moniek among the Poles, tell his story with recollection built into the narrative that begins with his surviving being shot and rescued by a notorious Polish robber who is also wanted by the Nazis.  They become partners in crime -- literally -- as they rob both to survive and acquire ammunition for the Partisans.  Along they way, they do kill some Nazis, though.  Though the robber always insists that his sole motive is his own survival, Moishe learns that there is something more involved.

Moishe's small size makes him useful for missions that require squeezing into tight spaces or passing as a child.  But his childhood already came to an end when the Germans moved into Poland.  As the book progresses, we learn that he had already learned to fend for himself while surviving in hiding.  But he does learn a lot more about self-defense and strategy. Moishe is trained in a range of weaponry that include grenades, guns, and his bare hands. He also is tutored in German; his knack for picking up languages serves him well even after the war when he confronts new dangerous challenges.

Though Moishe did not end up in a concentration camp himself, he still bears witness to the horrors of the Holocaust that he saw first-hand or heard about from his robber partner who had escaped from Auschwitz.  Though Moishe was brought up in a home where Shabbos and kosher were observed, theis book is not written from a frum perspective.After arriving in America -- where he was assigned the name of Morris -- he asks a rabbi how G-d could allow this to happen.  The rabbi said he did not know.  Now that was an honest response, I thought, even if it is not a comforting one.  At least the rabbi did not make the mistake the Iyov's friends do in offering explanations to justify suffering of someone else.     One warning:   there is a fair amount of profanity.  It may be an accurate translation of the German or Polish dialogue recounted or a rendering of it into the the English that would be expected by modern audiences.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why blame Kamtza?

For the audience sophisticated enough to already be familiar with the basic story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, I would like to share here a point from the sefer Netzach Yisrael  by the Maharal (credit to my husband, Rabbi Brown, for pointing it out to me).  The question is why is the account named for Kamtza and Bar Kamtza?  Kamtza is not even present in the story.  He was on the guest list, but did not even show up to the feast because his invitation was delviered to Bar Kamtza by mistake. So why should his name be connected with the event that is pointed to as the cause of the churban?  

The Maharal explains that when sinas chinam dominates, even the love of friendship becomes corrupted as a means to divisiveness and exclusion.     The "love"  that the host of the feast had "for Kamtza was in truth chiluk vepirud umachlokes kemo hasina [division and separation and dissension tantamount to hatred]. It was a means to division -- a group of intimates formed for the sake of excluding others.  The name of Kamtza refers to separation, for its root refers to kemitza [removal] as in "vekamatz misham" (Vayikra 2:2) "That which is separated and removed from everything is call kmitza." Thus the name of Kamtza  signifies that even the relationship of friends was  corrupted into a manifestation of separation rather than of love when sinas chinam dominates.  That is key point in bringing about the churban.  The application to a society prone to cliques and strongly defined social circles should be obvious.

Magic pills

 I'm referring to the ones I saw for sale in my local kosher store called in Hebrew Kali Tzom.  They seem to originate in Israel with a certification from the BaDaTz . The ones I saw came 6 to a pack and were priced at $13.99.  They were accompanied by a card that showed they are also available in version for pregnant women and for nursing mothers (those packs contained fewer pills).  They are supposed to deliver "energy" throughout the dayl, which probably means caffeine in a time released formula.  Now, while that may be helpful to the average person who suffers from caffeine deprivation, but I don't see how it would be very helpful to pregnant and nursing women.  The biggest issue of nursing on a fast day is dehydration, as nursing mothers require more liquids than the average person.  This pill will not make up for that lack.  As for pregnant women, I don't know if extra caffeine would be considered advisable.  Generally, pregnant women who feel ill from fasting are exempt from doing so, or they can break fast at the point when they begin to feeli ill on Tisha B'Av.  .

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some not very light reading -- the life of Sir Moses Montefiore

Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero I just finished reading Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero byby
by Abigail Green.  This is by no means a beach book.  It spans 423 pages of densely written text followed by over a hundred pages for the notes, appendix, and index.. It is very heavy on the history and does not really get inside the head of the subject to the extent that other biographies tend to do.  That may be because Montefiore ordered so many of his papers to be burned, thereby securing his private life from coming into public view.  There are some extant letters and diary entries that she does draw upon, though, to offer some insight on the experience of this Sephardic Englishman who was so involved in historic events affecting his Jews throughout the world in his 100 year lifespan.  His wife of 50 years, Judith, was of Ashkenazic background, and her sister was married to a Rothschild.   There were fantastically rich Jews, and Montefiore was granted the title Sir by Queen Victoria just after she assumed the throne.  Still  Jews still did not have full rights in England and anti-Semitic sentiments were openly expressed.  In other parts of Europe and in the Middle East, Jews were persecuted by both Christians and Muslims.  The details of such instances that were brought to Montefiore's attention are presented through many pages of the book.

One of the parts I found most striking was the parallel between Avraham's purchase of ma'aras hamchpela and  Montefiore's purchase of land in the Holy Land. The seller would declare, "You are my friend, my brother, the apple of my eye, take possession of it [the land] at once. This land I hold as an heirloom from my ancestors.  I would not sell it to any person for thousands of pounds, but to you I give it without money . . ." but only excuses followed.  Montefiore ended up paying a full thousand pound (p. 247).   However, most of the other transactions recorded in the book -- and there are a great  many -- are not as fascinating.  There is a great deal of painstaking detail included, which shows solid research but does not make the book a real page turner.

The author does provide some speculation about what Montefiore may have wished to hide. She states almost as if it were established fact that Montefiore had children outside his marriage though she fails at producing anything concrete to substantiate it. In the instances when she presents the supposed sons rumored to be his, she then admits in the following paragraphs that their mothers were not in the vicinity of Montefiore at all at the time the child would have been conceived.     She pulls this type of thing also in a totally different context in which she recounts that Montefiore ventured on the Temple Mount during one of his historic trips to Jerusalem.  He was subsequently put in cherem [excommunicated for a religious violation].  Then a few paragraphs down she relates how the proposed schools for girls in the Holy Land was not at all well received, and that it was this proposal that prompted his excommunication
  The author does try to bring up the opposing forces of the Victorian notion of modernity, European superiority, self-sufficiency, and  progress with the rooted and networked view of Torah Jewry.  Montefiore opposed the Reform movement, felt strongly about his Jewish heritage, and seemed to keep Shabbos and kosher (though the author points out the port would not have been made of kosher wine).  He cut off relations with his brother after his defection to the Reform congregation, though some of his relations ended up marrying Christians.  Though he often wrote sifrei Torah -- the opening and closing in his hand -- he was not  truly yeshiva educated in the sense that an Eastern European observant Jew would have been.  He also would donate and raise money for Christian causes, as well as Jewish ones.  So, though he provided financial support that benefited many Jews, including the most right wing beneficiaries of the chaluka system, his life was not defined completely by the values they would have espoused. He wouldn't quite fit the standard demarcations of the strata of Orthodoxy today.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Checking out a shidduch with a PI

In many of the Orthodox Jewish circles found in New York,  it is common to check out a proposed shidduch [proposed match] prior to agreeing to meet.   Typically, the singles or their parents will offer names and phone numbers as references (see just send me your resume  The references are usually teachers or others who know them from their schools, friends, and  neighbors.  Those who are of a more suspicious nature will not accept the word of the designated references and will try to get information from their own connections.  Their concern is that those with direct links to the single in question may not want to reveal anything negative about them, which is, usually, just what they wish to uncover. continued at

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Rules of Engagement

See the 3 parts

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Fun vs. Joy

A little while back I posted the question whether one associates children with nachas or tza'ar gidul banim [pain of raising children] on Facebook. Today my husband sent me a link to an article from New York Magazine that skews toward the tza'ar. It is titled, "All Joy and No Fun." Some findings are rather obvious. Of course, there is not much pleasurein childcare --like diaper changing. And taking care of children takes much time and effort with little visible result for years.  But one doesn't become a parent in order to have fun.  One should not even enter marriage with the expectation of nothing but fun.  Building anything take effort and some pains, and that goes for building a home and family, as well.   See the article at

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Beat the heat in New York

Beat the heat in New York

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Leaving and turning over a new leaf

I'm sure that if I would have added on the tag "prostitute," I would have drawn more hits, but I didn't even though I did have grounds for it.  That is in the second of these two posts:
These are not really about the 4th of July itself but on the concept of independence in Jewish thought.

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