Sunday, February 21, 2010

Haveil Havalim #257: The "Moshe Rabbeinu Birthday/Yahrzeit" Edition

Yom rishon, 7 Adar 5770.

No, this is not the gardening issue.  I'm taking the opportunity to share with you some of the flowers on parade just now in Israel.

Welcome to the latest issue of Haveil Havalim #257-- The"Moshe Rabbeinu Birthday/Yahrzeit" Edition.  This day has the distinction of being both the day of our great teacher Moses' birth and of his death.  Such is the spiritual power of this day that when the wicked Haman thought that Adar would be a good month in which to destroy the Jews, his evil plans were foiled.  So it seemed only fitting to acknowledge Moshe as we go to press with the most recent collection of some of the best of the Jewish Blogosphere.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It's hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term "Haveil Havalim," which means "Vanity of Vanities," is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other "excesses" and realized that it was nothing but "hevel" (or in English, "vanity").

Since it's Adar, we'll start with Humor:

One of the things I was looking forward to in hosting Haveil Havalim was the opportunity to discover new blogs.  A powerful find indeed is Frum N' Flipping.  She presents a chilling fable that feels all too possible.  Looking for "the right boy"?  Take a peek at what's going on at the Yeshiva Boy Auction.  I don't know if it's really humor...  but it's eminently readable.

Heshy Fried presents Video from my sunday night show in LA, posted at Frum Satire. My favorite line was when he declared himself  "a certified am ha'aretz... apparently I don't know enough to be an apikoris."


Here's a fun post about the Israeli addiction to Hebrew-English puns... Does your child go to "top gan"? Do you take tourists to the "grand kenyon"?  Maya updates us with Punning in Hebrish, posted at How to Be Israeli.  Memorizing these terms may not make you "sababa," but it will definitely make you funny.

And for those of us completely in the dark as to what our kids' schools are talking about, Mrs. S. shines a little light with The Official Our Shiputzim Adar Lexicon, posted at Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress.

Anthony offers a detailed analysis of Avigdor Lieberman and the party he drove to prominence in the Knesset in Da Lieberman, posted at The Israel Situation.

Eric follows with a note about Druze support for Israel -- support Israel sometimes forgets -- in  Druze Support IDF After Druze Soldier Murdered, posted at The Israel Situation.

SnoopyTheGoon presents Goldstone facts: when the messenger is the message, posted at Simply Jews.

Joel Katz presents Religion and State in Israel - February 15, 2010 (Section 1), and Religion and State in Israel - February 15, 2010 (Section 2) .  He states: "Religion and State in Israel is the only review of media coverage on issues of religion and state in Israel; and is not affiliated with any organization or movement."  While Joel and I substantively disagree on many issues, it is always instructive to pay attention to how other people view such concepts as mehadrin buses and conversion.

Imagine waking up from pneumonia to discover that you are wanted for murder!  In Double identity, posted at ISRAELITY, David shares the experience of an Israeli for whom identity theft became more than an inconvenience.

I can't pass up the opportunity to ask the question, "Would it be too much to ask for the Jews to give the Jews a break???"  Let me know what you think.  "Okay, People. Settle Down!", posted at Ki Yachol Nuchal!.

Rachel Neiman presents Foto Friday – Painting Feb Red, posted at ISRAELITY. Check out these photos of the holy Israeli "Calanit" flower, aka the anemone.  Gorgeous!


One of the things I love about Judaism is that Torah study permits and even encourages questions.  Young rabbinical student, Binyamin Miller, presents some thought-provoking questions in How have the mighty fallen, posted at Fear No Question.

Chabad Lubavitch makes things heimish for the Olympics.  Read the details in Chabad of Vancouver Game for Jewish Guests at 2010, posted at Chabad-Lubavitch news site.

Yosef Greenberg asks " Is supporting Jewish defendants backfiring?" Sending The Wrong Message is posted at Yachdus.


Jacob Richman is our very own font of everything useful. At Good News from Israel, he presents Educational and Fun Resources for Purim, to make this Purim everything you could possibly want for yourself and the kids.

Read what the build-up to Purim is like in an Israeli community at Whatcha gonna be for Purim?, posted at Ki Yachol Nuchal!.

At Homeshuling, we get to enjoy some beautiful and creative art projects prepared for the Purim holiday at  What?s even *fancier* than Valentine?s Day? posted at Homeshuling - A Jewish Parenting Blog.

Batya presents Shiloh's Special Double Purim posted at Shiloh Musings.

Is the Purim story relevant today?  Yisrael Medad presents A New Movement: Esther 4:14 posted at My Right Word.


If work takes you to Hong Kong, you won't want to miss Kosher Products in HK, posted by Ilana-Davita.


For those who wonder if Israel can handle its aging population with grace, Batya presents Handicapped Accessibility, posted at Shiloh Musings.  Spoiler alert:  B'hatzlacha to The Lion's Den!

Mottel presents Hassids and Hipsters: A Redux in Art and Thought posted at Letters of Thought.


Yosef Greenberg says "Thank you Klal Yisrael!" in E Pluribus Unum, posted at Yachdus.

SnoopyTheGoon presents Tom Friedman the scientist, posted at Simply Jews.


Batya presents The United States, A Christian Country, posted at Shiloh Musings.  She gives us a glimpse of how growing up in a media-enhanced Christian America helped to move her toward who she is today.  Yiddishkeit and Israel are the richer for it.

In his Jerusalem Post blog, Yisrael Medad takes on a Cohen from the New York Times, and clears up a few of the latter's historic misconceptions.  Read it at | BlogCentral | Green-Lined | Arab nationalism, Zionism and the US posted at Green-Lined.

At Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations,  we are privileged to a glimpse into the life of a very special man, who helped to improve the world for 87 years.  Chaim K. RIP  is a beautiful tribute to a truly awesome man.


Soccer Dad presents Life 2.0, posted at J O S H U A P U N D I T, wherein Joshua speaks with authority on what really matters in life -- from one who had a too-close brush with death.

Just call me Chaviva's refreshing voice offers us a tantalizing choice: Shabbos or a $20 bill?  Following this, she offers us delightful reviews of onstage humor, sodden veggies and gorgeous coffee at  Circumcised Comedian, Kosher Burgers, and Cafe!  (Stay tuned for one of the blogosphere's weddings of the decade...)

Meanwhile, Bored Jewish Guy shares some of what is going on in his mind in A guys thoughts on a first date. Such a frank post creates useful discussion: I definitely want to offer this guy some mom-wisdom.

Hadassah Sabo Milner presents an open-minded viewpoint of May-December romance in Golden Oldies « In the Pink.

Mordechai Torczyner shares with us the challenge of vying with the herring at Shabbos lunch in Rabbi and Toastmaster, posted at The Rebbetzin's Husband.

Robert J. Avrech shares some grocery store stream-of-consciousness in Shopping With Sarah Palin, Sorta, posted at Seraphic Secret.  Robert, you may be the only person who can make grocery lists, tattoos, politics and tofu all work together in the same salad.

Yisrael Medad found a press pass from 1991 and therein lies a tale of a different kind of surgical strike.  Read about it in The Story of a Press Pass, posted at My Right Word.

Hadassah Sabo Milner entertains an interesting discussion about the morality of hiding someone's health status from him in  Heinous or Harmless - terminal illness, posted at In the Pink.

Batya presents Dumbing Down, posted at me-ander.  Don't let the title fool you.  Getting older is not always a picnic.  Being there for our parents as they age may be even harder.  Batya tenderly allows us to feel it with her.

Jessica shares her mother's very special birthday experience in Vacationing with the amcha, posted at ISRAELITY.  Were you planning on inviting all those Germans, Druzim, and Russian Jews to the party, Jess?

Amy Meltzer tugs at the heartstrings as she brings us memories of cooking with our mothers...  and shares the frustration we sometimes feel with our kids' "help" in And some kind of help is the kind of help??, posted at Homeshuling - A Jewish Parenting Blog.

On the "Flip" side of family, Soccer Dad sheps a little nachas in Musical Son Day III, posted at Elie's Expositions.

My dear friend, Shprintz, remembers Israel as she hangs out her washing on her beloved Israeli laundry rack. That's keepin' the dream alive, Girlfriend!  Enjoy Ode to a Laundry Rack, posted at Remember Jerusalem.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Haveil Havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, RivkA.

Yom chamishi, 4 Adar 5770.

You really ask so little.  All you asked for as a birthday present was a favorite story involving you.  The problem is that I don't have one.  I only have your smile.

We had been corresponding anonymously for a while, due to your remarkable attitude and writing on your notable blog, Coffee and Chemo.  When we met for the first time at the first J-Bloggers' Convention -- may we meet at many more! -- you smiled that amazing smile.  It said, "Hi, friend.  Good to see you again."  I felt like we had know each other forever -- at least since Har Sinai.

Every time I have seen you since -- at the Second Annual J-Bloggers' Convention; at the J-Bloggers' Picnic in Gan Sachar; and the special surprise of seeing you at my dear friend's daughter's bat mitzvah!  (Who knew you were her auntie???) -- you have bestowed upon me that special RivkA smile.


We're all one entity.

We can get through whatever @#%! the world throws at us, as long as we do it together.

That's what that smile says.  (Would that we Jews could ALL give each other that encouraging smile!)

That smile, my dear RivkA, is the only present I want from you for my birthday, for the next 76 years.  Do your best, okay?



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Whatcha gonna be for Purim?

Yom revi'i, 3 Adar 5770.

 Even though Sukkot is my favorite holiday of the year, the build up to Purim has its own special magic.

My favorite part is the Great Costume Hunt, which plays itself out in posts in the local online networking list.  Never boring, even during relatively normal times of the year, the posts leading up to Purim are food for delightful mental images:

My 10 year old Indiana Jones is in search of a rugged looking brown jacket or button down shirt.  Anyone ready to help him find the holy grail?  : )

This Sunday - February 14th, we'll have our second annual Purim Costume Swap, at Nerissa's Place! Bring your old costume and exchange it for a new one!

My class is having a Shuk Purim tomorrow.  We would really appreciate any old or new makeup that you could give us. I am happy to pick it up from your house.

My daughter needs to wear monkey ears to school on Sunday.  Anyone have a monkey ear headband or anything else that could work?  Thanks!

My 3 yr old wants to be a fireman. Does anyone have a costume we could borrow?  We have a Chinese girl and boy, a tiger, a baseball kid costume.

We’re giving away two clown costumes.  One which Rafi wore when he was 2 (but is marked 6 years old), which needs some cleaning, and one that Shlomo wore that same year, which is now laughably big (but not laughable in a Purim way).  Any takers?

I am offering Superman, Ninja Turtle, Robin Hood, soldier, Moshe Rabeinu.  Looking to borrow a cowboy, and Rivka really really wants to be a parrot - any good suggestions????

Does anyone have a dwarf costume for a 9 yr old to borrow for tomorrow?

Does anyone have a lion costume for a 3-year-old?

Anyone have a Mickey Mouse costume or any part of for an eight year old girl?

Anyone have a constume/Chinese hat/any item of clothing an adult could wear if they wanted to dress Chinese for Purim?  Thanks!

Does anybody have a red curly wig we could borrow for Purim?

Happen to have a boy's cheetah costume lying around that would fit a seven year old?

Does anyone have cowboy boots (or something similar) size 36 / 37 that we can borrow for Purim? Also, any Cowboy vests out there for the lending?

Anyone have a Cat in the Hat hat that they wouldn’t mind lending out for Purim? Thanks. 

Is there such a thing as a porcupine costume?  And if there is, do you have one Daniel (age 3+) could borrow?

Here's wishing that everyone find all of the costume pieces she needs to add joy to the Purim holiday...  and that we are equally successful in finding all of the other pieces to play our parts in this holy and special day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Look what the cat dragged in.

Yom sheni, 1 Adar 5770, Rosh Chodesh Adar.

One of the delightful things about my early morning sojourn to ulpan is the stroll down Rechov Emek Refaim.  You never know what you'll see.  This morning, the cats were all lined up for their appointments at the local veterinary clinic.

Or so I thought.

I observed in sociological fascination to learn that Israeli cats wait in line much as Israeli people do.  ("Are you before me?  Who is after you?"  "I'm after him, and her, and before you.  Watch out for the big one.  He always slips in at the last moment, claiming he's in pain and can't speak Hebrew.")

Then the veterinarian stepped out, and cleared the matter up for me.  "They're just waiting for the most recent issue of Haveil Havalim," she explained, in perfect English.  As the cats devoured the "Rosh for Chodesh Adar, Not a Joke" edition, I marveled at how fortunate we humans are.  We don't have to wait in line for some well-meaning but overburdened physician to bring out copy out.  We can just pop over to Batya's place at Shilo Musings, and pick up our very own copy.

Ulpan: intensive Hebrew-language immersion class
Rechov: street

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Okay, People. Settle Down!"

Yom chamishi, 27 Shevat 5770.

I'm not given to ranting.  But I've had something on my mind for a while that I need to say.  I'll be happy to hear your opinion.

Would it be too much to ask that we get off each others' backs?

Let's start with a couple of short examples.

Plony, living in the United States, tells his friend, "You will destroy your teenager if you move her to Israel.  She will have trouble adjusting to the language, to the culture, to having less -- and she will hate you forever."

Plonit, living in Israel, tells her sister in the US, "People who refuse to make aliyah have no G-d!  Look it up in the Talmud.  It says that it's as if you worship idols!"

There are many stories on both sides of the equation colored by verbal abuse and discouragement.  As if either side can know what is going on in the hearts and minds and lives of those on the other side.

It reminds me of the debate that raged throughout my child-rearing years over which was superior:  being a stay-at-home mom, or being a working mom.  By the time each side got done talking over the other, mothers on both sides of the argument felt like losers.

Since it is impossible for us to know G-d's mind, I wonder if it wouldn't be more helpful if people validated each others' choices, instead of sabotaging each others' efforts to live healthy, productive lives.

People who want to take on the challenge and the dream of making aliyah should be encouraged for their noble goals, rather than dissuaded by "modern-day meraglim."

People who have made other choices have unshakable reasons -- at least at this time -- and shouldn't be verbally battered or belittled.  Besides, they have plenty of rabbis on their side of the argument, too.

We recently read in Parashat Beshalach that Moshe is instructed by Hashem to strike a rock, causing it to produce water for the Jews.  Later, in Parashat Chukat, Moshe again will strike a rock to bring forth water for the complaining masses, and will be punished for it by not being allowed to lead the Jewish people into the Holy Land.  Years ago, I heard one of those paradigm-shifting Torah explanations from Rabbi Ephraim Becker.  I'm paraphrasing, and any errors in transmission are mine.

Rabbi Becker asks why Moshe Rabbeinu was punished so severely for striking the rock.  After all, he was justifiably angry -- and not on his own behalf, but on Hashem's.  Which of Moshe's grandchildren, in our day and age, cannot feel defensive of our great teacher for this seemingly excusable lapse in patience?  Rabbi Becker explains that Am Yisrael had finally climbed back to the level of kedusha from which we had fallen since the time of Adam's chet.  In other words, if Moshe merely had spoken to the rock, the rock would have obeyed.  And the Jewish people would have come to the conclusion that if a rock can listen to G-d, surely we can.  And we would have been spiritually able, at that moment, to cross back to that exalted level of holiness as a nation.  From there, we would have been one tiny step to returning to Gan Eden...  and to Eternal Life.

But Moshe struck the rock.  And we all understand that in the short term, one can beat obedience into anybody.

We lost that moment for collective salvation.

And now we must crawl and scratch our way back up a mountain of spiritual scree to that moment of possibility as individuals, blind to a clear path, with decreasing guidance with every succeeding generation...

According to Rabbi Becker, for this error in judgment was Moshe kept from entering the Land.

We don't know what G-d wants.  We can only learn as much as possible, and strive -- individually and collectively -- to understand.

And it is my humble opinion that Hashem would be more proud of us for supporting each other than for cornering the market on The Right Answer.

Plony: the "John Doe" of Talmudic discourse; Plonit is my feminine version
Meraglim: the spies who gave a bad report of the land of Caanan, convincing the people that they could not successfully take the land -- even though G-d had brought them to it for that purpose (and would presumably back their effort)
Parashat Beshalach, Parashat Chukat: specific weekly readings from the Five Books of Moses
Moshe Rabbeinu: Moses, our Teacher
Am Yisrael: the nation of Israel
Kedusha: holiness
Chet: sin (the chet of Adam refers specifically to his decision to eat from the forbidden fruit)
Gan Eden: the Garden of Eden

Okay, Benjie.  I used your title.  Happy?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Amazing, but true.

Yom sheni, 17 Shevat 5770.

Warning:  If you are at all bothered by the concept of G-d taking the time to play with His creatures, this post is not for you.

Over the course of more than twenty years, I have become convinced that Hashem involves Himself in the day-to-day minute details of every life, including my own.

I also believe He has a sense of humor.  And I believe that He takes enjoyment of some sort in teasing His children.

I have been attending a wonderful ulpan called Ulpan La-Inyan for almost two months.  On the first day of class, we encountered several new words to express delight.  One of those words was "מדהים."  Transliterated as "madhim," this word means "amazing."  Great word, no?  Couldn't make it stick in my brain, no matter how hard I tried.  But as I stepped out of my classroom and made my way home via Emek Refaim Street, the word jumped out at me on the side of a truck.
The advertising slogan says: "Amazing what is possible to create from the simple things in life."
Naturally, I wanted to digitally trap this image, to add to my growing collection of Hebrew signs that I can actually understand.  But getting this photo was to be an eight-week obsession -- and I couldn't help but think that Hashem was having a bit of fun with me.

Several times, I could see the truck in the distance, but not close enough to get a good shot.
Or another truck would viciously move into the path between me and my quarry.
There was the day that two of the Strauss trucks went by...  and I couldn't unravel my camera from my handkerchief and keys.  "Two trucks, Hashem?  Do You have to rub it in?"

There was the day that I decided not to take my camera at all, because who wanted to take photos on such  a bad-weather day?  When we arrived at the pharmacy, there was my madhim truck, sitting in the parking lot, just waiting for a photo shoot.  "Thanks, G-d.  I got the message:  carry the camera always."

And there was the day I was on the bus, heading out the front gate of the yishuv, just as you-know-which-truck came in the gate to restock our makolet.  Where it would no doubt be sitting still for several minutes.  But I was on my way to ulpan.  "Thanks, G-d," I murmured.  "I am glad you are paying attention to me."

I discovered that there are plenty of Tenuva trucks on the roadways -- far more than their dairy competitors -- and that they like to sit still and pose for the camera.  But I did not give them the satisfaction.

Finally, I decided to try an end-run.  I pulled up the Strauss site on my computer.

It wasn't as clear and colorful as I might have liked -- but at least it took the edge off of the obsession.

I went back to a more-or-less normal life.  I had to admit that I was grateful to Hashem.  After all, I was so ready to photograph that truck at a second's notice that I got a lot of other interesting shots.  (I plan to show them to you in future posts.)  And with this philosophy, one does feel an intimate connection with one's Creator.  Why wait for illness or tragedy, G-d forbid, to remember that He is there for us?  He is capable of creating connection in myriad ways, after all.  If Hashem is up for a bit of teasing, I'm game.

Like any good father, He knows when the fun's gone on long enough.  Today He presented the prize.


Ulpan: an intensive Hebrew language-immersion course
Madhim: If you don't have this one by now, you weren't paying attention.
Yishuv: small community; settlement
Makolet: small grocery store
Strauss and Tenuva: two competing dairies