Sunday, August 22, 2010

Haveil Havalim #281: The Summer's End Edition

Yom rishon, 12 Elul 5770.

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").

So, summer has been hotter than usual nearly everywhere, and it's coming to an end.  Soon we'll be wishing each other to be written and sealed for a good year, and worrying about school supplies and if we have enough room for all of the guests for all of the holidays.  (Don't worry.  You do.)

As we prepare to be better people in 5771, let's also squeeze the last few drops out of summer in this issue of Haveil Havalim.

Two very cool kids, enjoying a summer outing before gan starts back up again in the fall.

Kashrut and Jewish Food:

Hadassah Sabo Milner effectively tackles one of the most daunting aspects of the Jewish kitchen in How to Braid a Challah, posted at In the Pink.  Six strands!  You go, Girl!

Rahel gives us a detailed and well-illustrated explanation of the pot-kashering process in The Great Kashering Caper, posted at Elms in the Yard.

Culture and History:

Mirjam Weiss delightfully shares a recipe, and a little Israeli-style camping, in Roughing It, posted at Miriyummy.

Ilana-Davita presents the second part of her photo essay on Jewish History in Hamburg (part 2).  In both parts, her photos and stories open a small window into a Jewish world long gone.

Nesher presents Dangerous Fraud of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, posted at Best Hoaxes and Pranks.


Susan Barnes examines powerfully and beautifully The Purpose of Prayer, posted at To Kiss A Mezuzah.

Batya's essay, Judaism, 24/7 (posted at Shiloh Musings), really resonates for me.

Allison Josephs presents the best and least-offensive explanation of Conversion 101 that I have ever encountered in Changing Teams: Amare Stoudemire and the Orthodox Perspective on Converting to Judaism, posted at Jew in the City.  (Be sure to check out Elle's comment, as well, for a nice addition.)

The apparently tireless Jacob Richman gives us Educational Resources and Cool Videos for the Jewish New Year, posted at Good News from Israel.

Ben-Yehudah offers his COMMENT ON JEWISH ISRAEL POST, posted at The Key to Redemption.

West Bank Mama reminds us about what not to take for granted when Praying for the Basics.

Mara shares very fairly and honestly her family's financial struggles in It’s not just the kosher food. Being Jewish is expensive, and invites her readers to do the same.  Posted at Kosher on a Budget.

Shira Salamone says, "In my opinion, the controversy surrounding the recent Kabbalat Shabbat led by a woman in an Orthodox synagogue is connected to a tendency to confuse minhag/custom and halachah/law."  She sets out to explain her position in "Conversion" of a different kind, posted at ON THE FRINGE—AL TZITZIT.

Batya discusses separate seating on buses and at kiddush in About Respect, posted at me-ander.

Hadassah Sabo Milner begins a lively discussion of Tuition, posted at In the Pink.  Interesting comments from the readers, in which at least one person (my friend, Baila) makes a reference to the lower tuition costs in Israel.


Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner presents a highly-readable and inspiring journey through a portion of Rav Kook on Teshuvah: Healthy, Natural and Guaranteed, posted at The Rebbetzin's Husband.

Ima 2 Seven says what a lot of us feel in If you are doing Elul right, it's hard.

Joshua Waxman asks "Did the eshet yefat toar dress so beautifully to distract the enemy armies?" in Distracting dress on the sidelines of battle?, posted at parshablog. He then explores further ramifications on the topic, such as such as maakeh and divorce, in Ibn Caspi and Diber Torah BeHoveh.

Chaviva shares her thoughts on a bit from the parshah, specifically on not wearing the clothes of the opposite sex and shaving, in Rashi on Shaving: Ki Teitzei, posted at Just Call Me Chaviva.

Rachel Barenblat presents a New translation of Isaiah for Yom Kippur, posted at Velveteen Rabbi.


As an olah chadasha (new immigrant to Israel), I am always grateful to have clear markers of my progress.  Ben-Yehudah helps me out with Ten Reasons You Know You're Israeli, posted at Esser Agaroth.

Rachel Neiman shares a delightful Nostalgia Sunday -- Haifa Postcards, posted at ISRAELITY. And for the ornithologists among us (Google that), she presents Foto Friday -- Jerusalem Bird Observatory, also posted at ISRAELITY.

The Dearly Beloved and I had a great outing, learning the how and why of tekhelet (the blue dye used for tzitzit, ritual fringes).  Travel with us, won't you?  "It must be similar to the color of the sea...", posted at Ki Yachol Nuchal!.

"So what if it's hot? We're going out!"  Risa introduces us to a boardwalk restaurant in Tel Aviv, Learning to Love It, posted at Isramom.  (Take more pictures, Risa.  The wine and platter were only an appetizer!)

David offers his hope for a positive future in The fall of a wall, posted at ISRAELITY.

Lady-Light shares Jane Corbin's report in Panorama Surprise: A Fair Report on Israel and the Turkish Flotilla Incident posted at Tikkun Olam  As Lady-Light says: "The BBC presenting an unbiased report about Israel? Priceless."

Sara Layah says, "Several Gush Katif residents who were uprooted, displaced, and their communities destroyed by the Israeli government have written books either in English, or translated into English. Here is a listing with brief description for those interested in learning more about life in Gush Katif from people who lived, loved, laughed, prayed, struggled... and cried."  GUSH KATIF BOOK FEAST, posted at Shiloh Musings.

Joel Katz presents Religion and State in Israel - August 16, 2010 (Section 1) and Religion and State in Israel - August 16, 2010 (Section 2), posted at Religion and State in Israel.

Risa proudly presents a video of a Zionist initiative in the Negev in Making the Desert Bloom: The MOVIE!, posted at Isramom.  It's a seven-and-a-half minute reminder of how and why to be a proud Zionist, with no apologies.

Mrs. S. offers yet another reason for national park membership in National Parks: Tel Chatzor Edition, posted at Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress.

Jacob Richman always takes some of the best and most moving photos at any Nefesh B'Nefesh Welcome Ceremony he attends.  See if you can spot any familiar faces in Welcome Home to the New Olim (and 382 photos), posted at Good News from Israel.  (I sure did.  If I'd know there would be so many chums among the guests, I woulda gone, too!)

Antisemitism and Politics:

Batya asks Why Israel?, posted at Shiloh Musings.

David Morris shares a surprising response from a Turk, as he showed him his Israeli passport, in Incident between Turk and Israeli, posted at Tzedek-Tzedek.

Lady-Light discusses George F. Will's scathing attack on the fact that "Patronizing American Lectures...Are Now Obscene", posted at Tikkun Olam.

Avi Abelow says it's time to make a choice in Pick A Side Video, posted at Chizuk Now!.

Independent Patriot speaks out in Law, Justice and the American Way: The Ground Zero Mosque Controversy, posted at Liberty's Spirit.



In her post, Fencing with the Photographer, Susan Barnes struggles with how to deal with mindless Shabbat desecration, and her own communication of this, at To Kiss A Mezuzah.

Home-shuling reminds us that Judaism is the hands-on religion for kids in Homeshuling's Top Ten Jewish Rituals Your Family Will Love.

Elianah-Sharon has been blogging her runners-up to her Jewels of Elul post scheduled for Sept. 7.  Her latest entry is all about a very special soul, whom I would delight in meeting:  Jewels of Elul...Another beginning.

And another of her runners-up can be read at: Jewels of Elul, posted at Elianah-Sharon.  If you ever wondered how to remain grateful under the most trying of circumstances, read her blog.  Great lessons here!

Batya posts at me-ander, wherein we get to share the very normal feeling of Losing It.  You and me both, girlfriend...

And speaking of losing it, Yisrael Medad offers a remarkable and beautiful story of a diamond lost and a diamond found in | BlogCentral | Green-Lined | Playing lost-and-found with a diamond, posted at Green-Lined.

rickismom offers Two Short Vignettes, posted at Beneath the Wings.

Hadassah Sabo Milner takes the leap to full new-self acceptance in Final Step, posted at In the Pink.

One of the privileges of hosting Haveil Havalim is the opportunity for a little self-aggrandizement.  Here I present a few words about one of my heroes.  Rockin' the Old Folks at Home, posted at Ki Yachol Nuchal!.

Minnesota Mamaleh shares a deeply felt moment in About Joy, posted at TC Jewfolk.

Chaviva appears to be getting quite a few advance orders on a future book in Judaism (and the Web) Saved Me, posted at Just Call Me Chaviva.


Ben-Yehudah (and Dov Bear?) present Heshy Fried's Save Eliyahu Weinstein send me your money now posted at Frum Satire.

David Levy says:  "This post includes a link to the Manischevetini recipe, a video of an old Jew singing 'Rehab' in Yiddish, and a TOP SECRET link to a Japanese production of Fiddler on the Roof performing 'L'Chayim' in Japanese. What can I say? I'm a giver."  Check out Wines, Whines, and Amy Winehouse, posted at's voice.  I appreciated David's statement that Manischewitz  is "the alcoholic equivalent of Cheezwhiz."

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 pageNote:  Please forgive a little whining on behalf of the hosts.  Because I was busy making Shabbat on Friday (What can I do?  They expect to eat.), I had 16 new submissions to deal with after Shabbat.  I like to treat you all nicely and actually read your stuff.  Give a girl a break, gang.  Try to get your stuff in before the last minute.  Thank you.

News Flash for Jewish Bloggers!  There is a new kid on the block, that hopes to work hand in glove with Haveil Havalim to increase individual readership and general camaraderie among Jewish Bloggers.  Take a few minutes and drop by The Kehila to see what it has to offer you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rockin' the Old Folks at Home

Yom chamishi, 16 Elul 5770.

The Dearly Beloved in his new "Tulsa Time" shirt.

The Jewish month of Elul is a time for serious introspection, and focus on improving our observance of the 613 mitzvot (commandments).

Seems like a lot of stuff to get right, doesn't it?

It is impossible for any one person to fulfill all 613 commandments.  After all, some mitzvot can only be done by women.  Others, only by men.  Some can only be done by kohanim (priests).  Some commandments can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel.

There are a few comforting explanations offered for this.  We are reminded that we are a team -- united we stand, divided we fall.  In order to make one successful Jew, all Jews have to participate in the process.  It's nice to know we all count.

Another interpretation is that G-d loves us so much that He gives us 613 mitzvot so that we can each get at least one right.

The Dearly Beloved has several mitzvot that he fulfills well, in my humble opinion.  One of his best is kibbud av v'aim, the commandment to respect one's parents, specifically, and one's elders, in general.

The irony of this is that he lost his parents when they were very young.  That didn't stop him, though.  He spent thirteen years giving shelter and love and respect to my mother, before she, too, left this world.

You would think that fulfilling the mitzvah of kibbud av v'aim is a little difficult without parents, and especially difficult when you reach the age that people in their forties politely offer you their seats in the bus.  Not so -- at least where my husband is concerned.

I have learned so much from him, watching the great respect he has for elderly people.  Whenever he meets a WWII vet -- they're easy to spot, because they are proudly wearing WWII ball caps on their hoary old heads -- he will stop what he is doing, and converse with them about The Great War for as long as they care to speak.  His obvious love for them, and his gratitude for what they did, always pulls at my heartstrings.
We met this sweet couple as we waited for a bus in Jerusalem.  They're getting married soon.
Yesterday, half of the "Strung-Out Quartet" (our five-member garage band -- I'll tell you more about the band another time) accepted an offer to play a few tunes at the Nofei Yerushalayim Nursing Facility in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood.  The Dearly Beloved and our fiddle player, Uzi, spent a couple of hours playing country tunes and Jewish melodies for the residents of the home.

Uzi, fiddling around at rehearsal

Uzi lost his own dear father very recently, and is therefore not permitted to play music for a year -- except when he is doing it for parnassa (payment).  Jewish law demands respect for the dear departed -- but the Torah approach is not to endanger life or livelihood in the process of fulfilling the law.  But to Uzi and to my husband, the greatest part of their "paycheck" was the opportunity to make their parents' peers smile, tap their toes, and sing along.

As usual, the Dearly Beloved said that the best moments of the day were conversations he had with a few of the residents and volunteers.  The fact that some of them were Israelis made conversations about American country music quirky, but even more entertaining.  And the pancakes were also great!

Next time, you'd better have "Cotton-Eyed Joe" in your repertoire, boys.
May our careful attention to the fulfillment of the mitzvot hasten the Redemption, speedily and in our days.

Thanks for the cool new shirt, Rabbi Adler.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"It must be similar to the color of the sea..."

Yom shlishi, 6 Elul 5770.

The Dearly Beloved and I enjoy living in Israel so much that we don't really need to take vacations.  (Irony: In Chu"l, we needed vacations desperately, but couldn't afford them.)

So when we go out to "spy out the Land," it is really just to find out what else there is to love, outside our own back yard.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful adventure.  It started with our effort to get to our destination without a car.  We took a bus to Jerusalem, another bus to Tel Aviv, a train to Binyamina, another bus to Zichron Yaakov -- and then a taxi to Nachsholim on the Mediterranean Sea.  Our goal: to learn how tekhelet, the blue dye for tzitzit, is made.

We had been instructed to meet Rabbi Mois Navon at Beit Mizgaga, the museum where we would learn about the underwater archeological history of the area, and about the science and history of tekhelet.
The building housing the museum had once been a glass factory, but was abandoned in 1896.  The artifacts displayed in the museum span 4,000 years of history!

I tended to photograph those periods that had some Jewish reference -- good or bad.

Storage jars of the 13th-12th centuries BCE, found near Tafat Island in the south bay of Dor.

After a half-hour of milling around the museum, we were gathered into the viewing hall for a short film.  I strongly recommend the film The Mystery of Tekhelet, which can be viewed at The Ptil Tekhelet Organization ( site.  It clears up some of the historical mystery about the tekhelet controversy, introduces the scientific concepts, and shows the hunt for the little hillazon snails.  (Tiferes Yisroel crowd:  Rabbi Avraham Twerski makes a short instructional cameo appearance.)
The kids were getting all the shpilkes you would expect after an hour indoors on a sunny day by the beach -- so now it was time to don our snorkels and masks, and move on to the hands-on portion of the event.  The Dearly Beloved and I were as excited as the little kids.

To Rabbi Navon's credit, Torah was woven throughout his lectures.  He started by reminding us that everyone needed to wear tee shirts for the sake of modesty.  This added to the family-friendly atmosphere.  Then he explained to us what the snails looked like, what might fool us (hermit crabs; similar snails; algae-covered rocks), and that we would be throwing all of our catch back after our swim.  "If the fact that it's illegal doesn't stop you from taking them, remember that it's tzar balei chayim (giving pain to animals) to take them away from their habitat.  Within half an hour or an hour, they would be dead."  Jews don't do that for no reason.

We felt exactly six years old after this wonderful and fun experience.

Yes, I know.  Too cool to move, right?  They call me The Snorkel Fox, down by the beach.
In spite of the fact that I looked cooler in my gear than did the Dearly Beloved, he still was the more successful hillazon hunter.  (Go figure.)
The Great Snail Hunter
 I had a terrific time finding hermit crabs and chasing fish -- and the Dearly Beloved found the biggest hillazon snail of anyone.  Rabbi Navon pointed out that it seemed reasonable that the biggest guy would find the biggest snail.  "They look for him, Rabbi," I explained.
Sure I'm bragging.  MY man found the biggest snail of the day. 

Rabbi Navon made the scientific explanations interesting to kids -- and old people -- with similar lack of patience for boring stuff that takes too long.  His tee shirt has the chemical formula for the dye that is tekhelet.
Back to the hands-on part, our personal favorite!  It was time to take a pre-packaged version of what would have come from our snails, and mix it with water, and three other "secret ingredients."

We had the coolest table, since all of us happened to come from Gush Etzion.

The Dearly Beloved adding the second ingredient -- a base compound.

Time for Ingredient Number Three.  Don't ask me: I can't remember what it was.

"It's about the science, Lady.  It's not about the photo op."

When we added the fourth ingredient, Rabbi Navon asked why we would be adding an acid, now that we'd added a base.  Young Mr. Gillis (at the Gush Etzion table, natch) had the right answer: acid added to the base neutralizes the compound, so the fabric won't be eaten.  I don't need to understand.  I sit with smart people for a reason.

"High five!  YAY!"
After all of the "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble" part was complete, the best was yet to come.
It was time to dip our wool into the mixture.  But first, Rabbi Navon reminded us that a Jew cannot live thoughtlessly.  If we just dunked the wool in the chemicals, the resulting dyed wool would be just colored wool.  Any tzitzit strings that would be made from it would be pasul (invalid).  A holy object must -- from start to finish -- have Heaven in mind. 
"All together now: '...l'sheim mitzvat tzitit!'  For the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzit...

Just chemicals and wool and dunking are not the final step.  The rest is left to sun and clear water.  Incidentally, without exposure to the sun, the wool would come out with another holy mission.  It would be argamon, the Biblical purple mentioned in the construction of the mishkan.
Somehow, preparing tekhelet on an ancient Roman ruin delights me.
While the sun was doing its job, Rabbi Navon gave us more details about where the hillazon snail could be found, and more scientific facts about the tekhelet dye.

And now, the transformation.  Yellow wool... and nothing up my sleeve but this bottle of clear water...
Raptly attentive, the whole crowd waited for the dénouement of our great adventure.

Below is a short film of the miracle taking place, right at our own little Gush Etzion table.  If you can't see it here, you can watch it at YouTube here:

It was a great adventure, something fun for several generations to do at once.  And The Dearly Beloved and I have gotten a little more fuel for our fire for tekhelet.  Because it was the Romans who began the end of our use of this holy color, we feel a national pride in helping to restore it in our days.

"Our" tekhelet.
Chu"l: Chutz la-Aretz, outside the Land of Israel
Tekhelet: blue dye for making ritual threads
Tzitzit: strings attached to garments worn by Orthodox Jewish men - the threads remind him of  The Infinite
Ptil Tekhelet: thread of blue
Shpilkes: "ants in one's pants," antsiness
Mishkan: the movable Temple of the desert generation of the Jewish people

Haveil Havalim #280 is posted by Soccer Dad, the originator of this particular online journal of Jewish blogs.  This is a great way to get to know a sampling of the J-Blogosphere; so if you've always wondered about Jewish blogs and where to start, start here!   BTW, Soccer Dad's bride and I were old friends back in The Old Country...