Monday, December 17, 2012

Cinnamon-Scented Tradition

Yom sheni, 4 Tevet 5773.

I used to make birthday cake, like nearly everybody else.  The boys would eat the frosting (often before it was served to the birthday boy), and my husband would politely consume a piece or two.  What he talked about with that misty-eyed look reserved for true nostalgia and a voice filled with wonder were his grandmother's cinnamon rolls.

Those cinnamon rolls were the stuff of legend.  Not only was there no cake on the planet that could hold a candle to Grandma's cinnamon rolls, but the tales abounded of how the Dearly Beloved learned speed and competitive treachery as he attempted to get to those cinnamon rolls before his stepfather ate the hearts out of every one, leaving only the less-interesting, drier outsides for "little Jimmy."  (Cruel?  Perhaps.  But great training in the art of being at the right place at the right time.)

Like all good wives, it became important to me to get Grandma's recipe.  There were a few obstacles to overcome.  Grandma had long since gone to bake cinnamon rolls in that great Kitchen in the Sky.  The Dearly Beloved, being a kitchen-challenged male, never asked for the recipe; and it seems his sisters hadn't, either.  His dear mama was also gone...

Patient research brought to light a great aunt who was ready to swap letters, photos of little Jimmy that he had never seen, and finally -- the holy recipe.  "I not only have the recipe for you," she wrote, "but in Thelma's own hand.  I'll find it, and send it along next time."  She did, and at last I held the four-by-six handwritten secrets to my husband's nirvana in my hand.  (I wish I had it to share with you now.)  "Thelma's Recipe for Julia's Buns" was the rather quaint title.  What followed only served to deepen the mystery.  In rounded pencil were the words:


That was it.  No measurements.  No temperature or time.  No clue, to a struggling baker wannabe.

I was not giving up.  I scoured cookbooks, and tested every recipe on my husband.  I honed and refined and combined recipes, seeking that look of near-euphoria, and the pronouncement:  "These taste just like Grandma's cinnamon rolls!"
Grandma Thelma with a precious great-grandson

Finally, finally, whether due to kindness or failing memory or fact, the Dearly Beloved said, "These are the best cinnamon rolls I've ever tasted!  Even better than Grandma's."

The problem is that they are little heart attack pills, cleverly disguised as food.  So meanie that I am, I told my dear one that he could have the cinnamon rolls once a year, on his birthday, because I want to see him at many, many birthdays.

But all that clever deceit taught to him at the knees of Stepfather Bob had not gone to waste.  My dear husband convinced each of his sons, one by one, that the boy didn't really like birthday cake.  The boy liked cinnamon rolls, didn't he?

So Abba could get away with cinnamon rolls once a month -- at least for the months of January, March, September, October, November and December.  Does the wiliness stop there?  Not at all.  It has become a family requirement that one of the first questions asked a prospective spouse is: "When is your birthday?"  The boys have cleverly added a couple more months to the cinnamon roll tradition.  (Abba is working on their math skills, to try to persuade them to offer him perfectly-timed grandchildren as well.  Thankfully, they seem to be ignoring him here, and simply going about their business.)

Thankfully, my husband did not continue the cycle of theft of his youth: no soft hearts are consumed without their full outer-jackets of crispy, thin dough.

Please enjoy the traditional birthday treat of Chez Mizrachi.  Remember: not healthy.  Once a year, only.  Unless you're very, very clever.

 Julia's Thelma's Ruti's Cinnamon Buns Rolls
Combine in small bowl:
1 cup whole milk
1 large beaten egg
4 tablespoons melted butter (taken from 200 grams)
4 tablespoons water

Combine in larger bowl:
4 cups self-rising flour (measured by scooping flour gently into cup, and leveling off)
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Knead dough until soft ball is formed, adding a tiny amount of flour, as needed.  Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Roll out into a large rectangle.  A better pastry is produced by rolling the dough out very thin.

Mix together the remaining butter of the melted 200 grams, a cup of dark brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons (or more) of ground cinnamon.  Spread it over the dough.  (Go ahead.  Get your hands into it.  Like a great peanut-butter sandwich, it's better if the filling extends right to the edges.)  Roll the dough into a log, pinching the seam to seal in the filling.  Cut into 1/2- to 1-inch slices, and place in two round pans that have been sprayed with Pam (or greased in any other conventional manner).  Cover with a kitchen towel that reminds you of your grandmother's kitchen.  Allow to rise until doubled.

Bake in preheated oven set at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 15 or 20 minutes.  You want the cinnamon rolls to be thinking about turning brown, but not quite there yet.  If you're feeling very decadent, you can spread or drizzle over the warm cinnamon rolls a frosting made of 1 teaspoon milk, 100 grams powdered sugar, 50 grams of melted butter, and a bit of vanilla extract, or etrog liqueur, if it's near Chanukah time, when etrog liqueur is traditionally ready.

Happy birthday, Best Friend!  May we share many more happy, healthy years (in spite of your consumption of Thelma's and Julia's Buns).  I have no idea what your grandmother would have thought of the final product.  But I like to think that she'd be happy I made her little Jimmy happy.

Chanukah and the Dearly Beloved's birthday go hand-in-hand.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The timeless elegance of pearls of time

Yom revi'i, 28 Kislev 5773, Chanukah.

Life is a series of moments, strung together like pearls.

Sometimes, we hardly notice them, until a great strand is piled up behind us.  At other times, we are "in the moment," aware of everything around us, and a minute has the magical feeling of lasting for many more seconds than sixty.

Today, I was shopping with someone I love, helping her to find her very first appliances for her very first home.  An excellent fellow with children in Russia and Spain but none in Israel was waiting on us (singing snatches of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" as he looked up details about stoves and refrigerators for us).

Champagne Girl and I were having so much fun shopping that we not only didn't lose track of time -- we became very aware of it.  She was chattering away with me and the salesman and with Yeshiva Bochur on her cell phone.  Suddenly we realized that, for the last time in this century, we could make note of one of those multiple number moments.

At exactly 12:12 on the 12th of December in the year 2012, cell phone cameras were recording Champagne Girl's and Rutimizrachi's Amazing Appliance Adventure.

Even Anatoly, our salesman, realized the importance of the moment, and shared it with us.  (After the photo shoot, he went around the store telling everyone about the moment they had just missed.  His enthusiasm was very sweet.  And his service was great.)  I gave him a bracha that his children in Spain and his children in Russia, and all of his grandchildren, should join him soon in our holy Homeland.

The main thing I appreciate about the silly little exercise of the 12-12-12-12-12 photo op is the importance of every. single. moment.

Living mindfully.  Making it count.

In case we get too caught up in the wrong perspective on this moment, my sister reminds us of the following on her Facebook status (which she apparently got from a site called

It is, indeed, 12.12.12 for the Gregorians, but it is also:

Julian (Old Style) 2012-11-30 (Thursday, November 30, 2012)
Islamic (Moslem) 1434-01-29 (Muharram 29, 1434)
Hebrew (Jewish) 5773-09-29 (Kislev 29, 5773)
Mayan Long Count
Mayan Haab 13-15 (15 Mac)
Mayan Tzolkin 12-9 (9 Eb)
Old Hindu Solar 5113-08-29 (Vris'chika 29, 5113)
Old Hindu Lunar 5113-08-30 (Karttika 30, 5113))
Coptic 1729-04-04 (Kiyahk 4, 1729)
Ethiopian 2005-04-04 (Takhs'as' 4, 2005)
Jalaali 1391-09-23 (Azar 23, 1391)
Japanese Traditional "Kyureki" with CE 2012-11-01 (Taian, Shimotsuki 1, 2012)

Back to reality: We are approaching the fifth night of Chanukah.  This has always been a special night for our family.  We adopted this Chassidic custom years ago of observing this night of the holiday with special significance... and it is gratifying to us that our children still see the fifth night as something special.  It is the only night of Chanukah that can never fall on a Shabbat -- and yet it has its own special holiness, a brave light in the darkness.  We Jews can take strength in that holiness.  No matter how dark it gets, our job in the world is to add to the light.
One of our special bubas lighting her first "very own" menorah
This is a time to remember, as our future mechutan wrote in a beautiful d'var Torah, that too much geshem (rain) in the form of gashmiut (materialism) can drown us.  This is a time that should remind us of the inherent superiority of ruchniut (spirituality) as a pursuit in our lives.  So, yeah -- we went fridge shopping today.  But what we actually did was to connect with each other in a loving and fun way, with attention to each other's needs; to infect another human being with the love of the moment; to begin the process of building a bayit ne'eman biYisrael (a faithful and faith-filled home in Israel)!

May all of our strung-together moments be individually cherished like prized and polished pearls.

"I got everything I need right here with me. I got air in my lungs, a few blank sheets of paper. I mean, I love waking up in the morning not knowing what's gonna happen or, who I'm gonna meet, where I'm gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you... to make each day count." ~ Jack Dawson, on board the "Titanic"

This post dedicated to a friend of mine, Alon Yarom ben BatSheva, who could use your prayers as he wages a mighty battle.  May he have a complete and speedy recovery, among all of the holy cholim of Am Yisrael.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lace and Pearl Paper, Mothers and Daughters

Yom shlishi, 20 Kislev 5773.

 To my dear friend, the mother of my future daughter-in-law:

For more generations than you and I know, Jewish mothers have had to imagine what it was like for far-away daughters to go through the stages of growing up, because it has been a sad part of our people's heritage for families to wander, sometimes separately.  It cannot be easy for you, even with all of the modern technology that allows us to stay in better touch than families of other times, or of other less-developed cultures.

Your email today about some of the steps you are coordinating with us from across the sea inspired me to write a little something for you and your daughter, and also for all of the mothers and daughters separated by an ocean and a dream of a better life.

I never had a daughter
So the pretty silver laughter between you over dresses is a sound that’s new to me
Your affection for pearl paper for her wedding invitations
Rings as sweetly has her joy for tulle and lace and grenadine

It must be hard to be so far away
While she is changing from your little bird into this lovely dove before our eyes
May we share for many years the love and laughter that my ears have had the privilege
Of sharing as I’m watching from the side

I hope this fragment of a love song shares just a bit of the happiness and awe I feel at being permitted to be part of the friendship you have with this lovely young woman.  I look forward to when you will be her neighbor here in Israel, and mine.

Watching this mother-and-daughter dance will be even more beautiful than hearing it.

And I would consider it an honor if I can play a part.

My mama's not around anymore.  But we were also good friends.

In honor of all the mamas and daughters everywhere, who've been separated by time or distance, let's share a joyful tear together, shall we?

May all of our simchas be shared, in person, here in our holy homeland, very soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not everybody's crazy.

Yom shlishi, 6 Kislev 5773.

Just as every person who had ever rescued that bully from admitting defeat helped create the cowardly brute I saw that evening in the bar, every well-intentioned power that has ever stepped in and negotiated a ceasefire for an Arab aggressor has helped create the monsters we see around us today. ~ David Bogner, 2006

I haven't been writing here a lot lately.  Not because we are busy cowering in bomb shelters, thank G-d, but because I have been busy planning a wedding.  Life goes on, quite joyfully, except when I worry anxiously about my friends living in direct line of missile fire from Gaza, and about my dear sons, ready and waiting for orders to defend our country.

Okay -- I've also been busy on Facebook, somewhat less on Twitter, doing my part in the hasbara (public diplomacy vs. propaganda) war effort.  As you surely know, the modern battle ground isn't just fought with planes and boots in the mud, nor only with prayer.  These days, we fight on three fronts: the physical, the spiritual, and the technological.  The war of ideas is very active.  He who makes the most succinct and persuasive Facebook poster wins.

I know it seems very trite.  It does to me, too.  But I am reminded that in generations past, columnists in newspapers and writers of magazine articles went head-to-head on the meaning of any given war, and of who had a greater justification to fight for his version of what was right.

Today, you don't have to go to journalism school to have your say.  Quite frankly, I think it's better if you don't.  The once-honored field of journalism has been totally trashed by too many agenda-driven pundits.

Most recently, my efforts in telling Israel's side in this propaganda war have been fueled by two of my lovely nieces.  Both non-Jews, they had very different upbringings.  One was raised with the liberal values of loving one's fellow man, of getting along in peace and harmony on a global scale.  One was raised with the Christian values of love tempered with responsibility, of family and country first.  Both were raised with permission and encouragement to question.  So they've been asking "Auntie" a lot of those lately, since I am their eyes and ears on the ground in this tiny but overly-reported and disproportionately-vilified country.

Amanda has just been asking for perspective.  She lacks trust in the media, and just wants enough information to make up her own mind.  She craves different points of view.  I sent her to various sites, trusting in my respect for her innate wisdom that she will see and read what she needs to make informed decisions.  Though sometimes, I thought she would appreciate the beauty of simple, graphic images.

As her insightful questions and comments were made to me in private message, I won't repost them here.

Kirsten participated in a long thread of discussion over a video of a CNN interview with Israel's government spokesman, Mark Regev.

Kirsten's response to the obviously anti-Israel agenda in this video was so normal and healthy, it reminded me that the world is going insane, and that I am grateful that there are people here and there -- some of them, my relatives -- who still think sanely and clearly.

Kirsten: I really don't understand why there is such a huge bias in the media against Israel taking military action. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. Are people truly so uninformed?

 Me: Kirsten, you hit THE question. We don't understand it, either. In the face of logic, in the face of threats they surely would not countenance if their own countries were under constant terrorist attack -- they have insisted for years that Israel "show restraint."

 Kirsten: Daniel and I were discussing this earlier today while waiting to pick up Emily. It's like the trashy group of "mean girls" on the playground all picking on the book nerd, her getting pissed and punching one in the mouth, then getting expelled from school. I know it's an awful metaphor, but it's just so completely ridiculous.

I responded by sharing with her the now-famous Treppenwitz post with a similar and very frightening analogy, "A difficult lesson," from 2006.  The sad truth is that Israel, pressured by world media and governments, still hasn't absorbed the lesson my young nieces seem to "get" with little effort.  It doesn't give me much hope for the current situation -- but it increases my confidence in the next generation.

May Hashem grant our leaders the wisdom and strength to finally, finally put the welfare of our citizens over the delicate sensibilities of pundits and politicians living far away from our terrifying situation.  May Hashem bless us with peace and victory over terrorism, in all its forms.  May our brave soldiers live to be very old men and women, with fascinating stories to tell their great-grandchildren.

Monday, October 29, 2012

One broken man, with one broken heart

Yom sheni, 13 Cheshvan 5773.

The streets of my small community were unusually busy this afternoon.  We are a bedroom community; so it's very noticeable when there is a lot of foot and car traffic at midday.

People and cars flowed from many streets this hot afternoon, toward the main synagogue.  A bus poured forth its contents of holy and normal yeshiva boys, full of life and promise, who moved with us as one man with one heart.

As the Dearly Beloved and I arrived at our destination, we became part of the ever-growing semi-circle of hundreds of yishuv residents, around the entrance to the shul.  But nobody went inside.  We stood outside in the hot sun.  Few sought the fragments of shade.  It didn't seem right, somehow, to look for comfort, if you didn't happen to find it easily.

We watched as a small group of men surrounded a family, and began cutting the left top edge of each of their shirts.  Our hearts were rent by the sound of the tearing fabric that set off a wave of crying from people around us.

We listened as the Rav talked about the 18-year-old boy who ran to do mitzvot, who died running on a path between our Neve Daniel and a tiny community nearby, a community that is part of us, really.  He was probably fulfilling the usual practice of young people his age, preparing his body for IDF service, so that he would be strong enough to be the best soldier he could be.

We listened to a brother, crying through words about his brother, that broke our hearts completely.  We listened to a school chum, trying to tell the amusing things about his classmate, through his tearful voice, into our tears.  He was everyone's friend, everyone's brother.  Of course he was.  Billy Joel got that one right.

Some of us knew him.  Some of us knew his parents.  All of us know that it is otherworldly and aberrant to lose a child on the cusp of manhood who has not yet had the chance to live the life of a man.

We do not know why he died.  Was it his heart?  Something undetected, that made an apparently healthy young man a victim of a medical mystery?

He was my son's friend.  He was the child of my ulpan teacher, a witty, talented, funny woman who makes me quake every time I see her, because I so want to show her that she did a good job teaching me, and I know that I will be tongue-tied, and will only be able to speak English to her, or Level Aleph Hebrew.  And now all I can think is that our sons are -- were -- the same age.  And language doesn't matter, does it?

As a good friend said, "There is nowhere to channel the emotion.  There is nothing to be angry at.  The sadness is physically draining.  There's never an answer to Why. This time, even less so."

I walk with all of us, one person with one heart.  We follow the boy and his bearers as we walk toward the entrance to the yishuv.  Most of my community will walk him or otherwise follow him to the cemetery in Gush Etzion.

I talk with a couple of friends who give me strength.  Then, I break away to teach a class over the phone to a student in America who has no clue about the day's events.  Nor can she know the power of living as part of an entity that ceases to be about individuals when we lose a piece of ourselves.  It is painful to be part of the Jewish family.  And it is the greatest and most strengthening thing on Earth.

We all lost a son today.  And we do not understand.

In memory of Eliyashiv Lubitch, zt"l.  May your parents and family be comforted, among the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.  I know your memory will be for a blessing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's a GIRL!

Yom shishi, 3 Cheshvan 5773.

Mazal tov to Yeshiva Bochur and Champagne Girl.


May you give each other as much joy as you give your parents, for long, healthy, happy years.

Nisan and Marietta, we're looking forward to being related. :-)

Besides granddaughters, this is how Chez Mizrachi adds the Girl Factor.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Party! Party! Party!

Yom chamishi, 25 Tishrei 5773.

Yesterday was our fifth "aliyahversary."  Woo-HOO!  How did we celebrate?

The Dearly Beloved coached his football team.  He had to wrestle with executive decisions about where to play which guys, who worked best on offense and who on defense, and which guys needed to be cut from the developing team.  This is a very difficult decision, as he knows that all of those guys want to fulfill childhood dreams.

Sports Guy went to the team doc and got a dislocated shoulder Kinesio-taped with pretty blue tape.  And then he stayed up most of the night with good friends from Baltimore, watching the Orioles and the Yankees duke it out over who will go to the World Series.  (I don't hear any fat lady singing yet, New Yorkers...)

Stunt Man sat in a classroom -- as all of his former rebbeim and teachers know, NOT his favorite pastime -- taking advantage of one of his Israeli army benefits: preparing to pass his bagruyot.  (Think high school finals combined with college SATs.  All in Hebrew.  Talk about combat!)

Yeshiva Bochur surprised his girlfriend, Champagne Girl, who is living with us temporarily.  (This precious girl has earned this sobriquet by being as uplifting and optimism-enhancing as a glass of champagne.)  It is always a delight when Yeshiva Bochur appears at the door after a long stretch with his army unit.  That delight is enhanced by watching her bubbling joy at his arrival.  (There is something very sweet about watching a beautiful young lady's appreciation for one's son.  Good taste, has our Champagne Girl!  What better affirmation is there that we parents did a good job!)

And how did I celebrate?

There's nothing as powerful as "sister support."
I had real coffee for a change with eleven of around thirty "virtual" friends.  We have been meeting in our special Facebook group for about eight months to chat over our morning or afternoon coffee; and it just seemed important to finally meet -- as one of our very computer-lingo-hip members says -- "f2f" (face to face).
Celebrating five years over Israel's national beverage.
There were two women-and-daughter teams in attendance (and one remarkably well-behaved and patient baby, our only male attendee).  We covered a range of ages, and boasted aliyah dates spanning from just last year to 1967.

We spent more than three hours together!

Women told amazing stories of struggle and survival, physical and spiritual and emotional in nature.  We shared various uplifting life philosophies: "You can't really know someone else until you hear her story."  "Think good and it will be good."  "I believe in living a purposeful life."  "Age isn't about wrinkles.  It's about giving up a sense of wonder."  "I've spent the last twenty years trying to earn the privilege of living in Eretz Yisrael."  (The one who offered that surprising revelation has given so much to Israel, she has more than earned her privilege!)

We ended our get-together by dividing up the recitation of the 150 chapters of King David's Tehillim, in the merit of those with serious illnesses, and of those looking for their life's partner, and in the honor of our founding member's father's neshama.  This would be meaningful at any time; but there was a very special glow in that room, filled by the stories and the appreciation of those stories, that made the prayers soar.  I was very moved by the fact that all of my designated chapters spoke so specifically about the character of the ladies I'd met!

As we know, nothing happens for "no reason."

May we share many more cups of virtual coffee, and also many hot, steaming, real cups -- f2f.

This post is dedicated to Paula, Tamar, Anita, Chaya Golda, Drora, Rachel Ann, Chava, Freyda Minna, Angela, Toby, Hadassa, Hadassa, Chloe, Rose, Fayge, Esther, Janet, Miriam Esther, Linda, Bracha, and Chava.  See you next time, gals?  Coffee pot's on, and your chair at the table is waiting.

Aliahversary: the anniversary of one's aliyah, immigration to Israel
Rebbeim: plural of rabbis, here meaning school Judaica instructors
Bagruyot: the tests all Israeli high school students spend their last instructional years to pass, to prepare for college entrance
Tehillim: Psalms, customarily recited in groups or individually in times of trouble or great longing, or even great joy
Neshama: soul

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hebrew Lessons in Cyberspace

Yom sheni, 9 Elul 5772.
Flash cards.  I don't know if they help, actually.  But they don't hurt.
It's the month of Elul -- and besides trying to get our act together spiritually before Rosh Hashanah, it is also a time when Jews start putting together the list of "Things I'm Finally Going to Improve.  Really.  This Year for Sure."  There can be no doubt that for the average oleh, the hardest struggle and the most important task is learning the Hebrew language.

There are no quick fixes.  People who immerse are much more likely to learn the language than people who live in communities of their linguistic peers.
Yeshiva Bochur saying "Lehitra'ot" to a favorite teacher at the Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu Ulpan at which he worked and learned for five months.
People who get jobs in the Israeli mainstream will learn faster, too.  "You want to learn Hebrew?" asked one friend.  "Go into business."  This includes kids in Israeli schools and soldiers.
Stunt Man and a friend from the Old Country barely speak pure English anymore.  "Or I'm going to Ireland, or I'm going to America after the army."  That is actually good Hebrew grammar.
For those of us (like the Dearly Beloved and me) who break all the rules of language immersion, staying in our little linguistic ghettos, working in our country of origin (either by commuting or by working on the internet in our mamaloshen), patience and persistence remain our most important tools.

There are a few additional tools, however, presented by individuals and organizations with the goal of helping the oleh to integrate as quickly as possible.  Lots of these tools cost money -- and some of them are so famous, they don't need my little blog to help them out.  Some are free, and for most people in my income tax bracket, free is a really good option.  Here is a sample of what is available out there in Cyberspace.

Ami Steinberger and Company at Ulpan La-Inyan make the experience of learning Hebrew as organic as possible, with topics that feel natural, using expressions and words that will come up in everyday situations.  Ulpan La-Inyan also teaches in a very natural way, the way a child learns language, rather than inundating the student with piles and piles of grammar laws.  Ami is an expert in Hebrew grammar -- so it is available.  Just not all-consuming of every last brain cell -- a fact which keeps his program fun, and effective.

Be sure to check out the Ulpan La-Inyan website, for more free stuff, and for the best ulpan available in Israel, when you are ready to get what you pay for.

Jacob Richman has made it his one-man mission to offer as many free aids to Hebrew language and cultural education as possible.  From online Torah to Jewish history and holidays, from recipes and radio stations to kashrut and clipart, Jacob's "Hot Sites - Jewish" is an aliyah resource to be visited again and again.

Another interesting website is Learn Hebrew Pod: Hebrew That Goes With You.  While the free lessons are actually a very nice sales pitch for the course, one can get a great deal even from these few free lessons.  The method of Hebrew conversation flowing more-or-less seamlessly with English translation is a refreshing approach when my mind is tired from more intensive study.

And if you haven't a lot of time each day to devote to learning the language, but want to feel "in the know" with a word or phrase added daily to your repertoire, you can also check out Transparent Language's "Word of the Day" in Hebrew, or of course, Ulpan La-Inyan's "Daily Dose" featured word or phrase, with detailed etymological explanations.

YouTube has lots of video clips from TV series and commercials in Hebrew.  I especially like the ads.  Good ads are often little short plays -- so one can feel a sense of accomplishment in finally understanding the little story in a one minute (or shorter) format, that can be paused and replayed as necessary.

Finally, Hebrew language study is never as much fun as when it's sarcastic political commentary, with English subtitles (for clarity.  But don't forgo the opportunity to listen without paying attention to the subtitles, just to test yourself).  Caroline Glick's Latma TV is an exceptional example of the genre.  Wicked enjoyment.

I tell everyone that I'll be in ulpan till I'm eighty.  (I can finally say this well enough in Hebrew to make Israeli young people laugh.  This makes me cool in two languages.  Woo-HOO.)  Please feel free to share with me any sites you have that will fill the gaps between enough money for ulpan tuition.  I wouldn't want to disappoint Ami and my other instructors when I finally get back to the classroom.

Now if I can just lose those last five kilos before Yom Kippur...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Shabbat, With Love

Yom rishon, 1 Elul 5772, Rosh Chodesh.

Having our sons home in ones, twos, threes or many is our greatest Shabbat pleasure.

Well -- almost.

This Shabbat happened to be unusual.  Sports Guy is in Sweden with the Israeli National American Flag Football team, helping his team to some very respectable standings.  Yeshiva Bochur and Stunt Man are still doing their part to protect Israel's borders from people who don't want Israelis to live here.  And Soldier Boy and his family and the other brothers are still in a galaxy far, far away.

So this Shabbat was just the Dearly Beloved and me.

And we decided to do it up in regal style.

"Let's just pretend that we are at a holiday resort, and have Shabbat catered.  It'll be like room service!"

He agreed.  We did.  And I highly recommend you give something like this a try, at some point in your marital career.  (Here I will toss in a brief disclaimer for my young readers with fifteen or twenty little kids still at home.  Don't be jealous.  You will get to do this someday, too.  Trust me.  And we don't feel guilty.  It's our compensation for arthritis, intermittent tooth loss due to gum exhaustion, and never, ever again looking as good as you do in that dress.)

Our meal was catered by the wonderfully talented, educational and conscientious Marc Gottlieb of Culinart Kosher.  While it is convenient for us that he lives and works right here in Neve Daniel, I understand that he was delivering a large number of orders to other areas of the Gush on Friday as well.  (The rumor mill has it that brand-new olah and celebrity kosher chef Jamie Geller and I shared the same caterer this Shabbat.  In case you needed to know just how good our local boy is...)

Everything was reasonably priced, and delivered by his charming children in plenty of time to get things set up on the blech before Shabbat.  And I had zero stress, because my big job of the day had been to set the table.  For two.  Draining, I know -- but a woman does what she must.

For Friday night, we shared the Classic Beef Brisket and the Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers.  Both dishes were prepared beautifully, and were perfectly complemented by the cheerfully-named Garlic Smashed Potatoes.  As sides, we had a Roasted Summer Squash Duet, juicy and lightly seasoned, and Zucchini Papparadelle, which was so refreshing, it actually cleaned the palate like a sip of wine between bites of more robust foods.  We complemented the meal with possibly the last bottle of 2009 Tabor Cabernet Sauvignon in Super Turgiman.  :-)

Shabbat lunch had me a bit worried, as I wasn't sure I'd ordered enough.  I have often found that appetizers provide enough for a main dish -- but I wasn't sure if my choice of Citrus Salmon Skewers with Herbed Rice would be sufficient.  I needn't have worried.  The salmon held up to the light pre-lunch warming, and was light, lightly-tangy, and not in the least dry.  The creamy rice was seasoned exactly right.  In fact, if there could have been one improvement, it would have been to have the rice presented separately from the fish, as it was abundant, and would have gone nicely with meat as well.  With the Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad came a perfectly tangy dressing.  (The dressing was so delicious, we saved some of it for seudat shlishit, and chopped up some vegetables for dipping.)  And with the addition of some leftover Zucchini Papparadelle, and our usual additions of olives, pickles, salatim and hummus, we had a perfect lunch.

As the lovely afternoon wound down, we realized we couldn't wait for seudat shlishit to have our dessert.  So we had the Chocolate Mousse early.  This decadent dish should come with a warning label.  Delicious.  Too much too-muchness.  Probably illegal in most states in America and in all Muslim countries.

I wish I had photos for you -- but it was Shabbat, after all.  Recommendation: Give Marc a call at 02-991-9443, and see what he has to offer for yourself.  You deserve it.
Correction: Well -- you know how rumor mills are.  Twasn't Jamie, it turns out (though when she finally gets to give Marc's fare a try, I'm sure she'll be impressed).  It was Gil Marks, of Encylcopedia of Jewish Food fame.  Ehhhhhh... Seems one way or another, Culiart Kosher is running with the big boys.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rebels with a Cause

Yom chamishi, 28 Av 5772.
A Rebel greets a future IDF soldier
When I was young, I loved opportunities to work with the local theater.  But I never wanted to be on stage.  Too much pressure to get it right.  Besides, the best show was happening backstage.  We stage-hands, makeup artists, and costume and props people had more fun than either the performers or the audience.

On Tuesday this week, former Baltimoreans planned to meet at the Nefesh B'Nefesh welcome ceremony for the 350 new North American olim who joined us as citizens of the Holy Land.  Our goal was to gather to honor our fifth-year anniversary.  My family actually arrived later in the year -- but everyone was invited to catch up in the admittedly emotional atmosphere at Ben Gurion Airport, Terminal 1.  The news has covered more than adequately the highlights of the day: 127 young soldiers-to-be dancing joyfully with old friends and new; Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking to the group; Natan Sharansky and all of the usual Nefesh B'Nefesh lineup of inspiring speakers reminding guests and immigrants alike of why we have all come Home.

I didn't participate in the onstage party as I usually would have.  (If you live in or are visiting Israel, and have never done a Nefesh B'Nefesh welcome gig, do yourself a favor: make a point of going to greet the olim.  As Go'el Jasper once remarked, he was too exhausted at his own welcome ceremony to really appreciate it.  But when he attended the ceremony to greet other olim, he couldn't stop crying at the beauty of the experience.)

Instead, I was at the backstage party, hanging out with a bunch of orange-clad Rebels, as they unloaded baggage from the baggage carousels.

If you have trouble viewing the video, you can find it here on YouTube.

The Dearly Beloved, in his new life as guitar instructor and football coach, is now the proud head coach of not only the high school team, the Orli Print Ravens, but also of the Judean Rebels, one of the Israel Football League's ten adult teams.

One of our players, Tani  Kramer, has Nefesh B'Nefesh as his day job.  He had the idea that big, strong, strapping football players might be just the right guys for the job of unloading the amazing amount of very heavy luggage the new immigrants bring in, as they uproot their lives, and replant them in holy soil.

We were proud of our guys.  They worked hard, not stopping with just pulling bags and boxes off of carousels, but also organizing them so that the tired new immigrants could find their possessions easily.

It was a good day, hard as any Rebels workout, and just as satisfying.  A couple of Tel Aviv Pioneers even showed up to assist, and the cooperation was a pleasure to watch.

Which inspired in me a coach-mom prayer: Hashem, see the brotherhood on this "field"?  If You can inspire this kind of sportsmanship on the gridiron, maybe football can go back to what it was meant to be -- a game.

One of the greatest games a guy can play.
Not the whole detail -- just the first guys to show up for this game

Leave a bunch of high-energy guys with nothing to do in a big, open space, and they will toss a pigskin around to fill the time.  "We should get up for practice at 4 AM every day.  We're really good today."

One of the 127 new IDF recruits.  Thank you for your holy service, guys and gals!

Many Israelis got up at 4 AM to cheerfully greet the new citizens.

Apparently, a couple of the guys failed to catch the ball during one handed catch drills.

"Drop and give me ten!"  A man does what a man's gotta do.

Finally, the bags begin to show up.  Game over.  Or just getting started...

Coach gets right into the action with his boys.

Halftime.  Waiting with anticipation for the next onslaught.  "Smoke me, Coach!"

You can only imagine some of the weight these guys hefted.

Working together to make the whole process run smoothly

Hundreds (thousands?) of bags were carefully organized for easy location.

Our Rebels stand for "Hatikva."  The TV monitor shows the new IDF recruits.
Welcome Home, to all of the new olim.  And if any of you future soldiers have a little energy left over after your tour of duty, have you heard that there is American football being played in your new homeland?  See? You didn't leave everything behind after all...

Thank you Uria, Baria, Brill, Tani, Didi, Ari, Yaniv, Jaymes, Michael, David, Yitzchak, Jake -- and anybody else who showed up later to help.  It was a pleasure working with you guys.