Sunday, November 27, 2011
In excellent company...
“When you have nothing to say, say nothing.”
-- Charles Caleb Colton
“Saying nothing...sometimes says the most.”
-- Emily Dickinson
"It's good to shut up sometimes.”
-- Marcel Marceau
Monday, November 21, 2011
I'm sure you've noticed that things have been a bit quiet here lately. Okay, a lot quiet.
I'd love to say that it is because I'm too busy to blog. But sadly it seems to be a case of having lost touch with my muse.
For me, writing is something that happens naturally first thing in the morning. It is something organic that I can't force or rush. Either it happens... or it doesn't.
Lately I've been in a bit of a funk... somewhere between your garden variety ennui and clinical depression.
I don't like the idea of using my blog as a vehicle to garner sympathy or to try to get people to join in for a chorus of 'poor me'. No… whatever it is, I hope to be able to claw my way back to a state of mind conducive to communicating with the outside world all on my own.
But until that happens, please pardon the radio silence.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I had to share these
A couple of recent additions to my early morning slog through the Internet are two quirky little comic strips; one called Satruday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC), and the other called xkcd (ok, I've been reading that last one for a while now).
Today they both killed, so in hopes of driving more people over to them, I'm posting their most recent offerings:
First is xkcd (this gives a name to something I've always suspected about the way factoids become facts online: 'Citogenesis'):
The second is SMBC (this one hit my daddy bone... hard):
Don't thank me... I'm a giver. :-)
Monday, November 14, 2011
The Rabbi of my community, Rav Shlomo Riskin, and I are on good - even friendly - terms. We greet each other warmly whenever we meet and as often happens in small communities, our friends and family are intertwined.
However, this isn't to say I agree with everything he says or does. But sometimes he hits one so far out of the park that I want to stop strangers on the street and say, "Can I read you what my rabbi just wrote?".
Today is one of those days.
Here is part of an excellent article he wrote:
Once upon a time even so-called secular Israelis were proud of chief rabbis, men like Rabbis A.Y. HaKohen Kook, Isaac Halevi Herzog and Shlomo Goren (all of blessed memory) because these rabbis were inclusive rather than exclusive; they sought to embrace every Jew and bring him or her closer to tradition. These mighty individuals looked to halachah to solve questions of personal status, not to complicate them.
At a time when an unfriendly and inflexible Chief Rabbinate and its courts of law are driving young couples to Cyprus so as not to get married “in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel,” thankfully the rabbis of the Tzohar organization have been finding user-friendly and welcoming halachic solutions to include them under the Jewish marriage canopy.
Now, in their infinite wisdom, the Chief Rabbinate and Ministry of Religious Affairs have closed yet another door (in addition to the doors of meaningful Jewish divorce and conversion) – the door of Jewish marriage – to a confused and disgruntled Israeli public. All “for the sake of heaven.”
I understand that the present controversy between Tzohar and the Ministry of Religious Affairs is on the road to resolution. But the general and underlying problem still remains in full force. Local religious councils are still setting up difficult roadblocks before well-meaning secular couples who have never heard of Tzohar but who want to be married by a rabbi – if it isn’t too much of a hassle to do so. The rabbinic courts remain extremely reluctant to force husbands to divorce their wives in accordance with halacha no matter the difficulties of their marital situations, and no matter how unreasonable the husband’s demands may be as his price for the giving the get.
Furthermore, close to 350,000 Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union – “Kanukian” Israelis under the right of return but not halachically Jewish – are still awaiting the establishment of user-friendly ulpanim and courts for conversion devoid of small-minded bureaucracy and whose conversions will not be nullified later on by one of the Chief Rabbis’ court judges.
Our sacred Talmud and the Responsa of Jewish law have loving solutions for the overwhelming majority of problems engendered by these situations; “It din” the law is flexible, but “let dayan,” many of the judges are not, as the Talmudic saying goes. Let us only pray that until the proper changes in the system are put into effect, a disgruntled Israeli populace will not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
The story is told of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the famed tzaddik of Jerusalem, who once spotted a young soldier on a short furlough from the army. The rabbi knew the young man from the neighborhood in Geula, and so he crossed the street in order to extend his hand in greeting. “Shalom Aleichem,” said the venerable sage. “Please come to my home. I would very much like to drink tea with you and hear about your activities.”
The young soldier seemed uncomfortable.
“I don’t think it’s right for me to come visit you,” he said. “I don’t wear a kippa anymore.”
Rabbi Levin, in his black hat and black kaftan, smiled warmly at the young man and took his hand in his own.
“Don’t you see?,” he said, “I’m a very short man. I see you, but I cannot look up so high as to notice as to whether you are wearing a kippa. But I can see your heart – and your heart is big and kind, and that’s what counts.
You are also a soldier placing your life at risk for all of us in Israel. Please drink tea with me; your kippa is probably bigger than mine.”
I don't have to agree with everything he says. Only G-d is infallible. But I'm proud to call a rabbi like this 'my rabbi'.
Go read the rest for yourselves.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
I woke up this morning to find an email from my older sister waiting for me. Attached to the email was my niece's 6th grade school photo. It was gorgeous! I'm not just talking about the subject (who is, in fact, gorgeous). The photo itself was something you'd expect from an established Hollywood actor's 'headshot'. It had one large perfect photo on one side, and the border of the other side was made up of three smaller shots; two in color and the middle in black & white. All it needed was a little color tinting and it could have been a gallery-worthy Andy Warhol montage!
The great thing is that if a kid is having a bad hair day, or has forgotten it was picture day and wore the most stained, threadbare shirt in the closet (something I did without fail every single year!), today's photo studio will happily 'Photoshop' you until you look like you belong in the Abercrombie & Fitch fall catalogue.
Now, I don't know about your experiences as a kid, but when I was in sixth grade we had to sit still for ages while the guy with the big box camera on the tripod messed around under a long black cloth draped over his head. And just at the point where you got a tickle in your nose and your good eye began to tear up and your lazy eye started to wander a few degrees to starboard - poof - the flash powder (ok a bulb) would explode, forcing you to walk around for the next hour or two chasing a phantom greenish black spot where the center of your retina used to be.
And the worst part was that you didn't know how hideous the photo had actually turned out until a few months later when you were unceremoniously handed a manila envelope filled with various sized cringe-worthy photos, looking Like the third from the left on a post office's 'most wanted' line up.
And in my older sister's day it was even worse! She had to sit still for hours in those horrible high starched collars and whale bone corsets while a portrait artist painted their school picture on a life-size canvas… by candlelight!
Seriously, it makes me want to weep thinking about the annual horror show that awaited me inside that manila envelope of
mug shots school pictures. I'm going on record that if they ever figure out time travel, I'm totally taking a modern photographer back with me to redo every single school picture I ever took.
PS: To Sophie…I loved the photo and it will be my new screen saver at work as soon as I get in today.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
The first eggnog of the season
Eggnog season officially runs from the day after Halloween until New Years Day. However the 'minhag' at chez treppenwitz is that we generally have it until Thanksgiving, then give our cholesterol a break for a few weeks, and then make one or two more batches sometime during Hanukah
I got up early this morning and whipped up the first of what will likely be many batches of eggnog of the season. It took all of five minutes and the results were, all modesty aside, spectacular. Eggnog in coffee is heavenly!
Tonight I'll make another batch and toss in a tot of bourbon. [~drool~]
I've posted a few recipes in the past. But the best one (and simplest by far) is as follows:
Egg Nog (source here):
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup brandy
1/3 cup dark rum (Captain Morgan for best flavor, but Myers is OK)
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups milk
All liquids should be very cold. Refrigerate in advance. Beat the eggs for 2 or 3 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed until very frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Turn the mixer off and stir in the cold brandy, rum, whipping cream and milk Chill before serving. Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg. Makes about 2-1/2 quarts.Note: For daytime (especially morning) eggnog, leave out the booze. At other times I add the alcohol just before serving. Oh, and I almost always use bourbon rather than the rum or brandy.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
Monday, November 07, 2011
From a wave to a curse in one year
Over the course of a couple of years of commuting to and from work on my scooter, I've become a bit more intimately acquainted with some of the communities along the way than was previously possible in a car.
For example, I smell the countryside (for good and bad), and hear a lot more of what's going on in the areas through which I pass.
There is a stretch of road not far from Karmel in the South Hebron hills along which I see school kids walking at a certain hour of the morning. Last year I become acquainted from afar with a group of young boys there who used to wait for me and wave as I passed on my shiny red scooter. I always waved back, and it became a bit of a tradition.
Yesterday morning it was drizzling so I was riding a bit slower than normal. When I arrived at the stretch of road where the school kids were walking, I saw that instead of waving, the small group of boys seemed to be shouting something and waving their fists.
As I pulled abreast of them and slightly opened my helmet's face shield, I heard them clearly shouting "Itbah Al-Yahud" (death to the Jew!), and one of them tossed a rock, which passed over my head.
I guess they are learning more at school than just reading, writing and arithmetic. So sad.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
You're doing it wrong...
The headline I saw this morning on YNET News was as follows:
"Minister slams Shalit for going to beach on Shabbat"
It went on to say, "Shas Minister Meshulam Nahari says formerly captive soldier should have gone to synagogue to pray on first Saturday after his return [instead of going to the beach]."
Kinda takes your breath away with the depth and breadth of its insensitivity, no?
But it gets better (or worse, depending on ones' point of view):
'The minister without portfolio, who spoke during a Shas convention earlier this week, said that the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has charged him with the task of bringing Shalit closer to Judaism." [source]
Um, I'm thinking that once you publicly scold a young man who sat in solitary confinement in Gaza for 5 years, and who is reportedly suffering from various maladies related to lack of sunlight, for wanting to spend an hour or two at the beach with his dad instead of sitting in an unfamiliar synagogue (Gilad wasn't observant before he was captured)... well, you kinda missed the boat on bringing him closer to his judaism.
Memo to Shas: Trying to bring people closer to Judaism? You're doing it wrong!
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
The story behind the story (photo-journalism's dirty little secret)
The silver lining
See, this is why I'm not in politics. I have no knack for anticipating the long term results of current events.
Yesterday I was all upset about UNESCO granting the Palestinians full membership. But the move triggered a series of events that I hadn't anticipated:
First of all, the United States immediately announced that in keeping with US law, they were freezing all support for UNESCO (a full 22% of UNESCO's budget comes from the US) due to their having admitted the Palestinians.
Next, the Canadian Government is weighing a similar turning off of UNESCO's funding spigot.
But today it got even better (who knew?)!
It now appears that the Palestinians, bouyed by their full membership status in UNESCO, have applied for full membership in no less than 16 other UN bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO).
At this rate, they'll be giving the US and other sane countries ample ammunition to stop funding the UN completely.
It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of third world thugs.