Tuesday, May 29, 2007


What is it that keep s people coming back to my clog? What is it that they are seeking? Well, if my stats are correct, it's not my divrei torah, nor my insghtful prose, not even my fabulous sense of humor,. No, it's this
I'm sure it's good for me to know this.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Upsherin/tisporet finally achieved

Well, we finally cut DS's hair. We went to a local butcher barber, who did Leon's hair first, then about halfway through, DS sat on my lap, and had his done, and then I had mine done. Terrible job on me and DS (partly because the woman couldn't really speak English, and so was incapable of following directions), but his hair is shorter now - and on a three year old, who cares if he has what is essentially a bowl cut? It was also accomplished with no screaming or wiggling, and he liked having the spray bottle of water on his hair (I made funny noises, which helped). His hair is now shoulder length, which is more manageable. I think it also qualifies as having not cut the corners of his head, although there isn't anything one could obviously pick out as peyot.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Me, too

I've had more than one bike stolen - although at least one was stolen right out of my garage - while locked- so I empathise deeply....

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gonna soak up the sun...

Writing from the City of Angels, where I'm taking a break from the day to day to see my two friends (and one who was my doula) get ordained. I've had the side benefit of getting to catchup with others who have flown in to see the up and coming rabbis receive smichah, and to visit with those who never left. And I get to indulge in some very pleasant weather and trips to the beach as well (too cold for swimming in the Pacific of course, but no one swims in the ocean here anyway).
This is pretty much the last class where I know everyone being ordained - they were first years as I left - I don't know them all that well, except for a few, but I do know that most of the class will surely be a blessing.

The car we rented turned out not to be available, so we had to be upgraded to a red mustang convertible. Oh, yeah.

And now back to our regularly scheduled sunshine, jasmine, palm trees, rosemary, lavender, eucalyptus, and laden citrus trees.
Why did I move, again?

Shabbat shalom!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hair today, hair tomorrow?

Well, the theory was that we would cut My DS's hair today (between his secular birthday, which is tomorrow, and his Hebrew calendar birthday which was the 23rd of Iyyar (last Friday) sort of using convenient scheduling as counting for his third birthday, but he had other plans). THe ceremony is called (in Yiddish) Upsherin, and normally occurs on a Jewish boy's third birthday, or on Lag B'omer. It marks both the child's entry into childhood and out of the gender ambiguity of babyhood, and at the same time the beginning of his Jewish education - the start of his learning Torah (in theory, there's no reason it couldn't be done for girls - if I had had a daughter, I'm sure that I would have done so for her) and so it is also a tradition to eat sweets shaped like the Hebrew alphabet.
DS was all excited that our friend, whom he calls Rav Moshe, would cut it, but then he couldn't go through with it at the last moment. We even had another friend (R. Josh) offer R. Moshe to take a little chunk of his ponytail (which he did --not much-) but clever son maneuvered R. Josh to get his snip first and then backed out. But we did get one little symbolic snip of hair off him, and he very much enjoyed his Hebrew alphabet shaped (homemade- whoa, I am turning out to be an Ima who bakes!) gingerbread cookies. I think he ate perhaps 12. Or more. (Actually, despite the rather large number I was relieved that they turned out wellenough for him to like - they improved since yesterday night when I made them. I find theat the Joy of Cooking recipe that I used was desperately lacking in ginger - how can gingerbread be made with so little ginger? So I replaced some of the molasses with caro syrup (because I ran out of molasses mostly) and nearly tripled the amount of ginger - it still wasn't enough. Next time, I'll use six times the amount, which should work).

I have to admit though, that I'm kind of relieved. I really like his hair long, despite all the trauma it takes to brush it, and I do know that the fact that other people - both kids and adults, I've noticed- think he's a girl (because of his pretty, androgynous) face and long hair treat him more gently than they usually do boys, and I am quite certain that that is part of the reason that he is such a gentle and sweet person. Still, the plan is that we will cut it, soonish. Maybe I can put it off some more by getting him used to finger combing, which seems to make him less agitated than using the brush.

May DS's life be blessed and filled with righteousness and Torah. May he be a holy Jew, who cares for others and himself with equal zeal. May he make the world a place of holiness and light, may he live in joy and be the cause of people saying, "If he worships that God, that God must be worth worshipping" a cause of kiddush hashem, honoring God.

Here's the planned text ( snipped and snapped from various places around the net. I did not write this, except for a short piece of it, I merely edited it. Much of it comes from here and there is also a fabulous picture which does not look like my DS, but is a great of example of what his hair will look like soon, if we don't cut it):

Traditionally when we give a child his first haircut, we give him sweets shaped like the aleph bet to wish him that Torah should be sweet in his mouth, just as we ask in the daily morning blessing for Torah. Let’s say that together, and then we’ll cut his hair and learn just a little something.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ לַעֲסוֹק בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה:

וְהַעֲרֶב־נָא יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ אֶת־דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָתֶךָ בְּפִֽינוּ, וּבְפִי עַמְּךָ בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְנִהְיֶה אֲנַֽחְנוּ וְצֶאֱצָאֵֽינוּ, וְצֶאֱצָאֵי עַמְּךָ בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, כֻּלָּֽנוּ יוֹדְעֵי שְׁמֶֽךָ, וְלוֹמְדֵי תוֹרָתֶֽךָ לִשְׁמָהּ: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הַמְלַמֵּד תּוֹרָה לְעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל
Transliteration:. Baruch ata Hashem Elohainu Melekh HaOlam asher kidshanu bimitzvosav vitzivanu la'asok b'divrei torah. V'haarev na Hashem Elokeinu et divrei Toratecha b'finu u’befee amcha bait yisroel, v’neeheyeh anachu vtzetzaeinu vtztezaei kol amcha bait Yisrael koolanu yodei shimecha vlomdei toratecha l’shma. Baruch atah Hashem hamelamayd Torah l’amo Yisrael. Baruch atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam asher bachar banu meekol ha’amim v’natan lanu es Torato. Baruch attah Hashem notayn Hatorah..
Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to engage ourselves in the study of Torah. Please Hashem, sweeten the words of Your Torah sweet in our mouth and in the mouths of Your nation, the family of Yisrael. May we and our offspring and the offspring of Your people, the House of Yisrael, all of us, know Your Name and study Your Torah for its own sake. Blessed are You, Hashem who teaches Torah to His people Yisrael. Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe who selected us from all the peoples and gave us His Torah. Blessed are You, Hashem, Giver of Torah.

The Yiddish name for this first haircut ceremony is upsherin. The Yiddish phrase comes from the German word sheren-shear, and auf-off a Yiddish word meaning to "cut off." The custom is first mentioned in "Sha'ar HaKavanot" by Rabbi Chaim Vital, the student of the great 16th century Kabbalist, R. Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572) who writes that his teacher, on the 33rd (lag) day of the counting of the Omer, the day marking the passing of the first century sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, took his family and his young son to R. Shimon's gravesite and performed his first hair, cutting with great joy and festivity, "according to the well known tradition."

According to Torah law (Leviticus 19:23), we may not eat the fruit of trees that were planted for the first three years. This is the law of orlah, literally "concealment."
In various places, the Torah compares a person to a tree, most well-known here, from deuteronomy:
- "A person is like the tree of a field..." (Deut. 20:19)
The 16th century Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal of Prague, wrote in 1578,
"'For man is a tree of the field,' and his branches are in heaven, for the head, which is the root of a man, faces upwards, and this is why man is called a 'tree of the field' planted in heaven, and through his intellect, he is planted in his place, which, if all of the winds were to come and blow, they would not move him from his place" (Sefer Gur Aryeh, Genesis 9:21).
The reference to the winds refers back to the mishnah (Avot 3:22): "Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place."
This inverts the comment there by R. Eleazar ben Azariah: One whose deeds outweigh his learning is like a tree with fewer branches than roots. For Loew, the intellect/learning served as one's roots. But the original statement of the mishnah is also important: the context of the entire statement shows that R. Eleazar ben Azariah clearly meant that neither deeds nor learning are possible without the other. An ignoramus cannot be pious, but similarly, learning without action is also lacking holiness. One needs to engage continually in both, and neither can be ignored.
Perhaps this is why the first haircut traditionally results in the first signs of peot – peot also being the plural of the word to which we refer to what we leave in the corners of the fields for the poor. Rabbinically, at least one sixtieth of the entire crop is for the poor. "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and stranger; I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:9-10).
ט וּֽבְקֻצְרְכֶם אֶת־קְצִיר אַרְצְכֶם לֹא תְכַלֶּה פְּאַת שָֹֽדְךָ לִקְצֹר וְלֶקֶט קְצִֽירְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּֽט: י וְכַרְמְךָ לֹא תְעוֹלֵל וּפֶרֶט כַּרְמְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּט לֶֽעָנִי וְלַגֵּר תַּֽעֲזֹב אֹתָם אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:

And just a few verses later in the same chapter, we read, “You shall not round the corners of your heads, nor shall you mar the corners of your beard.” (Lev.19:27)
לֹא תַקִּפוּ פְּאַת רֹֽאשְׁכֶם וְלֹא תַשְׁחִית אֵת פְּאַת זְקָנֶֽךָ
Using the same language of peah.
The Birchat Hatorah – is said once in the morning and covers Torah learning for the whole day. Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald of NJOP explains that Torah is not only to be studied, but is meant to be an all-encompassing involvement. Usually, when a Jew makes a bracha and departs from an activity, like leaving a Sukkah after eating and drinking, and then re-enters the Sukkah to again eat or drink, the blessings are recited again. But the blessing for Torah is recited only once in the morning, and never again, even though a Jew may open the Torah to study many times a day. The reason for this is that the obligation of Talmud Torah, studying Torah, is continuous. This is what is meant by the verse from Joshua, "v'hagita bo yommam v'lailah," You should be aware and conscious of the mitzvah of Torah study all day and all night.

Why the third year? The term "orlah" appears in three different references in the Torah, regarding 1) fruits, 2) Brit Milah, and 3) the pursuit of truth. But what does the word "orlah" literally mean? And what is the connection between these three references?
The first reference, in Leviticus 19:23, is that fruits which grow during the first three years are classified as "orlah" and not eaten.. Orlah, as defined by Nachmanides, means "blocked up."
The second, and perhaps most famous reference to "orlah," is the foreskin removed during circumcision (Genesis 17:11). The commentators explain that this orlah also refers to blockage -- in this case a spiritual blockage. A Jewish boy does not receive the full measure of his soul until the circumcision is performed, and for this reason the Torah notes the consequence of "spiritual excisement" for any Jewish male who does not have a Bris Milah (Genesis 17:14).
(On a conceptual level, it applies to girls as well -- as women also recite the line in Grace After Meals referring to "the Brit which You [God] sealed on our bodies.")
The third reference to "orlah" is when God tells the Jewish people to "remove the orlah from your heart" (Deut. 10:16).
וּמַלְתֶּם אֵת עָרְלַת לְבַבְכֶם וְעָרְפְּכֶם לֹא תַקְשׁוּ עֽוֹד
Here the reference is symbolic; the Almighty is exhorting us to pursue truth. Doing so requires removing that which prevents one from seeing the truth -- the "barriers of the heart."
It is therefore fitting that the day of the young boy's "upshern" (when he symbolically leaves the category of "orlah" vis-a-vis his hair) is also the day that he traditionally begins his Torah education. For Torah study is the primary way to unplug spiritual blockage, and to remove barriers that prevent one from seeing the truth.

The first cut is done at the front of the head, at the spot where the boy will later place his tefillin upon becoming Bar Mitzvah.
After snipping, people give the boy a blessing for success in Torah. It is also a good idea to take the boy to receive blessings from great rabbis.
Upsherin day also includes learning the Aleph-Bet with the child. This is so the Torah should be "sweet on his tongue!"

We also teach the child the verse: "The Torah was commanded to us through Moses, an inheritance for all the Jewish people" (Deut. 33:4).
תּוֹרָה צִוָּה־לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה מֽוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַּת יַֽעֲקֹֽב
These are the first words a Jewish child should be taught to say, since this communicates how each Jew has a unique, personal relationship with the Torah.

Proof that these tests are completely unrelated to reality

Does anyone out there think that this describes me?

Your Brain Usage Profile:

Auditory : 46%
Visual : 53%
Left : 50%
Right : 50%

Alana, you exhibit an even balance between left- and right- hemisphere dominance and a slight preference for visual over auditory processing. With a score this balanced, it is likely that you would have slightly different results each time you complete this self-assessment quiz.

You are a well-rounded person, distinctly individualistic and artistic, an active and multidimensional learner. At the same time, you are logical and disciplined, can operate well within an organization, and are sensitive towards others without losing objectivity. You are organized and goal-directed. Although a "thinking" individual, you "take in" entire situations readily and can act on intuition.

You sometimes tend to vacillate in your learning styles. Learning might take you longer than someone of equal intellect, but you will tend to be more thorough and retain the material longer than those other individuals. You will alternate between logic and impulse. This vacillation will not normally be intentional or deliberate, so you may experience anxiety in situations where you are not certain which aspect of yourself will be called on.

With a slight preference for visual processing, you tend to be encompassing in your perceptions, process along multidimensional paths and be active in your attacking of situations or learning.

Overall, you should feel content with your life and yourself. You are, perhaps, a little too critical of yourself -- and of others -- while maintaining an "openness" which tempers that tendency. Indecisiveness is a problem and your creativity may not be in keeping with your potential. Being a pragmatist, you downplay this aspect of yourself and focus on the more immediate, obvious and the more functional

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Er...And Now For Something Completely Different

dan le sac VS scroobius pip "Thou Shalt always Kill"

The new heights of feminism

I have to admit I have fallen behind on my Onion reading recently, so Danya scooped me on this, but I can't agree more. Feminism has been sucked up by the all-absorbent power of consumerist America and Madonna inspired faux-feminism (that is, the ridiculous belief that doing exactly what the status quo tells you you should do to turn yourself into an object is somehow empowering).

OBERLIN, OH—According to a study released Monday, women—once empowered primarily via the assertion of reproductive rights or workplace equality with men—are now empowered by virtually everything the typical woman does.

"From what she eats for breakfast to the way she cleans her home, today's woman lives in a state of near-constant empowerment," said Barbara Klein, professor of women's studies at Oberlin College and director of the study. "As recently as 15 years ago, a woman could only feel empowered by advancing in a male-dominated work world, asserting her own sexual wants and needs, or pushing for a stronger voice in politics. Today, a woman can empower herself through actions as seemingly inconsequential as driving her children to soccer practice or watching the Oxygen network."

Klein said that clothes-shopping, once considered a mundane act with few sociopolitical implications, is now a bold feminist statement.

"Shopping for shoes has emerged as a powerful means by which women assert their autonomy," Klein said. "Owning and wearing dozens of pairs of shoes is a compelling way for a woman to announce that she is strong and independent, and can shoe herself without the help of a man. She's saying, 'Look out, male-dominated world, here comes me and my shoes.'"

...Whereas early feminists campaigned tirelessly for improved health care and safe, legal access to abortion, often against a backdrop of public indifference or hostility, today's feminist asserts control over her biological destiny by wearing a baby-doll T-shirt with the word "Hoochie" spelled in glitter.

"Don't tell this bitch what to do," said Kari Eastley, 24, a participant in the Oberlin study and, according to one of her T-shirts, a "Slut Goddess." "I wear what I want when I want, and no man is going to tell me otherwise. We're talking Pussy Power, baby."

..."It is great to be a female athlete, senator, or physician. But we must not overlook the homemaker who uses a mop equipped with convenient, throwaway towelettes, the college co-ed who chooses to abstain from sex, and the college co-ed who chooses to have a lot of sex. Only by lauding every single thing a woman does, no matter how ordinary, can you truly go, girls."