Tag Archive | Jew

The Best Purim

I think Purim was always the holiday I liked least, for the simple reason that too many people get drunk.  I will note here that despite what most people think, if you read the Shulchan Aruch, you will find that the vast majority of Ashkenazi poskim who commentate the book (rabbis who tell us what the halacha, or Jewish law, is) forbid getting drunk.  The Beit Yosef, a Sefardi rav and the author of the Shulchan Aruch, does not advocate getting drunk, either.  In the Shulchan Aruch, he writes the language of the Gemara, “a person is required ‘levisumei’ [ed: commonly translated as getting drunk, but it is not certain that that is the only understanding of the word] until he cannot differentiate [between ‘cursed is Haman; blessed is Mordechai’].”  In his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, called the Beit Yosef, he opines very strongly against getting drunk.

In other words, people who get drunk on Purim should learn halacha.  Tipsy, maybe is okay, IF (according to Jewish law) you know that you will still be in charge of your faculties.  Drunk – absolutely not.  Most people do not know this; I am not sure why.  Probably for the same reason that most people don’t know that a baby’s gut doesn’t fully close until around six months, so anything they eat dribbles directly into the bloodstream.  We expect people to be educated and know the things that are important to proper living, and are basic to the values that they claim to hold dear.  In reality, it doesn’t work that way.

Israelis also have an odd habit of using firecrackers around Purim.  We will simply say that this is a nasty practice and Yitzchak and I both hate it.  Thankfully, where we live now, there are fewer firecrackers, and hardly any drunks.

Now that I have fully explained why other Purims were worse, let’s go back to the title of this post: Why was this Purim the best?

First of, all, we did all the shopping beforehand.  Second, the mishloach manot that we prepared were simple: yogurt, some cherry tomatoes and cucumber sticks, and a pita, placed in a disposable bowl and wrapped in cellophane.  We froze the pitot so that they would stay fresh, and the rest of it, including the bowl, I prepared the night before.

Third, and this is what made the biggest difference: Yitzchak went to shul, to daven maariv [the evening prayer] and hear the megilla.  I stayed home with Shlomo and Tova.  He arranged with a friend that he would borrow the friend’s megilla at 10:30pm and return in at 7am the next morning, when they met in shul.  Then, Yitzchak came home and read the megilla for me, while I nursed Tova.  After that, we went to bed, and set the alarm for 5:30.  At 5:30 we woke up, said the morning brachot (blessings), and at 5:45 Yitzchak read for me again, while I nursed Tova in bed.  Sometime towards the end, Shlomo woke up; when Yitzchak finished reading, we did some last-minute things, and he left for shul, with four mishloach manot in his hand.

That left Shlomo and I with six to deliver; Shlomo helped me wrap them up (he held the cellophane while I wrapped the ribbon), and then I gave Shlomo breakfast, nursed Tova again (while Shlomo ate) we got dressed, and we left.  It was a quarter to nine.  At eleven-thirty we were all back at home, with me doing the obvious (i.e., nursing Tova again, since three hours had passed), while we sat for a bit to rest and eat.  Then we had Shlomo take a nap.  It sounds strange, but the big boy had been a VERY big boy while walking and delivering mishloach manot for two hours (we had made some for bus drivers, and Shlomo insisted on waiting for buses instead of using the time logically to finish the rounds, and then meet the bus with no wait time; we had also gone to the store to get diapers).  He was exhausted.  So he went to sleep, Tova went to sleep, and I went into the kitchen to prepare the meal, which, because we had surprise company, had been set for 3pm.  Then Yitzchak got called off to read the megilla for someone else; by the time he was finished reading, an hour later, I was also finished cooking.  Then we cleaned up, talked, ate, and guess who went back to bed . . . and Purim was over, pain-free, drunk-free, and very calmly.

Honestly, it was the calmest, nicest, Purim I’ve ever had, and I would do it again – even though Purim is my least-favorite holiday – in a heartbeat.

Wartime Updates

Israel is at war.

Yitzchak is relieved – between Syria, Hamas, and Iran, he’s been tracking the news and worried about who, what, when, where, and how we will have to fight.  So now that we are busy with one of them, he’s relieved – one issue out of the way, and less worries that all three will explode at once.  I understand him.  Really, I do.

It doesn’t make me less nervous.

I will say this once, and I will say it again.

I.  Hate.  Wars.

I hate, and all of Israel hates, dead bodies.  Israel, a country born in the wake of the Holocaust, especially hates dead Jewish bodies.  Especially when the dead Jews are young and innocent.  We will do all we can to avoid having to face dead young Jews.  We will do all we can to prevent young Jews from dying.  And that is why, we left early in Cast Lead, why we did not send in tanks in Defensive Shield, and why we waited so long to do so now, in Protective Edge.  It is also part of the reason why we cannot cite the Second Lebanon War as a success.

Because Israel’s repulsion at the thought of dead young Jews – and the thought of causing their deaths –  is just too much.

This is the reason we went into Gaza now.  Because we understood that our repulsion is going to have to be ignored.  Either the dead young Jews will be civilians, traumatizing families and communities, at unexpected times and in unexpected ways – like the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered, Hy”d – or the dead young Jews will be soldiers, fighting in battle, accomplishing something with their deaths, and fighting in an organized fashion for the rest of the country, for their younger siblings, for their cousins, for their communities, for their children.

And Israel prefers – everyone prefers – to die on the battlefield accomplishing something, than to risk dying for nothing, with the killers running loose, after being captured by terrorists.

So we sent soldiers in.

It doesn’t mean it’s easy.  It doesn’t mean that we aren’t scared.  It doesn’t mean we don’t understand the sacrifice.

Like Bennett said, if we had not done this now, there would be an Israeli 9/11.  We prefer to fight and defeat.  We do not want an Israeli 9/11.  The American one could’ve been avoided.  It was an avoidable tragedy, and those are the worst kind.

I am actually glad that we are getting so many sirens and that they have discovered so many tunnels.  I am glad that they break humanitarian ceasefires and that they have outrageous demands.  It means there is no chance of a ceasefire.  Which means that finally, finally, we have a chance at security.  The flip side of our sirens is that most of them don’t make the news.  And even when they do, we don’t know how many were shot or where they landed – for the simple reason that we don’t want to aid Hamas in bettering their aim.  But the more sirens our particular city gets, the higher the chance of us seeing this through to the end.  So let them throw sirens, as long as we are all at home.  We will find mattresses and sleep in the shelter if need be.  As long as it’s not in vain, and we accomplish everything we went into Gaza for.

——————————————————————-

We are getting more and more used to the sirens.  At the very beginning, it seemed that everyone but us and a few other cities/areas had not had sirens.  (Not counting, of course, the very north of the country, which has had sporadic spillover from Syria for a while, but that Hamas can’t yet reach.)  We knew our turn would come, it was just a question of when.  We knew our ‘neighbor” (a city quite a bit away from us and everyone else) turn would come, too, and wondered about when.  Both us and our neighbors’ turn came at the same time.  Within a few seconds we were in shock, freaked out, and then calmed down and went to the shelter.  I spent three and a half hours in flight-or-fight mode.  The next morning, we had another siren.  I freaked, Yitzchak freaked, we went downstairs to the shelter and were done.

Now we don’t freak.  We just get up and go, racing against the clock.  It’s kind of good that we’re not freaking out anymore.  It’s also sad.

We don’t have one every day.  But a day that has two sirens – and we’ve had two of those days so far, three if you count the first siren we had, when a minute after the first siren there was a second siren (I don’t usually count it though, because we were already in the shelter) – makes up for a day without a siren, when you’re just worrying, wondering, and waiting.  And when you do the math, it comes out to a ratio of about a siren a day, maybe with one extra day in there with no siren to match.

 

 

P.S. – I am writing up a bunch of posts about Protective Edge and setting them to publish during the coming week.

P.P.S. – Anybody who would like to help families closer to Gaza – those who have between fifteen seconds and a minute, and suffer rocket attacks several times a day, can take a look at Janglo‘s list of things to do to help.  There are also options for helping soldiers and helping the families of the reservists who were called up.

 

 

 

“I Am Israel”

I found this picture on A Soldier’s Mother, and it was too beautiful not to share.

iamisrael_n

This is Israel; this is the Jewish nation.  We have survived thousands of years; we have seen empires, some of them the strongest and most powerful of their times, rise to power and then fall.

Israel is a Jewish country, and therefore Israel will endure.  Our country has changed hands several times, but always keeps coming back to us.

At different times, we have conquered and owned all of Sinai, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.  Gaza was sometimes ours, sometimes not.  Judea and Samaria were always ours.  Eilat was conquered later.  We do not wish to conquer any of our present neighbors; we simply wish to keep the land that we have, and make it fruitful.

When we came 64 years ago, this land was almost a complete desert wasteland.  In less than fifty years, we made the desert bloom.

Being Jewish is both a religion and a nationality.

Israel is, and has always been, no matter what it was called, the Jewish homeland.

No other country withstands what we do, on a daily basis, and still continues to be a free, democratic country, giving equal rights to all its citizens, even if not all of its citizens agree that that is what should be done.

Judaism and Feminism – Opposites or Synonyms?

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Many people seem to think that Judaism is chauvinistic.

It’s not.

Judaism is, and has always been, one of the more feminist religions out there.

Some of you will disagree.  How can Judaism be feminist when polygamy is allowed and polyandry is forbidden?  How can Judaism be feminist if a husband whose wife does not want to divorce him is allowed to remarry, but a wife whose husband refuses to divorce her has no such option?

There are many questions.  I do not pretend to have all the answers.  But I will try to give some examples here.

Remember, as obvious as some of these examples are, modern feminism is only a century old, and these laws have been around for more than 3000 years.

Here are some examples solely from Jewish law:

The Jewish marriage contract is called a ketuba.  The requirement to have a ketuba is at least 2000 years old.  Jews are not allowed to get married without one.  In fact, if your ketuba is lost, it must be replaced immediately, because without it, you are not allowed to live as a couple.

What does the ketuba say?

It says that the husband is required to provide his wife with:

1) medical care if she gets sick

2) redemption if she gets captured

3) financial stability

4) clothes

5) marital relations (this is a husband’s obligation to his wife, not the other way around)

6) a certain sum of money in the event of a divorce (the sum stipulated was a very nice sum then, but not so much now; however, many will add to it)

7) food

8) to pay for her burial

9) that she will live in his house and be supported from him if she is widowed

10) that her daughters will be supported by his property after she dies and until they get engaged, and that her sons will inherit the worth of her ketuba along with their shares of his property that they split with the other sons.

In return, the wife commits:

1) not to marry anyone else

2) that she will nurse her children

3) whatever she earns or finds becomes his property (this makes sense if he has to support her – it’s not fair for him to have to pay her expenses, while she keeps all profits she earns)

4) any benefits accrued from her property (fruits, interest) become his, and he inherits her (she inherits him, too, remember).

If he cannot afford a housekeeper, she takes care of the household duties.  If he can afford a housekeeper, he is required to hire one so that his wife will not have to take care of the house (if this is what she wants; she can elect to prefer the money to the housekeeper – it is solely her choice).

In addition, there are a few things that she is required to do for him, that cannot be delegated.  For instance, in the olden days, heating water and helping him wash his hands.  Today, it would be making his favorite type of cake for his birthday.  These things are not allowed to be delegated because they fall under the category of “chiba” (affection), i.e., Judaism requires the wife to show affection for her husband in a few simple, obvious ways.

If she is not happy, she can ask for a divorce, and he is required to give it to her.  In the olden days, the courts would beat him until he agreed.  Nowadays, Jewish courts no longer have such power, and it is much more difficult.  Excommunication sometimes works, but in today’s global society, finding a different community who does not know about the excommunication is not hard at all, and therefore forcing him to give her a divorce can be very difficult.  Therefore, prenuptial agreements, that are binding in all courts of law, are becoming more popular.

In any case where one witness is allowed to testify, women are also allowed to testify.  In any case where it is safe to say that finding other witnesses is impossible, a woman is allowed to testify.

Women are allowed to charge/sue/prosecute anyone they want in court (including their husbands), no questions asked.

If someone decided to force himself on her, he is obligated to marry her (unless she doesn’t want him) and provide her with everything mentioned above.

If a man wishes to take a second wife, he has to ask his first wife’s permission (today this is less relevant, since European Jews are no longer allowed to marry more than one wife).

Women have always been allowed to agree to marriage on condition that the husband never take a second wife.

In Judaism, women have always had the right to agree to or refuse marriage, and have usually exercised that right.

Each wife, in the case of polygamy, must be provided with her own income and her own house.  A man is not allowed to keep two wives in the same house, because this causes them heartache.

If someone gave the wife money and specified that her husband has no control over it, it remains hers to do with as she pleases.

The concept of marital rape has been recognized – and forbidden – in Judaism since Mishnaic times, if not since the times of the Bible.  Prosecuting it, though, is difficult under any circumstances (in today’s courts, too).  In all books on Jewish theory and law, including the Talmud, there are very scary threats presented regarding this issue.  And bear in mind, the Talmud was – is – rarely learned by women, so these threats and scares were presented to men only.

Judaism was also the first group in the entire world to forbid people from hitting their wives.

After age 12.5, a woman is not answerable to anyone until she chooses to marry.

From Jewish Midrashic literature:

In Jewish literature, Abraham is often famed and praised for being subservient to his wife.

Scholarly women have been in evidence since Biblical times, and praised for it.  It seems that our generation is the first to not wholly recognize and praise scholarly women; this probably came about as a reaction to the “Enlightenment,” as an attempt by certain groups to fight back (unsuccessfully).

In general:

Remind me: Who has to pray with a quorum of ten three times a day?  (Men – and trust me, if you have to do this every day, and it’s not just for fun, it can be really tough, and even a drag, sometimes.  My little brother used to joke that he wished he was a girl, because girls are so lucky . . . )  And who can pray whenever they want, wherever they want, as long as they pray once a day – and even the definition of “prayer” for women changes by whether your community is of European (Ashkenazi) or Sephardic descent?  (Women.)

And who has an obligation to study Torah during the day and at night?  (Men.)

And who has to say Shema twice a day?  (Men – again.)

And who, if they so decided, could take extended parental leave and never go back to work, whether the other spouse liked it or not, and every court would support their decision?  (Women.)

See what I mean?

I know there will be a lot of questions and arguments about this post, but I think it is important to write.

Jewish women, until today’s open, equal-rights movement, have always been in an enviable position.

Judaism does not look for converts.  People, however, since Biblical times, have seen in Judaism a forward movement with respect and equal rights, and have wanted to convert.  Especially for a woman, Judaism was a very attractive option.  2000 years ago, it gave her rights that no one else gave her, and it gave her respect, as well.

Today “equality” has taken hold, and some aspects of it make Judaism look outdated.  In truth, what we call “feminism” today, I often think of as “masculinism.”  But that’s a topic for a different post.

In the meantime, know that Judaism is not nearly as bad to women as you once thought it was . . . in fact, it’s pretty darn good.

What Is Israel Fighting For?

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A rocket is launched from Gaza towards Israel.

A few days ago, I got involved in a comment thread over here.  (This was my mistake; it just got me worked up, and to no end anyways.)  There was a comment that “Palestinians” are treated badly in Israel; I provided a list of real-life examples for why this is not so.  Many Israelis actually feel that Muslims are treated better than everyone else, and sometimes feel that way for very good reasons.

Then someone made a comment that irked me.  They said,  “If I were to tell you, ‘Black people in my country can let their children play in any park they want!’ how would this sound?”  This irked me, really, really irked me, and has irked me since.  So, contrary to my no-politics attempts, I will discuss it.

First of all, black people in America are a completely different situation than Muslims here.  All the African-American community wants is to be accepted and have equal rights, equal choices, and equal respect.  Give it to them, and they become productive members of society, just like everyone else.  In other words, they deserve to have that recognition and those rights, and there is no reason not to give it to them.

Muslims, and more specifically, religious, radical Muslims, including, but not limited to, “Palestinians” do not want to be accepted, or have equal rights, equal choices, and equal respect.  Now, you are going to tell me that this is not true; that some of them do.  You are right; these are the irreligious Muslims.  The more religious ones do not care about these things.  Their issue with Israel is that it is a Jewish country.

Religious Muslims will take acceptance, as well as equal choices, rights, and respect, but that is not their aim.*  They take these things because it aids them in their goal.  And their goal is to “throw the Jews into the sea”.  This is not a war of equal rights.  If it were, it would have ended long ago.  It is a war against infidels, a religious war, and we Jews are the greatest infidels of all.  The reason Morsi will not say “Israel” is not because of how we treat his people.  It is because, for a religious Muslim to say “Israel” is tantamount to disbelief in Islam.

Islam functions on a replacement theology, meaning that Muslims and Islam have replaced Jews and Judaism.  One of the traditional proofs for this replacement theology is that Muslims, for a long time, had control over Israel.  When the British came around, the Muslims didn’t like it, but it wasn’t a religious crisis.  However, for Jews to have control over the State of Israel undermines the very precepts of Islam.  Christians were bad enough.  Jews are intolerable.  That is why we are fighting this war; that is why the Muslims (those of whom live in Israel or Gaza are commonly called “Palestinians”) wish to push us into the sea; that is why they are firing rockets at us and claiming that we stole their land.  That is why they hate us.

And we do not like them, either.  Not because of who they are, but because of what they do and how they act.  (By the way, a refugee camp that has stone buildings, running water, electricity, and third-generation residents is no longer a refugee camp, but a proper city – by anyone’s standards.**)

What if I said to you, “Listen, we have a couple of young adults here who want to study in your college.  There’s a 65-70% chance that they’ll blow up the college, knife you, or shoot you, but we need to be fair, so can you admit them?”  Would you?  I don’t think so.  But you know what?  Israel accepts not just a few of these people, but hundreds, and possibly thousands of them.

Israelis live, every day, alongside potential murderers.  Religious Muslims work in the hospitals, where Jewish patients, in addition to their own worries, worry that the Muslim doctor or nurse walked in with explosives. Religious Muslims work in factories, in schools, and everywhere else.  They are permitted to walk any place where Israelis walk; the reverse, however, is not true.  There is no danger to any Muslim, ever, no matter where they go.  But there are places where Israeli Jews cannot go, because it is dangerous for them to go there.

You want to know why Gaza needs humanitarian aid?  Because it is run by a terrorist group, whose leaders pocket all of the world’s money, using it to build themselves beautiful homes, and using it to fund terrorism, create weapons, and kill people.  Gaza’s leaders do not care about their own people.  If you want to send aid to Gaza, send food, send clothes, send volunteers to teach them.  Do not send money.  And I cannot promise that the food and clothes will not be used to light fires meant for burning U.S. and Israeli flags.  I can only hope.

In other words, the situation in Gaza is not Israel’s fault.  It is the Gazan leaders’ fault, or in simple words, Hamas’ fault.

Israel removed thousands of its citizens from their homes in order to give the “Palestinians” a present and a gesture of peace.  We have been repaid by thousands of rockets, and the world has remained silent, preferring to consistently lay the blame on us.

Here are a few other fun facts:

– The electricity in Gaza is provided by the Israel Electric Company. Gaza has not paid their electric bill (which now amounts to 700 million NIS) in a long time, but the electric company still services them – this despite the fact that it is dangerous to do so, and the electricity is used to aid murdering Israelis. And the Israeli government is helping cover the deficit caused by Gaza electric usage.  When was the last time YOU didn’t pay your electric bill, but they kept providing you with electricity, anyways?

-Israel also provides water to Gaza.  It is pretty safe to assume that Israel funds Gaza’s water, in addition to funding their electricity.  In return we get rockets fired at us.  Who in their right mind would provide water and electricity to people attempting to murder them?  Only Israel.

– If a Jewish Israeli builds his home without the proper paperwork – and sometimes even when he does have the proper paperwork – he can count on it being destroyed. If a Palestinian builds without the proper paperwork, he can count on living there until the end of his long life.

– They do not have to put their sons’ lives on the line in order to make sure that their sons are not killed by terrorists and that their workplaces are not blown up.  In other words, Jewish Israelis get drafted, and have to spend three of their best years in the army, pushing off college, marriage, and jobs.  Muslims are free to do whatever they want, whenever they want.  They are never required to join the army.  Jews who do not join the army are placed at a serious disadvantage by Israeli society.  Not so Muslims.

– Palestinians do not usually get murdered in cold blood when they are at home, in their beds, with their children – and with no prior warning, war, or antagonism. Jewish Israelis do.

– Israelis do not usually get on Palestinian buses and blow them up. Nor do they leave bombs at phone booths, walk a few meters away to set it off, and then proceed to watch the carnage with great satisfaction.

Now, just as background information, consider this:  Israel, if it so desired, could completely erase all of the Gaza Strip in four minutes, without using either nuclear weapons or their ground forces.  That’s right; Israel could turn all of the Gaza Strip into a pile of burning rubble in FOUR minutes, using ONLY the air force.  They could; we could; we have the abilities and we have the backup plans to do it.  But, we don’t, nor do we threaten it, or talk about it.  Think about that.  Let it sink in.  Jews are humane.  We do not do this, because we do not want to kill innocent people.  We only want to kill the murderers (also known as terrorists) among them.  (I am not sourcing this for security reasons.)
* If you are a religious Muslim who does not believe in killing Jews, and supports the state of Israel, please let me know, and I will apologize for offending you.  I am also aware that there are some Muslim clerics who are attempting to resolve their replacement theory crisis in a non-violent way.

** See here, just for kicks (and truth).