Tag Archive | Religion

Holocaust Memorial Day

This past Thursday was Holocaust Memorial Day.  Outside of Israel, it falls on a different day (I don’t remember which anymore); in Israel, Holocaust Memorial Day is right after Pesach – on the day that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.  Calendar-wise, it’s not the best day, but okay, it works.

At 10am, the Home Front Command (Pikud Ha’Oref) sounds the sirens all over Israel.  It starts off like an air-raid siren, but keeps going “flat” instead of up and down.  However, the first five seconds sound the same, and I have to admit, even though I was expecting the siren, my heart still dropped when it started.  Obviously, we told Shlomo that the siren would sound, and thank G-d, Shlomo took it well.  When he got back from gan, he told me, “In two days (holding up 2 fingers) there will be a siren, okay?  I’m not scared, it’s not a woo-woo.  In two days there will be a siren, Mama.  Okay?  In two days and I’m not scared of the siren, it’s not a woo-woo.”

The soldiers in charge of sounding the siren invited a Holocaust survivor to be their guest, and to be the one to activate the siren.  It’s a very, very sweet video.

As a kid, and as a teenager, I read a lot about the Holocaust.  Maybe because there was so much material, maybe because it was so recent, and maybe just because it is so, so, horrendous, it was the period of history that I learned most about.  At some point, I grew up, and shortly after that, I found that I just couldn’t stomach it anymore.  It’s just too awful.  But what is most important, as one survivor told Netanyahu, is to prevent another Holocaust.

Unfortunately, the world hasn’t yet learned its lesson.  To be honest, the world may never learn.  But even more unfortunate is that we, as Jews, refuse to learn the lesson.  The “rabbi” (more like principal) of our school gave a speech during the school Holocaust ceremony that I really didn’t like.

The first part was about the fact that we need to realize that this is not in the past, and that not only can the Holocaust happen again, we are seeing the warning signs right now, and that if we don’t do something, it WILL happen again.  He quoted what Netanyahu said about Iran’s goal being to wipe Israel off the map.  Yeah, duh.

holocaust, little kids, yellow star, jewish kids, world war 2

I wonder if these cute kids survived . . .

He said that one day, our great-grandchildren will say, “Wow, you actually saw Holocaust survivors?  You heard them speak, in person?” and that what we are seeing and hearing is not just for ourselves but for all future generations.  Okay, fine.

The next part was not so fine – in an attempt to make everyone feel better, he said that no one will ever be able to annihilate us – they always try, and always fail, and then they try again.  The only thing we can do is add light to the world, and strengthen our connection to Torah.  We must pray, we must become stronger, and only through this will our nation survive.  We need to make sure that the life we live is true life, that we make the most of it, and the way to to make sure that we live to the fullest, and to make sure that we preserve our nation’s legacy, is by keeping Torah and strengthening ourselves spiritually.

Now, I am a religious person.  I agree that we need to keep the Torah, and that we need to add light to the world; I agree that we cannot lose faith and that the core of our nation’s existence is our belief in G-d.  BUT, first of all:

a. His first part and second part are complete non sequiturs.  There is no connection between them – he jumped from one topic to another with no bridge between them.

b. The people who believed in G-d, strengthened their connection to Judaism, and did nothing else – DIED.  Yes, they all died.  Entire communities, who chose to play Ostrich, died.  Those who saw the warning signs, including great rabbis, and decided, in addition to their learning, praying, and belief, to pick up and leave – and aid anyone else who would agree to leave – they all survived.  Because G-d doesn’t want us to sit and do nothing but pray and keep Torah.  G-d wants us to do what we can to save our own skins.

Now, I don’t believe that leaving Israel will help – after all, if Iran gets a nuke, the entire world is at risk of being nuked.  Even Antarctica will suffer the consequences.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do – and saying that there is nothing to do but pray does two undesirable things: It causes hopelessness and helplessness by tying everyone’s hands behind their backs, and it says that there is nothing that can be done.  Both are harmful.  People who feel trapped become trapped, and depressed  Plus, there is lots that can be done:

We can fight propaganda with propaganda.

We can get the other 2 senators to override Obama’s veto (turns out not to be necessary, but still).

We can write on the Facebook pages of Israel’s leaders, American leaders, and others, pressuring them to fight Iran.

We can push politicians to give Israel the green light to nuke Iran before they can become dangerous.

There are lots of things to do – but no one will do anything if they feel trapped and useless.

Last Thursday, as I was walking out of the classroom with some of my tenth graders, two of the students asked me, “Teacher, what happened to your family in the Holocaust?”

I smiled and said, “My father’s parents are from Russia.  My mother’s father was put on a boat of orphans (even though he wasn’t an orphan) and came to Israel; later, by some miracle, his entire family came to join him.  My mother’s mother’s family immigrated to Israel at the start of the war.”

And they said, “Wow.  That’s a real miracle.”  And I said, “Yes, it was definitely a big miracle.”  And it was.  Still is.  That’s not to say that my grandparents didn’t have aunts and uncles that died in the Holocaust – of course they did.  But they and their immediate families were spared – because they saw what was coming and left.

If we are ever going to be able to prevent another Holocaust from happening, we will have to look it in the face before it hits full-on.  Unfortunately, there are many countries in the world who would like for Iran to do their dirty work for them, and there are many countries who don’t really care either way.

The problem is, Islam is Islam, and the idea is to take over the world.  First they want to kill the Jews; then they will go after the Christians, and then the other “heathens”.  Anyone who is left will either convert or die.  Those who convert will live the oppressed life that many Muslims already live.  Gone will be feminism, gone will be freedom of speech, and gone will be democracy.  Islam isn’t a fun religion, and living under Muslim extremists is not what any of the Western world really wants to be doing.

But, if the world doesn’t wake up, that is what will happen – and while it’s true that the Jews will probably be first, it’s also true that the Christians will be second.

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A Trip to the Consulate – Continued

The first section of this very interesting story of travel and bureaucracy can be found here.

Part Four: Going to the Consulate

I called Egged at 7:30; the call center wasn’t open yet.  I called again at 8:30, and was told that there was a bus at 8:45, and a bus at 9:45.  My appointment was at 10:30, and the bus ride was supposed to take 50 minutes.  Meaning, from 9:45 to 10:35.  If you remember that there is a line outside the consulate (so that you can prove that you have an appointment, receive a pass, and go through security), you will understand that arriving at 10:35 meant entering the consulate at about 10:45, 15 minutes after my scheduled appointment.  I got up and ran to the bus, calling Yitzchak on the way to bring me the money.

I felt bad about running so quickly, because my cousin had just asked me to watch her two youngest (she has a Shlomo-aged kid, a Tova-aged kid, a two-year old, and four older kids) while she took her Shlomo-aged kid to gan, but we both realized that there really wasn’t an option.  So I went.

I made the bus; Yitzchak missed it, and me, by 3 minutes.  I figured that there would be an ATM somewhere around the consulate; I figured wrong.  I got to the consulate 70 minutes early, because the bus had only taken 40 minutes, and discovered that I couldn’t go in until half an hour before my appointment.  I found a bench under some trees and finished nursing.

united states consulate, jerusalem consulate, american consulate

The oustide of the consulate.

Yitzchak ended up taking the 9:45 bus and arriving at 10:27 to hand me the money.  Of course, since Yitzchak couldn’t prove that he had an appointment, I needed to walk out of the consulate.  Because I had told the security guard, when I first went in, that my husband was bringing me the money, I was able to skip most of security and the guard told the inner security workers to let me through easily.  Therefore, I walked back into the actual consulate at 10:33, and they gave me a number with no problems.  It would have been smarter to take the number and then go out to meet Yitzchak, but I didn’t think of that at the time.

Obviously, in order to find out where Yitzchak was, I needed my phone, so I had to go through the cell phone security bogus.  But my phone was Yitzchak’s phone, and his was mine, so it made sense to switch them instead of just waiting for him to appear.  After Yitzchak had given me the money and I was waiting to go back inside, I saw that the person next to me was holding a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority.  Ha, I didn’t know they issued passports.  Is that kind of like a little girl pretending to serve tea to her friends?  It was actually kind of funny, and I said something to myself (or to Tova) and chuckled.

Finally, money in hand, diaper-and-clothes-changed (I had forgotten the diapers on the bed, and had to borrow a 4+ from another family; I told Tova not to poop in it because it was too big on her and would leak, and she actually listened until we were off the return bus and walking back), I had time to sit for a few minutes.

Part Five: The Catch

Then my number was called.  The lady at the window was very efficient, asked for all my documents, and I gave them to her; answered my questions about the social security cards; asked for Shlomo’s passport so that he could get his, and seemed surprised when I handed it to her; and sent me to pay.

She asked if I was still married to Tova’s father.  Yes, I am.  And in my head, I think that it’s a funny question to ask.  Can she have the marriage certificate?  I gave it to her.  She asked if I was going to pick up the report or if I wanted it sent to me.  I wasn’t sure I had enough to have it sent, and kicked myself for not asking Yitzchak for another twenty shekels when I had met him earlier.

I went to the shipping-and-number-giving desk, where I waited beside a guy with a thick accent who wanted to know where to go.  I tried to help him, until I heard his accent and saw his manner.  What does he need?  He wants to go to America. Does he need a visa?  Yes, he says.  Is he a citizen?  He doesn’t know what that means.  Where is he from?  “Palestine!”  Ha ha.  I laughed at that one.  The number-giving guy called for another guy and told the other guy to “help this gentleman”.  No one can tell me what the exchange rate is, and they are annoyed at me for asking and ‘being angry’, when I am not angry, just kind of frustrated at having to explain such a simple question over and over.

I go to the paying-desk, now that there is no line, and say, “Mah ha’shaar (what’s the exchange rate)?”  He thinks I said, “Mah hasha’a (what’s the time)?” looks at his watch, and tells me 10:45.  It took me a second to figure out what had happened, and then I repeated my question.  This time, he understood, and told me “4”.  I gave him the receipt from the lady who had handled my documents (and was waiting for my return) and gave him 400 shekels.

When I get back, the lady tells me that I can’t get a social security card for Tova because she doesn’t have a passport.  Huh?  I didn’t see that written anywhere.  As it turns out, it doesn’t have to be an American passport, but if we have never applied for any passport, from any country, for Tova, then she cannot get a social security card.  And she hands me back the form, apologetically.  Okay, fine.  At least Shlomo can get one.  She tells me to wait and that the consular officer will call me.  He will give back the documents.  If I want to apply for a passport, then my husband will have to accompany me.  Yep, don’t I know it.

I sit and wait for the consular officer.  While I wait, I see someone holding a credit card.  Hm, I think, can I pay for shipping with a credit card?  The shipping-girl isn’t at the desk, and while I wait for her to return, the consular officer calls our name.  We don’t usually use credit, even though our debit cards are really credit cards.  But sometimes, it’s a good option to have.  Although, we have been known to say that we don’t have an option for credit.  I suppose you could say it’s lying, but the truth is that it’s not usually an option, financially and budget-wise.

I ask the consular officer if I can still have the documents shipped to me, provided that shipping-girl will take a credit card (and I saw a machine for it on the desk).  He doesn’t know if she will take it, but says that it’s not a problem for me to get them shipped, even at this late stage.  Then he asks for Shlomo’s birth certificate.  I need proof that we are his parents asking for his social security card.  I don’t have the beautiful Report of Birth Abroad, nor do I have his Israeli birth certificate.  I thought the passport would be enough, and the consulate site didn’t say otherwise.  In fact, I thought the consulate site said a passport was enough.  And the lady didn’t say anything . . .  So, we can’t get a social security card for Shlomo, either.

Part Six: The “Solution”, or, Making the Most of An Aggravating Trip

However, Tova’s Report of Birth Abroad should be ready in a week and a half to two weeks.  I can drop off the social security forms at the same time as I pick up the Report of Birth Abroad, no appointment necessary.  I guess that’s what I’ll have to do; I don’t have a cell phone to ask Yitzchak his opinion (because, if you remember, it was taken when I came in), so I decide to make the trip to pick up the report and drop off the forms.  The consular officer is nice and makes sure every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ is dotted so that I will have an easy, fast, trip next time.  I appreciate it.  And I am frustrated that every trip to Jerusalem seems to leave loose ends that need to be tied up by another trip.  Another 80 shekels; another wasted day.  Arg.  We will not be able to get the social security cards by the 15th of June, but we can file for an extension.  Better yet, we can talk to a CPA and get him to help us out.

But, maybe we should get Tova an Israeli passport in the meantime, and then apply for both social security cards when we pick up the report of birth.  Hmm.  Sounds like it could work.

And that’s where we stand now.

I also didn’t get to buy what I wanted for myself when I was in Jerusalem.  Yitzchak said he’s going to check some places here and ask if they can order it in; if not, then I guess I will have another chance in two weeks.  Maybe we will plan it for a Friday that we are in Jerusalem.  But we are not pulling another stunt like this one; it was too difficult.

Part Seven: The Israeli Passport

We debated whether or not to get Tova an Israeli passport.  On the one hand, we aren’t planning on going anywhere.  On the other hand, we need it for a social security number, which could potentially save us, or give us, a lot of money, and the passport is good for five years.  Plus, it would be kind of funny to see two “baby” passports and compare the pictures.  We decided to get the passport.  From what I saw on the internet, it would cost between 125 and 140 shekels, which is not too bad.  Much, much, less than $105 (which right now is 420 shekels).  Plus, we probably wouldn’t have to wait in line.  Not too bad . . . so we went for it.

Tuesday morning, Yitzchak went to sell the chametz with the city’s rav, at the city’s commercial center.  At the same time, he took Tova to get passport photos taken, and parted with 25 shekel.  He went into the Ministry of Interior and asked for a passport application, only to be told that they don’t give them out, and we had to come in.

From what I had read on the internet, I knew that both of us needed to sign the application.  My plan had been for Yitzchak to pick up the application and sign it, and then I would fill it out, sign it, and take Tova in to the Ministry of Interior to apply.  Now, this plan got changed.  So, at 4:15, we all got on a bus and went to the commercial center, where they asked if we wanted a regular passport or a biometric passport (regular, thanks), and told us that since we’re married, only one of us has to sign the form.  The passport cost us 140 shekels.  Sigh.

On the bright side, they also said that the passport would be put in the mail either that day or the next morning, and we should have it within ten business days.  Sounds good to me.

And so, we now wait for Tova’s Israeli passport to arrive; hopefully before Pesach vacation ends and I have to go back to work.

Update: About an hour and a half before this post was published (I had scheduled it to post, ahead of time), we had a knock on the door: The passport had arrived, through registered mail, a day and a half after we applied for it.

To Bibi Netanyahu: A Message from Israeli Nationlists

Do not think that we voted for you, and gave you such a huge margin over Hertzog, because we like you.

We do not necessarily like the way you lead.

But we voted you in, because the thought of Hertzog leading a leftist government, that possibly included Arabs, sounded like the beginning of Israel’s demise.

And we love Israel.  We love our country, and would like to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) knowing that unless someone nukes us, or the sun blows up, we will probably still be around to celebrate next year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut.  We do not want to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, in about two months, knowing that by next year, Israel will be no more, because half will be given away and the other half will be so bombarded with rockets that normal life will become completely impossible.

And therefore, Bibi, we voted you in, to lead a right wing government that gives us a chance at a future; a government that does not mean complete suicide by giving in to terrorists, murderers, by pretending to be their friends.

Bibi, you owe the religious, and nationalists, a lot.  Because so many of us wanted to keep you strong, to ensure that you would lead the government and not Hertzog; because of this, you lead the biggest party by far, and the rest of us are small in comparison.

You would not be this powerful without it.  We gave you our votes, and we did it happily, because we love our country – and not because we love you.

Bibi, if you prove that you love our country less than we love it, you will be out of office.  We ask that you stick to your word and keep a two-state suicidal solution off the table.  Stand tall, let us defend ourselves, stick up for what we, as nationalists, know is right.  And do not give in to world pressure.

Because otherwise, you will soon find yourself with no coalition, headed for primaries that you will not win, and another election that you will definitely not win – because we helped you out, in our communal time of need – we helped you, because you were the one who had the power to help us – and you cheated us, by going back on your word and becoming a leftist, and by compromising our integrity, our identity as a Jewish State, and our security.

Stick to your word, and do not cheat us, the nationalists, millions of whom are religious nationalists, who voted you in.

Election 2015 – Preliminary Results

We won – and we lost.

Likud came out six mandates ahead of Avoda ((Labor;) or rather, Hahitachdut HaTzionit (Zionist Union)).

Hertzog, unless Kulanu (“Together”, headed by Moshe Kachlon) will sit with the Arabs, will not be able to form a coalition.

In order to form a coalition, you need 61 mandates.

Hertzog has 24; Yesh Atid has 11; Meretz has 4.  24+11+4=39

If he takes Kulanu, which has 10 mandates, he will get 49.  The Arabs have 14 mandates; if Hertzog takes them in addition to Kulanu, then he will have 63 mandates, or, in other words, a coalition.  If Kachlon doesn’t agree to sit with the Arabs – and being a former Likud member, and whose voters are right-wing, he very possibly may not agree – then Hertzog has no coalition.  Yay!!

The chareidi parties, Shas and Aguda (UTJ) will not sit with Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), because he is the one who spearheaded the campaign to force chareidim into the army.  Technically, the chareidim are more worth it than Lapid, because together, they have 14 mandates, while Lapid has only 11.  But Hertzog’s natural partner is Yesh Atid, and he will take the chareidim (some of whom will probably agree to sit with Arabs, some of whom will probably not) only as a last resort – unless a miracle occurs and they agree to sit with Lapid, which is highly unlikely.

Let’s take a look at Bibi.  I was right last time, and maybe I will be right this time.  Last time I said, why not just take Lapid and Bennett?  With Likud, Lapid, and Bennett, we already have a coalition, and because it is only three parties, it was expected to be stable (less demands, less zigzgging, less chance of it toppling over stupidities; Lapid proved stupider than I thought and therefore the potentially stable coalition was very unstable).

At any rate:

Bibi has 30 mandates; Bayit Yehudi has 8; Shas has 7; Yisrael Beiteinu and Aguda (UTJ) have six each. 30+8+7+6+6=57.  It’s still just short of a coalition, but if Kulanu joins them, then they will have 67, which is a good coalition.  Will it happen?  Actually, it’s very likely.

What does it depend on?  A few things:

1. That Kulanu refuse to sit with Arabs, and agree to join Bibi.

2. That the chareidim not insist on changing the draft law, and agree to sit with Bibi without making completely unreasonable demands.

3. That no one else on the right make completely unreasonable demands or refuse to sit with each other.

4. That Netanyahu and Hertzog not agree to a unity government.

If any of the first three happen, we are headed for new elections.  If the last one happens, we are in big trouble.

I am also very frustrated that 3+ mandates of right wing votes went to trash.  Like in previous elections, a lot of right wing votes went to a start-up party that no one was entirely sure would pass the threshold.  Last time, it was Otzma L’Yisrael, and 66,775 votes went down the drain.  This time, it was Yachad, and 118,368 votes went down the drain.  Also remember that last time, the minimum was 2 mandates; this time, the minimum was raised to 4 mandates.  Especially during these elections, when every right wing vote mattered, losing that many votes is a huge frustration and loss.  Wherever you would’ve put them – Shas, Aguda, Bayit Yehudi – they would have done something.  If they had all gone to Bayit Yehudi, then they would have 11 mandates instead of 8.  Let’s say some were taken from Shas and some from Aguda, as well as those from Bayit Yehudi – Bayit Yehudi would have 9, Shas would have 8, Aguda would have 7.  And possibly one of those would have gained two extra seats, because it’s not just 3 mandates – it’s 3+, which means that Yachad’s extra, plus someone else’s extra, might’ve added a second mandate to one of those.

Remember we said that a right-wing government, without Kulanu, had 57 mandates?  If we had those 3+, we might very well have had a coalition right there, even without worrying about who Kachlon will join.  Isn’t that a shame?  I, and many other right wing voters, think it is.

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.

Things I Don’t Understand

There are things that I never understood, still don’t understand, and perhaps never will understand.

For instance –

Why is it okay for Obama (insert name of current U.S. president) to drop bombs on Iran, Syria, and whoever else he wants – and are not even distant neighbors – but it’s not okay for us to bomb Gaza?

Why is the world silent about all the inhumane things happening in Syria, but an attempt at humane fighting in Gaza – in self-defense, so that we can have some security and live normally – causes an uproar?

Why is it okay for our civilians to be bombed, but not okay for us to bomb a terrorist organization that uses its own civilians as human shields?

Why does the world expect us to make peace with people who don’t respect or value life, even that of their own people?

Why is it not obvious that security breaches would not occur if countries would use racial profiling?  Why is it taboo to say that a Middle-eastern, young, unmarried, Arabic-speaking man is more of a security risk than a 76 year old Jewish grandmother traveling with two grandkids?

Why does it seem like Kuala Lumpur keeps coming up in connection with terrorism?

Why can’t Israel stand up for itself, ever?

Why are children born to people who don’t know how to take care of them and don’t care to take care of them, while I know really good, responsible people who waited five years or more for their first child?

Why do adoption agencies make so much money off both sides of the equation?  Why not just have an agency that takes unwanted, neglected, or abused kids and places them with people who want kids?  (Israel, by the way, works that way: You pay a 2000 shekel fee for psychological testing to make sure you’re going to be a decent parent, 400 shekel for the court fee, and the rest is free.)

Why do people get married thinking that they can change the other person?

Why do people have kids just to leave them in daycare from the age of three months?  And why is it forbidden to ask that question?

Why is the mother’s happiness more important than the baby’s health?  Why is it not obvious to everyone that rooming in and nursing until the baby is at least a year are desirable choices, and being separated from the baby and formula feeding are extremely undesirable choices that can negatively influence the baby’s health later on?

Why is it okay to feed your child liquid plastic in public but not okay to nurse in public?

Why does it matter if you’re not obligated to use a carseat in a taxi?  Does it change the safety problem?  Are taxis inherently safer than private cars?

Why does it matter if you’re allowed to leave a six year old at home in charge of a two year old?  Does it mean that it’s safe to do so?

Why can’t people use logic?

Why are people so influenced by peer pressure?  Who cares what other people do?

Why is it so important to have a degree?  It doesn’t even promise you a good job anymore.

Why is it taboo to write that homosexual men have a much higher rate of colon cancer (and other things) than anyone else?

Why is it taboo to write that intelligence is on the X chromosome?  Why is it not obvious?

Why is it taboo to say what you think?  Why does everyone look at me odd for doing what I believe in?

What’s wrong with saying that not everyone can sit and learn Talmud, or become a rabbi?

What’s wrong with saying that some kids will never finish college?

What’s wrong with saying that not every kid has the capacity to become a doctor, lawyer, or millionaire?

Why do people put so much time, energy, and money into making sure they look nice?

Who says looking nice means being skinny, wearing designer clothes, and painting your face with makeup?

Why does perfume always stink to high heaven?

Who wants to buy clothes or furniture that will go out of style in five years?

Who invented fashion and what’s the point of it?

Why do people consider fashion to be important?

Why bother buying expensive brands of clothing for kids, who will just stain them?

Why drive kids nuts over stains on their clothing?

Why does everyone have so much STUFF?

Why do people fall for ‘this toy makes kids smarter’ nonsense? 

Why does everyone’s kid have to be the smartest, most advanced, in their class?

Why do people buy expensive birthday presents and waste so much time and energy on fancy parties?

Why do people waste so much time and energy on ANY party?

Why does it seem like everything turns into a status issue?

Why don’t parents talk to each other instead of getting a divorce?

Why is it so hard for people to admit that they made a mistake, say sorry, and try to correct it?  We’re only human, after all.

Why does it seem like so many divorcees blame the other and make their kids’ lives miserable?

Why do so many divorcees make the same mistakes the second time around?

Why do people ask obvious questions after the answer was written in an obvious place and explained three times?

Why is it so important to have a large circle of acquaintances?

What’s this thing called ‘entertaining’ and why do people do it?

What’s wrong with a kid having one close friend and not wanting to play with anyone else?  What’s wrong with being shy, or an introvert?

Why do people get married?

What IS marriage, anyways? [Answer: A social institution designed to protect the wife from being left without an income and with a bunch of kids; and designed to protect the kids by committing both parents to their welfare.  Therefore, gay marriage is pretty pointless, because kids don’t come naturally, nor will one be left without an income because they are busy taking care of the house, since both partners are of the same gender.]

Why do people want kids?

Why do people have kids without marrying or intending to marry?

What logic is there in making the word ‘spouse’ taboo and using the word ‘partner’ instead?  Gimme a break.

Why do people divorce only to get back together, or get back in bed together (sorry little sister Shira, just pretend you didn’t read that), even if they’re not back together?  Why not just work on the relationship, or give it up?

Why do teachers not like the questions that I ask?  Why do they think it’s off topic? 

Why do I seem to intimidate people who are supposedly in a superior position to me?  Rabbis, teachers, potential or real bosses; I even scared my first date (by saying I was learning something that I was told not to mention, but what was I supposed to say?).  And – surprise surprise – Yitzchak does the same thing.  But it’s different because he’s a guy.  Guys are allowed to know a lot; girls aren’t.  And while I’m extremely grateful that Yitzchak has it better than me – why is it not okay for girls to know anything?

Why is it that people comment on what a cute little boy I have until he pulls out his doll, and then people start to say what a cute little girl he is?  Does a man become a woman because he’s holding a baby?

Are we really a liberal-minded society?  [Answer: No.  We just pretend that we are and make outcasts of anyone who dares to question if the emperor is really naked.  And he is.]

Why does no one know how to answer my questions?

Why is it forbidden to ask why?

 

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Yitzchak and I used to play the “Why Game”.  He would say something benign such as, “Can you clear the table?” or “Maybe you should work on your assignments,” and I would ask why.  He would give the reason, “Because it’s dirty,” or, “Because you want your degree,” and I would ask why.  And it would go on and on for half an hour, maybe more, until we were both racking our brains, me to come up with a question and him to come up with an answer.  Sometimes his answers got really complicated and scientific; usually when that happened I would sit through two or three answers and then just get tired.

It’s a fun game.  He’s the only one who ever had, or has, patience for my questions.

But we don’t play that game so often anymore, probably because we’re more tired and have less time, energy, and patience for such things.  We should, though.

A Freezing Weekend

I wrote this post last Friday, December 13.  But because I hadn’t edited it yet, it wasn’t published.  I also felt kind of funny writing about our Shabbat menu.  But the food came out good, and it was pretty filling, so I figure, why not.  Plus, it’s my only real-time snowstorm post.

Last Friday Yitzchak and I had an argument (more like a fight) over whether or not we should buy a radiator.  No, that’s not really what we fought about, that was just the trigger.

In the end, we decided that at the moment we didn’t need it, and we didn’t know if the winter would get cold enough that we would need it, so it could wait.  When the time came, we would rethink our decision.

The time came Wednesday afternoon.  Now, in all honesty, last week the temperatures were in the 20’s and high teens, and they suddenly dropped the low teens and single digits.  BIIIG difference.  Last week we got maximum five minutes of rain.  This week we had a power outage and it rained long enough for the parking lot to accumulate maybe a centimeter of water before it drained.  The parking lot, by the way, is big.  (If you’ve been following my blog, it’s in the picture Yitzchak took of the view from our kitchen window, posted around the time of our move.)

While Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria are enjoying fifteen centimeters of snow, we just have cold weather.  Really cold weather.  Today’s high is 6 and the low is 1.  Tomorrow’s prediction improved around mid-morning today, rising from a high of five and a low of -2 to a high of 6 and a low of zero.  Not great but better.

So now all Yitzchak and I can think about is making sure we stay warm.  And part of that is having warm food for Shabbat.  Here’s what our Shabbat menu usually looks like:

Friday night – some kind of heavy soup, challa, maybe chumus/ techina.

Shabbat morning – mashed potatoes/couscous, salad, stir fry/cooked vegetables/baked green beans.

Shabbat afternoon (seuda shlishit) – salad, egg salad/tuna salad/deviled eggs, remains of mashed potatoes/couscous, chumus/techina.

Today we decided that we wanted cholent.  Last time I tried my hand at cholent was a few months after we got married, when we were hosting a friend and her fiance.  It flopped, big time.  I haven’t tried since.

But today we wanted cholent, and I wanted kishke, so I’m trying again.  We also decided that we felt like being “fancy” and so our Shabbat menu this week looks like this:

Friday night – challah, heavy soup.  Maybe a bit of kugel.

Shabbat morning – challah*, cholent (with vegetarian kishke that is basically flour, carrots, oil, and onions), kugel, salad.

Shabbat afternoon – kugel, salad, challah, chumus (hummus).  Maybe we’ll make eggs and maybe not.  (In the end, the eggs were used up after we prepared everything else.)

Ah, and obviously, every week we make a cake, usually either a yellow cake or a chocolate cake.  More on that later.

Hopefully, the weather will warm up.  Because this is awful.  In all honesty, though, I’m praying for a few centimeters of snow on Sunday morning so that a) I don’t have to feel guilty about leaving early, and b) I don’t have to teach half a class.  Because at this rate, it doesn’t look like everyone else will be back to normal by Sunday morning, and we have a LOT of out-of-town students.  It’s no fun teaching half a class – to say the least.

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*This is a guttural ‘ch’, it isn’t pronounced like “chair.”  You can listen here.

Oops, Shoes!

Yesterday was Tisha B’Av.  On Tisha B’Av there are five [main] things that are forbidden.  One of those five is wearing leather shoes.  Since I didn’t go anywhere yesterday, there was no reason for me to wear shoes at all, so I kind of forgot about it.

Anyways, yesterday afternoon, Shlomo decided that he wanted to go out.  Now, there was no way that either Yitzchak or myself was about to take Shlomo on a walk, in the heat, on a fast day, four hours before the fast ended.  But Shlomo had decided that I was taking him on a walk.  He brought me my shoes, and tried to put them on my feet.  I kind of ignored it, until Yitzchak told me to cooperate with Shlomo.  I did.  I let him put the shoe on me, and while Shlomo was trying to figure out the other shoe, I took my foot out.  It just felt gross.  So, I told Shlomo, “Ewww, I can’t put my feet in these shoes without socks, it feels gross.”  I thought  Shlomo accepted it; he walked off and I heard him playing with the closet doors.

tisha b'av, no shoes, no shoes allowed, destruction of temple, 9 avFive minutes later, Shlomo comes back and hands me something: A pair of Yitzchak’s socks.  I did say that I needed socks, right?  So, He brought me some.  I had to laugh; I put the socks on and I put my feet back in the shoes.

Then Shlomo went to the bedroom to bring me my wig.  This I refused to put on, saying that I needed to put my hair up first.  No problem for Shlomo – he started to climb on the table, in order to bring them to me.  I just said no – we’re not going anywhere.  And I left my shoes on . . . because, well, why not?

About half an hour later, Yitzchak prepares to go to mincha (the afternoon prayer).  I see him put his shoes on. And then I realize – I’m wearing shoes.  He’s wearing shoes.  It’s Tisha B’Av.  We’re not supposed to be wearing shoes.

Oops.  I have never, ever, ever made that mistake before.  I don’t think Yitzchak has, either.

Oh my goodness.  It’s Tisha B’Av and we’re wearing leather shoes.  I take mine off.  Yitzchak insists that after midday, it’s fine.  He has reason to insist, too – Yitzchak has been up to the store and back again, twice, presumably also wearing his shoes.  I insist that Yitzchak take his shoes off before proving it.  He does.

And he can’t prove it.  Oops.

At least it was an honest mistake.  I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.  But in the meantime, it sure made my heart drop.

What Is Dating Like?

In most Orthodox Jewish communities, boys and girls are taught separately.  Sometimes they are in the same building but separate classes, but usually, there are different schools for boys and girls.  (There are educational advantages to this, just as there are disadvantages.)  Friendships are usually same-gender only.  In fact, the only really acceptable way to speak to someone of the other gender who is not related to you, is to date.

However, you can probably guess that by the time a person gets to the stage where they’re looking to get married, they don’t have too many friends of the opposite gender.  So, someone sets them up (or, increasingly, they find each other on a religious dating website, with or without a site matchmaker).

Here’s how it goes:

1) Someone suggests them/they see a profile that might be a good match.

2) They ask for references for the other person.

3) Someone they know and trust (but sometimes they themselves) calls  these people up to ask different questions about the prospective date’s personality, background, etc.  What we are checking here is that if they like each other, the marriage can work.  Sometimes you can like someone with totally different goals than you, who wants to live on a different continent.  That’s called heartbreak for nothing – you can’t build a home simultaneously  on two different continents.

4) If all sounds good, they meet.  There may or may not be a direct phone conversation between them if they were set up, though usually, there is.

Sometimes individuals who use dating sites skip the reference-checking stage.  Usually when that happens, they end up complaining that they have no idea why they were set up with this person or why they wasted their time and energy.  It’s not the best idea to skip it; the step is there for a reason.  A very good reason.

This whole system is called “shidduch dating”.  Some people find their own spouse, through casual meetings.  It’s not the norm and is usually considered to be more of a risk.  But it does happen.

Marriages that are set up with this system are may be low on passion, but they are usually very high on commitment.  “Young love,” is left to develop after the commitment has already been made.  There are, of course, some people for whom it never develops.  There are also some bad marriages that come out of this system.

But hey, if America has a 50% divorce rate, and there are couples who aren’t happy everywhere, it’s not too bad, right?  Everything has its pluses and minuses. . .

Anyways, yesterday, Yitzchak and I were talking, and I told him, “You know, I wonder what it would be like to date.  It kind of sounds interesting.”  He said, “I wonder, too.”

We’re married.  How come we don’t know what it’s like to date?

I had one date, with one guy, before I met Yitzchak.  I truly don’t know why we were set up, especially since we did the reference step (I didn’t do the calling).  He wanted to join his family business in South Africa.  I had just immigrated to Israel and was stuck here for at least another five years.  Nice guy, but really no point in a second date.

The second person I dated was Yitzchak.  I was his first.  And we didn’t go through the “shidduch system,” exactly.  We did the reference step, but we met on a forum.  I guess we were something between the DIY and the dating sites.  It wasn’t a dating site, although we weren’t the first couple to meet there.  There were risks, obviously, because online you have no idea who the other person is.  That’s why the reference step was super-important to both of us, and we didn’t meet or talk on the phone before it was finished and we knew that the other wasn’t a wanted criminal or some kind of abusive monster.

Even after we met, because of technical issues, we didn’t date the “regular” way, with two-hour dates twice a week or something.  Yitzchak insists that our dates were normal and most of his friends 3 or 4 had 8-hour dates, too.  I don’t know.  But it sure wasn’t what everyone does . . . and I’m curious to know how it works for everyone else.  Sure, I’ve heard stories, but it’s not the same.

And on the other hand . . . I know so many people who would gladly switch places with me, and we really do count ourselves lucky to have found each other so easily.  So even though we’re curious, I think it’s just better that we stay that way.  Everything has its pluses and minuses, right?

This is one big plus, with the only minus being curiosity – and the fact that I really don’t know what to answer my friends sometimes when they ask me for dating advice.

Truthfully, I don’t recommend trying to follow in our footsteps.  It was risky and it took a toll.  Yes, I did it.  But I didn’t plan it.  You kind of take what G-d gives you, you know?  But it’s not a good idea to go looking for risks or trouble, just for the sake of it.

The following is a diagram of how shidduch dating usually looks.  It’s a slight parody, but might make it easier to follow, in case I wasn’t clear.

Words That Echo

I asked a question on Friday.

The answer echoes within me.

I updated the question on Sunday.

And the answer echoes within me.

Echoes,

Echoes,

The caring,

The warmth,

The gentle interrogation, so that he would have a full picture,

All of it echoes in me,

Healing the scars of misconceptions not unfounded,

Of trying times and feeling stuck,

Healing my belief in G-d and Judaism.

Healing my belief that the Judaism we have today,

Is not in contradiction to the Judaism that G-d wants.

I am so glad I found this rabbi.