Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Wordle a Day ...

I like the way this Wordle turned out, mostly because it looks to read "well make Jewish" and "know Torah" I think that's both appropriate and amusing. If you haven't done a Wordle, well, get to it already!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Let's Talk Torah: Who Wrote It?

I don't know how it happened -- I blame the 1.5-hour, corporate-style commute -- but I've become one of those people that mechanically purchases a coffee product every morning, without fail. No matter how hard I try to avoid the purchase, it happens. I haven't gotten to the point where I go to the same coffee shop or have the same barista or where the patrons happen to be the same day in and day out at the same hour every day, but it's still sort of frightening. I'll make my way to campus, avoiding Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, and still manage to get to campus and hit the Starbucks down here, or -- even after making it to my office, going back out -- to the Divinity School.

Yes, the Divinity School here at the U of Chicago is right next door, and yes there is a coffee shop in their basement. They even sell T-Shirts that says something along the lines of G-d drinks our coffee, or somethign similar. The boon to going to the Div School coffee shop is that I get to stop in the lobby and peruse the various texts that faculty in the School have published recently. So the other day, and once again today, I noticed a new book -- "Rewriting the Torah" -- and of course the title piqued my interest. I found a preview of it on Google Books, and it seems like an interesting read. Here's what the Amazon description says:
Jeffrey Stackert explores literary correspondences among the pentateuchal legal corpora and especially the relationships between similar laws in Deuteronomy and the Holiness Legislation (Lev 17-26). Through an analysis of the pentateuchal laws on asylum, seventh-year release, manumission, and tithes, he argues that the Holiness Legislation depends upon both the Covenant Collection and Deuteronomy. The author also elucidates the compositional logic of the Holiness legislators, showing that these authors employ a method of literary revision in which they reconceptualize source material according to their own ideological biases. In the end, the Holiness Legislation proves to be a "super law" that collects and distills the Priestly and non-Priestly laws that precede it. By accommodating, reformulating, and incorporating various viewpoints from these sources, the Holiness authors create a work that is intended to supersede them all.
Now, when I took Hebrew Bible many moons ago in my undergraduate education, I grew quickly fascinated with the idea of various authors composing Torah. The idea initially seemed logical, then outlandish, then made sense as we studied the literary themes and stylings of the different books and even various parashot within Torah. However, after that class, I sort of put my notes/exams/thoughts into a notebook and filed them away and haven't really thought much about it since then. In fact, I don't even know what traditional Judaism's thoughts on the idea of various authors composing the written Torah are -- is it accepted or denied, that is, among the religious community (I know the academic community is pretty much in agreeance about the concept of various authors, known as the documentary hypothesis

It is my understanding (and this will also work itself into my BIG POST ON THEOLOGY) that within Orthodox Judaism (note: the term Orthodox was really coined only in the early 19th century),  the belief is that Torah was given at Sinai (both oral and written?) to Moses, and that it was then transmitted throughout the generations until it was written down. The oral tradition was meant to never really be written since, well, it's the oral tradition. My blank comes with the "written" portion of the revelation, being Torah: is it believed that G-d actually gave Moses the Torah? Or that Moses composed the Torah during the revelation and that it was passed down? Or is it believed that both traditions were passed along and composed later, so the idea of multiple authors would be acceptible, if not absolutely logical under the circumstances?

So, nu? Tell me what you know. I'll probably pick up this book at some point -- likely after I move and have a shiny new UConn library card. As a writer/poet/amateur blogger, the way a person combines words into complete thoughts is fascinating and watching how different authors are and how their personal styles manage to reveal themselves even in anonymous instances absolutely excites me. So this is going to be an ongoing conversation, and I hope to glean some useful information from you -- my readers!

Be well, friends!


Yes, folks, there's a redesign. I guess if you're reading this in a feeder, you probably can't see it, but give the page a go and let me know what you think. The white underlay behind the header is meant to be there, and yes, it's running into the couch on purpose.

I've heard that the design, for some reason, doesn't pan out so well with Safari, but it should work with Firefox on PC and Mac, and it works fine on my PC with IE as well. But please let me know. If it gets to the point where this design is just too darn buggy to deal with, I'll make it easier on you -- the reader -- and take a step back to the simple blogger design. I was just trying to make things more cozy and inviting, and I think that the beautiful couch up there in my favorite color does the trick, don't you?

So come in to the blog, have a seat, get some tea ... and the first person who can peg what that picture hanging on my blog wall up there is of and/or by ... I'll be sending you my gently used copy of Celebrating the Jewish Year: Fall Holidays! As time goes on, I'll be changing that picture and giving books away, so look out!

Good luck, and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'll show YOU kosher!

Realization: I'm not very good at explaining to questioners why I don't mix meat/milk. What's a quick, one-sentence explanation that doesn't edge on "because the Torah says so" ...? I go into a big explanation of a variety of things, and well, I seek brevity.
(Note: At the present, my policy is no goat in goat's milk, no beef in cow's milk, etc. "Thou shall not cook a kid in its mother's milk" to me means just that.)

The next few weeks, then UConn.

So it is, that in a mere two weeks, I will be leaving Chicago for a week-long trip prior to my arriving in Storrs, Connecticut, where I will be attending school to acquire a master's degree in Judaic studies. It's a two year program, and whether I end up in a PhD program in New York or Israel or elsewhere or if I end up meeting my beshert and starting a family or if I end up doing school temporarily in Israel or converting Orthodox or working at some Jewish organization, well ... those things are yet to be seen/decided/figured out. I could, of course, get hit by a bus tomorrow -- who knows!

When I leave Chicago, I'm making the (semi-) brief trek to Lincoln, Nebraska, where I spent my adolescence and undergraduate years. I'll be spending time with my little brother, who is 16, meeting his new (and first) girlfriend. I'll be going to the restaurants that I so miss, eating the food that I remember as distinctly Nebraskan, visiting the locales (the CoHo) where I would sometimes spend eight hours a day studying biblical Hebrew. I'll be in Lincoln for about four days, hopefully seeing old friends and having drinks and doing that "last hurrah" kind of thing before I scoot off to Connecticut, where I plan to make some lifestyle changes. Of course, I say that I plan, but we all know how planning goes -- most of the time it doesn't. I hesitate to make any grandiose statements, and at this point making those statements without my big WHAT IS MY THEOLOGY post would probably result in some criticism and furthering opinions about my sincerity. So, let's just say, my time in Nebraska is meant to be a full, all-out time of enjoyment and good times.

I'll then make the 22-hour drive from Lincoln to Storrs over a few days. I'm still not sure how I'm splitting the trip up, or whether I'll be stopping at all. I know driving 22 hours is pretty brutal, and it's difficult because I'll be driving through several states were friends -- some whom I haven't seen in years or met at all -- reside. In a perfect world, I'd loop through Indiana and Ohio and Pennsylvania, making stops to see e-friends and college friends alike. Then again, the price of gas and the thought of turning my car in after the deadline make my wallet weep. So chances are, it'll be a straight-shot.

I am hoping, though, that when I am in Connecticut, that I will be able to make at least once-a-month treks into New York city for Shabbos with (at present) e-friends. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be on Shabbat, especially with my ever-evolving Underconstructionist existence. Plus, if I'm going to meet a nice Jewish boy, the chances are good that I'll be able to pick one up in NYC, nu? From what I can tell, there's a mighty (or perhaps just visible) Jewish presence on the U of C campus. There's a Hillel (with their own website!) and Chabad, and it appears that they have cross-denomination services on Shabbat (this intrigues me immensely -- egalitarian? which prayer book? women leading services?). West Hartford, a half-hour jaunt from Storrs, has a mighty Jewish presence, including an active eruv. They even have a weekly Jewish newspaper: the Jewish Ledger. It seems, though, that it might be easier for me to go to NYC than to get to Hartford. Shocking, eh? My plan is to stay on campus for Shabbos, see how services are, and perhaps develop my own Shabbat habits. But it's hard to write about what I want to happen, thinking about what will happen. I guess in about a month, I should have already experienced my first Shabbat, as well as having experienced the opening Jewish BBQ festivities, and hopefully I'll have some idea of what the Jewish presence on campus is like.

And I know what some reader is thinking: Who cares? Well, I care. My undergraduate school had about 90 Jews enrolled (or was it 60?), and of those, there were about 15-20 who were actually "actively Jewish," as in, showed up for Hillel events and took the Jewish studies courses and what have you. I'd be happy with even 100 Jewish students who show their faces every now and again. I mean, in a state with 6,000 Jews, most of whom live in Omaha, it was tough cookies as far as making a Jewish connection or finding a mate went. So I'm excited at the prospect of a more prevalent, populous community. And the thought of even being near NYC, an American Jewish mecca, well, really gets my gears going.

Community, folks, is a BIG part of Judaism, being Jewish, living Jewishly. At least, it is for me!

Ruby Tuesday

I love web-wide photo projects, and here's another one of which I'm going to attemp to participate: Ruby Tuesday. It's exactly what you'd think it is, so here's my first shot. It was taken in the fall of 2006 in Washington D.C. As it turns out, red doesn't appear in abundance in that many of my photos, so I'll be on the look out henceforth!

Once again, a hat tip to Ilana-Davita for bringing this project to my attention!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Small Miracles?

I'm not one to get my wisdom from cartoon TV shows on Prime Time, but something interesting was said last night on a repeat of American Dad (a show which I loathe, but without internet at home, I needed background noise). The episode was about the Dad being frustrated with a friend of his who had everything in common with him, except that this friend was an athiest. The Dad goes to all lengths to try and drive his friend to believe in G-d, eventually driving him to suicide, which fails. The friend ends up in the hospital and the Dad prays to G-d that if the friend should live, he'll accept him no matter what he believes. Just then, the friend wakes up and tells how G-d kicked him down to Hell where he sold his soul to Satan to return to earth.

Somewhere, I forget precisely where, in the episode, someone tells the Dad that G-d doesn't work like a vending machine. You don't put in a couple prayers and get something immediate in return.

This, as I've mentioned before, is my philosophy on small "miracles" and chances of random luck: avoiding getting a speeding ticket, a squirrel getting out of the street before you hit it, getting the right numbers in the lottery, running into the right person at the right time. These things, to me, are the wrong kinds of things we pray for and thus attribute immediately to G-d when they happen to work out. It's like reading your horoscope and mysteriously you find some way to make it fit into the way your day or week is going.

Maybe it's because of my "Christian" background, where if you wanted something you simply said a prayer and hoped for the best. I'd pray for a new toy or for so-and-so to ask me out or to get an A on a test I'd already taken, like somehow G-d could magically change the grade just because of my prayer.

As I've blogged about before, prayer isn't meant when we're asking for things. Prayer is meant for bigger things -- strength, healing, understanding, etc. G-d isn't a vending machine, and we can't plug quarters in and expect or even hope for a bag o' chips.
Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, or mend a broken bridge, or rebuild a ruined city; but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will. -- Gates of Prayer (Siddur)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Haveil Havalim -- Check it Out!

The glorificous Frume Sarah is hosting this week's Haveil Havalim, and it is now up and live on her blog. What is HH? It's a carnival of Jewish blogs, that's what it is. There is some extra info about this snazzy little blog carnival up below and here.
Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’

By any other name ...

All this time, I've been at a loss for words when filling out surveys and answering questions about how I affiliate in the Big Bad World of Judaism. I often say I'm floating, still figuring it out, exploring my options, feeling for ground. I've found a new affiliation, one that describes who I am and what I'm doing and hopefully no one can argue with it or tell me that my theology or practices don't line up with it. What is this brilliant word, this all-encompassing textual representation of Chaviva bat Avraham v'Sarah?


I discovered this outstanding piece of lexi-canon while writing a "Happy Birthday" message on a friend's Facebook wall just moments ago. I saw it and thought, WOW! Why hadn't I thought of that before? So I Googled the term and found this brilliant piece written by Rabbi Baruch HaLevi, a self-proclaimed Underconstructionist (with Conservative training) at a shul in Massachussettes. The word "underconstructionist" appears 222 times in the Google search, and mostly on blogs of creative Jewish bloggers like Dixie Yid. But, as it turns out, when you click through the search results, most of the entries are "repeats" and really there's only a little more than a dozen results. The affiliation seems to be a popular choice on, which appears to be yet another one of those fancy newfangled online Jewish dating sites. 

It seems to me, though, that being Underconstructionist is what most Jews (who attempt to quell their stubborn stuck-in-the-mud ways) really, truly are. It isn't so much frowning on denominationalism, but rather is the best way of saying "Listen, work in progress, so I keep sort of kosher and go to Orthodox shul but am not necessarily shomer Shabbos, get off my back! I'm workin' on it!" And this, well, is basically where I am and what I'm doing.

Inspired by some comments over on my Why People Become Orthodox post on by Avi, I've got a big ole blog post on my theology in the works. It's going to take a while to compose, so please be patient and understand if it doesn't show up for a month or more! Essentially, I haven't really ever gone into great lenghts about my theology, and I think a lot of people might see me as an Academic Jew, someone who relates to the history, methodologies of study, and does nothing but read read read and doesn't so much have a theological stand and thus, well, my adventure into the world of Orthodoxy might confuse and bewilder some. Believe me, my blog post my shock and appall some, but it needs to be written. So stay tuned.

And until then? This Underconstructionist Jew bids you all a good Shabbos (yes, blogging on the Sabbath over here) and a restful weekend.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Because everyone is doing it. It worries me that vengeance and kill are so big ...

So you want to be a Jew?

Okay, I want to start a dialogue. This dialogue is going to be based on a Metafilter post, and by clicking on this link, you can read all the comments and responses. What I want to know, is your take on it. Essentially, the user is asking whether -- as a secular atheist -- he/she can convert to Judaism. The user says " I feel absolutely ripped off that I was not born a Jew, and I want to be one." The religious aspect does not appeal at all to this person, and it seems a lot of the commenters believe it is and can be a valid conversion into the culture. Now, my initial response is "That's like wanting to convert to become Chinese or Indian or Aboriginal or Eskimo." Like waking up one day and deciding you're African-American or something, simply because you're fond of the culture, language quips and lifestyle. I do have one friend, a self-proclaimed athiest who did convert to Judaism not too long ago, and I try to avoid the topic in conversation as it seems like a contradiction (he dons tefillin and goes to shul).

As a convert myselef, I have to tred carefully because I have no right or need to say anyone shouldn't convert for whatever reasons ... but it seems to me that if all that interests you is the culture, you really haven't spent much time analyzing the possibilities, the process, or Judaism in general.

So take a gander at the link, and let's talk, shall we?

The Every-now-and-again Hodgepodge Post

For some reason, my dermatologist is fascinated with kabbalah (that is, he's fascinated with all the hoopla), so during my procedure today I explained what (little) I know about it to him. When I was there last week, he asked questions about why I was Jewish, if you recall, which I blogged about here. I just thought it was interesting, and if anything, it kept my mind off of the bit that was going on on my back. Two weeks of gauzing and healing and hopefully I'll be done dealing with this blasted problem. It's funny because I asked him whether genetics play a role in skin cancer, and he said that a lot of the time they do, but a lot of the time it's also time spent in the sun. The thing is ... I don't know if you all have looked at me lately, but I'm the last person you see sun bathing. I learned to love my pasty-white skin early on and I actually avoid the sun most of the time. How peculiar then, eh?

At any rate, I thought I'd share a few tidbits of information I found lately relating to the world o' Judaism in some capacity or another. So here you go, all the stuff that's fit to print.

+ Starring presently as Squeak in Oprah's The Color Purple is someone you might not suspect to be a Jew! It's Stephanie St. James, who is the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. St. James, whose father is a Guyenese-born Israeli, identifies herself as neither African or American, but identifies very strongly with her Jewish roots and intends on raising her eventual children in a Jewish home. You can read her story here.

+ I know I blogged about the only kosher culinary school before, but I can't seem to find a link. The school, Jerusalem Culinary Institute located in Israel, was sort of a difficult venture for Jews in the Diaspora. Though many successful Jewish and kosher cooks come out of other programs, many have wanted and sought out a school that focuses on kosher cooking. Well, guess what!? Recently opened in Flatbush in New York is the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts. The intensive program is six weeks and costs a mere $4,500. There's a story by JTA here.

+ A new documentary focuses on the gap between Israeli and Diaspora Jews, questioning when and how it happened. The film follows American Jews of all walks as they visit Israel. I guess the film came out earlier this year, but it's the first I'm hearing about it unless I completely missed something. The film is called Eyes Wide Open and you can visit the website here.

+ Over on, Shimshonit has blogged about an upcoming book by Professor Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis. Yes, had I chosen Brandeis over UConn, I could probably have experienced greatness. But, well, those hefty student loans just didn't appeal to me. At any rate, his new book sounds pretty fascinating. The book, A Time to Every Purpose: Letters to a Young Jew, explores not so much the why to be Jewish, but the how. From what I can gather, it's an essential introduction/reintroduction to Judaism.

That's all for now, readers. Come back tomorrow when hopefully I have something worthwhile to say about my impending move to Connecticut where I will have to settle into a college-style Jewish community, how it will relate/compare to my undergraduate experience, and what it means for shul-going ... and how often I might trek myself down to NYC for some Jew-time on the weekends (Peter Pan buses, hooray!).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

All Kind Winter Item

Ice Cream for Sale
Originally uploaded by kvetchingeditor
Summer, summer, summertime.

Oh, Moses ...

I sat down this afternoon to read this week's parashah, Mattot, which turns the focus of Torah to settling in the land. My biggest beef with this very short parashah is that, after G-d instructs Moses to have the people to take down the Midianites for the episode at Peor.

G-d tells the men to "wreak the Lord's vengeance on Midian" in Numbers 31. So the hefty soldiers go out, killing all of the men, and they round up the booty, women and children and head back to camp. Back at camp, Moses gets all up and arms and demands that they kill all the women who have taken in the delights of carnal pleasures, as well as all of the male children. So the mighty men kill all that Moses has instructed, wait the cleansing period, and then head back into camp.

So what's my beef? Firstly, this is a minor example of a "holy war" so far as we understand the term -- a war raged by religious partisans in order to propogate or defend their faith. That in and of itself is a gigantic issue, as in whether adding religion to a war invalidates or clouds the judgments of participants (think: crusades). But my big beef is about Moses' reaction to the returning soldiers and their booty. Moses is clearly upset with the soldiers for not having killed the women and the children, as in his mind "wreak the Lord's vengeance on Midian" meant to kill everyone, to spare no one. But in the minds of the mass of the soldiers, obviously that statement and in turn the Lord's vengeance applied only to men.

Thus, where is the great divide? Where is the confusion? How is it that all of these Israelites thought that G-d's vengeance meant to kill all the men and Moses's conception of this vengeance meant to kill all the women, too? A question can be raised, is the resulting order to kill all of the women and male children G-d's vengeance or is it Moses'? And on that note, what if even one of these women didn't partake in seducing the Israelites? Are their deaths still valid?

At any rate, just some questions for this week's parshah. Think on it, tell me what you think!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When You're All Alone.

I realized recently -- sometime last month -- that I have my father's laughter. That is, when I laugh, I mean really laugh, I sound like my dad. It's this boisterous chuckle that I always thought was distinct to my father. It's always been comforting, the thought of his laugh and the smile that accompanies it. I can picture instances of him talking with his co-workers near endcaps for light bulbs and building gadgets while he worked at Payless, the lumber store, when he was a manager and before it went under; the CEOs walked away with millions. And he was always laughing, because he was happy. And now, I hear that laughter when I get rolling, and at first when I noticed it, it made me exceeding uncomfortable. This being because I'd noticed earlier this year, while looking at a photo taken at a friend's birthday party, that in that split instance of the photo, I looked exactly like my mother.

Where we come from, our genes, out family trees, those who preceded us in both spirit and blood, matters so much. What they are and have, we are and have, and thus we give to our children.

I had a bit of an emotional breakdown last night. I don't write about this stuff very often, mostly because this blog is my baby and I want it to be as positive, if not healthy, as possible. But I had this small, mostly painless procedure last week to get rid of some moles and I got a call last night that one of them is questionable and I have to go back in for a more invasive procedure. Okay, it's not that invasive -- it's a cut about as long as my finger with some stitches, but I'm the girl who has never had stitches, never spent time in the hospital, never broken any bones, nothing. I am, for the most part, a picture of health. Well, unless you count the eczema (mom), my bad knees (who knows), asthma and allergies (dad), and some other non-life-threatening but absolutely consistently irritating and painful things that I deal with. But last night, while attempting to put a band-aid on this spot on my back -- in no man's land, right in the middle -- I got frustrated. Six band-aids in, and no luck, I finally slapped one on and said screw it. I walked out to my bed, and I sat down, and I felt defeated. It was then that I realized a friend had called (voicemail) to check up on me to see how I was doing, and I just broke down. I spent the next hour in and out of sobs. It took me back to being at the doctor's office and his dismay at me not having anyone around to help me bandage. That old enemy, the voice of "you are so very alone" crept back in and beat me down. I was alone.

I've been thinking a lot lately about sickness, death and dying. I found out today that one of my high school teachers (who, in truth I never took classes from but someone I knew and who my friends had classes with) died after a long bout with Leukemia. In high school, I had a half-dozen friends lose their mothers to cancer of some sort, and this year an ex lost her mother to cancer as well. I knew a kid in high school who had testicular cancer and survived. I know someone with fibromyalgia. I know a lot of people, who have family and friends who deal with a lot of horrible things. But in truth, I've never been touched by these things, at least, not in that painful, life-long struggle to cope with a sick, dying relative or close friend. I'm one of the lucky ones, I guess, is what I'm saying.

I can't complain about some stupid "questionable" moles or the eczema that has kept me from wearing shorts of any variety, not to mention swimsuits, since my freshman year of high school and that makes me feel perpetually in pain, if not disgusted at myself. I can't get in a tissy about my knees that sound like squishing crumpled potato chip bags when I walk up the stairs. I can't complain about the cough that won't go away or how half the time I can't sleep and the other half I sleep like a baby but that there's no median. Or maybe, rather than can't, I should say shouldn't. I shouldn't complain, because I don't really have the right. Because in truth, I don't have it that bad.

Every day I worry that the breast cancer, that caused my grandmother much pain but didn't kill her, will fall to me. Or that I'll discover I, like my father and uncle and others, have diabetes; it killed two of my great aunts. Maybe, I'll discover that I have lung cancer, despite having never smoked; it killed my grandmother when my dad was just a child. Then there is the heart disease that killed my grandfather when my father was 10 and resulted in my own fathering having to have a bypass several years ago. I try so hard to not dwell on these things. And it's why I've turned into my mother when it comes to doctors -- avoid, avoid, avoid. What you don't know can't hurt you, right?

But then I have these moments where I'm doing something as small as bandaging a wound -- a wound created because a doctor was worried about the possibilities (no one in my family has ever danced with skin cancer). And now, I have to go back because there is a small possibility. I should be grateful, right? I wish I could be. I just keep wondering -- if something were to happen to me, who would be there to take care of me?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rabbis Explain Why People Become Orthodox

Note: I had originally posted a blog here, which was crossposted on However, in an effort to keep content original on JBC, as well as my personal blog, I encourage you to head over to the JBC blog in order to read the post. I apologize for the confusion this might cause.


There has been an interesting series posted on the Hirhurim Musings blog about Why People Become Orthodox, and I thought it would be useful to share here simply because the perspectives of many Conservative rabbis are shared. Essentially a question was posed to a number of rabbis across the spectrum of Judaism, and as far as I can tell it's an ongoing series. To read the blog post, please visit this link.

Yes, really, how angry are we?

Listening to yesterday's Unger Report on NPR's Day to Day podcast, I shook my head in agreeance. I mean, how bad do we REALLY have it when we can stand in line for days for an iPhone or fight for tickets to a blockbuster. What kind of image does that send to the rest of the world as we sit here whining about how the economy is a bust and how gas is expensive. I mean, really? Anyway, listen to the Unger Report. He hits the nail on the head, most assuredly.


Chavi Goes Shopping, online, Again!

I am presently on the hunt for a t-shirt. I'm not exactly sure what kind of t-shirt, really. I mean, I'm looking for a t-shirt that says "Hey, I'm Jewish" or "Look at me, I have Hebrew on my shirt" or something of that variety. I used to have this amazing shirt with the face of a Hasid and all sorts of Hebrew words or characters or something around it. I loved that shirt, but it was this cream color and it just didn't mesh with my skin, and it was too big, so I got rid of it long ago. I happen to own one T-Shirt with a beautiful dove filled with a medley of pictures/words related to Israel, but I'm looking for something more ... well ... not trendy, per se, but something that's a little more hip to me.

So I found Israel Vintage Icons on T, which has an array of really awesome tees, and the way that the designs are presented are very classy. The Army Girl tee is very neat; it's described as "Based on the 'Army Girl' photo from the Nico and Trudy Schwartz-Hiller collection: 'Recruiting the daughters of Israel to the British Army'." Then there's the Israeli Pictograms shirt, which could come in handy if I ever make it to Israel. I think my favorite, perhaps for its simplicity, is the Star of David tee, which you see on that guy right there. The t-shirts are running $19 a pop, with $6 shipping to the U.S. of A. If you're in Israel, it's a mere $4. Why? Well, this company is based in Israel. D'oh for me!

I also stumbled upon perhaps my favorite t-shirt find. Yes, it's Jews for Cheeses! I'm really seconds away from procuring this tee, simply because, well, I haven't had a run-in with the Jews for Jesus yet, but I have to think that G-d would will it to be on the day that I would be wearing this marvelous t-shirt. Don't you think? Plus, this screen cap shows that one of my favorite TV shows (Pushing Daisies) even saw the hilarious necessity in owning such a shirt!

At this point I'll say that I'm avoiding the typical "Nice Jewish Girl" and "Challah Back" and "Nu Jew" and all of those tees. Why? They're obnoxious and silly, that's why. I want something classy. And maybe "Jews for Cheeses" isn't classy, but come on ... it's hilarious. And those "Let's get Chai" shirts? Gag me with a spoon!

Then, of course, while browsing around I found, which has ... well ... not so much with the shirts, but an ark-load of other beautiful things. Including (another) necklace I want. It's the "Letters of Creation" necklace. Oy! So beautiful ... and a Gelt Money Clip? I wish I knew someone who actually used a money clip, becuase I'd drop a dime for this in a second! There are oodles of other things on the Modern Tribe site that, well, if I were rich and not heading to graduate school, I'd most definitely procure.

But back to T-shirts. Chavi needs a t-shirt. There's the typical Hebrew Coca-Cola shirt, but it seems like that's the obligatory tee to have if you're a Jew looking for a shirt, right? Rotem Gear has some nice tees, but none that are really calling to me. And although I would *never* buy it, I thought the "I Choose You, PikaJew" shirt was hilarious. In fact, I'm sending the link to my little brother (a former Pokemon obsessee). Of course, I could get a shirt personalized with my name so everyone who sees it knows who I am -- if they read Hebrew, that is!

And by some stroke of luck, I've found Store of David. I have fallen in love with the Milk and Meat tee, and if I can get over the price, I might just pick it up. And who can resist the I Control the Media tee? I'm often told that, having been a copy editor and being Jewish, well, that I play nicely into that, and I can't deny it! It was then that I stumbled upon the Jewish Food Pyramid tee, and I'm really dismayed because I can't seem to find a larger image of it ... but it simply looks hilariously wonderful. If only it came in something other than powder blue! Then again, there is this let there be light tee, which is on sale. 

But the holy grail of T-shirts has to be this: Chicago. Yes, it's a shirt that SAYS Chicago in Hebrew and has the el map. Yes, yes I think I will have to buy this shirt. After contacting customer service, they assure me that it comes in an array of colors with either black or white text. Here's hoping?

Okay, so I'm no closer to finding a T-shirt than I was when I started this adventure hours ago (I am at work, after all, while composing this). I do have some good options, though. And I know some of you might be asking yourselves, "Chavi! Nu? You're nearly 25. Can't you get serious and lose the t-shirt shtick? Act like an adult already!" But in truth, I've spent the past two years wearing "business" clothes to work and being all dressy bessy. A girl needs a T-shirt, darn't, and not just on the weekends. Soon, I will return to school and with school comes laziness, waking up late, throwing on a tee and going to class. So if you have a favorite tee out of all of these, let me know and perhaps I'll pick it up before I go broke!

Shalom, and happy shopping :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

G-d: He is she is he.

Wow. Firstly, I have to thank Cesar for bringing this article to my attention ... but talk about an interesting and fascinating breakthrough in biblical scholarship. The entire article, "Rabbi unveils a secret of G-d" (hyphen inserted by me) can be found by clicking here. I will have to write more about this later (since I am at work) but I have to get this out into the big bad world of the interwebs and my blog-o-community becuase I think this is a brilliant undertaking academically.
The tradition-bound Western image of a he-man, masculine God may already be thousands of years out of date, says a Westchester rabbi who believes he has unlocked the secret to God's name and androgynous nature.
Rabbi Mark Sameth contends in a soon-to-be-published article that the four-letter Hebrew name for God - held by Jewish tradition to be unpronounceable since the year 70 - should actually be read in reverse. When the four letters are flipped, he says, the new name makes the sounds of the Hebrew words for "he" and "she."
And here is a video with the rabbi discussing his thoughts on this. Brilliant!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Project Black, Chavi Style, Take III.

Originally uploaded by kvetchingeditor
Here is more of the Project Black, this one is a picture I took Friday while waiting in the humidity at the Madison stop on the Green/Brown/Orange/Pink line in the Loop. Pigeons are such hideous, yet such beautiful, simple creatures. Rats with wings, but when they tilt their heads just so ... Don't forget to check out/join Project Black over at this blog.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Project Black, Chavi Style, Take II

Originally uploaded by kvetchingeditor
I liked the varied colors on this, and it was in the comfort of my own little bathroom -- radiator (hot in the winter, doesn't turn off), hand-held mirror in pink, kerchief that my mother wore in the 1970s, and lastly, the black and white headband I've rarely worn.

A thought ...

Does anyone have any tips/advice on how to get free advance (or even released) copies of books for review?

I got an email today from the Jewish Learning Group about that book I blogged about here, Going Kosher in 30 Days. Now, I'm all about buying books, but I like to check them out from the library first, or at least buy them off where books tend to be on the more inexpensive end of things. So unless I buy a really expensive Kindle device, I can't get the book for $9.99, nor can I check it out from the library (since it's not there). And with the state of our economy and me going back to graduate school (blah blah blah).

As an avid blogger/reader/Jewish enthusiast, I think I could really get out the word on books of the Judaica variety, don't you think? So let's see those free copies, folks!

(Okay, this was shameless, I know, but really, I tend to hoard books and I can't even count the amount of $$ I've spent on books in the past six years, but I'm sure it's well into the thousands!)

EDIT: I stand corrected. I just checked Amazon and they finally listed the book (it was not listed just a few days ago!) and there are two "used" copies for $16.00. Looks like I might be procuring ... 

A quick ditty on my way to bed.

This is part of that 8 percent of my blog that isn't necessarily "on topic" as far as being about Judaism. But really, well, it is, since just about everything in my life relates in some way to my Jewishness. Prepare for utter irrelevance and general blabber.

So I went to the dermatologist today after having put off a small procedure for months and months. It was quick doing, but required a little procedure that means I have to replace some bandages on three different spots for about the next two weeks until said spots are healed. Barring any tests coming back positive or weird, this is just routine for the sake of being safe (I'll just say it has to do with my moles/beauty marks, of which I have about as many as the stars are numerous and the Jews are bountiful).

As I was laying there with the doctor asking me the typical questions (What do you do? Oh you're leaving? What will you study?). He asked why I'd put off coming in for so long and I explained that it was because after my ex and I broke up, I worried about being able to do the bandaging since I didn't have anyone around to help. Then he started asking how I came to Judaism and the first thing he said was, "So was your boyfriend Jewish?" He couldn't see my face, but I grinned that "seriously" kind of grin and said "Nope." He responded with the "Oh, well, everyone I know who has converted to Judaism did it for marriage" line. I said that, yeah, typically, a lot of converts to Judaism tend to be those who do it for spousal reasons, but that we are the few, the proud, who convert purely out of a personal calling. Now, I know plenty of people who convert for marriage end up being more devout than there spouses and I'm not knocking anyone here, but I just think it's interesting that he'd assume!

Of course, my real irritation with the entire visit was that he decided to do the procedure differently so as to make things easier on me since I am a poor, defenseless, helpless lass without a man or other person around to help me take care of the bandaging. After he left the nurse shook her head and explained a few easy ways to get things done -- "I've been all alone and had plenty of excisions, you'll be fine" she explained, with a grin and sarcastic tone in her voice.

At any rate, that's just a little ditty about what I'm medically up to. Not that anyone cares, but, well, someone might.

When Zealotry Was a Good Thing.

I have to hope that it isn't just Israelis, or for that matter Jews, who are mourning the loss of two Israeli soldiers -- Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev -- not to mention the general sadness over the completely ridiculous and obscene trade with Hezbollah that took place to get their remains back: Two dead bodies for 199 bodies and five live prisoners. I have to hope that the entire world, every humane person, is mournful and disgusted by the entire display. And did I mention that the big released prisoner, Samir Kuntar, was only SIXTEEN when he murdered a police officer, as well as a father and child, and caused a mother to smother her child while she was hiding from Kuntar. Sixteen. And here we are, 30 years later, and Kuntar is freed -- celebrated by those who seek to destroy Israel and the entire Jewish community, to stomp us out. Kuntar, upon his release, despite 30 years in prison with the possibility of repentance, has said that he will return to Israel with a resistance group. He intends to come for us, and he has thousands, if not more, who see him as a hero, a mighty champion.

So one has to wonder -- how long will Kuntar survive outside of prison before someone, be it Mossad or a zealous Jew, murders him in retaliation for what he did to the Jewish spirit and the families of those he murdered 30 years ago?

This was, in truth, the first thing I thought of when I heard about his release. My immediate thought was that surely, he won't last a week. He will be dead, and they will be avenged. And when I stopped to think about this, I realized how incredibly disgusting these thoughts of mine were.

This week's parshah, Pinchas, is -- like most parashot -- fitting to the modern day.

The Torah portion begins with G-d rewarding Phinehas' actions (killing an Israelite man and a Moabite woman because of their immorality, which profaned G-d's name), by granting him a pact of friendship and a pact of priesthood for all time. Now, the outright good about this is that his actions ended the plague against the Israelites. The bad thing, is that he's generally rewarded for outright murder -- of two people at that. Many of the sages agreed with G-d's praise, saying that anyone "who wages war on the enemies of what is good and true is a champion of the Covenant and Peace on earth ..." But postbiblical commentators are incredibly uncomfortable with this (as am I). Is it better that two should die by the hands of a zealot than thousands because of their misdeeds?

I've been thinking about this a lot since the soldiers' bodies were returned, since Kuntar was released, and now, thinking about all the possible outcomes of hasty, thoughtless, zealous-driven rages. I know that plenty with whom I have spoken wouldn't think twice about killing Kuntar if they had the chance. And this, well, it frightens me.
It shall be for him and his descendants after him a pact of priesthood for all time, because he took impassioned action for his G-d, thus making expiation for the Israelites (Num. 25:13).
So, if someone is to take impassioned action, avenging those who have died and perhaps granting "peace of mind" for Israel, will it be rewarded by G-d? No, I don't think so. In fact, if Kuntar were to die by the hands of a murderer, I have no doubt in my mind that it would result in the murders of many more Jews. Yes, perhaps Kuntar will go on to kill more people, but the amount that he could possibly kill versus the amount that would die out of retaliation for his very own murder is of no comparison.

For Phinehas, the only punishment that he received was that in the Torah scroll, the yod in his name is small, diminished. The sages say that this is because when we commit violence, the yod -- as in the name of G-d or as in y'hudi) -- is diminished. Also in this portion, then, the vav in shalom is written with a break in its stem. Why?

Because peace gained by destroying one's opponent will ultimately be a flawed, incomplete peace.*

*Cheers to Etz Chayim for this profound statement.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Torah on Board!

I spotted this story over on and had to share. It's a very, very snazzy little newsbite about a Torah scroll dedication aboard the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv commuter train in Israel!

A specially commissioned Torah scroll was dedicated on Sunday for use aboard a commuter train by a traveling prayer quorum (minyan) on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line. ...
Between 20 and 40 people pray in the train's Mesilat Yesharim Minyan [prayer group] each morning after it leaves the Beit Shemesh station. The last carriage on the early morning train is unofficially reserved as the temporary "synagogue," drawing both men and women, as well as Israel Railways crew members. The regular participants are a mixture of native Israelis and immigrants from North America and Europe who work in Tel Aviv in banking, law, computers, medicine, education and business, but who choose to live in the religious communities in Jerusalem or Beit Shemesh. ...

Darren Shaw made Aliyah from London in August 2006 ... hired a scribe to write an unusually small Torah, which is just 30 centimeters [about 12 inches] high. Fellow traveler Ariel Abraham, originally from Elizabeth, New Jersey, has converted a suitcase on wheels into a portable Holy Ark.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Project Black, Chavi Style.

Taking part in Project Black, which I happened to hap' upon thanks to Ilana-Davita. For info on Project Black, check it out over on Anna Carson's photo blog.

This is my first photo posted for Project Black ... shadows of two teenage girls with the Chicago skyline lighting the background. And for kicks, here's a second one. That's my eternal black bag, portrait of a girl in a Red Roof Inn.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Beloved by G-d.

Color me stoked! Thanks to Aliza (of ye olde Jewminicana blog), a new documentary has been brought to my attention, and it's called More Beloved by G-d. You can view the trailer for it by clicking here. (I'd embed, but unfortunately that feature is disabled on YouTube, so click the link!) It's directed by Laura Wiessen, and the little blurb on YouTube says:  
"More Beloved by Gd is a documentary exploration of converts, conversion to Judaism and what the newest Jews bring to the Jewish people. Through this lens, the film will examine the very human need for spirituality." 
Those featured in the trailer are of varied backgrounds -- an Italian Catholic, an Africa-American (Yitz!), a mother of a young child, a woman named Rain, etc. It most definitely looks like a varied group of individuals with a lot to say about their experiences, and I'm pretty excited to see how the film turns out. Though, I can't seem to find anything about WHEN the movie is coming out. I guess I'll just have to wait with breath bated!

I'm only pretty sure.

I'm having one of those revival kind of times, where I pick up an old album that just, well, sings to me. It isn't even nostalgic, not this music. Third Eye Blind -- Blue. It doesn't have that memory effect, but rather, it just fits. Circa 1999. And it will probably now become one of those memory albums because right now, it's the soundtrack to my movie. Anything. The entire album, just sings.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A quick Yiddish survey!

Boker tov! I thought I'd pass along this little blurb that I found over on the On Chanting blog, it's a survey about Yiddish, which was recently discussed by Shimshonit over on It doesn't take too much of your time, so why not participate, eh?
Concerning the spread of Yiddish among English speakers in North America

You are invited to participate in an interesting and entertaining survey about language. Essentially, we're asking about the spread of Yiddish (and some Hebrew) among English speakers in North America. We're turning to both Jews and non-Jews to answer questions like these: Who uses Yiddish words like "shmooze" and "daven" and phrases like "Money, shmoney"? Why do some people say "temple" while others say "shul"? Who prefers biblical names for their babies? Your responses will help us answer these and other questions, and you might learn something about yourself in the process. Please set aside 15-20 minutes, and click on this link to participate.

Please forward this e-mail to your friends and family. We are hoping to get thousands of responses from people of all religions, ages, and regions of the United States and Canada. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail Prof. Sarah Bunin Benor,, or Prof. Steven M. Cohen,
And for those curious, the survey is being run by Hebrew Union College (the Reform movement's seminary).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

High Holidays ... already!?

On the way in to work this morning, while compulsively checking my BlackBerry, I got an e-mail, subject line: "High-Holiday Synagogue Companion - Early Bird Sale" from the Jewish Learning Group. My reaction was shock: What!? High Holidays!? It's only July! It was then that I realized that the High Holidays really are only a few months away ... yikes!

When I worked retail and in the fast food business, I was always aware of upcoming holidays. Even when I was in school you're always conscious of how far away or soon the upcoming festivities are, because you're counting down with everyone else in class or on the job. Jewish holidays? Not so much. There isn't a gigantic section cleared out in the local Wal-Mart or Target full of Chanukah or Purim merchandise, nor is there a special on white garments at the GAP (well, maybe white button-downs -- summertime chic). Usually, I'm lucky to see an endcap featuring menorahs or cookie cutters in the shape of whatever Jewish holiday is present. But in the retail market, they start planning for Halloween in August and start planning for Thanksgiving in September and Christmas? Well, I've already seen signs hailing "XX shopping days till Christmas!" Isn't it a lot early for planning this far ahead? Then, of course, after Christmas the Valentine's stuff goes up and the cycle starts over and we're looking at Easter baskets in February. It's a cycle, and there's always some holiday coming up and things to buy and reminders on endcaps reminding us to prepare since these things inevitably creep up on us.

So I guess I should thank the Jewish Learning Group for this little "early bird" notice. I haven't really thought about where I'll be or what my plans will be, but since I'll be off at graduate school, I have to hope that Chabad or the Hillel will have things planned. Trekking to West Hartford from Storrs would be a pain in the tuches, so I'm planning on a convenient fully observed Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year (compared to the past several years which have been disappointing repeatadly for reasons of shul incompatibility and work schedules). But at least I'm thinking about it in advance, eh?

Another upshot to this email is that I discovered an interesting book: Going Kosher in 30 Days. I might have to pick this little gem up (though, in reality it won't necessarily apply for a few years since, well, dorm living means Kosher dining hall if I do indeed go the route of kashrut). From the website:
The book is organized into a 30-day education for beginners, but will hold the interest of anyone interested in Judaism. From Kabbalistic insights into the spiritual basis of the kosher laws to practical advice for people in varying circumstances (families, singles, college students, etc.), Rabbi [Zalman] Goldstein has addressed just about all the concerns and questions that may come up along the way.

Keeping kosher, he explains, is not just about separating meat and dairy or avoiding non-kosher foods. It's about tuning in to the potential of the Jewish soul, about having the power "to enable all creation to soar higher than any individual component of the material order can do individually."

After a brief historical overview that places kosher observance in the context of the experience of previous generation, when keeping kosher was truly a challenge, Going Kosher in 30 Days addresses some common misconceptions that people have -- like the idea that kosher has to do with cleanliness or that it means a rabbi blesses the food. It includes an explanation of what kosher agencies do and a glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish terms relating to the kosher laws.
There are a bounty of other stellar books on the site; I suggest you give it a go (their Companion series looks interesting).

Note: For those curious, from what I can tell, the group and the rabbi are of the Chabad persuasion. I mention this only because I know that when it comes to Judaic books, many look for those that are related to their particularly branch/movement, so this could be useful for those who find the texts interesting and/or want to know more about who is behind the texts!

I warn you, this post is full of snark.

A hearty mazel tov to Germany on their new citizenship exam!

But, well, let's just say that the region has still not healed and/or come to terms with the Holocaust. How's this evident? Well, the new citizenship test displays 320 questions on German history and society, and not once is the Holocaust mentioned. Because, well, you know, the Holocaust just never happened and definitely has nothing to do with Germany, right!?

What's more, on the question of which religion most influenced European and German culture, among the possible answers are Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam -- but no Judaism. Peculiar? Yes, yes I think so. It's sort of big doins, especially in Germany, right? But the questionnaire does proffer questions about Germany's Christian heritage, such as asking what the last four weeks before Christmas are called. (Is this common knowledge? Because, well, I just don't know.)

At any rate, if you're planning on becoming a German citizen, this test will become the standard across the board beginning September 1. Way to wave that flag of cultural insensitivity, Germany! Someday you'll make amends with the past and move along in an adult, mature, sensible, culturally sensitive fashion.

Until then? Well, I bite my thumb in your general direction.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mezuzot and Me

This post was meant for, but unfortunately at the moment I am unable to post there. Enjoy!

In early 2005, I was visiting Chicago when I popped in to the Spertus Jewish Museum. While perusing the gift shop, I happ'd upon shelves of these tiny little rectangular boxes in all colors with embellishments like jewels, embossed letters -- you name it. Some had letters that spelled out Shalom, others images from Torah, and still others were very simple and plain. At the time, I had no clue what they were. I'd been studying Judaism for quite a while by then, and I was pretty confident in my general knowledge of all things Judaica, but these little boxes eluded me and there wasn't a gigantic sign that screamed "MEZUZOT! THEY GO ON YOUR DOOR POST!"

I left that day without asking the nice lady behind the counter what they were, and I didn't really think about it the r est of the trip. When I got back to Nebraska, for some reason, I started noticing mezuzot everywhere. The truth of it is, I knew about the mezuzah, I just didn't know the commandment behind it, nor did I know where they went or why. I knew the word, but that was about it. But now, after my encounter with dozens of mezuzot at a gift shop in Chicago, I was spotting them everywhere. It became like a game, trying to figure out what doorways in my shul had them and which didn't, and exploring why certain spaces had them and others didn't.

I didn't own a mezuzah until I converted in April 2006. The synagogue I converted through gave me the most magnificent, beautiful, pewter mezuzah (which you see in the photo here). I was elated, but kept the mezuzah packed away as I hopped from apartment room to room in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2006. Finally, when I landed my own studio apartment, I placed the mezuzah, for the first time, on my own Jewish home. I said the prayer, struggled with the hammer, and smiled at no one, knowing that this little box on my door with parchment inside screamed to the world "A JEW LIVES HERE!" (Of course, I lived in a garden apartment with a side entrance behind a gate, but still -- it was something.)

So the mezuzah -- In truth, mezuzah means "doorpost" in Hebrew. Commonly, though, people think of the mezuzah as the actual little case with the parchment that you hang on the doorpost. On the parchment is Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, which consist of the "Shema Yisrael" prayer. And why do we post these verses on our doorposts? Because it's a mitzvah! Deut. 6:6 ... 6:9 say "And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart ... and you shall write them on the doorposts of your homes and upon your gates." The parchment is composed by a special scribe -- a sofer stam -- and the verses are written in special ink on special paper. The mezuzah is placed on the doorpost, on the upper third of the doorway, and typically it's angled inward (this is to accommodate the varying opinions of the sages as to whether it was meant to be vertical or horizontal, not to mention that it symbolizes G-d and Torah entering the abode). As you enter and exit the abode, as you pass through the doorway, you should place your fingers upon the mezuzah case and touch your fingers to your lips. There are a bounty of other bits and pieces about the mezuzah, but I won't delve into them all here. For example, very religious/observant families will likely have a mezuzah on every doorway -- be it a closet or bedroom -- while secular or not-as-observant individuals might just post one at the back and front door of the residence. There are a bounty of rulings about what constitutes a room, how far from the door the mezuzah should go, etc. I also recall reading something once about a mezuzah necklace being not kosher halakichly, but I can't seem to find anything on it right now.

The mezuzah can be found on the doorposts of the most religious and the most secular Jews, perhaps because the mezuzah can be the most outward sign on a home that the family within is Jewish, be it culturally, religiously, spiritually, or something in between. has a great "handbook" online with answers to all the questions that could possibly arise, from what rooms need a mezuzah to where to post it to what it's all about. There's also a great article over on Being Jewish about the mezuzah, not to mention this blog entry written by Leah (a guest poster here on JBC) about her mezuzah, and I think what she has to say is quite beautiful.

In my living room, I have shelves of Jewish books. A decorative dreidel. Extra mezuzot on display in a shadow box. In my desk drawer, next to my birth certificate, is an extra kosher scroll. Above my bed is a painting of the Shema.
More important than all the Judaica is, I hope, an ability to welcome family, friends and strangers into my home. That when I pass the mezuzah on the way out of my house, I carry it with me in my actions. The Judaica helps me see that I’m Jewish and tells the world that this is a Jewish home, but without Jewish actions and Jewish living–all the menorahs in the world won’t make it a Jewish home.
There are a million different Judaica sites where you can purchase mezuzot, and I'm pretty sure that just about every synagogue with even the smallest gift shop sells them. I think that the mezuzah is a beautiful symbol for Jews of all stripes, for essentially it breaks the bounds of being merely a religious Jewish artifact. As you enter and exit your home, you are reminded -- no matter how busy and flustered your mind might be -- that you are a Jew, that you have a Jewish home, no matter how you choose to make it Jewish.

So what's your mezuzah flavor?


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Judaism as Math.

I had a revelation while working at the tea shop today. Yes, it was inspired by some things I was reading in Hartman's book that I mentioned in this post. I'm pretty sure this is nothing new, but it makes sense to me.

Judaism is like mathematics -- 99 percent of people need a personal application for it to resonate. 

You know what I mean, right? When I was in school, I loved math. I was the secretary of the math club, for Pete's sake! But the only reason I loved it was because I had professors who managed to offer me examples and applications that made the math make sense. Most people take math all through elementary and high school and by the time we hit Algebra we're all irritated because it's difficult to see these equations and formulas and theories applied in real life, and most teachers are so settled on the idea that math is what it is, that when asked how something relates, you're simply relayed the rules and told to apply them because that's how the forefathers of mathematics found things.

Judaism is very much the same way -- in both the circles of people who deny Judaism's authority and those who praise and represent it. On one end you have the people who are so fed up with trying to get how it applies to their life and what they personally believe that they just grow to deny the authority of Judaism. Then on the other end you have those who end up simply relating back to the rabbis who made the rulings authoritative without really stopping to think how it might apply personally.

And this, this is the problem with Judaism. Does that make sense? I need to elaborate more on this idea, definitely. But I think that thinking of Judaism like mathematics I've found something that makes sense to me. Does it make sense to you?

Shabbat shalom, friends and readers, and Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, July 4, 2008

I couldn't wait!

I came home from watching Chicago's big fireworks display from fairly far away at Montrose Harbor (the show is down in the Loop), and I was famished. There were fellows walking around selling things from carts, but since I neither read nor understand Spanish, I decided I'd better just wait till I got home. So what's the first thing I see upon entering the apartment? CHALLAH! Delicious, scrumptuos, locally made and Kosher challah. So I grabbed a mini roll and downed that puppy. And guess what? It's probably the best challah I've had since that Chabad Shabbat all those years ago when I was in college (that challah had to have had crack in it, it was seriously amazing ... we noshed bags and bags of challah rolls throughout the night). So I give you, delicious, nutritious, amazing local challah!

Books and Being Thrifty.

I just got back from the library, where I picked up a couple graphic novels (for the cleansing of my reading palate), as well as a book on the Dead Sea Scrolls and at the suggestion of another blogger, "A Heart of Many Rooms" by David Hartman.I also started reading Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" this morning, and I'm pretty enthralled with it already (I've started a variety of books in the past week, none of which kept me interested beyond a chapter or so -- hence the palate cleansing graphic novels).

Since my friend Nic is visiting next weekend, I've decided that I'm going to spend no more than $5 this weekend as a way of saving money (remember, in about a month I'm out of a job and in poor-student mode). Of course, I've planned into this that if I spend another dollar at Argo Tea, I get a free $5 on my Argo card! So in reality, I can spend a whole $10 this weekend at the tea shop and I'll be set. On the other hand, I figure I'll spend some time out on the beach or at the harbor reading and really take in some nature time.

This thriftyness and book reading hopefully will play into a few blog posts I have in the works. I want to blog about words (etymology) since I spent some time this past week reading the dictionary (don't ask), not to mention that I found a list of Yiddish words (thanks to a question posted on Twitter by the folks at the Jewish Treats blog) that have worked their way into the American Lexicon. Likewise, I've been reading some essays about Orthodox Judaism found over at the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, which has given me some interesting food for thought. And finally, after a series of conversations with a friend about the place of religion in my (hopeful) future marriage and life with children, I have a lot to say and think about; very much talking out loud -- basically, I seem to attract and am attracted to folks of the non-Jewish variety, typically people with no real hardcore beliefs system (believe in a higher power/G-d, but not super religious, basically apathetic). Essentially, I'm trying to force myself to make a firm decision about whether I will or will not pursue a relationship with a non-Jewish person. This friend said that if you're in love, it shouldn't matter, right? Oy. If only that were how it is.

Anyhow, I just wanted to keep all of my readers (ha! right!) abreast of what's going on in Chavi land. Tomorrow's the Fourth of July and with a day off work, I'm sleeping in, being productive academically, and then heading to the Orthodox shul for synagogue and *hopefully* a Shabbat dinner if I can wedge myself into someone's (ay! I feel so bad doing this!).

Happy Fourth! Be safe, be thankful, be happy, be restful!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I give you, a little humor from my daily "A Little Joy A Little Oy" desk calendar:
Three Eastern European Jews named Berel, Cherel, and Shmerel were talking about moving to the United States.

Berel said, "When I move to America, I'm going to have to change my name. They won't call me Berel anymore; they'll call me Buck."

Cherel said, "When I move to America, I'll also have to change my name. They'll call me Chuck."

Thinking a moment, Shmerel said, "I'm not moving."