Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chavi Goes All Purim On Yo Tush!

Motzei Shabbos moonlight, on the way to shul for the Purim Party!

I've never had a truly stellar and outrageous Purim experience before. My shul back in Nebraska always did a Purim Spiel (think, the megillah as a musical to the theme of Classic Rock or Beatles Classics), but I never dressed up or really rocked out Purim style (last year Tuvia and I were on a plane back from Chicago around now). And, of course, Purim isn't even over -- it's really just begun. But man alive, what an experience so far.

Our shul did three readings this year: the regular loud one, a women's one, and the quiet reading. Our amazing friends prompted the quiet reading, because of their children's sensory/noise concerns, and the turnout for the reading was outstanding. Not everyone loves noise on Purim, so we opted for a single grogger spin, and a quiet boo, or some subtle key shakes. It was excellent, and for my first time really listening to the megillah in full (I've read it about 1 million times) was really beautiful, especially because the person reading it was one of our closest friends.

And then? Then came the party. If I could describe it to you, I'd say this: It was like a bar mitzvah gone completely wrong. I mean that, of course, in the most positive way possible. The only thing it really lacked was a giant bouncy castle and some farm animals. there was a big racetrack for people to race cars, video game stations set up for guitar hero and other systems, and there was even a setup for MarioKart racing, bucket seats included. There was a bubble guy there who basically led the kids in the Chicken Dance while magically making bubbles appear, as well as a face-painting lady, and my favorite thing of all: the Ben and Jerry's people! There was a baked potato bar and pasta and cookies and candy and soda pop out your ears, and the kids, I'm sure, are at home right now regurgitating their evening's indulgences. The band that played was, in my opinion, less than impressive. But I have to share their pictures anyway. The lead singer fancied himself a modern day Mick Jagger (those moves were ... interesting) and the masks were a straight rip from that other band that tours and does shows in animal masks (is that Animal Collective?). Overall, I was just bummed. It made me long for and miss desperately Blue Fringe. Now THAT is a band!

But the best thing about the big ole crazy Purim Party? THE COSTUMES. Holy mother of Moses! There were gigantic bottles of mustard, penguins, hippies, a greaser dad and his poodle skirt wife, Dr. Seuss characters, knights, cowgirls and cowboys, Star Trekkies -- and those were just the ADULT costumes! And there was our costumes, and those, folks, were something special. Can you figure out what we are?

Okay, probably not. So, only two people out of several dozen got our costumes, which are what I call "punny" -- funny puns or plays on words. My costume is Pink Eye and Tuvia's costume is Swine Flu. A few other punny costumes were our friend who was dressed all in black with postage stamps attached (Black Mail) and another who was toting around a piece of mail around her neck while dressed in a wedding gown (Mail Order Bride). These, my friends, are creative costumes! Just a note, you'll NEVER see me in that much pink ever again. Ever. That robe was so bulky, too. I look kind of ridiculous. We want to mix things up for the second reading and party/seudah tomorrow, so we'll see what happens.

Oh, and the most amusing thing? The payot-toting, goat-mask wearing drummer of the band! AWESOME.

For those of you looking for a little something more in your Purim, I highly recommend looking up or checking out a copy of Greek Esther. The version we read and know now is Hebrew Esther. There are three main versions of Esther that float around -- Hebrew, Greek, and the Alpha text. The latter is a Greek text that pretty much resembles the Hebrew version we have today (a translation). However, "Greek Esther" is a version of the Esther story that is about 170 lines longer, includes tons and tons of HaShem, and has many inclusions in it that make the modern reader question why the rabbis chose to canonize Hebrew Esther, not Greek Esther. After all, Hebrew Esther doesn't mention HaShem, not once. In Greek Esther, Mordechai and Esther pray to HaShem, Mordechai has a vision about HaShem's plan, and more.

The simplest answer, of course, is that the longer version was written in Greek and Greek = bad. Another theory is that there originally was a longer Hebrew Esther that the Greek Esther was based on, but because it was lost by the time the rabbis got to it, they still believed that Greek = bad. My question is why they didn't translate the longer version into Hebrew and go with it (heck, burn the Greek copy!). Of course, the rabbis would probably say that the whole point of Esther is that HaShem, while implicit, must be hidden for the story to be truly impactful as it takes place in the Diaspora. The funny thing is that the Rabbis, in the Midrash, essentially DO what Greek Esther does in that it elaborates and sort of embellishes the Hebrew Esther and the result is that if you read Hebrew Esther with the Midrash you sort of get the same feel as Greek Esther.

Anyhow, I could talk about this for hours, but what I'm saying is this: Go read Greek Esther. It'll BLOW your mind. Chag Purim Sameach!! Chaviva out!

What!? Pigs need automobile gas, too!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yes, I'll Cover. Now Cover Your Hair!


In about three months time, I'll be a happily married kallah. First and foremost this means I'll be both happy and married. What comes next, of course, are a few changes, the most immediate probably being that I'll be covering my hair! Yes, I'm going to cover my hair. The devastated looks on peoples' faces when I relate this news is funny to me. The typical verbal reaction is, "But your hair is so ... it's so you!" It's true, and I've had this hair for a long time, since I cut it right before my senior year of high school. I've been using the same product, styling it the same, for the past nine years. I'll admit, I'm a little sad about the prospect, too. In shul, women identify me by my hair, and I'm worried that the when I start covering I'm going to fade into the background, being just another married Orthodox Jewish woman with her hair covered. This, of course, is a truly fleeting thought for me. After all, isn't my personality the one thing that truly should shine? Not my hair?!

So why am I covering my hair? Maybe it's all of the incredibly beautiful hat, scarves, and other things I'll be able to paint my noggin with! (That's too easy, however, especially with all of the pretty things over at In truth, the reasons are plenty. I don't know that I can really verbalize them well, but it's about being committed to my husband, spiritually and visibly; it's about respect to HaShem; and it's about being me, a new phase of me, the Jewish married me. I'm excited about covering, and in preparation for this new step, I've been stockpiling pretty head coverings, including when I was in Israel and bought a few scarves. I'm not going sheitel style, at least for the immediate future until it is or becomes necessary. One of the beautiful items I've added to the collection, provided by the lovely ladies of CoverYourHair, is a Cute Pull-On Hat -- a cute, crocheted number that, well, give it a look below.

I'm excited to tote this little number around after I get hitched in May, and it fits like a glove. It's a one-size-fits all, and for someone like me who sometimes has a noggin too large for some hats, I was so excited to find one that fits perfectly. And the flowery embellishments? Ooo so cute! It's definitely one of my favorite colors (brown), but with a flare of color (green and shades of brown/tan). Now, I just have to figure out what to do about my bangs once I go for hats and scarves! While I contemplate my visible hair choices, you, my lovely readers, get the chance to win something great from the folks at!

---------------------------------------------------------------- is offering a free $25 box of surprise Hair Accessories to ONE lucky winner! There are a variety of ways to enter this contest. Also, they ship WORLDWIDE, so everyone can enter!

First thing's first: Visit, find some items you would LOVE to have, and then post a comment HERE, on THIS BLOG, of those items you're Jonesing for.

For more chances to win, do the following and post a comment here of which of the following you completed.

[NOTE: Try to keep your commenting to a minimum for ease of drawing a winner. Try to only post ONE comment, saying what you want and what you've done!]
1) Join our Google Friend Connect. Go to, and click "Join This Site" in the Google Friend Connect box.
2) Follow Cover Your Hair on Networked Blogs. Go to, and click "Follow This Blog" on the Networked Blog box.
3) Follow Cover Your Hair on Twitter. 
4) Subscribe to our our Blog feed:  Click here
5) Add to your blog roll.
Good luck to everyone!

[NOTE: This contest will close on Friday, February 26 at 4 p.m., unless I decide to extend until Motzei Shabbos around 11 p.m. Saturday. I'll likely extend the contest if I want/need more entrants!]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh!Nuts Giveaway Winner! And ANOTHER Give-it-Away!

It is with GREAT pleasure (and thanks to the nifty random picker website) that I announce the winner of the Purim @OhNuts giveaway here on the blog. The lucky individual?


Mazal tov on the win. For those of you hoping to win, stay tuned, because starting tomorrow I'll be posting ANOTHER giveaway, this time from one of the most awesome sites on the intertubes,!

[Note to the winner: I'll be passing along your info to the folks at Oh!Nuts.]

Monday, February 22, 2010

Because I Like Useful Websites!

I give you, some useful websites (thanks to, my favorite magazine!). As a note, none of these are sponsored websites. I just love sharing the love. Of course, if someone wants to pay me, I'm more than happy to take the cash money!

  • This website helps you fill in those extra couple of bucks on when you really want that free shipping (and don't have the amazing Prime service like I do). Just go there, type in the amount you need to be filled in for the free shipping at $25.00 and it'll give you a list of items!
  • I'm a fan of CutePDF for my PDF needs, but this site provides a similar service. Type in the URL you want put in PDF form and call it a day!
  • Looking for 400 calorie meal menus?!
  • If you're in the need for some classy, unique invitations, I encourage you to check out, the boutique of my two BFFs, who are working on my designs, or for some great and snazzy ideas.
  • Skip and check out if you're planning a Purim partizzle. 
  • If you're lazy, in a pinch, and you need a CV or Resume, then you need to hit up It's definitely the answer to the modern, busy, and procrastinating individual in the need for a knock-out CV.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Movies Are Us: "Live and Become"

Monday night, a bunch of second and third year Hebrew students gathered in a dank room of a campus building to watch our scheduled Hebrew-language film, T'chiyeh v't'hiyeh (תחיה ותהיה). My transliteration is probably horrible, but it's the best I can do for now. Here is the film's synopsis, according to Wikipedia:
Live and Become or Va, Vis et Deviens is a 2005 film about an Ethiopian Christian boy who disguises himself as an Ethiopian Jew in order to escape famine and emigrates to Israel.
The film, which has won a ton of awards, is incredibly emotionally. The young boy in the film is sent off by his Christian mother from a refugee camp with a Jewish woman. The boy gets to Israel and is told what his new name will be and who is parents and grandparents were. He's angry, torn, and inevitably is adopted by a secular Jewish-Israeli family. Throughout his life, he wants/needs to tell others that he isn't truly Jewish, but it never comes up and/or he can't tell anyone. He says, "I'm not Jewish, but I feel Jewish." I won't ruin the movie for you, but there's a wedding, a reunion, and more. The movie is completely emotional with ups and downs, a child torn between his Christian past and mother still in Sudan and his Jewish life with his new Jewish family in Israel.

The movie is fashioned around the struggle of the Ethiopian immigrant to Israel and the struggle of being an oleh from a completely different world with a completely different way of life. The story is compounded by the fact that the child isn't Jewish by birth and only he knows this truth. He becomes good friends with a rabbi that also emigrated from Ethiopia, and this rabbi tries to guide the child on the right path. His family life is tenuous, as his family is French-Israeli and his father has a specific outlook on life. But his grandfather and his mother always are there to lend an ear and provide a positive impression on things to come.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the movie -- especially coming from a convert like myself -- is that the boy, despite "feeling Jewish," never goes through the process of a brit milah, even knowing of his future simchas and knowing that he is living a fully Jewish/Israeli life. It raises a lot of really important questions as a Jew or as a potential convert to Judaism.

Is it enough to simply feel Jewish?

This goes into a much greater debate that I don't necessarily want to have here: What should conversion to Judaism comprise? Should it be enough to feel Jewish and state your dedication to Judaism? Some religions require very little, such as a simple statement about the Gd and major prophet of that religion. No learning before the fact, nothing beyond a declaration. Words, after all, are powerful. Was it enough for the boy in the movie to FEEL Jewish? Or did he really need to commit to the brit milah ceremony?

That also makes me wonder whether the movie's point was that it is enough to feel Jewish. I can't decide. Has anyone else seen this movie? What was your perception? Was the boy wrong to go through life not committing to the covenant through the means of the community standard?

Anyway, what an interesting movie. What a thought-provoking movie, at that. I highly recommend it, and I would love to hear what you all think about it, too. As well as the questions posed here.

Purim Oh!Nuts Giveaway!

I know my readers love to win, and they love free things, AND they love candy and nuts. So I'm sure you all love Oh!Nuts, right? Nothing like yummy kosher goodies for the Jew and others in your life! Please, enter the contest! The winner will receive a $30 gift certificate to use at Oh!Nuts.

Ready? You have three ways to enter.

1. Go to the Oh!Nuts Purim Basket Gift page. Choose your favorite Purim Gift and leave a comment on THIS BLOG POST with the name and url of the gift you love the most. I will pick a winner at random, and Oh!Nuts will send the winner a $30 gift certificate!

2. You also  can go to the Oh!Nuts Facebook page,  become a fan, and post on the wall the url and name of your favorite Purim Gift Basket. You should also write "I am here via "Just Call Me Chaviva (!"

3. You readers need to follow @ohnuts and should Tweet: "Win a Purim Basket from Follow @ohnuts and RT to enter daily!"

Good luck everyone!

EDIT: I'll be doing this drawing on MONDAY NIGHT, FEBRUARY 22, 2010, at 10 PM!!!!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Circumcised Comedian, Kosher Burgers, & Cafe!

After a tip from Aliza Hausman last month or a few months ago on her blog, I decided to buy tickets for today (also known as Valentine's Day in the secular world) for Tuvia and I to see the illustrious Yisrael Campbell in "Circumcise Me" at the Bleecker Street Theatre in New York City. We were down in Jersey for Shabbos in order to meet with our caterer and scope benschers and a ketubah earlier today, and we also happened to stop by Burgers Bar in Teaneck, which just opened recently. Talk about a busy, busy day. I'm finally back in my dorm and feeling a little overwhelmed about all I have to do, but there's always time for a little good press for others!

First for the show. Talk about a gut-buster! I'm a hard sell on a lot of comedy, but I was hopeful because comedy with a Jewish twist is always good. Add to this the fact that he's a convert and I was in. The room was packed, and the group varied from frum Jews in sheitels to little old ladies decked out like Sarah Jessica Parker might look in her 90s. The flow of the show was great, and I think I only checked my watch a few times -- I am, infamously, impatient. Yisrael Campbell's life story is, in a word, unique. He's seen a lot, been circumcised three times over his life (that's at birth and for his Conservative and Orthodox conversions), and watched friends die while living in Israel and experiencing the harder, more violent times there. He's also a father, a husband, and a hilarious comedian. How he juggles his show here while his family is in Israel amazes me, but I have no doubt that he has to be a great husband and father. Campbell also is a recovering alcoholic, which added an interesting and sobering (no pun intended) twist to his comedic narrative. The ups and downs of his life -- which I won't spoil for you here -- kept the audience captivated; there was laughing, some near-tears, and a feeling of peace and excitement for the comedian rocking a one-man show on the small black-box theatre-style stage. And for me, being a convert myself, it was especially surreal to hear him talk about meeting with rabbis and what it meant to convert and dip in the mikvah. I'll be honest in saying that his story was more than a typical conversion story -- it wasn't as emotional as I expected it to be. But overall? A great show, and I encourage you all to go see it. There are only a FEW showings left! If you can't make a show, seek out some of Campbell's work online. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Next? Tuvia and I found our ketubah. I'm so stoked about it -- it's very different, very artsy, and it integrates one of my favorite themes within Jewish art! Stay tuned for the wedding (a little more than 100 days left)!

Burgers Bar in TeaneckThen, Burgers Bar. I happened to win a "Tweet for Meat" free burger coupon on Twitter from @BurgersBar, so we decided to head to the recently opened Teaneck joint. There are a few others open in the U.S., but the chain is known mostly in Israel, especially for its location just up the stairs from the Kotel in Jerusalem (where Tuvia and I happened to eat in December!). I'll admit, it was no Jerusalem experience. We stopped in at around 2 in the afternoon, so the joint was not jumping. We were probably one of three or four tables of people, so service was fast and very friendly. My biggest beef (once again, no pun intended!) with Burgers Bar in Teaneck was the quality of the veggies they had for the burgers. They had no problem throwing a bunch of brown, obviously bad lettuce on my burger. It was really disappointing, to say the least. I ordered a spicy burger and regular fries, and the fries weren't quite as crisp as I was looking for and the burger wasn't quite as spicy as I remembered my burger in Israel. The quantity of food was on par with the price, and it definitely made filled me up. Overall, it was probably a 2.5 out of 5 star experience. The restaurant just opened, so I'll give them some time. If you're heading over, don't look for a "BURGERS BAR" sign -- it still says Discount Liquidation! The ambiance will surprise you, as it's very clean, very crisp, and very hip. They're open amazingly late (2 a.m. most days and 3 a.m. on Saturdays) for the late-night crowd, but I've heard they can get quite busy, so plan accordingly. And, don't be like me -- let them know if the veggies are less than stellar. (Location: 1383 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck, NJ)

We topped our day off with some coffee before hitting the road, and I can't help but show off the fancy footwork of the folks at Think Coffee, just around the block from the theater where we saw "Circumcise Me."

And that, folks, was one busy and thrilling day, despite a hacking cough, stuffed up nose, and achy body. Now? Now I rest myself and rock some Hebrew. L'hitraot!

Shabbos or a $20 bill?

Back in early 2008, when I started going to the Orthodox shul in Chicago, I was attending Shabbos dinners regularly, and I was having the time of my life. I was still trying to figure out this whole “shomer Shabbos” thing, and it was really hard – as those of you who have read my blog for the past few years know – for me to embrace and practice electronic abstinence for those 25 sacred hours each week. I’m a technophile, and my blog and e-activities were and are my life to some extent. I remember one Shabbat, that I might have even blogged about, where, after a hearty Shabbos dinner, a bunch of us were walking up Broadway together toward our respective residences when we came to an intersection wherein we found a $20 bill laying on the ground. It wasn’t windy, it wasn’t rainy, and the bill was just laying there on that busy street, staring at our group in the face. Now, because I was still in my acclimation period to being shomer Shabbos, my first (and probably inappropriate anyway) inkling was to reach down and grab up that shiny folded bill. After all, what were the chances someone was going to think “Oh crud, I dropped a $20 bill on a very busy Chicago street, I should go back and find it!” But I had to stop myself. Here I was, surrounded by a group of shomer Shabbos Jews, who were laughing and lamenting that we couldn’t touch the bill, let alone take it with us. As we stood there, a group came toward us, quizzically staring at the group of us surrounding this bill on the ground. One of the guys in our group stopped them, saying, “Hey, you guys want this $20 bill?” Of course they thought it was a ploy, some kind of trick or Candid Camera moment. We assured them it wasn’t – we’re Jews, it’s our Sabbath, we can’t touch or carry money. So they took the bill, went on their way, and we continued up the road.

I remember thinking how weird the entire episode was. There I was, two years after my Reform conversion, so far away from that lifestyle that allowed me the freedom to do what I saw fit on Shabbos that made me relaxed and rested to honor Shabbos. I was exploring and slowly adapting my life in a different way, an Orthodox way, which understood Shabbos as being less about me and more about the community, the holy day of rest, the Sabbath. There were “rules and regulations” that were above and beyond me. Picking up that money and using it toward much needed things (after all, I was a city liver making a crappy salary) wasn’t above the Sabbath – I couldn’t bend its will for my needs, I had to bend myself to its needs.

Every week, I sit on the edge of my chair through Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and by the time Thursday roles around I air a sigh of relief knowing that the next day, Friday, will bring in Shabbos. I need that day more than I ever thought I’d need something in my life. This past weekend I spent probably two-thirds of the Sabbath sleeping, because as usual, I’m a bit under the weather. I went to shul Friday night and I davened, and I ate a hearty meal with friends and future in-laws, and I slept. And throughout that, I knew I wasn’t doing justice to the Sabbath, because I was making it about me. And sometimes, we need that. But I got to thinking about the day and how I can’t fathom life without a full and complete day of rest without all of the trappings of every other day of the week. I then was wondering how the rest of the world functions without a day of complete rest. A day where you don’t get in your car, buy something, flip on the television, answer your phone, text a friend, flip switches of lights on and off, and so on. Without that separation, life seems so monotonous and unspecial, each day like the last, each day a repetition of movements and actions that come to define our every being – we live for those things which make the world tick, forgetting that moment when the world stops ticking and needs a rest. Noise, I think, is our greatest enemy, why not shut it all down for a day and see how the world continues to function without our own contributions to that bustle of mania.

I know how hard it is to shut down for a day – it took me a very, very long time to do so. It started small. I’d stop watching television, then only pop on my computer after noon on Shabbos day, or try to only eat cold food, or not shower, and so on. Eventually, it became fluid; my life became, one day a week, about Shabbos. And now? I can’t imagine anything else. I don’t know how I functioned without such a day. Of course, like everyone else, in those last minutes I’m counting down until when I can turn on my phone and check my email and plug back in. But until then? I’m free. I’m absolutely free. I’m as my ancestors were 100, 200, 500, 700, 1000 years ago. I’m living simply, appreciating what I have, without adding noise and frustration to a tumultuous world.

So give it a go. Try some silence. Start small, and watch it grow big and beautiful. I promise you won’t regret it, even when you see that $20 bill and proudly walk on by.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Should Jews Thank the Church?

As I finish up Paula Fredricksen's "Augustine and the Jews," there is a question that lingers in my mind. Perhaps those of you with strong opinions one way or another about Christianity and/or the church can weigh in here. I'm talking about Augustine's "witness doctrine," derived from Psalm 59 that says, "Slay them not, lest my people forget." I know this was big doings for the church in the medieval period, but I don't know how much it played into other strands of Christianity throughout time and through the present.

Augustine's philosophy, although really, incredibly backhanded, was that Jews survive and should survive throughout all time until the End of Days in order that they serve as evidence to Christianity's truth. By Jewish survival, Jewish books survive, and, according to Augustine, it is Jews and their books that provide a walking, talking, breathing witness to the truth of Christianity -- that the church fathers didn't just "make it up." Jews and Judaism were not a challenge to Christianity, insisted Augustine, but a witness to it!

So my question is this: Does the world's Jewish community underestimate the power of this doctrine's importance throughout the past 1600+ years? Is it Augustine's (REALLY BACKHANDED) doctrine that has allowed the world to not completely destroy Jews and Judaism? Hitler wasn't too interested in church philosophy, and I honestly don't know his thoughts on Augustine or the "slay them not" doctrine. Anyone know?

Either way, I'm intrigued. We joke so often about how every great nation, political entity, or world power that has tried to destroy us has failed and disappeared into time. But is this G-d, or is it the church?

Talk amongst ya'selves.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cufflinks A Go-Go.

Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, I turned you into cufflinks!

Here's that 7 percent of completely unrelated-to-my-blog content. Enjoy! Yes, these cufflinks can be yours at Cufflinks.Com.

For the e-phile.

Yes, that's "Facebook Me."
Feeling patriotic?

Smartphone lover? Although, this is clearly an iPhone.

He's a BRICK! House ...

Perhaps you're feeling really, really bold with that big ole' star of David?

Okay. I could spend hours doing this. There are varying kitschy cufflinks, including the classic vodka on one and oranges on the other, for the alcohol lover, as well as varying computer-related cuffs, like a series of floppy disks. Oy va voy. And these are just the *tip* of the iceberg, folks. Enjoy!

SXSW Interactive & Jewish Synergy

As I prepare to rock the SXSW Interactive Festival next month in Austin, Texas, with @Mottel on the topic of Judaism 2.0, developed by @JustinOberman, and as I wrote my essays for a recent Fellowship Application, I coined a new term, and I want to know what YOU, my readers, think about it and what it means. Ready?

Jewish Synergy

Also, will you be in the Austin area next month? If you're not, will you come check out our panel? Spread the word, folks. This panel is going to be AWESOME, covering areas of Judaism on the web, via social media and more. We'll be discussing the halachos of speech online, how Web 2.0 affects Israel, and how we use Web 2.0 and social media and our Judaism collectively. 

I'll Take the Tanker of Coffee Now, Please

I give you, the tanker truck of coffee, spotted on I-84 near Hartford.

I must apologize to my readers, friends, lurkers, and other blogging types for my lack of presence over the past week, especially when it comes to reading your blogs and responding with appropriately Chaviva-esque comments. What have I been up to? A lot. A whole lot.

Aside from my regular coursework -- which includes (for one class) reading a book or so a week plus various primary sources, in addition to (for a second class) lots of reading and more reading and some more reading of yummy things about the Samaritans and the Ptolemies, and, of course, Hebrew work and general office work of book inventorying -- I've been thrown the setup for our graduate exam, which is in and of itself wretched. Now, being an academic I'm secretly thrilled about the work and reading; I'm merely in shock and distress about the volume of it. Typically, students will receive the corpus of reading in their first semester, not their fourth. So I'm in "holy crap" mode right now. Pardon the ever-present kvetching.

Additionally, Tuvia and I decided it would be a most outstanding idea to invite over a ton of people for a Super Bowl viewing. Last year we had four or five friends over, and it was quiet and cozy and I really didn't pull out all my Jewish mother stops to feed the masses with thirty different types of chips and dips. This year, however, I went all out. After all, we were inviting over upwards of 20 people and expecting at least 14 to 16 to show up. So what did I do? Well, I made a big batch of pasta and threw it into the crock, I made a spicy veggie chili, I made a giant red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting with my new cake pan, I made a delicious batch of Chocolate Cheerio Marshmallow Bites, and then we bought a bunch of dips, sliced a bunch of cheese, put out gobs of veggies and fruit, and filled bowls full of a half-dozen varying types of chips. Yes, it was a ROYAL spread, fit for a Superbowl King. It just took a long time to put together and perfect -- I am, after all, a perfectionist OCD-aholic. I'll admit, it was loads of fun. Having all of our closest friends over to partake in food and a good game was honestly one of the best things we've done in a long time. I really felt like it gave us a chance to pay back the community, in the best way we know how, for the kindness they've shown us with food, lodging, and friendship. We seriously have the best friends on the planet.

Wedding Dresses
Oh, and then there was the pre-kickoff wedding dress viewing that actually ate up most of the first two quarters. I didn't realize we were upstairs that long, and the game truly was flying by. But this was the wedding dress that I purchased online. Yes, I bought a wedding dress ONLINE. I never saw it in person, I didn't know it's dimensions exactly, I had no idea how it would look or feel beyond the photo of the girl on the website, who, by the way, was about 50 sizes smaller than me. But I had an instinct. It was the first gown I found online when I started looking, and after perusing many other gowns, I was still stuck on this first one. I emailed my two best buddies up in the Great White North, and they agreed it was stunning. So I bought it. Then it came, about three days later (talk about quick shipping -- most wedding gown sites make you wait upwards of 20-40 days for the dress), and I had approximately three additional days to figure out whether it was right. Yes, the online wedding dress business is cut-throat, and they keep their claws in you as long as they can. So the Superbowl Sunday party was perfect as far as timing goes. We all crawled up the stairs, I stripped, and the dress was on and zipped in seconds. The reaction? Completely positive. And then? The "tuck this here!" and "tuck that there!" comments came. I am lucky to say that I am blessed, absolutely blessed, with seamstress-minded lady friends. These women, after expressing their love of the dress, were all ready to point me in the direction of a seamstress/tailor and get the job done -- there was no way I was returning this gown. I expressed my concerns to them -- Tzniut? Length? Fit? The answers were that the tzniut was perfectly modest, the length could be fixed (the dress was MADE to be tailored like a charm), and the fit was perfect for my figure.

So it's decided. I, Chaviva Edwards, purchased a wedding gown online, from a store out West where nary a Jew probably lives, and I am keeping it with utter and absolute pleasure. Yes, I am an online dress purchasing success story! You, too, can buy a wedding dress online and be satisfied!

My only beef? I returned a slip that I bought but definitely don't need (for poof's sake), and it cost me a whopping $30+ to ship back. Is that worth it? Probably not. I'll get back, in the end, about $30 for my troubles. My advice? Don't buy a slip online until you absolutely know that you'll need it.

So I'm pleased. I had a million friends over, fed them successfully, decided on a dress that I absolutely love, finished a bunch of editing that leaves me with only two more weeks of such editing, and I just submitted an application for a fellowship assuming I get into NYU or UMD for further studies. It has been a truly, truly productive three days. Oh! I also cleaned out my inbox. Thank heavens. I was about to lose my mind.

I guess, my point, then, is that everything is doable. It takes time management, sleeping about four hours a night, and a passion to have things just how you want them right when you want them. I'll take my little successes when I can get them. I couldn't ask for anything more. And when all else fails, there's always that tanker truck of coffee!

(For what it's worth, that tanker truck actually said "PILOT" on the side. It was a clever ploy by the popular roadside gas station chain! From a distance, it looks like it just says "COFFEE." Upclose, however, it mentioned something about them having the best roadside coffee. Clever!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The End of Days & Big Differences

Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and JudaismThis is where it begins, that flurry of blog posts inspired by blurbs in books stacked high on my "to read" list for class. There's no such thing as "pleasure" reading during the semester, not exactly. "Pleasure" reading would be defined as books I chose to read, books that I picked off the bookshelf myself with delight. Don't get me wrong, all of the books I read during the semester are in my area of interest, and they all are (usually) fascinating. It's just a different kind of reading. There's no fiction, only books that are nonfiction in so much as they resemble fact, although my professor likes to say that "history is not facts." At any rate, I offer some thoughts on something I'm reading: "Augustine and the Jews" by Paula Fredriksen.

I hadn't thought of it before, but in the apocalyptic literature of Judaism, the texts usually say that in the end of days, the nations (ha'goyim), referring to gentiles and whomever else, will turn to the one G-d. Nowhere, I repeat NOWHERE, does it suggest that the nations will convert to Judaism. In the Christian literature, on the other hand, there is a strong principle of understanding that in the end of days those non-Christians (specifically Jews) will turn -- as in convert -- to Christianity. For Judaism, in the end of days Jews will be Jews and the nations, the Gentiles, will revere and exist before the One G-d of Israel, but they need not convert to worship the Israelite G-d. That, folks, is a big, stark difference in the theology of each. I'd never thought about this difference in relation to the apocalyptic literature, but wow. Fascinating to consider, yes?

Back to reading ...

I Have Seen Upon the Earth

From a 1934 translation of Moses Ibn Ezra's אשר בנה עלי ארץ. It reminds me much of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes), but almost darker in a way. Then again, I'm of the school of thought that Qohelet was a rather uplifting book, if anything. This, on the other hand, is dark, I think. This poem was found in a text by the JPS from 1934, and the poem was translated by Solomon Solis-Cohen. The book itself is part of a collection of Jewish Classics published in the 1930s.

"I Have Seen Upon the Earth"

I have seen upon the earth spacious mansions,
Palaces of ivory, with lofty chambers
And pillars upon carved pedestals --
Houses richly adorned and filled with things of
beauty --
And, as in a twinkling, I Have seen them heaps of ruins,
Wherein none might dwell.

Tell me: Where are they that builded?
And where are they that inhabited?
Where are their souls and where are their bodies?
And what hope is there for man,
Save to await death,
With the grave ever before his eyes --
For time is a herdsman,
And death like a knife,
And all that live, as sheep.

For the curious, I'm currently inventorying a book collection bestowed upon my department by a rabbi who passed away many years ago. The collection includes many siddurim, machzorim, and a bounty of personal, handwritten notes by the rabbi who donated the works. There are a bajillion haggadot, too. The rabbi, of the Conservative flavor, had many beautiful and old books, and I've found one dated to 1861. For a bibliophile such as myself, this project is absolutely amazing and thrilling. I'm a huge geek, so everytime I find something older than the 1960s I get stoked. Here are a collection of haggodot, some from the 1940s, others from the 1950s, and a few from what I believe is the 1960s. Missing from this photo is an original Maxwell House Haggadah from 1935, which was the third year of printing for Maxwell House and their haggadot. The great thing about the 1935 Haggadah? It's written in the most simple, plain English -- a stark contrast from the haggadot of the more recent (by this I mean 1980s-ish) Maxwell House versions that are chock full of "thou" and "thee" and "thine."

Over the coming weeks you'll get some beautiful glimpses into this project, because, although some might view these books as extremely modern and not worth a second glance, they are definitive pieces of literature for modern, American Judaism. And in our day of e-this and e-that, to hold a book from 1861 and smell the history and feel the cover sandpapering your hands is something priceless and beautiful.

Monday, February 1, 2010

WANTED: Rabbi to Make Golem!

I have to hat tip my dear friend Rabbi V (that's a nickname he doesn't like, but I'm okay with that) for posting this up to Facebook. I can't help but giggle uncontrollably about this ad on Craigslist that popped up two days ago.
Looking for Rabbi Versed in DARK TALMUDIC ARTS to create GOLEM. (Astoria, NY)
One Rabbi versed in the Dark Talmudic Arts to create one Golem for household of three. Golem will perform rudimentary household chores such as dishes & sweeping, basic Math Tutoring for our daughter in 3rd grade and basic household security. Golem must be obedient and fairly unobtrusive on our every-day lives.
We will supply all materials needed (clay, twigs, calfskin parchment, etc) needed to create the Golem. All you need to do is use your magical ancient Rabbinic skills to animate said Golem!
Please note! We are looking for a Rabbi to create a Golem: an anthropomorphic being created from intimate matter from Jewish folk-lore, NOT Gollum: a former Hobbit turned into monster and looking for "precious". This is important! We have no interest in living with Gollum. We want a Golem. Please respond, serious inquiry only.
Location: Astoria, NY
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Compensation: no pay
No pay?! What a bum deal. I do like how they iterated the difference between Gollum and Golem. How astute of them!

Goin' to the Chuppah and We're, Gonna Get Married ...

I can't believe I did it. I just purchased a wedding gown off the internet, before viewing, before trying on, before anything. Now, I know what you're thinking, Are you crazy!? And yes, I am a little off my rocker, but it's hard to be a tzniut-style girl searching for a proper wedding gown. So I went to Nordstrom's at the advice of a few Twitter friends for my measurements, sent them off to the gown's e-store, heard back from a nice lady, and ordered the gown. It should get to me in approximately two to three business days. Talk about FAST service. I'm praying like you wouldn't believe that it's the ultimate, perfect wedding gown. I just have to get over the self-esteem shocker of ordering a wedding gown two/three sizes too big. What's the deal with that anyway? I mean, if someone wears a size 10 (not me, that's for sure), why should they have to buy a size 14 wedding gown? Don't you think brides have enough issues about size and shape on their mind that forcing them into a super-sized wedding gown will only make matters worse? Egads.

Anywho, at the advice of a friend from shul (and subsequently a few other friends from shul), I nabbed a copy of a classic Judaica book that, I was told, will enlighten not only me, but any family members with lingering questions or queries, about what to expect with an Orthodox wedding. The book? "Made in Heaven" by the illustrious Aryeh Kaplan. If you start out with the "dedications" page, you'll rest assured that this guy's advice is second to none -- the book is dedicated to the author's nine children! Obviously, Rabbi Kaplan knows his stuff, right?

I'm not one for touchy-feely books, and aside from tidbits here and there about the eternal bond of marriage and the future generations, the book is very readable, and I highly recommend it to those who are prepping for marriage. Each chapter homes in on a specific topic: the ring, the chuppah, the wedding day, the ketubah, the processional, and more. It even gets as specific as talking about the tallit and the various specific blessings. The chapters are short, and the author was very, very good about being concise and quick in his lessons on the halakot.

I can't even begin to tell you how many questions I've developed for my rabbi. Feel free to chime in here, but I've heard some "that sounds crazy!" comments from friends. I'll let you know what my rav thinks. I'll admit, many of these are CUSTOMS, but still, I like to know/make sure I'm doing things "right."

  • Some sources say that, for the wedding band, gold is preferable to silver, others silver to gold. Add to this the fact that you are supposed to use a ring that is pure -- not masked, such as plated gold -- because this could invalidate the ceremony entirely! Does this mean I can't have a white gold ring? The point of the ring being simple (no designs, no stones) is that the bride (and others) should be able to ascertain the value of the ring at a simple glance. If it's plated or masked in some way, it's harder to discern. As such, white gold has a specific value, right? So white gold *should* be okay? 
  • The tradition is that the kallah (bride) gives her chatan (groom) his tallit (prayer shawl) for the wedding. Often it's used for the chuppah, too. Now, Tuvia has a tallit his paternal grandfather bought shortly before his death, so he wants to use that since it's unused and in great condition. What do I do for the chatan then!?
  • What's doing with this whole no seeing each other for a week before the wedding? According to the book, many hold the tradition of just the day before hand, but even then, it used to be a tradition to hold a prenuptial meal the night before the wedding! What did you do at your wedding? What's the tradition/community custom/standard these days?
  • There is a definite decision that men fast the day of their wedding, but some rabbis hold that the kallah does not fast! What gives!? Do I fast, or do I not fast?
And those are my questions and I'm not even halfway through the book! Luckily, Rabbi Kaplan's given me plenty of insight and things to think about. 

I've also discovered -- via the advice of the same friend that suggested I pick up this book -- a way to involve people in the entire service without violating halakot! The great thing about a Jewish wedding is that there are about a million different positions people can serve. There are six witnesses -- all must be shomer mitzvot, Jewish males -- as well as those who read the sheva brachot (seven blessings), and thanks to this friend's great thinking, the translations of these brachot also will be read, that is, by women and non-Jewish friends of mine. It's a beautiful way not only to involve everyone, but also to help those who aren't familiar with Hebrew or the Jewish traditions to really get the full impact of the blessings in order to understand the service. 

You'd be amazed at all of the obstacles and pits of fire and dragons that await one with planning a wedding like this. I'm sure they exist in all faiths, but with there being specific binding laws regarding various parts of the service, you really have to think hard about who to involve and how to involve them. It's a delicate, delicate process.

All I can say is, I'm getting married in less than four months, and I'm jazzed!