Friday, December 28, 2012

Kosher Comes to Home Depot

Who would've though?
Normally I think this business is crazy, but I guess it cancelled out being greeted by Santa in a tool belt when I entered the store.
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two Cheers for Chabad (or, When the Missionaries Came Knocking)

When David started public school in first grade I decided not to sign him for the Chabad-run release time program that takes Jewish kids out of public school one hour a week. I admit that I'm not fond of Chabad for a number of reasons and this largely informed my decision. But I also knew that David would get nothing out of it and I didn't see a purpose in pulling him out school for it.

Last year I changed my mind. I don't remember exactly why I consented to send him to release time--and it may have followed on David's entreaties to go so he too could get prizes and extra nosh every Wednesday. I also decided that even though he wouldn't benefit knowledge-wise--he could probably even teach these classes--, it wouldn't kill him to be exclusively with Jewish kids for an hour and to have fun in a Jewish-themed environment.

I'm still not fond of Chabad, but I have to give credit where credit is due. The MO world is completely silent and apathetic when it comes to providing even the smallest morsels of chinuch to these kids. Why aren't YU, the OU, YI, local shuls, etc. involved in release time or other programming for unaffiliated public school kids? Who collapsed our wide tent? Why has institutional MO written off the rest of the Jewish world to Chabad? I know there are many non-Orthodox Jews who will always look to Chabad as representative of authentic Judaism, but surely there are also many to whom MO could better appeal with a common language, world view, etc.

Anyway, back to David. Last week (Chanukah) the Kinneret called me up one night and told me to hurry home because David's release time teachers were on the way to the house to bring jelly donuts. Shortly after I arrived home these two missionaries* knocked at the door and sat with us for fifteen minutes of story telling, dreidel games, etc. (*I can't think of a better designation for them missionaries, and I don't use the word here with any of its usual negative connotations.)

And then next week, during the school break, David is attending a Chabad winter camp for public school kids.

Most of this is 100% free. There is no nominal fee, or a regular fee that they waive upon request. Money never enters the equation. (Ok, there is very reasonable fee for the winter camp.)

So a shkoyach and two cheers for Chabad. For giving a damn.

Update: We were very impressed with the camp. Door-to-door transportation, hot breakfast and lunch, activities, sports and daily trips. (Capped with the requisite pilgrimage to 770, which thrilled David.) Four days of this for $90!?  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Baruch hasehm and . . . baruch hashem?

David needs a new winter coat. Baruch hashem we need to buy a coat for him. That's good news, for it means he is growing. He isn't the tank he was when he was a todler, but he is still on the taller side.

Ora doesn't need a new winter coat, or pretty much any new clothing. Everything from last year still seems to fit her. I guess baruch hashem for that too?

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Make it Louder

It's funny how kids express themselves while they are still learning the language. Yesterday Ora was washing her hands and she asked Kinneret to make the water louder, i.e., to open the faucet more.
During the summer she used to ask me to turn the heat on. It took a while (and lots of back-and-forth bickering) until I finally realized that she was referring to the climate control system in general as "the heat."
She doesn't understand yet that heat and cold exist along a continuum. So when she complains that the bath water is too hot and I tell her I will make it colder, she responds that she doen't want cold water.
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

America's First Sofer

While researching the biography of Jacob Ezekiel Hyneman I came across a reference to his maternal great grandfather, Eleazar Joseph Israel (aka R. Isaac Eleazar b. Joseph Hacohen). Eleazar, a sofer stam (ritual scribe), immigrated to America from Amsterdam ca. 1810 along with his son and his son's family. He died in 1817 and was buried in the the Spruce St. Cemetery of Philadelphia's Cong. Mikveh Israel, but some time during the intervening years he donated to the congregation a Torah he had written. Although he may not have been the first sofer in America--I don't recall offhand either way--, I'm pretty sure (?) that he was the first to write Sifrei Torah and his scroll in Mikveh Israel was the first written by an American sofer. (Sifrei Torah were previously obtained from established congregations or from foreign sources, including mother congregations in London and Amsterdam.)

According to Sarna the image above (click on it to enlarge) may depict the interior of Mikveh Israel's mid-century synagogue; if true, then I imagine that one of the Sifrei Torah displayed in the open ark could be the one executed by Eleazar.

Two of Elazar's sons were also active religiously in the public sphere, one as a ba'al toke'a (shofar blower) and the other as a shamash (sexton), both in Miveh Israel

(Source here. For the record, the source isn't clear and it is possible that he wrote this scroll while yet in Amsterdam.)
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Torture of Syrian Jews, 1840

Yesterday I read an article about the Jews of Egypt in which the basic impression conveyed is that they lived cheery lives until 1948 and only then did their problems start. In general this is the popular narrative of the Jews of Arab lands. Today I came across an inventory of the torture employed against the Jews of Damascus in 1840 in the wake of a blood libel.

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(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. Save a child's life and tip the scales of Yom ha-Din in your favor.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cash is King

I'm a big advocate for the primacy of cash gifts. There are exceptions, but this should be the general rule.

Well apparently David takes after me. Today is my birthday. I had to leave early this morning for a business trip, but a sleepy-eyed David made sure to give me a card as I was running out the door. The homemade card would have been nice on it's own merit, but when I opened it I smiled as a crisp ten-dollar bill fell into my palm. I guess that's my payback for encouraging him to collect bottles (see here). (As an aside, we sometimes wonder if he has more money than we do. Certainly whenever we are short on cash in the house we know we can always raid his wallet.)
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Two notes on my birthday. First, today is a really crappy day to celebrate a birthday. In general I've never been into birthday celebrations for adults. Really, what is there to celebrate? But now I certainly don't want to celebrate on this date.

Secondly, the past few years I've been feeling older and older. Can I really be aging physically, mentally and psychologically faster than I am chronologically? And more and more frequently something happens that makes me realize how quickly the aging is occurring. There have been some bulwarks to this process that let me live in the past, such as my licenses. They have used the same recycled picture since my early twenties. The picture with the deep eyes, youthful features, darkened skin and full head of hair. The year in the birthday field didn't matter, as it was a just a small blur next that picture. More recently this picture has caused me some trouble, particularly with TSA officials at airports who request identification with a more recent picture. But is was still a good feeling to see that picture every time I had to pull a license out of my wallet for one reason or another.

But now it all changes. Because I waited too long to renew my license this year I had to appear in person at the DMV and the clerk made me take a new picture. Sigh.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Would You Rather . . .

(Gross bodily functions warning.)

For the past few months David has been very into questions of the nature of "would you rather . . . or . . .?" For example, would you rather drown in the ocean or in a volcano? Would you rather get hit by a car or have a house fall on you? Would you rather eat one hundred bees or one hundred centipedes? Actually a lot of these questions have to do with would you rather eat this or that? As you can imagine, often the grossness factor is quite high.

On that note I will note that David has been into jokes for a little while. He likes to tell them and he also has borrowed some joke books from the library. One joke he made up (I think)--pardon me--is what did the burp say to the fart? Answer: excuse me.

And now moving on from bodily functions to body parts. At one point we were at a birs mlia (transposed to avoid attracting comments) and I explained to David what they do to the baby. "Why," he asked, "is it too long?" (In this context there is one more question he once asked that I'm not going to post, but perhaps this cryptic comment will jog my memory in later years.)

Thank God he seems to be over his prank call stage. At first he started doing it when he was angry. He would call me repeatedly and keep on hanging up. Once, before he really figured out how to use the phone, he kept on pressing redial. Luckily the person on the receiving end was a colleague/friend (David W.)--especially since a few times David muttered a mild profanity (or was it shut up?) before hanging up.

And then there were the prank calls he made just for fun. Usually when I answered the phone I would humor him and let him get his jollies. Once, however, he actually had me going for a few seconds when he pretended that he was calling from the weather service to warn me that we need to evacuate because of a coming storm.

I don't want to leave Ora out of this post. One of the baby milestones is when they find their thumb. It is so cute to watch them as they try to get the tiny little thumb into the mouth. I remember when Ora found her thumb*, but also when her pointer found her nostril. Kinneret thought it was disgusting, but not nearly as disgusting as when after a few days the pointer followed up after the nose with the mouth. (*The truth is Ora didn't really suck her thumb that much back then, and now that she has started to suck her thumb more regularly as a two-and-a-half year old it isn't quite so cute.)

I apologize if I grossed you out or otherwise spoke inappropriately, but this blog is a record for my memories, both the touching ooh and ah types as well as the revolting ich and uch types.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Redeeming Bottles

(Inspired by ProfK.)

We've never saved our cans and bottles to redeem the deposit charge, but last year we encouraged David to do so in order that he would learn the value of working for his money, saving up, etc.

David really got into it with full vigor. Our relatives now dump all their cans and bottles in our garage and David even makes Kinneret collect the cans and bottles her friends discard at work. In the morning he goes to school with one bottle of water and sometimes he returns home with three empty bottles. I've even caught him picking up cans in the street and he's asked me if he can sift through our neighbors' garbage cans. He can spend hours--ok, not really hours--in the garage sorting his stash and preparing for the big day. And whenever he sees someone pushing a shopping cart overflowing with bags of empty bottles he stares in amazement and awe.

Except for the yucky parts it sounds all nice and good.

Or not.

For all the talk about the importance of recycling, etc., the bottle redemption program is nothing more than a hidden tax that is perhaps one of the biggest government scam ever. The vast majority of people do not go back to the supermarket with their empty bottles and cans and those orphaned nickel deposits get deposited into government coffers. And spare me the mussar that these people have no one to blame but themselves for losing the deposit money.

I waste an inordinate amount of time taking David to the store with his stash. First of all, most stores only accept brands they sell. This could mean multiple stops. Then at each store there are often long lines of people--always the ones with the shopping carts filled to heaven--in front of you. Of course at least one machine is always broken, so maybe you can get rid of the plastics and cans, but you're going to have return (who knows when) another time for the glass. Even just the process of of inserting the bottles into the machine can take a while, as it can take numerous attempts before the machine will accept your offering without spitting it back out at you. Of course in the middle of this process the machine will fill up and then you wait and wait and wait for the manager to come and empty it. (The guys with the shopping carts piled to heaven aren't exactly their customer service priority.) Finally you think all is done, yet all you get is a slip of paper and now you have to wait on line for ten minutes to exchange it for cash. God forbid you had more than twelve dollars worth of bottles, because in that case you have to come back another day. (And since many of the redemption areas are filthy, you have to waste time at home afterwards take a shower and otherwise disinfecting yourself.) The effort literally just isn't worth my time.

The whole process is such a pain and I've thought of just giving him the money and tossing his stash into the  garbage. But in the meantime he continues to collect bottles and cans.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Camp Follow-Up

As I wrote earlier, David's camp was hesitant to accept him because he attends public school, although they eventually relented. I later found out that they called people in the neighborhood to verify our orthodox credentials. I guess I don't really begrudge them for this; after all, David could have been a blood-thirsty axe murderer for all they knew.

Ironically, on the first day of camp David came home the proud bearer of a canteen rewards card that he received for answering the rebbe's questions in learning. And he would continue earning these cards throughout the summer. He was also the only kid in his bunk who attended the mishmar program. (I will also add that I, the public school parent, was apparently the only one who called to complain that a new counselor basically removed davening from the schedule; likewise it was I who complained after David told me that kids in his bunk regularly used inappropriate language.)

We thought that it would be good for David to attend a frummer camp than one we would normally choose and overall it was a positive experience for him. (And he had a great time.) But I was nonetheless disappointed as certain aspects brought back bad memories from his yeshiva days, from the content and method of the learning to the nastiness and crassness of some of the kids to the general lack of professionalism and reign of chaos. It was also interesting to observe that despite being out of yeshiva for two years, David was basically at the same level as his peers in observance and knowledge; in some aspects he is more advanced, perhaps in others he trails behind. (As for what is in the heart, I am unable to say.)

I'm sure that if David goes off the derech (or becomes a blood-thirsty axe murderer) in ten years from now everyone will attribute this to his public school education. But at this point in time I honestly can't say that David is any worse off for not going to yeshivah.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Is My Seven-year-old Off the Derech?

David has known about the sofer (scribe) for a long time. More recently he learned the word kofer, as in the pitch that Noah spread on the ark so that water would not leak in. Tonight we were going over Parshas Va'eschanan--last week was busy--and I asked him who we go to if we need a mezuzah or tefilin. He responded that we go to a kofer. I'm not sure if he he really got confused between the two rhyming words, or if he was acting silly. But all I could think is that if someone asks him from whom do we get our mezuzos and tefilin, he might respond from a kofer. Kofer also means a heretic. Well of course the public school family obtains their mezuzos and tefilin from a kofer.
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But more seriously, my heart skipped a beat in the car today. David has asked me a number of times why there is still a mosque on Har Habayis and why don't we rebuild the Beis Hamikdash in its place. (Yes, I know it's not actually a mosque but rather a shrine.) I don't have a good answer for him and I generally mumble something about Jews being afraid to instigate a war and then I veer off  to a topic as unrelated as possible.
Today he once again asked me and I responded with my well rehearsed mumble. But before I could get him onto another train of thought he interrupted me and blurted out that he doesn't think all the stories about Moshe Rabbeinu are true. Huh? Where did this come from? We had just picked him up from his tutor. Is she a koferes and poisening his mind? I asked him why he would say such a thing. He said that if we are afraid to destroy the mosque because it might spark a war then this means we don't believe the veracity of all the stories that describe how Hashem helped the Jews defeat their enemies in battle.
In the good old days the melamed would give him a smack on the head and that would be the end of it.* How in the heck am I supposed to respond?
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The stock character of the cruel melamed is well attested in Jewish literature (e.g., Solomon Maimon's autobiography), although my professor once questioned the accuracy of this portrayal as a stereotype. I can only note that my grandfather, in the course of supplying me with an oral family history, described the cruelty he witnessed in his Warsaw heder. He referred to the melamdim as murderers. He also related that after questioning the midrash about Yaakov trying to get out of Rivka's woom when she passed a yeshivah, he was subjected to a torturous ear pull (which he blamed for his hearing loss?).
My grandfather--David's namesake--turned out more than ok. Hopefully David will live up to his example.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

When I Get Older I Want to Be . . .

The other day Kinneret asked Ora what she wants to be when she gets older. She responded . . . a cat.
David wants to be a secret agent or have an ice cream truck.
God help me with both of them.
(On the way to shul this morning David asked me what I wanted to be when I was his age. I know that my elementary school yearbook states I wanted to be a doctor or author, but I couldn't remember what I wanted to be when I was in third grade.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Heaven Help Me

We're trying to get David up to par with math over the summer. Yesterday I was in the process of showing him that the number thirty six is "chai times two." I asked him if he knows why eighteen is an important number. He responded that when he is eighteen years old he will be able to drive.

I told him to convert eighteen into gematria numbers and see what it yields, but all the while all I could think was "Heaven help me."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

David's Moon

We were standing in the backyard last week gazing at the full moon and I explained to him that it presents in the middle of the month. (That is the extent of my knowledge about lunar phenomena.) A long time ago I had taught him that a מלה נרדפת (synonym) for ירח (moon) is לבנה. I was curious if he still remembered this and tested him. He scratched his head and I was a tiny bit disappointed, but then he looked up and responded, המאור הקטן (Breishis 1:16)!
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Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Chupah Song

I'm embarassed to admit I like a song by a boy band, but I really, really like "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction. I think it would a make a great song to march--or rather dance and do flips--down the aisle to.
Maybe I even would have used it instead of Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"
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(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jews Flock to Michelangelo's Moses

Chagall's Hadassah windows were displayed in the Louvre and the Museum of Modern Art prior to being installed in Jerusalem. At MOMA 176,000 visitors came (and paid) to take in the majesty of the widows in a brief six-week period. Alfred Werner highlighted this impressive fact and continued to note:
Instances of large masses of people participating in an event of artistic importance have always been rare. We have the account of the Renasissance chronicler, Vasari, that a Madonna which Cimabue had painted for a church in Florence, was, "an object of so much admiration to the people that it was carried in solemn procession, with the sounds of trumpets, to the church." The same Giorgio Vasari wrote about the Moses carved by Michelangelo in Rome that "Jews were to be seen every Saturday, hurrying like flights of swallows, men and women, to visit and worship this figure, as though it were something divine."

(See Alfred Werner, "Chagall's Jerusalem Windows," Art Journal 4.21 (Summer 1962), p. 224. He does note on the following page, "We do not know how reliable a historian Vasari is in these two cases.")
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(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When I Grow Up I Want to Be . . .

At various times Ora has stated that she wants to be a number of things when she grows up. If you ask her now, she responds that she wants to be a cat.
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In general Ora is very indendent and she always wants to do everything herself. Getting dressed, eating, climbing into the car, etc. I think this type of tenacity bordering on stubborness is a good quality, but it becomes a real pain when we're in a rush and we have to wait ten minutes for her to pull her short frame into the car.
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(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Why God Created Saliva

So that when you are standing at the door of the day care with your kid and you realize her face is filthy from breakfast, you have something with which to clean it.
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(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Living a Lie

For the past few summers David has been attending a camp that while is under Orthodox auspices, isn't very strong Jewishly and has many campers from non-religious homes. We had been perfectly content with such a camp, but now that David isn't in yeshivah we decided that he could benefit religiously and socially from being in a camp that is stronger Jewish-wise. We filled out an application for a local right-wing camp that we had heard good things about and waited to hear back from them. And waited. And waited.

I finally called up the office and was informed that they weren't sure what to do with his application because he doesn't attend yeshivah.  There was some (civil) back and forth during the course of which I assured the camp we are shomer shabbos, etc. and that David is on the same level in terms of observance and knowledge as many of the campers who come from our neighborhood. The camp wanted to know why he is in public school. I explained that it was an educational choice we made. I told them I have nothing to hide and suggested they contact David's tutor, our shul rabbi, parents of David's friends who go to the camp, etc. to get more information about us.

In the end David was accepted to the camp. I'm just nervous because while he is generally well behaved in school and camp, I'm sure he will inevitably have a bad day and get into trouble at least once. And I'm sure when that happens the camp will regret having accepted a public school kid. (I also hope he doesn't he doesn't spontaneously sing his favorite Beatles medley.)

I was serious when I told the camp I have nothing to hide. I wasn't going to play that game of lying about this or that or change my behavior so our kid would be accepted. Nonetheless, Kinneret and I alternated between anxiety and anger until we finally heard back from the camp with a positive response. All this anxiety and anger just to get my kid into a camp? I know plenty of people who live like this all year round, and year after year. Their entire anxiety- and anger-filled lives are one big lie, all in order to please the yeshiva, camp, shul, friends, neighbors, in-laws, customers, shadchan, etc. What a terrible way to live.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Last night I peeked into Ora's room and noticed that she is really filling up the bed. Kinneret and I can't get over how she's not a tiny baby anymore (although she is very small for her age).

Amazing, just two months ago I remarked  (here) that she didn't even fill up half the bed.

And of course David keeps growing (although not as fast as before) and it won't be long before he's taller than Kinneret.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Prof. Leiman on Lag Ba-Omer

(Below are the notes I took while listening to Prof. Leiman's lecture on Lag Ba-Omer (here). No one has reviewed my notes. All errors and inacurracies are my own. I strongly encourage you to listen to the original lecture in order to learn from the source and of course also because it's always a pleasure to hear Prof. Leiman's elloquence and delivery, no matter what the topic.)

The trouble with Jewish education is that we never move beyond the elementary level. We repeat the same thing year after year and never deepen our understanding of Torah . . . Same with holidays. The seder is the same year in year out. We should leave each year with a more profound understanding of Pesach. [He also makes an interesting point that leining has become more about catching the baal kore in a mistake than it using the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the parsha.]
Yavamos 62b: R. Akiva taught if you study torah when you are young, study again when you are old. If you produce students in young age, produce more in old age (based on pasuk in kohelet, plant in the morning, don’t sit idle at night). He had 12,000 pairs of students from center to northern Israel, they all died in the same time period because they didn’t kavod to each other. R. akiva went to southern Israel and taught new students. This new group reestablished torah in Israel. The 24,000 died between pesach and shavuos.
Nothing here about lag ba-omer.  Never mentioned in shas, tosefta, sifre, mekhilta. Not in rabbinic lit. it’s a mystery where LBO comes from. Not in mishne torah.
First reference to LBO is in Meiri (b. 1249 Provence): there is a kabala from geonim (rabbis who preceded him, not the Babylonian geonim) that the deaths ceased on LBO. (We commemorate this by not fasting. He doesn’t say to give kids off from school, shoot bow and arrow, etc.) Also don’t marry from Pesach till Lag Baomer.
r. hayyim vital (d. 1620, chief student of ari) in peri etz hayyim (published in 17th c.): the practice is to go to grave of shimon bar yohai and his son elazar) in meiron on LBO. The ari too went to meiron with his wife and children for 3 days (per testimony of r. yonasan sagiz). R. avraham halevi (beruchin), a kabbalist in ari’s circle, used to say nachem every day. He was davening at meiron on LBO and the ari approached him and told him that r. shimon bar yohai who is buried there told to ask r. avraham why is he saying nachem at his grave on his holiday. Because of this people will give him tanchumin. Within a month his child died, he sat shiva, and people came to give him tanchumim. We see from this the reason to go to meiron on LBO is because it is the yahrzeit of r. shimon bar yohai. He was one of the talmidim of r. akiva who died, but his death is a celebration.
So these are 2 basic answers for LBO. But they are problematic. LBO not mentioned in tanach, shas, etc.
All we have is the meiri, who says they stopped daying on LBO
There is ms. Variant in the gemara that doesn’t say pesach to atzeres, but pesach to pros (half) atzeres, ie lag baomer. This is what meiri was talking about.
Lets say the 24,000th died right before lag baomer. So you declare a yontef? A yontef because they stopped dying?
r. aryeh balhuver (shem aryeh, vilna, 1873): on LBO we don’t say tachanun and celebrate a bit because r. akiva’s students dying.
Its amazing, that gemara says they all died btw pesach and atzeres. So who cares that they stopped dying on lag baomer? I found in peri chadash (17th c. Sephardi), what’s the yontef? Nobody was left, they all died. (Should we make a yontef after the last of the 6 million died?)
so we are left with the answer that is yahrzeit of r. shimon bar yochai. Chasidim celebrate a yahrtziet by making a Kiddush so that the mitzvah of making beracha and the person who brings the shnops accrues to the benefit of the departed. But you don’t find this in shulchan aruch. Instead you find in shulchan aruch (siman taf kuf peh?) that you fast on yahrtzeit. (this is a minhag yisroel from gemera on.) and on yahrzeits of gedolei yisrael, like zayin adar for moshe rabbeinu, we fast.
So if moshe rabbeinu doesn’t get a yontef, why shimon bar yochai?
How do we know SBY’s yahrzteit is on LBO? We have nothing until the 17th c. in rabbinic literature (vital)
Hasam sofer (“he was shomer Shabbos in case you didn’t know, you can trust him”; d. 1830s): I heard people recently go to tzefas. He wonders why ppl go to tzefas and not yerushalayim, the holiest city. What’s the fuss? I asked R. epfraim zalman margoliyos (his rebbe) about this. Who heard of going to tzefas on LBO? Making a yontef on a yahrzeit? We fast on a yahrzeit. Like for moshe rabbeinu, nadav and avihu, Miriam (they fasted for a woman, ppl forget about this passage), yehoshua. It’s in the Zohar that it says the the day SBY died is a hilula. But it doesn’t say when he died. A hilula in loshn of gemara is a marriage. On the day he died he was married. How? His soul returned to hashem . . . ve-al kol panim, lo yadasi ma makom le-hilula?
The hasam sofer tells you he doesn’t know why we celebrate LBO. (how should I know?)
Hida (d. 1806) is unhappy with these 2 reasons for LBO: we make a simcha on LBO because he started teaching torah again on LBO.
A jew never despairs. R. akiva lost everything, his life’s work, he started all over again. He didn’t waste a minute. And one of his students was SBY
It’s a nice suggestion, but no evidence in earlier jewish lit
Others suggest real reason we mourn is because of crusades. Might be true. We know a lot of times jews were persecuted it was this period btw pesach and shavuos. In 11-13th centuries. Probably this has a lot to do with our mourning practices, no music, no shaving, etc. But no where in the sources does it say anything about crusades and LBO.
Others suggest it is because of hadrianic persecutions. No one has 24,000 students. Some achronim suggest that the 24k students are 24k troops that died in the mered bar kochva. But there is nowhere in jewish or roman sources to point to a celebration on LBO
A fragment in cairo geniza provides the source in SA for the yahrzeit fasts for moshe, Miriam, etc. 7-8th c., eretz yisroel. Goes month by month, and 18th of iyyar says fast for yahrtzeit of yehoshua.
So in 8th c. Israel, 18th iyyar, i.e., LBO was a fast day
Hasam Sofer (shut y”D resh lamed gimmel): but to make a holiday we know no miracle occurred on that day, and the holiday is never mentioned in shas, posekim, in no place. All it says in SA and rishonim is we don’t fast/say hespedim (some say no tachanun), but isn’t a holiday. And I don’t even know why it’s a day we don’t fast/eulogize.
The hasam sofer is correct. Everything we said is interesting, but just theories. We don’t have evidence. Anymore.
I’d like to close with favorite passage from sifre musar, which sums up what jewish education is all about
Bahya ibn pakida (hovos levavos): a person must make a reckoning with  his soul for everthing that pertains  to knowledge of god and god’s torah and the histories and tradition of the jewish people. And the meaning of the prayers and hymns we recite. These are all things we learn in youth when mind begins to grow and first initiated into studies.for the fofr of subtle ideas in the eyes of someone of weal understading is very different than in the eyes of an intelligent person. The stronger your understanding, the stronger becomes your certainty of things. Therefore don’t be content with what you learned in your youth at the beginning of your studies. But reconsider with what you were taught with regard to torah, neviim now that your mind is stronger, your understanding is sharper.  As if you had never read a letter of them you never learned. Same with tefilos. Try to understand their language and purpose, so when you approach the lord with those words you will understand the words you tongue is uttering and the meaning your heart wishes to convey. Don’t allow the habits of your youth to continue. You have to deal the same way with jewish history and all jewish traditions. You may not be satisfied with you achieve when you began your studies, rather demand of yoursself to  restudy, relearn, as if you are novice. Reconsider everything you are taught until you discover new meaning in the torah, prophets, sages. Such things you could have never have understood from the teachers who taught you when you first began your studies.

(On an 1841 visit to Meiron, click here.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hair Wars

Despite my incessant pleas not to do so, Kinneret took David to get a haircut before Pesach. (That a stranger on the street gave him mussar about the mop on his head didn't aid my arguments.)
It's amazing. Despite his short hair his kippah still manages to disappear to "the other side" of his head (see here).

* * *
(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reason #214 To Make Aliya

An article (here) about a recently discovered First Temple-period seal noted:
  • From the very start of the excavations in this area the archaeologists decided that all of the soil removed from there would be meticulously sifted (including wet-sifting and thorough sorting of the material remnants left in the sieve). This scientific measure is being done in cooperation with thousands of pupils in the Tzurim Valley National Park. It was during the sieving process that the tiny seal was discovered.
There are just some experiences that even the best day school education in galus can't replicate.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wrong Impressions of David

This past Shabbat we were invited to someone's house for lunch. In the course of the conversation the husband turned to the wife and mentioned something about their teenage child behaving well on Thursday. The wife said that they need to note it on the spreadsheet because they keep track of his behavior. Apparently he is a difficult child.

I just sat there shaking my head and wondering, "holy crap, does it ever end?" I was depressed for the rest of the day. Will I still be sitting with Kinneret in ten years, biting our nails and tearing our hair out because of our failed attempts to control David?! I was depressed for the rest of the day.

* * *

Last week I was going to post about something cute that David did. I realized that I mostly only write about him in a good, adorable and sympathetic light. I'm afraid that I've been giving the wrong impression. He's not a perfect child. He can be quite difficult at times and real pain in the tuchus. But I'm sure we won't forget the stubbornness, disrespect, poor behavior, etc. On Sunday he was pretty bad and Kinneret wanted to kill him. I couldn't come up with any defense for him other than to plead on his behalf as the only male that will carry on the family name. Killing him will kill the family name.

Those bad moments--oh how they sometimes drag out into hours and days--will remain etched in our memories. I'm sure that in years from now we'll regale the grandkids with tales about their naughty father. But I also want to make sure we recall the good moments. (If only they too would stretch out into hours and days!) Will it really matter in twenty years from now that because of him Kinneret came late to work? Or do we want to remember that one morning when his sister complained her eyes hurt her. We were still sleeping so David led her to the bathroom and washed her eyes out.

So many times the kids do something that really makes us laugh, smile and just plain happy. Very often, however, when I sit down to record the memory in writing--sometimes even the same night--I forget what it is I wanted to write about. Hopefully in some small way this blog will give me some positive stories to tell the grandkids about.

Of course I'm sure they'll just want to hear more about how naughty he was.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Grandmother's Holocaust

Photographs of Yitzchok Aaron Goldblum
(clockwise from top left; click above to enlarge):
1) ca. 1928; 2) With my grandfather in 1928;
3) With his bride and her brother (r.) in 1934; 4) 1930s.
On Yom Hashoah Vehagevura/Holocaust Memorial Day I remember my grandmother’s brother, Yitzchok Aaron ben Wolf Zev Goldblum, who was named for their grandfather, Yitzchok Aaron Bogdansky. In 1920 my grandmother, then nine years old, was granted a visa to settle in the United States. Yitzchok Aaron, who was younger than her, also received a visa, but owing to family politics he was forced to remain in Europe. Three years later he once again had an opportunity to come to America, but this time as well he had to remain in Europe because of family politics. My grandfather, David Solomon, visited Poland in 1928 and tried to secure another visa for him, but by then it was too late as immigration quotas had become prohibitively restrictive. Yitzchok Aaron Goldblum was murdered in the Lodz Ghetto.
Holocaust survivors are often described by their children as one of two types: the type that talks of his or her experiences and the type that remains silent.My grandmother falls into neither category, as she is not a survivor. She was lucky enough to have come to these shores in 1920. Nonetheless, when I think of her in the context of the Holocaust I still categorize her with the silent ones.
My grandmother’s closest loss was her younger brother. She doesn’t talk about him, and hence I consider her a silent one. But the truth is her silence is not a consequence of repression or avoidance of painful memories. I simply doubt she has more than a few memories of him, if any at all. She never saw him after she left for America in 1920 as a ten-year-old. I’m also not sure how well she knew him before that, as they lived in separate households in neighboring towns for at least three years previous (when they were orphaned). So her main memories of him are probably more than ninety-five years old.
Yitzchok Aaron ben Wolf Zev would have been about 99 this year had he lived. My grandmother could have had an additional nine decades of memories of him.

(Click on image to enlarge.)
Left picture: in the center is my grandmother's brother Yitzchok Aaron; to his right is their paternal grandfather, Kalman Goldblum (d. 1931); on the far left is Kalman's second wife, Rivkah Cheved (Weiss?); in the back is Ziprah, daughter of Kalman and Rivkah Cheved; in the front are Ziprah's children. Rivkah Cheved and Ziprah (with her children?) died in a concentration camp.
Right picture: Rivkah Cheved and Ziprah are center; the girl and younger boy are Ziprah's children. The boy on the left is unknown (another child of Ziprah?).

Yom Hashoah 2012; Reference Points; Educating David

Last night I attended a local Yom Hashoah commemoration. It was pretty pathetic. Not the program itself, but the turnout. I remember when the auditorium was packed, and now there are many more empty seats than occupied seats.
The one "positive" element in last night's program was that the keynote speaker was herself a survivor. In the past I've noted that one manifestation of the dwindling survivor population is that it isn't uncommon for the speakers at these events not to be survivors themselves. Sometimes they are the children of survivors relating their parent's tales second hand or what it was to like grow up as the child of survivors. Other times it is a historian or a figure with something poignant to add to the day.
So it was refreshing and an honor to listen to this cute little Hungarian woman for thirty minutes. Without rehashing the debate over Yom Hashoah, these people deserve to have a day set aside for them to be honored with the opportunity to speak of their experiences. The right wing refuses to observe Yom Hashoah and claims it incorporates this memorial into Tisha Beav. But it isn't just about remember the dead victims. I hope that they give the survivors their due on that day as well.
In the course of her address she related how years later her path crossed with another woman whom had been with at some point. They each recognized each from somewhere but it took a few minutes to figure out exactly from where. Was it Auschwitz? One of the other two camps to which she was subsequently evacuated to when the Germans abandoned Auschwitz? The final internment in Nuremberg? The first DP camp? The refugee center back in Budapest? The second DP camp?
How different from the reference points we use when we reconnect with a long lost acquaintance, as we try to figure out if we know each other from elementary school, high school, day camp, sleepaway camp, Israel, college, grad school, sitting next to each other at Yossi's wedding, etc.
* * *
Last night I spoke to David about the Holocaust. I wasn't sure how much to tell him, but I wish I hadn't left it for the last minute. In the course of the conversation I told him about my grandmother's baby brother, who was murdered in the Holocaust. (He was really an adult at that point, but she hadn't seen him since he was a baby.) I told how thankful I am that my grandparents themselves were in America long before the Holocaust. And that we have to be thankful for America and for Israel.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thank God for Pesach Cleaning; and, Preparing for Next Pesach

One of the mistakes I made when we moved into the house this summer is that I kashered the oven/stove rather than buy a new one. It literally took me days to kasher it, and it's not even a good unit so what was the point? Had I realized how difficult it was going to be, I certainly would have just purchased a new one.
Part of the problem was that the previous owners, it seemed, hadn't cleaned the oven/stove even one time in the thirteen years they lived here. (Likewise for the kitchen as a whole.) Layers and layers of grease were caked onto the oven and in every nook and cranny. Every time I removed a panel I uncovered another layer. It was disgusting, and not just physically. I felt so defiled having to swim through the tarfus. I've never immersed in a mikve nor have I ever felt the desire to do so, but for the first time in my life I now wanted to go. I needed to get this tumah off of me.
After it was all done and over, I remarked to Kinneret that we should be thankful for Pesach and not complain about the associated cleaning chores. We are not necessarily the cleanest people in the world ourselves, but at least Pesach makes us do some basic housecleaning at least once a year.
* * *
We are not big Pesach cleaners. I personally am a big believer that dirt isn't chometz. Pesach may be chag ha-aviv, but Pesach cleaning isn't spring cleaning. I am always amazed by people who start preparing for the holiday weeks or even months before it actually begins. I've always thought the record was held by the Jews of southern Germany, whom Hugo Mandel relates in his wonderful memoir would begin to prepare right after the conclusion of Chanukah.
Well this year Kinneret broke that record. As we were in the midst of turning the kitchen back over she pulled out a paper and pen. She proceeded to start of list of all lessons she learned this year for how to prepare for next year. Yikes.
* * *
(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's theeasiest way to save a child's life.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Haggadah and Zionism (and Rav Kasher)

Pesach is the "Zionist" holiday par excellence. Not just as events originally unfolded in ancient times, but also as refracted through a twentieth-century lens by modern Zionist re-interpreters. In the early decades of the twentieth century it was not uncommon to find "Hatikva" appended at the conclusion of printed Haggadot and the great popular Haggadah artists of mid-century (e.g., Szyk and Forst) blended ancient and contemporary themes into a continuum of imagery.
Even Rav Kasher was swept up in this euphoria of Haggadah Zionism. Many are familiar with his encyclopedic Haggadah Shelemah (1967), but his earlier Eretz Yisrael Haggadah (1950) has fallen by the wayside. It happens to be one of my favorites for various reasons,* one of which includes its Zionist pathos. For Rav Kasher, Pesach was about yestzi'as mitzrayim (exodus), but also contemporary shoah (Holocaust) and tekumah (national renaissance). He even promoted the idea that the era was ripe for the adoption of a fifth cup of wine as part of the standard Haggadah ritual. Rabbinic literature long knew of a fifth cup, reflecting a fifth language of redemption--ve-heveisi ("and I will bring"). Living in the very midst of post-1948 kibbutz galuyos (ingathering of the exiles), what better way could there be to recognize the aschalta di-geula (flowering of the redemption) than by drinking a fifth cup of wine with a separate beracha in order to commemorate ve-heveisi!**
Well here we are more than half a century later. For most of us the Haggadah is once again nothing more than a document of ancient history. We mumble through hashta avdei le-shanah ha-ba'ah benei chorin ("this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people") and sing le-shana ha-ba'a be-yerushalayim ("next year in Jerusalem") without really thinking about it. Personally, I have barely been able to get myself to sing the latter for the last few years. Has it really become a matter of ilu nasan lanu es artzos ha-beris li-peletah ve-lo hevi'anu le-medinas yisrael--dayenu!?
* It is printed on heavy stock paper; includes a simple and accessible commentary; contains an appendix with realia, etc.; and is adorned with a wonderful bifolio steel engraved illustration. The Hebrew-only edition contains additional material in the appendix. Whereas Haggadah Shelema is an academic-type publication appropriate for scholars engaged in research and laypeople preparing for the seder, the Eretz Yisrael Haggadah is a great table-side haggadah. (Later editions were printed on poorer paper and reproduced the bifolio engraving in a less-than-pleasing manner.)
** Rav Kasher's Haggadah Shelemah contains an expanded essay on the Fifth Cup, but in this work he retreated somewhat from his initial support for instituting the practice. The instructions in the haggadah text itself don't refer to it and in the appended essay he seems to argue that it is a good idea to drink a fifth cup but not to recite a beracha (one should have the fifth cup in mind when reciting the beracha over the fourth cup). The essay makes no mention of the modern post-1948 ve-heveisi and in general the edition is devoid of any Zionist character. One should, however, be cautious in attributing this apparent volte face to him having experienced a change of the heart with regard to modern Israel. Indeed, after the Yom Kippur War Rav Kasher published a tract to refute claims that the 1973 war proves that the Zionist endeavor lacks Divine approbation.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


During one of my internships I worked for a few days on the pediatric floor. I was stunned every time I walked through the halls. So many rooms had young kids with no visitors. No family, no friends. Kids were crying. They were in pain and/or scared. It was very depressing. And maddening.
I can't say that I'd never leave my child's side during a hospital stay--life continues and there are other obligations to tend to. But I like to think that I'd be sure to arrange so that he is never alone.
Parents who leave young children unattended while they are hospital patients should be charged with abandonment.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Plastic Surgery for Shidduchim

There has been a lot of JBlog chatter concerning the Jewish Press article that advised girls to get plastic surgery if improving their appearance could improve their shidduch chances.
I personally don't think plastic surgery is the biggest tragedy and I wouldn't judge someone who did it to make herself feel better about herself, etc. But I couldn't help be reminded of a great "Without A Trace" episode (season 3, episode 5, "American Goddess") in which a woman undergoes extensive body altering surgeries in order to win a beauty contest. In the end she realizes it was all a big mistake and tries to have it reversed. When I first saw the episode I immediately thought it should be required for all Jewish girls to watch it.
Coincidentally the episode is showing right now on television.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things My Grandfather Hated . . . But Let Me Do Anyway

7) He hated when I opened up the fridge. As soon as I grabbed onto the door handle to yank it open he'd ask me what am I looking for. Why am I "letting all the cold air out." Etc. (If I left the lights on in a room he'd ask me if I bought Con Ed stock.)
And now that we're in the house and I'm more conscious about energy bills I do the same with David. As soon as I see him going toward the fridge I ask him what he's looking for. And God forbid he keeps it open longer than necessary.

Crib to Bed

About five weeks I heard a thud from the second floor. It was the sound of Ora falling to the floor while climbing out of her crib. She had been trying to climb out for a few weeks and she finally succeeded.
Last week I put together David's old Thomas train bed for her. Kinneret and I had spoken about setting it up for her for a little while but we demurred because we were afraid that with a bed we might have problems getting her to stay in it at bedtime. But now the point was mute. She was now regularly climbing out of her crib at will anyway.
Last night I peeked into Ora's room as she slept on the Thomas bed. It's not a big bed, yet she still looked so small in it as it almost swallowed her up. We had kept David in the bed until this past summer, way past when should have been it. He had long outgrown it and really couldn't fit on it, but we lacked the space for a proper bed for him. It was weird to Ora taking up less than half of the bed's length.
* * *
When we moved in the house we put David and Ora in the same room and used the third bedroom for storage. Every so often we considered moving Ora into the third bedroom, but we didn't mainly because we weren't sure if they'd each want to sleep alone. (And I didn't want to have to clean out the third bedroom.) Even David, who kept on clamoring for his own room, seemed to enjoy having her in the room at night. Of course it drove us crazy because they'd keep each other up by talking and goading each other.
In the end we did move Ora to her own room and so far it seems to have worked out fine. Ora is even willing to go to bed with the door closed!
Next we need to get a proper bed for David. (He's been on an air mattress since we moved in.) He's been begging for bunk beds. Over the weekend he again asked for bunk beds and commented that maybe Ora could sleep on the bottom.
* * *
The old apartment only had one bedroom and the kids really didn't have any type of traditional bedroom setup and certainly no personal space. In the house David really took quickly to being in a proper bedroom, even though he was sharing it at first with Ora. It's cute how he hung up certain things and has been personalizing it as his room.
Ora too now seems to like having her own room. She sometimes pushes us out and closes the door.
* * *
(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the
easiest way to save a child's life.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where in the heck is your yarmulke? (And Putting the World in its Place)

It seems as if David is never wearing a kippah. Every time I see him I am compelled to ask/yell where it is. And he always smiles, says "what are you talking about?" and turns around to show me where it is resting on the other side of his head. His hair has gotten pretty scraggly and long--despite Kinneret's best efforts to convince me it's time for a haircut--and his kippah always seems to get lost in it.
I know I've heard this play out before, but in a different setting. I close my eyes. Ah yes, now I remember. During my own adolescent years people were always inquiring where was my kippah when it was simply hanging on the "other" side (or back) of my head.
I guess this is how I get paid back for my "sins." Aside from the slight blood pressure elevation I experience every time I see David "sans" kippah, I can live with this. But I really wish I could solve the enigma of why it is that his kippah is always on the "other" side of his head from where I am standing. How does it happen like that?
* * *
(From about 2 months ago.)
It's so cute how Ora makes such an effort to identify and grasp the world around her. Right now she is fixated on relationships and colors. All day long: "I'm a daughter"; "You're Ora's Abba"; "Your Ora's Mama"; etc.
And colors too. She's been learning them in school and she walks around all day testing her knowledge. She points to items around her and tries to name the color.
Her favorite colors are pink and purple. She tries to wear pink or purple outfits and accessories as much as possible. She even considers it a special treat when her morning yogurt is pink or purple (depending on the flavor of the day).
* * *
(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Updated: Artscroll Shas IPad App! (The Talmud for Me)

(Updated sections in bold.)

Tonight I attended a special Artscroll dinner that celebrated the siyyum of the Schottenstein Hebrew Talmud and some other projects. (By the way, the dinner, which was attended by chashuve rabbonim, etc., was mostly mixed seating.) The coolest part was a video presentation that showcased the Artscroll Shas App. I don't own an IPad (or any other tablet device) nor do I learn gemara, but the app seems so cool that I want to buy an IPad just so I can get the app. (The coolest feature is that in addition using it conventionally with two facing pages--which of course are scroll linked--you can use only the Aramaic side and click on a difficult word or phrase and the elucidation will float above. You can also enable vocalization of the text. Of course you can add notes, there are is a GPS-enabled feature to find local daf yomi shiurim, etc. I think, although I don't recall for sure now, that there are hyperlinks. The app is being developed by Rusty Brick, so you know it's going to be good.)

I have thus far resisted the urge to buy an IPad (the only tablet I would consider). In fact I haven't even had an urge. There is simply no way I can justify it. I have a computer at home and I have one at work. I don't commute much on the trains, so what use could I have for a tablet? I also have not embraced the ebook revolution--Wieseltier's recent "Voluminous" essay (here) really resonated with me--, so that specific tablet use doesn't appeal to me. But watching the short Artscroll presentation made me realize the power of a tablet app and how it can really add so much to transform what was previously just a text.

I still can't see myself reading from a tablet, but this Luddite is now convinced that it's the future.

The only thing that I'm not sure about it whether I should buy an IPad or instead use the money to buy a share of Apple stock.

* * *

It is popular in certain circles (my own included) to be reflexively critical of anything published by Artscroll. But the truth is that despite much warranted criticism, they have accomplished some important work.

I'm not qualified to comment on Artscroll's adult publications, but I will state that I think they do a really good job with their children's books. Not the literature, but the Siddur, Haggadah, Megillot, Yonah, Pirke Avot, etc. I use these when learning with David and they are very good. The simple translation is clear and age appropriate and the illustrations are appealing to children.

(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chutzpah of a Nineteenth Century British Missionary

(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.)

In the 1840s F.C. Ewald, a Jewish convert to Christianity, served as a British missionary in Jerusalem. En route to Eretz Yisrael he stopped in Lisbon where he had the occasion to meet and engage Maranno Jews in theological discussion.

I gave to this little congregation a short outline of the present condition of the Jews in various parts of the world, to which they listened with greatest interest. After which, I asked Rabbi Abraham [Dabella?] to tell me his opinion of the Messiah. This question astonished him not a little, "Why," exclaimed he, "the Messiah , the Messiah, is yet to come" . . .

This opened the way to an animated conversation about the Messiah and those who believe in Him, and I was then privileged to preach the Gospel of salvation in a Jewish synagogue in the capital of Portugal, where most likely for centuries no Jew had been made acquainted with the truth as it is in Jesus . .

If a mission to this part of the world should once be established, Lisbon might, from time to time be visited, and inquiries made after the secret Jews, who . . . are numerous here.

There are a number of historical gems in the few pages from whence I copied this selection, but I was amazed most by the chutzpah of this missionary. He thought he might have some luck with with Jews who on the one hand were already quite familiar with (papist distorted) Christianity, having lived outwardly as such for as long as 450 years--in some cases even centuries longer--, yet on the other hand for a duration just as long had rejected it and continued to cling at great risk to their Jewish faith!

The quote is from Journal of Missionary Labours in the City of Jerusalem, During the Years 1842-3-4. By the Rev. F. C. Ewald, 2nd ed. (London, 1846), pp. 4ff. (click here).

On Ewald, see A. Bernstein, Some Jewish Witnesses for Christ (London: Operative Jewish Converts' Institution, 1909), pp. 203-215 (click here); W. T. Gidney, The History of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, from 1809 to 1908 (London, 1908), passim (click here).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Of Beatles and Volcanoes

David just loves the Beatles. A little while ago he came home from school singing "Yellow Submarine" and I thought it was cute because I remembered learning that song in first grade music also. But in my experience that was where my childhood exposure to the Beatles ended. David's music teacher, however, made the Beatles a central part of the curriculum. He learned a whole bunch of songs and his favorites are "Yesterday," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Let it Be" and "Here Comes the Sun." (He no longer likes "Yellow Submarine" so much.) He loves sitting in front of Youtube and watching the videos.

But it wasn't just about the songs. He learned a lot about the Beatles themselves. Their instruments. Their personal lives. Every day he'd come and tell about the newest factoids he had learned. "Did you know that John Lennon was married to Yoko Ono?" (His favorites by the way are John and Ringo. Personally I prefer Paul.)

One day he made a comment that maybe he'll grow his hair and payis (!) like the Beetles. He's always considered it a treat to get a haircut and he asks for them all the time. (Maybe it's the lollipop he gets at the end?) I prefer him with long hair (but not upshern type), however, and so I'm glad the Beetles are having this effect on him.

A few weeks ago a Beetles tribute band was playing at a local college. I really wanted to take David, but both of us ended up being sick. Maybe next time.

* * *

Last year David's teacher told me about one of those cute moments he was privy to. While on the bus on a school trip he overheard a long conversation between David and two friends about the band they are going start together.

Recently David told me about it also. They are going to call themselves The Volcanoes (not a bad name?). I think he said he is going to play guitar, but more recently he's been asking for drum lessons. We might just let him.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Learning from the Coach

In the fall David went to a basketball clinic Sunday mornings. He had recently fallen in love with basketball was very excited about the clinic. I was too. I thought it would be good exercise for him in general and specifically could help improve coordination, etc. I also think it's important for kids to be decent at sports for various reasons. And it was just cute to watch him warm up, run suicides, practice layups and play games. I think he was getting a lot out of it and he was having a lot of fun.

Until the middle of the season. He started expressing less and less interest and finally he decided he no longer wanted to go. On the one hand I don't think parents should force kids to participate in extracurricular activities. Let kids figure out what they like to do and enjoy themselves as they develop a particular skill or talent. On the other hand David asked us to sign him up and we had already paid for the season. We felt that he should understand what it means to make a commitment to do something and at that very he least he should finish up the season. Then he could decide if wanted to continue.

* * *

One interesting thing I noticed while watching the practice games is that the coach didn't generally call travelling and double dribble violations. It was a good reminder for me that sometimes kids need a bit of leeway. One can't expect them to do everything perfectly from day one. Eventually they'll get it. Hopefully.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Things My Grandfather Hated . . . But Let Me Do Anyway

  1. He hated the "penny arcade" and complained it was a waste of money . . . but he nontheless drove me to the one on Bay Parkway whenever I wanted to go and he even gave me money (of course quarters, not pennies). I originally thought of this post a few months ago when David was begging me for quarters to play those darn games. My grandfather let me, how could I not let him.

  2. He hated that I demanded something more expensive than "a pack of gum" in exchange for returning the afikoman . . . but he always relented after much negotiation. (That's how I got my first ten-speed and the Meam Loez.)

  3. He hated that I looked like a "hobo" (dress and grooming) . . . but I was always welcome this way in his home or when I tagged along with him on social outings with his friends. Not even a peep when I would show up that way in his shul on shabbos.

  4. He really hated the "noise" (i.e., music) I listened to . . . but after much cajoling he would always let me choose the radio station in the car (but not too loud).

  5. He hated professional (WWF) wrestling because it was "phony" . . . but when he walked in on me watching it in his bedroom one afternoon he didn't make me change the channel.

  6. He really, really hated when I sat on my knees, which I often did, even at the table. With this, however, he never ever exhibited any weakness. It was never tolerated. I finally decided to publish this post because I was reminded of it last week when I told David the story of how Dovid Hamelech chose his soldiers. (They lay flat on their bellies when drinking from the stream rather than kneel beside it on their knees.) Then I told David about how my grandfather would always yell at me to get off my knees.

Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nightly Repertoire

It started with the first two sentences of keri'as shema. One night Ora said it as she was getting ready for bed. We weren't 0even aware she knew it. (She had learned it in daycare.) It was so cute how she tried to cover her eyes with her tiny hand and then waved a finger in front of her mouth as she said baruch shem kevod. One night I spontaneously added Hamalach Hagoel Osi. I didn't intend to make it kavu'a, but the next night, as I turned to leave, she whispered, "Hamalach." And so it happened every night. Except at one point as I turned to leave she whispered, "ABC." And then "Dreidel." And then "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." And then "Torah, Torah." It got to the point where I was afraid for her to learn new songs lest she add it to the nightly repertoire.

At some point I started speeding up the singing and eventually not repeating the lines that should be repeated. Last week I was sick and I just didn't have any ko'ach so I put her into bed and made a dash for the door. Luckily she was so tired she fell asleep and didn't complain.

At 2 am she started crying, which is very unusual for her. I can't even remember the last time she woke up in the middle of the night. I offered her anything and everything to cajole her back to sleep. More dolls, cookies, orange juice. I thought she nodded yes to the OJ, but when I returned with a cup she demurred. Finally she looked at me and whispered "Hamalach."

So I gave her the Hamalach she really deserved earlier in the night. With full (fake) chazonish gusto and repeating everything that needs to be repeated and more so. Thankfully she fell right back asleep and I didn't have to continue in such fashion with the rest of the of the repertoire.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christmas Decorations

Ora learned the word "decorations" at Christmas time and every time we passed a house with lights or other Christmas paraphernalia she would point and call out "decorations." One time David told her not to look a nativity scene and explained to her that she will die if she looks at idols.