Posts Tagged 'Judaism'



Orthodoxy?

Throughout my posts in this blog it is fairly obvious that I am an observant Jew. I am Shomer Shabbat, I eat only kosher food and I try to live my life in accordance with the laws and customs of traditional Judaism. What I have never really talked about my personal Jewish commitment and why I do what I do. As I begin to write this post, I cannot say that that is what I will write, but an article in the New York Times from about a week ago caught my eye and I wanted to comment on it and on my own choices.

The article is entitled “Among Orthodox Jews, More Openness on Sexuality“. I never liked the way newspapers and magazine title their articles. But I understand that they need to sell their product and titles help that (and that is a total different topic). I recommend reading the entire article as it is very interesting, but I will summarize. In the right wing Orthodox Jewish world, there is little talk about sexuality and when young adults are getting married, they really have no idea what to do. Some in the Orthodox world are working to solve this problem and I hope they are successful.

I bring up this article to highlight a reason why I am not an Orthodox Jew. I consider myself a Conservative Jew. To try to explain the differences between Orthodoxy and Conservatism can (and does) take books, so I will not attempt to do that here. In many ways, from the outside, I look no different from a Modern Orthodox Jew. I wear a kippah all the time. I eat only kosher food and I observe Shabbat. The difference is in my beliefs. For example, while I believe in the divinity of the Torah, I see it as a document that records man’s understanding of divine revelation. That is to say that God reveled himself at Sinai to the Israelites and the Torah is their understanding of what they experienced.

Everything else is commentary. I am not saying that the laws that came later have no authority, but I do believe that they are not written in stone and although the earlier interpretations need to be given much weight, I do believe that everything is still open for discussion. A friend of mine, Rabbi Geoff Haber used to explain the difference between Orthodoxy and Conservatism with this simple analogy. It may be a bit too simple, but it works.

Imagine Jewish law as a chess game. Each piece has a specific role in the game. Pawns can only move one square, bishops on the diagonal, etc. Before moves are made, the players will look at every move and what the other player might do based on their move, and they will try to do this as many moves out as they can. Finally, after careful examination, a move is made. In Jewish law this was the way it was for many years. Rabbis would examine everything and after that careful examination, they would make a ruling. But what happened is that by the middle of the last century, when Jews gained a level of freedom they never had before, the Rabbis countered by placing a clear case over the chess game. The game could still be studied, but the moves could no longer be made. Conservative Judaism still proceeds with the game open.

As I said that is simplistic, but it does work. If the Rabbis had chosen to allow certain things, they could have, but they chose not to. I prefer to be involved with Judaism that is still willing to interpret laws based on the changes in society around us, not a Judaism that reacts to the world by closing themselves off from the world.

Getting back to the article, I want to focus on the part where the teacher told her class (women who were about to be married) that sex was horrible and painful. This is an example of an even further reaction by Orthodox today where they are not only closing themselves off, but they are making things even more difficult. The fear is that if people were to think that sex was a beautiful and enjoyable experience, then people might start trying to experience it outside of marriage. Better people should think sex is horrible then the community have to deal with teaching young people sex education.

These stringencies are appearing in every aspect of Jewish life, from kosher laws to sabbath laws. This is why I choose to be involved with Conservatism. Do I agree with everything in the Conservative movement? No, of course not. But I do believe it is the most authentic way to be Jewish. All I can do is try my hardest to live my life the way I think God wants me to. I hope I am doing my best.

I want to end with a joke (this post was a bit serious) and a youtube video.

A man comes to his Rabbi and asks, “Rabbi, is it ok for my wife and me to try different positions when we have sex?” The Rabbi says “of course.” “So it’s ok if she is on top” he asks. “Yes” says the Rabbi. “What about if she is on her knees and I am behind her like a dog?” “Whatever you do in the bedroom is fine” answers the Rabbi again. “Rabbi, what about having sex standing up?” “NO” says the Rabbi sternly. “Absolutely not!” “It might lead to mixed dancing!”

In the same vein, here is a wonderful number from “Fiddler on the Roof”. This number was for whatever reason left out of the movie (and it is too bad, because it perhaps one of the funniest moments in the show!) I added this myself on youtube. Listen to the whole thing, as the “punchline” is at the very end.

Whats been going on

Its been almost two weeks since my last full posting, and now I have so much to say, I have been putting it off because I just don’t know where to start. I think the easiest way is chronologically, so I will pick up where I left off and tell you about our Passover holiday.

Friday night the 18th we all went to one of the mom’s houses for Shabbat dinner. Dinner was to be at about 6:30 but for many reasons we did not actually eat until closer to 8:00. Dinner was fine but we needed to get a lot of the food back to our house for the rest of the holiday so a nice old-fashion wagon came in handy. We got home by 11 pm and thank God the kids went to sleep.

I think we made it to Synagogue just about when it ended. We went to the other mom’s house for lunch and that was actually kind of nice. It was a nice day so the kids played outside and we all got a chance to relax. One of the many kids was a bit sick but she just stayed asleep on a couch. By about 3:30 the moms moseyed back to our house to begin to get food in the oven and set the table for the Seder. I brought a few of the kids back at about 5, and helped to finish getting ready.

Normally dinner is during the Seder. On the other hand, the Seder cannot start until after sundown, so we would have to feed our kids very late if we did that (not to mention the hungry adults!) So we decided to have dinner first and then start the Seder on time. At the point where dinner would be we would have dessert.

I wont go into details of the Seder itself, except to say it was lively and I think everyone had a good time. Of course we did the whole thing over the 2nd day and I think everyone had fun then too.

Will we do this cooperative Seder again? I don’t know, but it did make for some fun times despite the difficulties of getting ready. Next year we may try again and we will have learned from our past mistakes.

Passover Prep part 3

When we last left our heroes, we were beginning to clean out the house. The cleaning lady came on Thursday (an hour late, but she got there) and by the time we went to bed on Thursday night (2 am) most of the kitchen was now ready for Passover.

We ate Friday night dinner at mkm’s parents house and then spend the afternoon after Synagogue at the home of one of the other families. We got home at about 8:15 pm, bathed the kids and get them to bed. By 9:30, the moms had arrived and cooking began. One of the moms brought the largest pot I have seen in a non-commercial kitchen and we make gallons of Chicken soup. They also rolled about 135 matza balls and prepared veggys for some of the next days cooking fun.

Everyone was supposed to show up at about 9:30 on Sunday. One mom got there at 10:00 and the other at 11:00, but they did do some significant cooking. The chicken for Friday night was done. The roast for the first seder, done. Tzimis, done. 709 meatballs, done! ( ok, that is way too many meatballs and the one mom who was in charge of meatballs admitted so, but we can eat meatballs for the next two weeks!)

Most of the food is not packaged and frozen, waiting for the seders. The only big-ticket food to cook is still the turkeys, and that will happen over the next few nights. Beyond that is green veggys, the quinoa and desserts. We will probably just make it!

The next major part of passover prep will occur on Thursday night. We will make one final sweep of the house to make sure there is no more non-passover food in sight. We do this by placing a few pieces of bread around the house and then we make a blessing and go “search” for them. The reason for placing the bread around the house is that we can be pretty sure we put everything away, but since we make a blessing to search for the food, we need to make sure we find some.

On Friday morning this bread will be burnt, also with a blessing to ceremonially show we have gotten rid of all the non passover foods. I will be taking off from work on Friday to help with the final prep work. We will prepare the ritual foods for the Seder table so that everything will be able to be put out when we start on Saturday night. If there is time, we will also get the tables ready and set as much as possible.

I know this sounds like so much work, but we do enjoy a lot of it and once it is all together, the Seder is a lot of fun. I don’t know if I will post another Passover prep, but I will probably post a post Seder entry.

Here is a link to a youtube that does not allow embedding. It is so cute!

Here is another fun video.

Enjoy!

Song of the day

I’ve been in a mellow mood the past few days (despite the harried Passover Prep), and often when I feel down or mellow I like to listen to a wonderful album that mkm and I bought when we were in Israel a number of years ago. The double CD album is called “Shalom Chaver” and was basically a recording of a peace concert in Israel that was organized in the aftermath of the assignation of Yitzhak Rabin. The title comes from the Eulogy given by President Bill Clinton.

For those who love modern Hebrew music this album is woderful because all of the major Israeli singers dontated their time to this concert and sang their most well known songs. There are many times on the album that the audience is louder than the singers. Some other songs were added from recorded versions for those artists who could not attend.

Perhaps my favorite song from this album is יהיה טוב (Yihiyeh Tov) which translates as it will be ok. The song is written by David Broza who has a following in America as well as Israel. It is a moving song and is perhaps one of the best Israeli songs to say that there will be peace and everything will be alright. Here is a link to the lyrics in English and transliterated Hebrew.

I am embedding two videos for this song. One is a very early version. Broza added stanzas to this song as time went on. But this version is very clear and easy to hear. The other, comes from a peace concert that Broza did with Jackson Brown and Shawn Colvin at Massada in Israel. This was broadcast on PBS in America, but this video comes from someone’s camcorder.

Enjoy!

When Nothing Seems To Go Right

Did you ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right?  They don’t happen too often, but when they do, it makes for a very trying day.

Yesterday was one of those days.  I knew something was up when I was running late for everything in the morning.  Things seemed to go ok after that, but then I got a call from mkm telling me that she forgot to leave the key for the cleaning lady.

WHAM!

That totally put a kink in the day.  If you have been reading about our passover prep, you know that we have this all laid out day by day.  The house was to be cleaned so we can start changing over to Passover tonight.  This means that I would have to stay up late to clean the refrigerator last night and make sure that we will be able to do the change over.

Then if that weren’t enough, we have a Cub Scout pack meeting last night.  The previous cubmaster had planned this one and we were going to have a police detective come and speak to the boys.  Well, turns out she could not make it and no one got the message.  So there I was with about 15 boys with no program and an hour to kill.

The good thing is that these days end.  You usually figure it all out and then go on.  Our cleaning lady is now coming today at 4:30 (when mkm will be home) and after talking with the boys we had relay races and they had a good time.

Today, everything is back on track.  I actually got an early train today as the earlier train was in the station as I got there.  We got free pizza for lunch at work because someone in my office won an NCAA basketball tournament and the house should be totally clean when I get home.

Things always seem to snap back into place.

Passover prep part 2

When I last discussed this monumental process, the three moms had just decided on menus. One might think that this is easy, and in some years it is not that hard. You have two Seders. You make a lot of food and eat it both nights. In many ways we are doing that, with minor changes. However, this year a wrench is thrown into the gears because Passover begins Saturday night right after Shabbat. This means that we cannot do any preparation at all the entire day before, but our houses have to be “kosher for Passover” before Shabbat. So the 2 Seder menus just went up to three menus, including Friday night Shabbat dinner.

The three families will each dinner on Friday at one house, lunch Saturday afternoon at another and then all descend upon our house for the first Seder on Saturday night. One final wrench is that you really cannot start the Seder until after sundown on Saturday night with is around 8:15. Way too late for dinner with kids. So we are introducing an innovation, and eating the meal before the Seder and at the “meal” during the Seder we will have dessert. Here is a PDF of our basic menu.

passover-2008-menus

Yesterday Marsha and the moms met again to discuss shopping and what we will need.  As we are all hosting these Seders together we are sharing the costs.  For example, we know that we need a minimum of 15 dozen eggs.  Eggs are a major staple of passover cooking and thank God the holiday is only one week long.  We will be making 200 Matza balls.  That equals 5 1/2 dozen eggs right there.  You get the idea.  By the end of this week much of the shopping will be done.

To bring us to today, on Sunday mkm and I defrosted and cleaned the large freezer in the basement and we are now emptying out our main freezer in the kitchen and relocating the food downstairs.  Half of the large freezer will be dedicated to passover foods while the rest holds are every day stuff.  We also cleaned out mkm’s grandmothers fridge which is also downstairs to hold the every day fridge stuff that needs relocating.  Tonight we will remove everything from the kitchen fridge and freezer, the pantry and the counters so the woman who cleans our house every other week will do a more thorough cleaning in the kitchen on Wednesday.  Thursday night, the dads will convene at our house to bring upstairs all the Passover supplies (pots, pans, dishes etc.) and put away all the every day stuff.

This then brings us to this coming Shabbat.  Cooking is going to occur Saturday night and Sunday, and I will post part three of Passover prep on Monday.


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