Monthly Archives: October 2009

to my KoD

I miss you. Purely and simply.

i carry your heart with me by e e cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

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My Judaism

Guest Post from Shorty.

(This article originally appeared here and has been updated for today’s post.)

I can’t remember exactly when I decided to become more religious. I didn’t grow up in a very religious household. My parents kept kosher at home, although treif foods were “allowed” on paper plates in our basement in front of the television.

The fact is, I never learned to integrate my Jewish high school learning into everyday adult living, and the lessons from home left me feeling confused and detached from my religion.

Two years ago, I was rushed into emergency surgery for a ruptured ulcer. Being faced with my own mortality, I realized that life was short and should be lived entirely with meaning. Self-help books didn’t have the answer I was looking for and neither did Oprah or Dr. Phil. In time, my spirituality evolved from The Secret to the Torah.

My husband of almost five years, who isn’t Jewish, and certainly not religious (When I was curious about midnight Mass a couple of years ago, I had to beg him to take me and he fell asleep!), didn’t think this would eventually be part of the marriage deal. Our wedding was a non-denominational, G-d-is-mentioned type of ceremony, and he broke a glass for a little bit of Jewish tradition just for me. We light Hanukkah candles together (on the menorah my mother-in-law gave us as a wedding gift), and have gone to a few Rosh Hashanah dinners. This was the extent of any sense of Jewishness in this household. It is safe to say that I lived a more assimilated type of Jewish life, which isn’t shocking considering my upbringing.

As I don’t have any family in Canada, this mixed-married life felt very one-sided. I felt that I “had to” celebrate the non-Jewish holidays with my in-laws. I use the term celebrate loosely, as it was more about family getting together. But we do acknowledge the holiday itself. I never celebrated my own holidays. Eventually, I suppose, I rebelled. I needed to be able to express myself as the Jewish woman that I am.

My journey to becoming Shabbat-observant started at Sukkot last year. I found out about a local Jewish organization, whose mission is to get Jewish people to do something Jewish, even if it is only a little bit. My husband and were invited to their couples sukkah party. I signed up for their class on prayer and started to daven every morning.

We also started attending the Shabbat dinners. There was something so very holy about the weekly event. I wanted in. It started with lighting some candles and turning off the phone and the computer for the day. I wanted to see if I would go through withdrawal symptoms from the lack of email and Facebook. I managed to survive. Eventually my Shabbat turned into a ritual of preparing the slow cooker, taping the fridge light, storing hot water in a thermos and refraining from using the lights or the car. In other words, my Shabbat became–Shabbat.

Every Friday night, I read the kiddush and break the hallah to share with my husband. As he stands by me, I am thankful to Hashem to have been blessed to be married to such a patient and understanding man.

My husband is amazingly supportive during Shabbat (and all Jewish rituals for that matter). Since I can’t use the electrical appliances during Shabbat, he likes to ensure my comfort by cooking for me and turning on lights. I am pretty sure Jewish law doesn’t allow this and I could choose not to eat what he prepares or to walk out of the room he so graciously illuminated for me. There is however, Shalom Bayit–the Jewish concept of “peace in the home”–to maintain in this mixed marriage, and I certainly can’t ignore his way of showing his love and support for me.

Shabbat has become pretty special for us. We play backgammon together. I read and he plays on the laptop.

We were living out in the countryside, away from a Jewish community, so Shabbat got a little lonely when my husband does decide to go out. We are often invited to spend Shabbat with Jewish friends in the city. We compromise on spending the night, and in the morning he can leave, and he comes and picks me up after Shabbat is over after sunset. We share a beautiful Shabbat dinner with friends, and he gets some “boy time” on Saturday. We have also agreed to do these sleepovers only once a month.

A mixed marriage is a lot about compromise and communication. There has to be a little bit of give and take, understanding, and of course talking about how we feel about things.

We recently sold our home to move closer to the Jewish community.  When all we did was bike and race it made sense to live near the trails.  When we started on this journey, it became clear that living in the city makes much more sense. With the help of Hashem, we sold our house and found a new place to live.

For some reason, I’m not stressed out about our decision to move as I thought I would be.  I have no idea what we got ourselves into and somehow it feels…alright.  I feel my husband’s hand in min and Hashem’s arms around us both.

hannahdayan250Shorty has been married to  her husband for five years. She is learning to integrate her Jewish faith into her daily living in a mixed marriage. Since there are no real rules, Shorty and her husband are learning as they go. Shorty also writes a blog – check it out – Shorty’s Adventures.

If you would like to submit an essay for the MY JUDAISM column, the guidelines and disclaimers are here.

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Immigration Update

As you know we have been waiting for visas to be issued in order for us to move to New York to live with the KoD. Legal permission to move the kids has been obtained, the only obstacle has been waiting for these visas.

The KoD and I have been married now for over 8 months, and we sent off our papers as soon as we could after the wedding. It’s been months of form filling and more form filling. We did our medicals, and applied for police certificates and did everything that has been asked of us.

All we have been waiting for is an interview date. We have been told that we will be granted the visas at the interview, or within a day or two thereof. Every day I go to the mailbox hoping for a letter with the interview date. Every day I get disappointed. Every day I try to hold it together, as being apart from the love of my life is really tough.

The KoD is as impatient as I am, and getting answers from the consulate when you are a private citizen is next to impossible, even though you have paid mucho dinero to apply for your visas. So KoD decided to contact his local congressman and see if he could do something to help us. Couldn’t hurt, right?

A member of the congressman’s staff made some phone calls and wrote some emails. He really worked hard to get us an answer. He wrote the KoD today, enclosing an email from a senior consular official.

It’s not awesome news, but at least we know where we stand. There are hundreds of people ahead of us in line, and he reckons that we won’t have an appointment for another two to three months. That brings us into January / February of 2010. Basically to a year after our wedding. Ouch. But the truth is without the congressman’s staffer’s intervention we would have no way of knowing when. While I am sad (ok crying big hujungous buckets of tears) that I have to wait another couple of months, having a time frame helps. It also helps to have had confirmation from this consular official that we have qualified for an interview, that there are no papers or forms missing, and that we are in the queue.

Mixed blessing I guess… to tell the kids….oy….

Thank you to my darling KoD for doing all you can to get us down there with you. We love you and miss you.

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Simple winter soup


8 cups chicken broth (or if you have leftovers of my chicken soup you can use that)

2 cups pureed pumpkin (have to cook it first. See below)

2 large onions, chopped

3 large carrots

1 tbs chopped fresh sage

3 cloves of garlic

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper


Add all ingredients to an enamel pot. Simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Slow simmer for an hour until soup has thickened.

You can also add 2 or 3 peeled, cored and chopped apples for an interesting variation.

For a great presentation idea, use a hollowed out pumpkin as the soup tureen, or individual small pumpkin bowls.

How to cook a pumpkin:

Slice pumpkin down the middle and scoop out the seeds. Place pumpkin halves face down on a baking dish. Add ½ inch of water to the pan. Bake at 450 until you can pierce the skin with a fork. Remove from over, peel away the skin. Put flesh into the food processor, whizz it up a bit, there you have pureed pumpkin. Yum.

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DovBear is an awesome blogger, and we have the most tremendous conversations on Twitter as well as on his blog. He has recently celebrated 5 years of excellent blogging, and to celebrate he is holding a live interview, moderated by Rabbi E Fink and Tikkun Olam, both of whom have also commented on my blog. So click on to this link and see you there today at 3.30 EST!

Happy Blogaversary Mr Bear!!

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What else don’t I know?

My 14 year old son usually comes home from yeshiva for breakfast and lunch. We are 5 minutes walk from the school, so he has the time. I like it because I get to see him and make sure he eats properly, and I get him to do a chore or two meanwhile. This morning he emptied all the apartment’s trash cans and took it to the garbage room. Without complaints.

He usually strolls in around 9 am, this morning he was home at 8.30.

“Hey sweetie, what you doing home so early?”

“Um, yeah, its Behab”

“Behab?” no clue what he was talking about

“Behab, after the chagim, Behab, you know”

Turns out he didn’t exactly understand what it was either. So I turned to my references – Twitter Jew Crew. I tweeted “what the heck is Behab??”

Within 60 seconds I had some answers.

@yeshivaguy beis, hai, beis. Us menfolk do slichos in during the monday, thursday, monday following pesach/succos. Behab 4 short.

@judahe first Monday Thursday Monday (B”HB) after festivals.Some fast to atone for overindulgence of one form or another during chag

I was also directed to this blog which actually explains it better than I ever could.

I have been Jewish all my life, Orthodox all of it too. How is it that I keep hearing of things that I never heard of before? Is it because I had a Jewish girl’s education? And that I am raising boys now, so there are a lot of things that didn’t pertain to me, but that they are aware of? Sometimes I just feel as if I am so ignorant.

But it still doesn’t explain why my son was home early…why shachris was shorter. They did say tachanun….

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Sweetness and Light

sunkist_fruit_gems_candyThis is just way weird. I do not believe in coincidence, but…. Both times that I have recently been to the not-specifically-kosher-but-has-lots-of-kosher-stuff grocery store I have been stopped in the snack aisle. Both times by older women. Both wanted to ask me which candies were the best to throw at a bar/bat mitzvah grandchild. Both had Sunkist candies in their hands which are exorbitantly expensive. Today’s lady mentioned she asked me because I look about the same age as her daughter. The lady from last time said she was asking me because I look religious, so I would know these things. What are the chances?

Of course, me being me, we had a whole long chat and ended up with me wishing them mazel tov and a lot of nachas from the grandchildren. I didn’t get into the whole argument over whether we should be throwing candies or not.

I am almost afraid to go there again, they may hang out a shingle, “candy expert in the house”…

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Rescinding a Get

One of the reasons I like social media is that I get to participate in awesome conversations in a variety of different settings about multiple issues.

A friend of mine updated his status today that he recently watched a movie with his wife, called “Mekudeshet”. A bunch of us wanted to know what it was about, and he explained that it followed three women in Israel, who had been refused a Get (Jewish bill of divorce) from their husbands. They had become Agunot (chained women). It took two of them five years to receive their Get, and the third was still waiting.

A very interesting discussion ensued. One of his other friends who had apparently been an agunah replied to his post. One of the things that she mentioned was that there was a case, allegedly, in Israel where a divorced woman went to the secular courts to resolve a child support issue, instead of the Bet Din as was specified in her divorce agreement, and her Get was therefore allegedly nullified, even though she had since remarried.

Now, I thought that the Get was 100% final. From all the experience I have had and all the reading that I have done, there is nothing that even hints that this possibility is remotely existent. There is nothing that I have seen anywhere that allows for this revocation to take place.

Reading this I knew a split second of fear. I thought once you walked out of the room in the Beit Din the whole thing was over. I hadn’t realized that there could be a possibility of it being reopened.

I am so hoping this is an urban myth, but the commenter very strongly stressed that this was true.

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Medical Convo about Mumps and Judaism

vaccination[1]I was at the doctor today – follow up to the kidney infection that apparently has now metamorphasized into a kidney stone (got to love our healthcare system). This fellow could see I was a religious Jew – the sheitel, modest dress and the Hebrew necklace that I wear. He started talking to me about the mumps outbreak that seems to have hit a lot of the Jewish schools here. He heard it started at a religious camp in the Catskills and that a lot of the religious kids in Brooklyn are sick with it too. He wanted to know why if there is an outbreak the non-Jewish kids weren’t sick.

He asked me if there were sects of Jews who refuse to vaccinate their children due to religious reasons. I was honestly very surprised at the question, although thinking back, I shouldn’t have been. I explained to him that I highly doubt it. After all we are commanded to look after ourselves – venishmartem et nafshoteichem. If we need blood transfusions or surgery we have to do what we can to ensure our life isn’t in jeopardy. Vaccinating, I believe, falls into the same category. These childhood diseases are easily spread and can be fatal. That’s why most schools that I know of have a legal requirement that all children must be up to date on their vaccinations in order to attend.

But, as I told the doctor, I am not a rabbi or rabbanit and I certainly don’t have the level of knowledge to be able to categorically state that the majority of religious / Chassidic sects vaccinate their children.

Any of my JewCrew have something to contribute?

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Ban the books?

BannedBooksWeekpictureThis article is all about a school district wanting to ban books that are, in their view, controversial. This particular book by the great Maya Angelou details a rape scene and the school board finds it unsuitable for their students. It doesn’t mention whether this is on the high school list or in the high school library or not. This censorship is nothing new to me. For years the books that my kids have been bringing home from school have been censored, albeit on a different scale. A Berenstein Bear book, that has one of the bears on the beach in a bathing suit, has had one of the teachers or staff, take a coloured marker and draw a shirt and skirt on her. Words in these books such as Christmas and Halloween have been blacked out to make them not exist.

I wish my kids would be able to read Maya Angelou’s books in school, I wish they didn’t have to be ashamed to say they read all the Harry Potter books – like a lot of kids in their school. But Harry Potter is about magic, and that’s just not PC in a religious school. My kids have read Twilight – they are not going out and biting people. My oldest reads Ludlum and Clancy – he isn’t out spying on people and blowing them up. He understands that it is just fiction. These books encourage my kids to ask me so many varied questions and have led to some awesome discussions. But don’t tell the school, ok?

How does censoring what they read make them better people? It doesn’t. Reading all different kinds of books as I was growing up helped round out my education. Helped me understand so much about the world that I live in. If I read about a love scene – it didn’t make me want to go out there and re-enact it. If I read about treife food, it didn’t make me want to eat it. It just added to my education.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is banned in many religious schools – and it shouldn’t be. Star crossed lovers who have to die to be together. It could be used as a metaphor for so many situations. We could learn that life doesn’t have to be like this in our day and age. In our high school I would have loved to have studied it – every girl loves a good love story, no matter how badly it ends. I am sure we would have all done so much better on our English Lit exams. Instead we learned Coriolanus, of which I remember nothing.

At the meeting referenced in the above article, the “offensive” paragraph was read out. How can you just excerpt one scene from a book that has a much broader scope, a book that is an autobiography of an icon? A book in which, according to Wikipedia , rape is used as a metaphor for the suffering of her race. How can we not use this to teach our kids lessons about history? But their question is do we want our children knowing and reading about rape? It’s not a simple answer. After recent events (the gang rape of a high schooler) I would say that kids need to understand what it is and that it is wrong. How are they going to learn that if no one tells them, if they aren’t exposed to the messages that are sent through literature? Teachers don’t talk about it in class, and parents aren’t listened to. Books are a tremendous way of getting a message across.

We should be encouraging our youngsters to read. Today the young folk are plugged into every device available, they know they latest video games and music, and the idea of opening a book and sitting down to read is anathema to some.

Banning and censorship like this go a long way to turning people away from great works of literature.

Please share your thoughts with me.

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