Tag Archives: judaism

Saying Amen

There was some discussion recently around our table about whether or not you can say Amen (lit: “truthfulness”) to a bracha (blessing) that you didn’t hear, but that you know has been made. There were opinions on the Yes side as well as the No side. The Yes side backed it up using the large shul in Alexandria as an example. Way back when in the mists of time, there was a shul in Alexandria that was so big, that the people in the back of the shul could neither see nor hear what was going on in the front of the shul, or on the bima. So, when the congregation needed to say Amen, apparently a flag was raised so that those who couldn’t hear knew it was time to say it. This, posited one of the boys, was the reason that we can say Amen to a bracha we didn’t hear.

On the other side, Amen is not a word to be taken lightly. Chabad.org, in an article on the laws of responding Amen, says that if you do not know which bracha has been pronounced, you are not supposed to say Amen. I always thought Amen was just another Hebrew word, but apparently it carries a lot of weight.

So, learned friends, I promised the boys I would ask my JewCrew for their knowledge to help us understand this issue.

What does he do with it?

Ok this is a squirmy subject. The other day at the dinner table (I believe it was a yomtov meal) the kids were discussing circumcisions. The older three know exactly what happens at a brit, and are of an age where the grosser the subject the better. It was explained to the younger one exactly what a brit is, that it is not just a party. So now, he wants to know, what does the mohel do with the piece of skin he slices off? Does it have to be buried or is it thrown in the trash?

(I went through four brittot for my boys and not once did I stop to think about this.)

How are wigs ok?

The other day I received this email from Chaviva.

So, my mom has been emailing me … about you. She had questions about whether you’re observant (the wig confused her) and now she’s asking how it’s okay to wear a wig when you can easily look hotter than you might without it. I’m not sure how to answer her, as I’ve never really looked into the halakos of sheitels because up until recently I’d always been in the camp where I sort of get where she is coming from.

Thus, I thought I’d ask you, my yiddishe mama, for a good response to my mom on the whole being frum and sheitels and it being okay. In the process, it’ll be a learning experience for me, for my mom, and probably blog fodder for you 🙂

Chavi – I hope you direct your mom over here – I am going to try to explain…although this is an age old discussion….

This is an excellent question and raises an important discussion topic. I have often felt that some of the wigs worn nowadays (yes, mine included) defeat the whole purpose of tzniut (modesty) and kisui rosh (hair covering). I have, in the past, criticized those who wore awesome looking human hair wigs that totally looked unwiglike.

Then I bought myself one of them as I was so sick and tired of wearing synthetics that gave me constant headaches. Suddenly, covering my hair was a pleasure instead of a chore. Suddenly I wanted to cover my hair with my wig because I felt good in it.

In the community where I lived it was more common and accepted for married women to wear wigs. When I first joined that community, upon my first marriage, in order to fit in, I purchased my first wig. No one in my family had ever covered their hair before, let alone wore wigs. I desperately wanted to fit in to my new community. But I hated wearing it. I kept it for special occasions.

Over the years, whenever I got dressed up, I would wear a wig. I never felt, personally, that my outfit was complete if I was wearing just a hat or a headscarf. Now, when I hang out in my denim skirts and tees, I wear a bandanna or a mitpachat, or my braided tichels.

After my divorce, I uncovered my hair. It was something I did for myself. Read more about that here. I had many long talks with my Rebbetzin about hair covering and the whys and wherefores. She explained to me one time, that part of covering our hair when we are married is to remind US that we are married, not just to show everyone else that we are taken. When we have a hair covering on our head it makes us think twice before we do something we shouldn’t do.

The wigs that are worn these days by many of us, yes, they do kind of defeat the purpose. But nowhere does it say that we have to look ugly or less attractive just because we are married. I like to know I look pretty – not just for my husband, but for ME, for my own feelings of self worth. But I don’t know of one husband who wants to run his hands through his wife’s wig because it is so gorgeous. The real hair wins every time on that score. (My KoD says I look hotter without the sheitel, just FYI).

So to answer Mom’s question – is it ok? I don’t know. Is it done? Absolutely. Does that make it right? Hmmm.

If anyone else wants to chime in, go right ahead.

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Baby Naming

This past Shabbat was the first time I attended a baby naming in shul. It wasn’t intentional – I just happened to be there as we went to shul with my in-laws. I love this shul – Modern Orthodox, the women get to see everything, they carry the sefer torah through the women’s side at the appropriate time, etc. I am not saying MO is better just different, and it is refreshing to experience “different” from time to time, so long as one’s principles are not compromised.

One of the congregants had given birth in the past week to a baby girl. It’s actually a lovely story. Two people, with children from first marriages, had met and married, and now had a baby girl together. (Yes, that was a tear I wiped away just now.) So the mom and the baby were there in shul, as were their other six assorted children.

The father was called up to the Torah, and on his way he was handed the newborn. There was a collective sigh as the baby snuggled up to her Abba. The rabbi said a few words before the father named her, and everyone present truly felt the joy this baby’s birth had brought. Her parents gave her a name that was longer than she is – but was beautiful nevertheless. In the mix of the names was Batsheva – I thought that was lovely touch. (Bat means daughter, sheva means seven).

Once she was named the father handed the baby over to the Rabbi who gave her a bracha (a blessing) and a kiss on the forehead. Everybody sang Mazel Tov veSiman Tov and the baby was passed back to her mother. The baby was quiet through this whole thing.

In the shuls that I have attended in the past the baby girl naming has not been a big deal. The father was called up to the Torah, gave the baby her name and got some mazel tovs. This was awesome – naming a baby who was actually present. What a concept!! I feel blessed to have been a part of this, even as a bystander.

How did you name your baby girl? How were you named? Do you think there should be just as much pomp and circumstance around the birth of a girl baby, as there is with the birth of a boy baby?

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Dressing for shul

I try hard not to demand too much from the boys, especially in the summer where they are supposed to be able to chill out. However, yesterday, as they were getting ready to go to shul for maariv at the end of the fast, I insisted that my son change his shorts for long trousers. There was much eye rolling. Apparently “God doesn’t really care what you wear to shul so long as you show up”. Um. No. I believe it is inherently disrespectful to show up to a place of worship looking like you just stepped off a basketball court. The night before he had ridden his bike for an hour before maariv and I insisted he showered before going – I am apparently a very demanding mom. Seriously, to me, when you go to shul, you must show more respect than when you are just hanging out at home with your friends. It doesn’t make me a hypocrite – it’s not pretending that you are different, it’s just dressing appropriately for the occasion.

While there was eye rolling going on, his friend who was hanging out with him told him that he was going home to change before shul as his mother also doesn’t let him go to shul in shorts. Score one for the mommies.

Demanding? Or justified?

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WWYD – Minyan

It’s summer time and the living is easy. Well, easier than getting the kids up and off to school every day. The pace is more relaxed – life is less stressful. That being said, we never forget that we are religious Jews, and our religious practice still dictates the same things that they do in school time.

I have two boys over barmitzvah, one 9 months away from “becoming a man”. The KoD goes to shul every morning, to daven (pray) with a minyan (a quorum of ten men over the age of 13). I expect the same of my oldest two – and there is a later minyan than the 7 am one the KoD goes too. There is one at 8 am throughout the summer.

How much do I push for them to go? Shouldn’t this be something that should be their choice, or should I expect it of them and do my darndest to drag their tired selves out of bed? They can daven at home, but it is so much better to daven with a minyan.

What do you do with your teenage boys in this regard? What worked for you as a teenage observant boy? What are your thoughts?

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So Proud of Her!

Last week The Jewish Week announced its list of “36 under 36” – the top young innovators who are changing the landscape of Jewish Life. Below please find the article that was written about one of these innovators, Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse. I connected with her thru Twitter and Facebook many moons ago, and finally had the honour of meeting her and her husband in person at #Tuvivah’s wedding last month (probably the most tweeted Jewish wedding ever). The energy that this young lady gives off is truly something to behold, and I know that Susanne is going to go very far in life.

Susanne tweets under @JewishTweets and under her own personal handle of @susqhb. I love learning more about Judaism this way – every day there is a little shiur (lesson) in 140 characters.

Susanne – congratulations, mazal tov, may you go from strength to strength!!! Looking forward to reading more about you and the amazing things you have done and will do for our Jewish community.

Here’s the article:

Social media rock star

Julie Wiener

Associate Editor

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse

Several numbers structure Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse’s life. There’s 613, the number of mitzvot that Orthodox Jews like herself observe. And then there’s 140, the character limit on Twitter, where Rosenhouse spends much of her workday.

As founding social media coordinator for the Manhattan-based National Jewish Outreach Project, Rosenhouse, whose handle is JewishTweets, tweets about 12 times per day on myriad Jewish topics. For many of her 8,000-plus followers, Jewish Tweets provides a “sense of community” and is their main link to the Jewish world, she says.

Rosenhouse’s tweets range from trivia and news to questions intended to spark discussions about Judaism (“What was your seder like growing up?”), links to articles and blogs from all over the Web and suggestions of daily Jewish “actions” to take.

Some recent tweets: “It was today, Rosh Chodesh Sivan in Hebrew Year 2448, that the Jews arrived at Mt. Sinai & prepared to receive the Torah!” (May 14, 9:22 a.m.); “Action: If you have a friend or family member in need, find a discreet way to help, such as giving food you ‘over-bought.’” (May 13, 5:32 p.m.)

She answers questions about Judaism (many of which she refers to rabbis), helps connect Shabbat hosts and guests, and reads the posts of the almost 5,000 people she follows. “I don’t want to be followed and not follow back,” she says. “You can’t engage people on Twitter if you just spout, spout, spout.”

She also serves as a program officer at NJOP and was one of the volunteers who helped launch ParnasaFest, a Jewish job-networking event.

Rosenhouse grew up in a Reform but “Chabad-friendly” home in Orange County, Calif. She chose to go to Yeshiva University’s Stern College, where she was one of only a handful of public school grads, because she “loved the idea of a dual curriculum.”

Recently married (she met her husband, also a baal teshuvah and YU alum, through the online site SawYouAtSinai), Rosenhouse lives in Washington Heights and, believe it or not, also has a personal Twitter handle: Susqhb. “It tends to be very Jewy, but I also tweet about things like movies.”

Bet you didn’t know that… Until six months ago, when she got a Droid (“I have Verizon, so the iPhone isn’t in my clutches”), Rosenhouse did not own a smartphone, doing all her Tweeting from computers.

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Babies – How do you know when you are ready??

Me with one of my babies...

Over the years I have had similar talks with many newlyweds – about when they will know they are ready to have kids. Some of these new brides are on birth control – together with their husband, they have decided to wait a year, or two, or an indefinite amount of time, until they make the big step of deciding to have a family.

I gave birth to my first child 14 months after we were married. It took me 5 months to get pregnant, and every month that I was not pregnant I was disappointed. I had been ready, in my mind anyway, to have a baby since I was 12 years old. I dreamed of babies. I desperately wanted kids of my own. I knew in my soul I was ready. (Was I ready to have 3 kids in two and half years? Nooooo! But hey, I love them all to pieces).

So for me, it was a no brainer. I have since come to understand that most people are not like me, and need time to come to the decision to have kids. In our religious circle, most women fall pregnant or try to within the first year of marriage. We all know of many women who have given birth 9 months after their marriage. Judaism encourages us to have many children.

When I was having the first child, we worried about money – but we knew we would be ok. God would provide. Yes, it sounds very twee, but He did. For each child. BH our kids never went hungry and were always clothed (except when they decided not to be). They were and are surrounded with so much love – and that along with a few basics is all they need.

Many want to wait until they are financially stable. I hear that. But when do you draw that line? When you can afford a house? How many bedrooms? What about tuition? What does financially stable really mean? If you wait until you can afford it all – who knows how easy it will be to get pregnant then? The younger you are the easier it is. But if you don’t have two pennies to rub together, is it responsible to bring a child into this world?

I don’t believe there is a sign from one day to the next saying “you are now ready to be a parent”. For those who want to wait for a while after marriage, I guess it’s a discussion they have to have together about when they want to take that next step.

Let me add this – when you finally hold that little bundle in your arms (whether it’s a biological child or an adoptive one), ready or not, the responsibility hits you – and even though you thought you were ready, the reality of holding a real baby in your arms is like nothing you have ever felt before. This baby will need you, body and soul, for a very long time. It’s an awe-inspiring feeling, and by then it’s too late to change your mind (not that I believe many want to). It’s also the most miraculous feeling I personally have ever had. Knowing that we created this child together, out of love, and we now had the full time job of raising and caring for him – that filled me with such joy. I was on a high for weeks after giving birth the first time. The other three times I was definitely elated, but way too busy to be on a high.

My only advice is this – have a baby because it’s the right thing for you and your spouse. Because you want a family together. Not because of societal pressure. Not because of family nagging.  If you decide you don’t want to have children – so long as you are both ok with that decision – it’s nobody’s business but your own.

Let me open this up to you, my readers. How did you know you were ready? Or did you just leave it up to God (or biology)? What has been your experience? Are you sorry you waited or didn’t wait? Do you think 9 months after marriage is too soon to be having a baby? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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The Kiddush Cup.

This might look like just a regular kiddush cup to most of you folks, but to me it symbolizes a whole lot more.

Four years ago, when I became a single mother, my friend Z! purchased this for me. The kiddush cup that had been used in our house up until then left with my ex. Which was fine. He was the one that used it twice a weekend since we had first been wed. He was attached to it and totally entitled to have it.

Z! bought this kiddush cup for me to use every Shabbat from then on, something that was mine, that had not been shared. If you look closely it’s more feminine than most of the bechers that you see. I have used this becher faithfully every Shabbat that I have been home, ever since.

That first Shabbat, making kiddush out of my new kiddush cup, was emotional. I had become the head of the household overnight, the one responsible for everything. I was now in charge of religious observance and rites in the house, and I was the only one old enough to be responsible to make kiddush. There were many times that my voice cracked while saying kiddush, that the tears rolled down my face, that I was overwhelmed with my single motherhood.

Within 2 years my oldest son became bar mitzvah and relished the opportunity to take over this religious rite. Initially I allowed him to use my kiddush cup and say the blessings every Shabbat that the kids were with me. I sat back and shepped nachas as he proudly voiced the holy words. And yes, there were many happy tears too!! But occasionally I needed to reconnect with that rite. I needed to remember the person I was that first Shabbat as a single mom, and how far I had come. How despite all the hardship that life rained down on me, that I remained true to the core Torah values, that I encouraged the same in my children.

Very soon this kiddush cup will be polished up, and put in a place of honour in my breakfront in the new home we will share with the KoD. He has his own becher that means a lot to him, and I am content to sit back and be blessed with his kiddush. Z!’s becher however will have pride of place and will always remind me of how far I have come.

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Looking for first hand stories

I have written a few times about the sad plight of the Agunah, the chained woman. I know there is another side to this coin, that of a chained man. The ex-husband whose ex-wife refuses to accept a Get. You don’t hear many of their stories as it is mistakenly assumed that they are few and far between.

If you are a man, who is chained and wish to share you story so that others can learn important lessons about both sides of the Get please email me at InThePinkBlog at gmail dot com. All names will be held in the strictest of confidence.

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