19 December 2012

Search Terms Leading to This Blog

Some of them tickle my fancy.

orthodox jewish teddy bear
I, too, would like to meet a teddy bear that expresses an interest in mitzvah observance.

why do orthodox jews not like green
For the same reasons anyone else does or doesn't, I'm afraid.

name of jewish spoons

freezer sounds like bagpipes
Anyone who types a simile into a search engine is someone I wish I knew better.

Thanks, folks, for the entertainment. I hope you all found what you wanted.

The Push-Button Umbrella

Here's one I hadn't heard before, reprinted with the kind permission of Project Genesis -- torah.org.
Retold by one R' Becker, who elaborates on it here.

A well-known story is told wherein Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, (of blessed memory, known affectionately by the Torah world as the "Alter [Lit. elder]" of Slabodka) was diagnosed as having a condition requiring medical treatment at one of the larger medical centers in the area. After listening carefully to the pros and cons of each medical facility, the Alter elected to go to St. Petersburg for treatment. A student escorted the Alter throughout the extended period of his recovery. Upon his return to Slabodka the Alter was approached by a community member who inquired regarding the Alter's absence. The Alter indicated that he had been in St. Petersburg. When asked what occasioned his visit there, the Alter responded that he had gone there to see the push-button umbrella. The astonished student, who had accompanied the Alter throughout the difficult medical ordeal, asked the Alter for an explanation.  

The Alter explained that he had, indeed, chosen St. Petersburg after carefully weighing the pros and cons of each facility. However, a short while earlier, the Alter had been traveling on behalf of his yeshiva and had passed through the train depot at St. Petersburg and was intrigued by the sight of the new invention, the push-button umbrella, being opened by a resident of that cosmopolitan city. The Alter, ever vigilant for traces of bias within himself, wondered whether, on some level, his decision to have the procedure done in St. Petersburg was not adulterated by a trace of interest in seeing the novel inventions which premiered there. At the moment that the gentleman asked him why he had traveled to St. Petersburg, the Alter took the opportunity to reflect on his motives rather than to glibly respond with an answer which was too obvious to be useful.

Life upon the Wicked Stage

We're famous! We're famous!
A modified version of the post Back to the Wilderness! was published in Oregon Humanities Magazine, here:
On Not Moving from Israel

Their editor made two changes to the draft I sent: altered the line breaks, and de-capitalized the word "Boss," thereby removing all reference to the Divine. Probably thought it was a typo.

10 December 2012

On Not Moving House

The main reason that there have been so few posts lately is because the Chief Nudge of the blog has been moving house.


The logistics of moving are such that we've been staying in our friends' basement while they are out of town, waiting for our belongings to arrive. Thoreau would have a field day with this, I am sure.

It is a very unsettling thing to cook in someone else's kitchen, serve on someone else's ceramic dishes, and work in someone else's living room, and I have repeated once too often that I rawther hope we can move soon.

And then we were told that the truck would arrive the next day -- joy! rapture! and then this thought:

I lived in a certain country until I had learnt to shed the hesitation of being an alien there; and then I moved to another another stage of life and another neighborhood and stayed until I had learnt to live responsibly there; so, based on precedent, it is pretty clear that the moving truck is not going to arrive until I have learnt to deal with living in someone else's house -- that is, to stop treating it as a temporary fix, mentally living out of a suitcase, putting off all important and complicated plans until I have a house to make them in... yes, it will be easier to take down notes when I have notebooks and a table not covered with someone else's papers to take them down on; and yes, it will be easier to feed my daughter pomegranates when I do not have to hover over her to keep the juice off someone else's white satin tablecloth; and so on; but to live in a perpetual state of "we shall do nothing of complexity until we have our own house to do it in" is illogical.

I have not yet learned to live properly in someone else's house -- thought I -- so it is quite impossible that the truck should come tomorrow, assurances of the moving company notwithstanding.

And then the moving company called. "Sorry, there's been a snag. The truck will not arrive until next week."


Multnomah Falls

Silver Falls


by Mendel Hirsch.

Looking across the street as we light our Chanukah candles in our window, I always feel outdone by the glow of colored seasonal lights illuminating the house directly across our road. 
But that is the great significance of the Chanukah Light.  Let me explain.
The common custom is that we light an additional candle every night of Chanukah.  However, Halacha (Jewish law and custom) has three levels for the candle lighting.  The minimum is one candle each night.  The second level is to light a candle for each member of the household.  Our custom is the highest level.  The same goes for where to light.  The preferred place is at the door (the common custom in Israel).  Second best is in the window facing the public (our common custom).  If neither can be done then it suffices to light on the table in middle of the room.
This tiered level mitzvah is unique to Chanukah.  Why was it established this way? 
If we look back at the story of Chanukah, we find Matityahu, a single individual, who was inspired to remain faithful to Jewish values.  He imparted this to his children, who took it to battle and inspired the nation to follow them.  All seemed lost; the majorities had already assimilated.  Matityahu could have given up, and accepted the facts of the times, but he knew, as long as one person would stand for our Truth, all is not lost.  It is upon this concept that the lighting was established.  The first and foremost level must be the single candle.  Like Matitiyahu, even if you are the only candle burning, you must let that light go forth.  The next level would be to inspire each member of your household, like Matityahu did, and light a candle for each one.  Our custom follows an even greater aspiration.  The hope that not only can we light for ourselves and our households, but also assure that our light continue to increase. 
Sometimes, this inspiration is something contained in a household, but cannot permeate the outside world.  In such a case, all we do is light on our table.  At least we can inspire ourselves.  In better times, we can let this light shine into the world, but from the inside, insulated by our home’s boundaries. So we light at our window to the outside world.  In times of spiritual strength and courage, we can open our door allowing our light to directly interact with the world.   At such times, we light at the door.
As I light the menorah, I realize that our Chanukah lights may not be the brightest lights on the block, but it doesn’t have to be.  The Chanukah lesson is well learned.  Like Matityahu, as long as this single light shines, our light will shine on.