Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Eve

Well, my typical new year has already passed (it's 5769- remember?), and I realized today, that it was December 31st as well.
So, the next year on my day to day calendar is coming up.
What do I hope for?
I hope for a year of peace, tranquility, love, and happiness. I hope for my friends and family to be well, happy, and to have Menuchas Hanefesh (peace at heart).
I hope for a year of simchos, of brachos, and of tefillos.
And, I wish you all the same! Welcome to 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Morbidly Funny But Still Cute

Just thought this was an interesting tidbit from a NY Times article today (No End in Sight was the title.)

In Ashdod on Tuesday, residents were coming to terms with the new bombardment from Gaza. Shops were open but schools were closed as the authorities extended a school holiday, and most people were staying off the streets. The attacks were unpredictable but people appeared to remain disciplined and were listening to the sporadic early warning sirens. Children gathered around the scene of Monday’s rocket attack, still a novelty in Ashdod, and tried to collect items of shrapnel.

Typical Israeli children. I can just hear the conversation. "Hey, look what I found!" "Yeah, but I found more than you!" "Children, stop playing with the pieces of bomb and come inside for supper."

Chanukah War #3

I'm too inexperienced to really know how to ascertain the situation.
Rockets hit today targets that seemed too far away- Ofakim, Yavneh, Ashdod...
And a stabbing took place in Kiryat Sefer, and a bomb was thrown at Hadassah Har Hatzofim Hospital in Jerusalem.
People are evacuated, and tanks were used for the first time (with our precious soldiers inside).
Some people say this will take months. Others- days.
Just keep davening and praying that all of us will hear good news.
Oh- and keep checking Jameel's blog if you'd like actual and further updates.

UPDATE: SuperRaizy has compiled an absolutely awesome list of things that people can do to help in Israel. I say- head on over there, and check it out!! (We all know how much IDF soldiers appreciate a hot pie of pizza :)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chanukah War #2

Jameel is still posting (follow the post below's link for more information) and as always, he is more accurate than the papers.

What about me? Well, I'm here in Yerushalayim, which doesn't seem much changed. Yet I know, there is a war going on out there, and 6,500 of our boys- our Jewish soldiers- are out there by the border. I walk into a taxi, and he says hello to me- and asks if I have heard any news about Gaza. Friends of mine from Har Nof say that some reservists and Hesder Yeshiva boys were also called up, ready to defend this country from further missile attacks.

And I? How can I even attempt to know or truly feel what is going on? I'm a newcomer to this land, to this strong and determined people. I have some relatives in the army, and I hope they are alright. But I have not faced tragedy. I have not donned a gas mask, or hid in my sealed room. How can I even say that I sympathize (let alone empathize)?

I just pray. Pray that our boys will be safe, pray that our people will survive, passing the indomitable test of time.
And I know that we will survive- for Hashem- Shomer Yisroel, the protector of Israel, is watching out for us.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Chanukah War

For all who want updates- well, Jameel at the Muqata would be the place to go.
I'm here in Yerushalayim- so we don't really feel any action going on (besides for the random rock throwing), but it is our Jewish brethren out there. Daven for our brothers out there- may they come home safely, and may we hear besuros tovos (good news) soon!
Here's the link- and thank you Jameel for all the news!

Book Meme and Facts

Babysitter tagged me for a meme- and even though I'm not one to really do these type of things, I figured it was something for me to do tonight while Mr. NMF is out at a Chanukah Mesiba.

Thanks for the tag! (Oh, and I'm not tagging anyone- because all those who I might have tagged were tagged by others already. Sorry!)

I really actually liked the idea of this meme, because I love to read. (I read so quickly though, that it doesn't even pay for me to buy books anymore- I finish them before I get home.) (I think that and blogging go hand in hand- if you like to read, you usually also like to write, and so the saga continues.)

Book Meme

Here are the rules:
Grab the nearest book. Open the book to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal/blog along with these instructions. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST. Tag five other people to do the same.

"She sank slowly into the sofa. Nathan loomed in her inner vision: a stone figure, cemented in complacency. Well, he could afford to be complacent; he'd accomplished something in his life. He was owner of a flourishing surgical practice that had already won him considerable renown both home and in the States. In addition he'd lately begun playing a prominent role in Jewish community affairs. Dr. Nathan Perl was a man to be reckoned with.
While she, Eva saw with sudden and sad clarity, was nothing more than a pretty appendage, a bauble to hang from a dashboard, as her husband sped ever faster along his particular road to fame and achievement.
Good-bye, Nosson..."

This is from Between the Thorns, by Libby Lazewnik. I was looking for some Jewish reading material over Shabbos, and randomly selected this book, which is why it is on my reading table closest to me. It is written in a good style- not so intellectual- but the main plot of the book is that the characters are so stereotypical- they exhibit such perfect examples of certain character traits. In fact, my neighbor's husband banned her from reading it during Shana Rishona (the first year of marriage) due to the fact that almost every couple in it seems to have major Shalom Bayis (marriage) problems.

Eva believes that Nathan is too caught up in his professional world to truly care about her, even when she starts achieving professional renown herself. However, she comes to realize that he was the impetus behind her success- and they both embark together on the struggle to raise their children as Torah Jews.

This is an interesting conundrum. People oftentimes believe that if one spouse has a large profession- the other spouse either has to be demure and meek, or another over-achiever as well. Never does it seem to happen that one spouse supports the other, and vice versa, as both achieve something large- but not over-achieve.

In the Torah- we have a bit of a different viewpoint. Women are catagorized as being an "Aizer K'negdo"- a helpmate against him. Men are taught to respect their wives- give them more honor than themselves. And Rabbi Akiva's famous wife, Rachel- who encouraged her husband to learn Torah when he was a 40 year old ignoramus- and eventually became Rabbi Akiva- is a classic example of how a Torah relationship could work. Rabbi Akiva, after 24 years away studying Torah, comes home, and Rachel throws herself at his feet. His students try to push the 'crazy woman' away, but Rabbi Akiva stops them. He says, "If not for her- I would still be an ignoramus. All my Torah, and all the Torah that you [the students] have learned- all belongs to Rachel, my wife."

Through the Torah point of view- there is no competition- no trying to outdo one another- and none of the other as well- that one spouse should be demure and meek, while the other an over-achiever. There is a balance. R' Avigdor Miller says in his book, Career of Happiness, that a man does end up being the captain of his household, but the wife is still the first mate. And, should be taken seriously as such.

I'm still a newlywed- so I don't know so much. But, I hope to learn and to grow.

Oh, and the second part:
7 random facts about me:
1. I love to read- anything and everything. I used to read law journals, for example, or the encyclopedia. I used to love to sit in Barnes and Noble-and just read, for about 4-6 hrs. at a time.
2. I have a craving for art and beauty. I love collecting items like beautiful embroidery, art (which I also paint myself), small chatchkas- anything that is truly lovely.
3. It's all B4S's fault I started blogging. Go ask her about it.
4. Favorite food? Coffee. Especially iced coffee. Yum.
5. I haven't traveled all over the world- but I would love to. Especially Paris, London, and Venice. Maybe one day....
6. I used to make balloon animals for fun, for neighbor kids and babysitting jobs. Who knew?
7. I could spend all day just looking out at the view of Yerushalyim from my apartment. No matter the weather.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Erev Shabbos #9- Guests and Questions

Well, this week flew by so quickly- I hardly had a chance to catch my breath!

With guests from overseas- and 15 coming this Shabbos for both meals- my Erev Shabbos is busy also. But right now, challos are in the oven, along with most things, soup is boiling- and I sat down to write a post.

When I was single- I oftentimes got stopped (no idea why they chose me) by not-frum (non-religious) Jews and non-Jews to answer questions on Yiddishkeit( Jewish beliefs and customs).

I didn't mind it at all- I enjoyed trying to give a good answer, refer them to a rabbi if necessary- and so on. I was viewed by them as a representative of the Jewish people- which to me seems a big responsibility, and I tried to live up to their expectation of me.

After I was married- I got stopped less- I guess the shaitel and ring might be too intimidating- but I still get it every once in a while.

Here in Israel- there are so many people to ask- so I get stopped less- but whenever I do get stopped, it always seems sincere to me, out of a true desire to know.

I once got a question about Jewish marriage, from someone who was too young to get married. I felt the question was inappropriate coming from her age level, but I still answered it as well as I could.

So my question is- do you mind these questions? Would you answer them? Do you find that some questions can get embarrassing, or rude, or downright chutzpadik? Do you answer anyway- or do you shrug them off?

Is it right to answer these things- or should you refer them to someone else- someone possibly more competent?

Anyway- it's an interesting puzzle and question.
Gut Shabbos everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chanukah and the Economy

I read this article by Sara Yocheved Rigler (author of Holy Woman) online- and found it to be tremendously inspiring.
Hope you enjoy it too!
(This is to add to yesterday's 3 posts- I was in a writing mood :-)
Here's a short excerpt:

CRASH!! The small aircraft you were flying in has just crash-landed on the side of a mountain. You're alive and uninjured, but it's late afternoon on a chilly December day.
You won't waste time playing the "Blame Game," blaming the pilot, the company that rented you the airplane, or the government for its insufficient regulation of the aviation industry. You won't waste time playing the "If Only Game": "If only I had used a different company or taken the train..." It's getting darker and colder on the side of the mountain, and all you'll care about is how to survive.
The economy has crash-landed. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, or the value of your investment portfolios or pension plans. It's not worth playing the "Blame Game" or the "If Only Game." At this point, you have to focus your energy on how to survive.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chanukah in the Mall- OII #5

I went yesterday to the main mall in order to buy a small item for my friend- and I dragged some of my guests from Chutz L'Aaretz too.

Their reactions- astounded.
"You mean to tell me they have dozens of projects for the kids in this place?"
"They are selling sufganiyot and menorahs, just out in the open like that?"
"They have a menorah in the middle of the mall?"
"They allow the kids to run around crazily- it's such a family friendly place!"
"No carols playing anywhere? Maoz Tzur?"
"The sales people wish you a Chag Sameach??"

It's so wonderful to see these kind of reactions! Only in Israel!
Chag Sameach to all!

OII #4- People in Israel

You may not think this is an "only in Israel" experience- but I find it happens more here than anywhere else- and it really shows something special about this country.

I went to the Kotel recently- with my guests from Chutz La'aretz- and I stopped by one of my favorite stores.

This store sells antiques- chatchkas for the tourists, new stuff for those too gullible to know the difference, but sometimes real and true antiques, just sitting there for those with a discerning eye. I've been going to this store for years- when it looked like a hovel in the Old City, and I've seen it change. I've searched through their items, and actually found some beautiful and rare stuff- Iranian hand-dyed carpets from his relatives in Iran, a megilla (unkosher due to its age- but with kabbalistic symbols checked by a reliable sofer), some Yemenite silverwork- and other such things.

Over the years I've become familiar with his entire family- his grandfather sold me the hand-dyed carpet in the end of the Cardo shuk, his son and brother, formerly in the Israeli army, and his grandson- about to head into the army for his first year. He comes from Iran, and has some family there still- who send him stuff when necessary.

So what's so special about all of this? First of all- he asks how I am, how my family is. I know shopkeepers in America or other places may do this- but it's a different sort of relationship. He shmoozes with me, commenting on the political situation in various countries, various items of humor or interest- all Jewishly based, giving me a flavor of the life he leads. (Yes, I know there are those of you out there who say he'll do this to make a sale- but most of the time, I can't afford anything.)

Hearing about his life in Iran is fascinating- and knowing all his relatives- even more interesting. He's planning on opening up another shop- and I wish him luck in his new business.

He talks with the people who come into his shop- dropping some Torah here and there for a talmid chacham, admiring the new baby of a mother....generally showing care for all Jews. And yes, he caters to the tourists and students as well.

From what I see in Israel- the shopkeepers, the people in the shuk, the taxi and bus drivers- they're all like that. Caring about everyone, willing to help out someone in need, and doing it all in true Israeli style. If that happens somewhere else- I'm so happy to hear about it.

But it seems to happen here more than usual. Welcome to Israel life.

Havel Havalim #197 (Okay, really 196...) Is Up!

For a link to another wonderful edition of Havel Havalim- click HERE!
Chag Sameach!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chanukah and Tradition

"Tradition...." Even that song churns up memories for me.

Last night was the first night of Chanukah. The menorahs were set up, including one outside, obeying the traditions of Israel, the oil was lit, and my entire family sang Haneiros Hallalu and Maoz Tzur.

If I would have been in the US, my mother or I would have sat down to our grand piano and churned out a delicious rendition of Maoz Tzur accompaniment, or a round of 'Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel'.

The classic Chanukah tape was turned on- Rebbe Hill's Chanukah Story, along with MBC's Light Up the Night.

I fried up dozens of latkes- most of which were devoured in the first 5 minutes. Other nights of Chanukah, I'll be making homemade sufganiyot, along with special Chanukah cookies- in dreidel, menorah, and Magen David shapes. And, how could there be Chanukah without my great-grandmothers' special applesauce recipe?

Whatever kids are in the vicinity at the time- last night there were 5- got Chanukah gelt- usually chocolate, or a shekel apiece.

All these delicious traditions- they make this holiday stand out. It's a time to celebrate with family, to recount countless Divrei Torah (including the 293rd reason why we celebrate 8 nights of Chanukah instead of just 7), and to sit down on the couch and watch as 'the candles are burning low'.

Tradition- minhag, mesorah, custom- they hold a special place in my heart for this holiday.

A Freilichen Chanukah to one and all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

1,000 Hits and a bit of Torah

Well, when I checked before going to sleep Motzei Shabbos, I was up to 993 hits- but officially by this morning- I hit over 1,000.
Thanks to all my visitors who keep coming- I love seeing where everyone comes from, and the insightful comments and ideas all who do come bring to this blog. I hope to continue seeing visitors!

Here's a short (well, maybe not so short) Dvar Torah on the number 1,000. (Helped by

In Shir HaShirim, (7:14) it states:
הַדּוּדָאִים נָתְנוּ-רֵיחַ, וְעַל-פְּתָחֵינוּ כָּל-מְגָדִים--חֲדָשִׁים, גַּם-יְשָׁנִים; דּוֹדִי, צָפַנְתִּי לָךְ.
"The mandrakes have yielded fragrance, and upon our doorsteps are all precious fruits. Both new and old I have stored away for you, my beloved."
The Midrash states that the mandrakes (Dudaim) refer to Reuven, when he rescued Yosef (the fragrance), and the precious fruits upon our doorsteps refer to the Chanukah lights.

The obvious question- is what is the connection between Reuven and the Chanukah lights?

Another Midrash tells us the well known idea that if Reuven would have known that his deed in saving Yosef would be written in a line from the Torah- he would have carried him home immediately, with Yosef on his shoulders. The same concept applies to Aharon- if he would have known that the Torah would have written about him how he greeted Moshe with happiness in his heart, he would have come to greet Moshe with outward trappings of dancing and drums. And, again, the Midrash brings Boaz, that if Boaz would have known the Torah would have written that he gave Rus grain, Boaz would have fed her fattened calves.

Each of these three would have done something different- would have lived up to a higher ideal- if they would have known what the Torah would have said about them. Yet each of these three did a very noble and good act- why does the Midrash minimize their actions?

Possibly, each of these acts were so far reaching, so all encompassing- that it was impossible for their perpetrators to realize the major implications of their seemingly small act. The repercussions for these acts were so large, that at the time- it was impossible for Reuven, Aharon, or Boaz to recognize these acts' true importance.

When Yosef was sold- it set the stage for the Jews' eventual descent to Mitzrayim- and becoming the Jewish nation.
When Aharon greeted Moshe- he did not know that he would eventually be rewarded with the High Priesthood because of it.
And when Boaz fed Rus, he did not know he was starting the wheels in motion for the Davidic dynasty, from which Mashiach comes.

These seemingly small and inconsequential acts had huge repercussions- unknown to their perpetrators. And so the Midrash remarks that had they known, they would have done far more. Had they recognize the importance of a seemingly trivial, yet noble act- they would have lived up to an even higher ideal.

In our own lives- many times small and inconsequential things may occur- and we cannot see the far lasting repercussions of them. Therefore, we should recognize that what seems small may not be, and we should try to live up to the highest ideal that we have in all that we do. All our actions, words, and decisions should be treated with the seriousness reserved for something significant- even if they seem trivial.

We light the Chanukah menorah for 8 nights, symbolizing the fact that although there was only enough oil to last for 1 day, it burned for 7 nights longer in the Beis HaMikdash. However, 2,000 years have passed since the destruction of the Temple- and we've missed over 700,000 times of lighting the Menorah. What is the significance of 7 nights out of a total of 700,000 missed?

The answer is that despite the missed opportunities- we have the privilege to light the Menorah remembering those 7 nights. Those were not insignificant, or trivial, even when compared to 700,000 missed. They have significance. One simple Mitzvah has such major significance- and that is the lesson that Chanukah and Reuven teach us.

“For one Jew to say once Baruch Hu u-varuch Shemo- "Blessed is He and blessed is His name",” R’ Elya Lopian would relate in the name of the Alter of Kelm, “it was worth it for the Almighty to created the entire universe in all its greatness for six thousand years. One Amen,” he would continue, “is worth 1,000 times as much as Baruch Hu u-varuch Shemo! And one Amen ye-hei Sh’mei Rabbah is worth 1,000 amens!” (See, 1,000 comes into this somewhere :-)

All Mitzvos have significance, all our actions have significance. No matter how trivial they seem at the time. A little oil goes a long way.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Erev Shabbos #8- Shiny

Yum. I love that feeling when Shabbos is coming, the food is ready, and the floor- ahh, the floor is shiny, sparkling clean. It's like a whole new experience- once a week, my floors don't show the 20 or so kids going in and out, the 5 neighbors borrowing and returning stuff, the suitcases and shoe tracks- it's like a clean slate.

And not only that- it arrives on Erev Shabbos- a time to reconnect, to relax, to view the beauty even in a shiny floor. (And believe me, when you can see yourself in a floor- that's called beautiful.)

I'm learning to appreciate the little things- like the neighbor kid who told me he wants to be a gadol hador when he grows up.
Like my dryer not dying on me, and actually making my clothes smell fresh and clean.
Like the sunshine (I know- the rain is what we need now- but it's so pretty!)
Like the food I have, and the clothes I wear.
Like the delicious chocolate chip cookies sitting on my countertop.

Thank You Hashem, for a beautiful Erev Shabbos, with so much to appreciate and enjoy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chinuch Atzmai Situation

I've been debating on and off whether to write this post or not.

I would like to state first that I don't know the entire story- as I don't live in this neighborhood- and I have tried to verify if this is true- most sources whom I've talked to have said that it is true.

The only news that reported it was Yeshiva World News- but that makes sense, as it is a problem for the frum Jewish community.

I would also like to remind my readers that I am newly married- I don't have children yet. If I did, I wouldn't want them to be treated like this. I was appalled and shocked when I read the first article, and the second only escalated my fears on how my children might be treated if I raise them in Israel. I spoke to one of my own rabbanim, who said that although it is wrong, the situation should clear itself up, and my children would probably not experience what a lawyer-friend of mine called, "a clear example of segregation and discrimination in today's times."

Such an action could probably lead to people suing one another in the US. A quote from the articles illustrates the 'excuses' given for the segregation.

In addition, the parents of the American girls also signed a document to accept the current realities, namely the separate classes, and now, in the middle of the year, undoing such a reality is not advisable, considering it takes weeks and weeks of intensive work to set up the classes. At present, there are four parallel classes so such a move would impact many many girls.

In short, the separation of the Americans was in no way intended as a punishment, but as a respectable solution to the fact that the children have differences, have difficulty speaking with Israeli girls, and fit together better than attempted integration at this time. We want the girls in the school, and in time, they will acclimate to Eretz Yisrael. The school placed their best teacher in the American class, not wishing to compromise their education in anyway. One can easily understand when there are 10 girls in a classroom who naturally speak English, their native tongue; it does result in a pedagogic and social problem in the classroom. We spoke with rabbonim, experienced professionals and many experts before making a decision as to addressing the social & language gap.

Here are the articles. I'm going to let my readers decide for themselves.
This is the first article printed.
This was the second, and the third. This was the school, and Chinuch Atzmai's response in the fourth- here.

One thing is for sure- as an American planning to stay here in Israel- this shocked me, and made me worry for the future. I hope this will be resolved by the talented rabbaim working on this case- like R' Yitzchak Berkowitz, Rav of Sanhedria Murchevet.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Research and Development

I'm a total science geek. Yup, that would be me- the one sitting and expounding on the benefits of the subcutaneous layer of skin being subcutaneous, instead of being switched with the avascular part of skin.

So, I'm always trying to learn about the latest developments in research, the latest findings, and the latest drug trials going on. I just learnt recently about the removal of four (well, really 2) asthma drugs from the market, due to 14,000 related deaths since 1993. And I wondered how America let those drugs on the market. But then I heard the other side of the story, in which these drugs save lives, and save them consistently, and the two that were removed from the market were supposed to be prescribed with steroids, but often weren't- or the patients didn't take the steroids.

It's a tough choice to make- removing a life-saving drug from the market due to bad statistics. How does one make such a decision- weighing the pros and cons?

Anyway, here in Israel, there are some medicines that are not available in the US, and vice versa. It seems that Israeli doctors follow more of the European approach to medicine, preventative instead of trying to fix an already existing problem. They also take into account many more homeopathic, or alternative techniques to solve medical disorders, that may not be standard practice in the US system.

But what are the statistics on these drugs? Do we know about the problems from these medicines? Is there something akin to the FDA watching out for bad prescriptions, or drugs that have bad statistical ratings- even and despite the miraculous results of the drugs?

I don't know if people realize that almost everything has a risk- but sometimes the benefits outway the risks.

So, I'm grateful that Israel gives me more opportunities and more alternative forms of medicine, but I'm curious to know if there is someone or some governmental authority watching out as well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Havel Haveilim #195/6

Well- the newest Havel Haveilim is up- although I'm slightly confused if it is 195 or 196...oh well!
Anyway, I submitted Tis the Season-or NOT!, and there are plenty of other amazing articles out there.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shabbos and Neighborhoods

I spent a lovely Shabbos with my guests from Chutz La'aretz- slightly jet lagged, but a very nice Shabbos none the less. While sitting at the table, with my neighbors and my guests, the talk turned to neighborhoods.

My neighbors were extolling the wonderful things about my neighborhood.
The place where I live is entirely frum,(religious) and as such, the streets are closed on Shabbos. The children head outside and jumprope in the place where cars usually drive, all the men are heading to and from shul and home, and the women enjoy a quiet Shabbos without the noise of buses. Immediately after Shabbos, everything starts running again, breaking the still silence of peaceful Shabbos rest.

The schools here are excellent, there are shuls, and gans, and there are professionals located all over.

I listened to them- and commented how it was nice that even in this neighborhood, we have many different types of people- Lubavitch, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Litvish, Yeshivish- all the fun labels- yet everyone gets along and associates with each other. They all agreed that that was a big maa'lah- benefit- to living here.

Yet I wonder. There are neighborhoods that are all frum, that associate with many different types of people, yet they are labeled as more modern, or more yeshivish, or more something. Is that a good thing? Is it a good thing to be mixed in a melting pot, or does it reflect badly on the people that live there?

I always thought it was a good thing- but maybe people judge a neighborhood based on their immediate neighbors, and not by the whole?

Is it a good thing to have so much diversity? Or does it reflect negatively on the neighborhood, that it has so much going on, and so many different types? Would it be better to have just one type?

And how do these neighborhoods get these labels anyway?

So many questions- and I don't know if there are any outright answers.
But I'd love to hear thoughts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Erev Shabbos #7- Chutz L'Aaretz

Well, it's that time of the week again- and I have guests from overseas.
I was so excited to host them- I cleaned, prepped, cooked- all ready so when they came they could just relax.
They arrived in the morning- and came bearing gifts.

What did they bring me- you might ask?
Well- what every girl living in Israel wants from Chutz La'aretz.

Yep, that's right, they brought me exactly what I asked for- 4 large rolls of 250 square feet of tinfoil each.

Yes, I know you can get tinfoil in Israel- 200 square feet for 32 shekel. If you check that price, that's about 8 dollars for 1 roll of tinfoil. And don't suggest I buy the Israeli brand- it rips, tears, and is generally flimsy. And I can't reuse it.

It's amazing how a small thing like this could make me so happy. It's making my Erev Shabbos so special to have something like this- how did I get to the point when a roll of tinfoil was a source of celebration?

I guess I've come to recognize the little things in life are not so little after all.

A Gut Shabbos everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poll on Israel- #2

Here's the second, fairly interesting poll. Good news is, a bunch more people voted - more than double my last poll. Bad news- we only got 1 vote for the really fun answer :)

Should students take a year off to study in Israel?

Alright, as one can clearly see- the majority of voters (9) voted that students (notice that includes both male and female) should only go for a year in Israel if they can afford it. This is a fairly reasonable answer- as the voters are saying in essence, that there is something about a "Year In Israel" that America or somewhere else can't give, but no family should be forced into it due to societal pressure or other such thing. If they can't afford it, they shouldn't go.

The next runnerup was that 5 voters said, yes, they should go no matter what. Wow. That shows that these voters believe that even if a family can't afford it, they should send their children to Israel because there is something special about this place. Or, it means they didn't see the other 'yes' choice. I'd like to ask these voters how families should raise money to send their children? Or- how do they propose that their children should get scholarships? There are many families overseas who would love to know the answers to those questions. I am impressed, though that the 2 highest categories were 'yes' answers- that there is something in Eretz Yisroel that can't be gotten anywhere else. Wow.

We've got 2 outright nos, and only one (unfortunately) who said it was a necessary prerequisite for shidduchim :)

Let's face it: not everyone can afford to come. But for those who can- welcome, and we hope you are enjoying your stay!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

60th Post- What does Israel mean to me?

This would be my 60th post- and as it was just Israel's 60th anniversary, I thought it might be nice to post on what Israel means to me.

It means a land, a Jewish land.
A land of Torah and Kedusha.
A land of freedoms- freedoms one might not even recognize or value, until one lives in a place without them.
A land of simcha- happiness, and pure joy.
A land of giving, of chesed, tzedaka, of helping others and being helped, even unknowingly.
A land of Mesirus Nefesh- self-sacrifice, of pride, success, of failure and of hope.
A land of Yidden- of Jews, of all backgrounds, of all walks of life, of all types of religiosity.
A land of growth, of struggle, of trying to do the 'right thing'.
A land to connect to Hashem, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, our Father- who we feel closer to in this land than ever before.
A land of unity, even when it doesn't seem like it.
A land of yashrus- straightness- a land where everyone cares about everyone.
A land of progress, and of tradition. Of our Gedolim, and all the people who follow them, and of those who emulate them.
A land where every Mitzva done counts more, simply because it's done here.
A land where every Aveira done counts more, simply because it's done here.
A land with 9/10 of the measures of beauty in the world- and living proof of it.
A land of growth from the desert, of flourishing orchards, and yishuvim, moshavim, neighborhoods and plantings.
A land I'm proud to be in, and a land which hopes for Mashiach, every day.

Daven hard- V'Sein Tal O'Matar

Yep- we're in the rainy season- and the rain hasn't really gotten here yet.

It rained a bit yesterday....but I'm starting to look up at the sunny and beautiful sky- and get nervous.
A letter came in the mail for me that my water bill is going up, due to lack of rain.

We need the rain, however uncomfortable it is for us.
We have crops growing, right after the shmitta year, and they all need water if they are to provide us with food. Of course, it's not like it used to be, where there was no water to be had if it didn't rain. We can still pipe water in, or convert it from salt water (an expensive process).

But, we need rain. So for all those out there, all over the world- say today an extra-special tefilla, or daven V'Sein Tal O'Matar with more Kavana (concentration), thinking about those of us out here who look up at the sun's sparkling face, and sigh- and pray.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Get Back Up!

This was sent to me by my FIL- very special video. I was inspired watching it, and I hope you will too!
The star is Christian, not Jewish- but his ideas on life and how to overcome obstacles are worth it for anyone to watch.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Shidduch Dating Comparisons

As B4S would say- I shouldn't be comparing my dates. (Happily married, thank you very much.) But how about dating systems?

In the US- this might be a typical dating scenario.

Guy went to yeshiva, learnt in Mir in Israel for a while, came back to the US, went to Lakewood, spent some time in the freezer, and then started dating. Girl went to Bais Yaakov, learnt in seminary in Israel or NY, came back to the US, went to Maalot/Touro/Sara Schneirer, and then started dating. Girl usually makes up resume, and Guy gets Girl's name from Shadchan.

Guy checks out Girl first- background, friends, schools, seminaries, personality, family, middos.
Guy says yes. Girl then checks out Guy- background, friends, yeshivos, chavrusas, family, personality, middos. (These character traits are NOT in any specific order- don't read into it so much.) Girl says yes. Shadchun arranges first date- usually in a hotel lobby. If first date goes well- both sides report to Shadchun. Second date is arranged- might be in a hotel lobby again.

This continues- maybe 3 dates in a hotel lobby, 4th and 5th on some kind of activity, 6th, going out to eat and some kind of activity....and so on, giving both parties enough time and dates till they feel ready- until both sets of parents have met Guy and Girl- and then Guy and Girl get engaged. Mazel Tov.

I recently learnt more about a totally different dating system- the dating system in Israel. I knew a bit, from Israeli friends and families- but now I think I've got the system down.

The beginning part is mostly the same, except Guy may be learning in Chevron Yeshiva, or Ponevezh, or something else. Girl went to 13th grade for seminary, in one of the Israeli high schools, and then took classes in school to prepare for a profession, or went to one of Maalot's programs for Israelis. Same checking procedure- sometimes more rigorous, and same Shadchun.

But- major difference.
The dating is much shorter. It seems that for Israelis, the first date is Motzei Shabbos at the Girl's home, where it lasts only about 2 hours. Second date is also at Girl's home. Third date, both parties arrange to meet together at a hotel lobby at a prearranged time (no cars, here, remember?) 4th date also usually ends up at hotel. (I have heard of all 4 being at a hotel, prearranged, if the Girl has nosy siblings or neighbors, or it's more convenient.) By 4th date- Girl and Guy usually know where this is heading. 5th date could happen- possibly an activity- but definitely NO eating out. 6th date- usually by the next Motzei Shabbos- and poof, Guy and Girl are engaged.

More than 2 weeks- too long. Usually, it takes about a week of dating. And no eating out, no activities that are in Israel considered 'pritzus' but that in America, a Guy and Girl might do. Longer than a few hours on the hotel dates- you'll have mothers calling up the Shadchun asking if there was an accident.

It seems totally foreign to me- dating so quickly, limiting times of dates, not eating out, and the fact that you're supposed to know so quickly. But if I end up staying in Israel- this is how my future children may end up dating. And, they'll be raised that way- so it won't be weird to them.

I know some Girls who were totally ambivalent about the Guy they were engaged to. I know some of the Girls who didn't like the Guy till they married them. And that seems so foreign to me...but maybe they needed to be pushed into a commitment, and the Israeli system does that.

So, which one is better? I don't know. Different countries, different rules. But it's interesting making the comparisons.

Disclaimer: I am not Israeli. If I got things wrong- I am truly sorry. And this is only a typical dating scenario- it will definitely not be the same for everyone, or in every area. All mistakes are definitely mine.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tis the Season- or NOT

Welcome to Israel- land of Jewish people all over.

Want to know what's in my local grocery store? Not red and green plates celebrating the seasonal holiday in the West, or a 7 branched candelabra for Kwanzaa, or even a turkey for the good old fashioned American holiday of Thanksgiving.

Nope, in my grocery store- we've got pure Shemen Zayit Zach- olive oil-, matches, candles, and wicks- all the accoutrements for Chanukah. (Yep, coming up in about 2 weeks!)

See? It's a Jewish country! Chag HaOrim- the festival of lights- is starting to take full swing.

With the glass sliding 'fish-tank' reminiscent boxes being sold in all major stores, (used to store the Menorah/Chanukiah so it can be lit outside) and the books on our holiday season being sold at half price, I feel quite at home.

I barely registered that in the US, major sales are going on for the shopping season. Thanksgiving pretty much passed me by, although I called my family in the US to wish them an enjoyable turkey day.
And the red and green stuff really shows up here in Israel about a year too late- by next year Succos when they'll be used as Succa decorations by unsuspecting Israelis.
(That cracks me up every time- seeing blinking lights spelling out C-H....- and having the unsuspecting Israeli go, "Aren't they pretty? They were on sale!" Or about the guy who hung up a red- suited, bearded guy in his Succa- and when asked- he answered, "It's a rebbe, right?)

Here Sufganiyot (jelly filled fried doughnuts, or caramel filled) are all over every bakery, and it's a temptation to wait till Chanukah. The dreidels (or Sivivon- small tops that children play with) are being brought home already, and the kids are waiting eagerly for the first chance to light a candle.

I'm so glad to be here, to be a part of this country that celebrates my holidays, my Chagim. I feel like I belong- like I never had before, when living in the US, and hoping that my neighbors wouldn't throw stones at my window for lighting my menorah. I feel a freedom I've never quite known. And I'm eternally grateful for it.

Havel Havelim #194 Is Up!

For those who read my blog- yup- this would be my first submission to Havel Havelim, and it's up! YAY! Although as remarked on Shiloh Musings- we're closing in on number 200. I've looked at the Havel Havelim a couple of times, but it's the first time I've actually taken the plunge and submitted.
So enjoy HAVEL HAVELIM #194 !

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Poll on Israel- #1

Gut Voch everyone- Shavua Tov!

Alright, I've had a poll sitting on the bottom of my blog for a while that needed its own post.

What's your favorite thing to do in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem)?

Interesting results no? Although only 8 people voted- most decided that the favorite thing to do in Yerushalayim was visit the Kotel, also known as the Western or Wailing Wall. I do admit that that is a major attraction in Yerushalayim. Who can resist the pull of those ancient stones, worn by hands praying for every possible thing in life.

When the Kotel was liberated- that was where people flocked to, a remnant of the Bais HaMikdosh in all its glory. Of course, as many know, the Kotel was actually only one of the outer walls of the Bais HaMikdash, and there are three more, still in existance. But, the Kotel has been the place where everyone continues to flock in droves.

Placing your hands on the stones- I feel a connection to eternity, connection to Hashem and His Torah, His Temple, and His Shechina. I can't explain it, but it happens to me everytime I go.

For those who want some knowledge of that feeling- try Eli Nathan's Destiny 4, the song 'Smile for the Camera'. It's a cute kind of song, but it does have meaning.
It gives some of the myriad feelings that you could have visiting the Wall.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Erev Shabbos #6- Really Quick Post

And we have finally arrived- the earliest Shabbos of the year- 3:59.

B"H, seems to be relatively under control, at least as much as I can publish a really, really quick post.

So, I'll leave something up for your attention.
Which is better- to make a gourmet Shabbos, with 7 different side dishes and one course over the top- and then have to eat your way through the leftovers the entire week, or to make a much simpler Shabbos- all in one pot, or only 2 kugels- and then finish it all on Shabbos?

I'll leave it to your discretion. In my house, I used to go for the first method, but lately, as I find we don't really finish the leftovers either, till Thursday night, I find that the second works the best. But I do miss the feeling of bringing out thousands of new and delectable dishes.

Gut Shabbos everyone!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mini America

I've mentioned before how easy and accessible American products are in Israel.

Crisco, from your local Shoprite or the name brand, is available at most stores.
So is Heinz Ketchup, Huggies diapers, La Choy brand soy products, Rice Dream, Nature Valley granola bars, Mishpacha graham cracker crusts, Gefen canned fruit, and the list continues on and on. Sour Sticks are my neighbor's kids choice of snack, when they go on sale for 4 for 10 shekel.

It's a bit funny- after all- how did Israel manage before the invention of Karo syrup in the local supermarket? There must have been something, or Israelis did without.

It doesn't just apply to food. Maclaren and Graco buggies do not come from Israel, that's for sure. Neither does American Sealy mattresses, Gap and Old-Navy clothing lines, or Children's Place sales. Berkshire and Brookline do not get manufactured here, and neither does Anne Klein, Nine West, Aldo, and the many shoe stores out there. Zara's, I can understand- they have a global market. And, there is even a Mac in Israel.

What is the world coming to?

And it has brought the American idea of consumerism to Israel. That 'American'- made is always better, that anything that says American must taste better, be of higher quality, and look nicer than the average Israeli product.

I went to buy shelled peanuts, and I found two types. Regular 'Botnim' (peanuts) and 'Botnim Americai'- American peanuts. When I asked the difference, I was told that American peanuts have a special shehakol coating on them. Go figure.

All one has to do to sell a product in Israel is stick an American flag on it, or say, imported from America- the land of dreams.

What did people do before the influx of people selling Baby Gap in their apartments?
I imagine they must have had substitutes, that were just as nice, or lived without- something to think about.

People have told me that it's changing- that American is not the end-all and be-all of products here anymore. I could hear that- as other countries have joined the international market here in Israel as well- Italian leather, Belgian carpets, English tea....

It's a global world out there- and Israel is smart to take advantage of it. But what did Israel do before the shipping industry took off? Did we make our own products? Did Israel have it's own special niche in many markets besides Intel and the computer industry?

If anyone knows, please let me know. I'd love to hear the history of how Fruit Roll Ups ended up in my neighborhood market.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ingenuity and Necessity

Ingenuity is rampant here in Israel, for as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
If you can't find it, make it, sew it, invent it. That seems to be the motto here.
And it has spawned some of the most amazing ideas I've ever seen.

No place to have a garden since you live on the third floor?
No problem, plant in pots, plant on the roof, build yourself your own little dirt patch to place on a mirpeset- and watch those carrots and peppers enjoy themselves.

Water for the garden a problem?
For those who want it badly enough, Mother in Israel came up with all these absolutely brilliant ideas to reuse water in order to create a garden! (I mean- we do live in a desert here!)

No dresses for a wedding?
Sew them yourselves- I recently attended a gorgeous wedding, in which the mother of the chasan added fantastic details to her own plain black suit, making it stunning, and all the sisters sewed beautiful gowns for all their little children.

Need ways to make money?
You'd be surprised at how creative Israelis can get. From the cake selling by major yeshivos every day, to the small gift packages created specifically for the American seminary girls- Israeli families have found small ways to maximize their income.

Some may call it dealing with a more frugal society. I say- brilliant. It's pure ingenuity to save every scrap item and turn it into a fun filled time for your kids. (This isn't just unique to Israeli's though- Juggling Frogs is an entire blog on a truly inventive mother's ideas!)

Necessity may be the mother of invention- but some of these inventions are what keeps the society afloat- so they become the necessities.
Kudos to all those inventive people out there- keep it coming!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I can't even express my feelings in words. They are too complicated, confused, saddened, and grief oriented. But seeing this picture pop up on my screen this morning just made it all the worse.

Source: AP Photos and AOL News
My heart breaks for the little one, who will never see his parents again. And for the 8 orphans left behind from a father killed in another country. And for all of Klal Yisroel- who weeps together for the Kedoshim.
They were killed because they were Jews, because they went to a foreign country to work for their parnasa, to perform kiruv, to be mashgiach some of the foods we eat...
Their funerals are today in Israel.
May all those who are mourning them be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Dikduk Lessons

I LOVE ISRAEL! I just can't say that enough. Sorry.

I will be the first to admit- the language of Ivrit is hard. I know, English is worse, with all it's "Yotzei Min HaKlall"'s (exceptions to the rule), but even after years of schooling with excellent teachers, and time spent in the Holy Land being spoken to, and speaking back, in Ivrit- my own personal Ivrit is semi-fluent, but riddled with Dikduk mistakes (grammatical).

I understand Ivrit almost perfectly- oftentimes that gets the person I'm talking to confused, as I understand what they are saying, but have a hard time communicating back to them.

But- the Israelis, contrary to popular belief, are teaching me.

A sweet lady in the neighborhood corrects all my dikduk, and teaches me new words- like Smartut, (rag/towel), Economica (the stuff used to clean floors), and other such ideas.

Every cab driver encourages me to speak in my less than excellent Ivrit, and they correct me, and speak back to me, not like I'm hard of hearing, or in a slower tone, since they realize I understand them.

One time- I went to get a copy of a key made- and I forgot the word for copy- l'shachfel (thanks, Jameel :) )- to make a copy....from the word- Kaful- double.

The two men there figured out what I meant- and one went to do it. The other remarked to the first (in Ivrit) that it seems I don't understand Ivrit so well. My shocked look must have done it, because the first said- nope- she understands everything we're saying. And not only that- her spoken Ivrit is probably better than our spoken English!
I was so impressed, and told them so- that yes, I did understand, and no, I'm not an idiot just because I'm not totally fluent in Ivrit.

But, at least they're being patient, and not looking down their noses at me due to the language barrier.

Thank you, kind Israelis. I hope that one day, I'll be able to talk as fast as you!

Monday, December 1, 2008

OII #3- Collection with Style

Update on December 3: Today I got another knock- three sweet girls, the oldest not more than 10, collecting for Yad Eliezer- more non-perishables! I love Israel!!

I'm researching on my computer when I hear a knock on the door- no more than a tap.
I open it to find two cute Sephardi girls, with their little brother, neither one older than 8.
They are carrying two shopping bags- half empty, and present me a piece of paper.

It seems that my community is collecting food products (non-perishables) for a family in need of basic items. So, these two kind youngsters have volunteered to collect.

I don't know if they are part of the family in need, or just a friend- but to see two cute kids trying to collect tzedaka- real tzedaka- like basic food products- it just melted my heart.
So I handed them what I could, and wished them Kol Tuv.

Wow- so special. And, it's all done anonymously, with you actually seeing where the "money" is going- it's going into this family's hands- as actual food products- cans of tomato sauce, pititim (couscous), tuna fish- things that a family could actually use.
Kol HaKavod!

Hechsherim- Help!!

Alright, I am thoroughly lost.
I come from America, okay? And not from NY- where there are all these strange hechsherim (kosher certification), like the chassidish hechshers, Kehilah Kashrus, the Lakewood hechsher, the others- I can't even keep those straight!

I come from out-of-town, where we rely on major national and international hechsherim, like the OU, the star-K, the circle-K, and so on.

And now- I'm here, in Israel. And thoroughly confused.

Belz Machzekei HaDaas, Agudas Yisroel, Petach Tikva Chasam Sofer, Bnei Brak Chasam Sofer, Landau, Badatz Aidah HaCharedit, Rubin...the list could go on forever.
And some hold by this, some hold by that- all agree that even the worst commonly- accepted (makes grammatical sense, I checked) Israeli hechsher is better than an American one (yep- heard that straight out from several people.)

To top it all off, I used to trust hechsherim. If the OU put a hechsher on something, I assumed they sent Mashgichim there, they checked it out, and then put a hechsher on the final product.

But here, it seems common that people find that the Badatz would put a hechsher on something, and later it's learned that they shouldn't have.

Or a hechsher is put on, but the company that put the hechsher on doesn't hold by it 100 percent. (Yep- heard this one from a reliable source too!)

I can barely figure out which ones I and my husband use, and then I get the phone calls from reliable friends- hey, new restaraunt- but it's under a hechsher that isn't the best...

To simplify, there is a website out- I just found it, after a few frustrating searches on the Internet for help. It's called Kosher In Jerusalem, and gives the hechsherim lists given out from Yeshivos/seminaries and Rabbinical organizations- like Aish, Neve, CRC, and so on.
So that helps a bit- at least it lists the organizers and which hechsherim are commonly held.

Still- a bunch of products that I use are not commonly held by others- like American products I can't find with a Badatz, but they have an OU...used in the US, but in Israel- a lower hechsher. I've tried to find an Israeli substitute- but to no avail. And my grocery store routinely stocks products with Sephardi hechsherim- stuff I know nothing about at all!

Anyone else have these hechsher problems? Any interesting stories about it?
I'd love to hear, because it's good to know I'm not the only one who needs Hechsher help!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Learning Skills

Catching up on my blog reading again- I'm home with some sort of nasty virus (How come I keep picking these things up? It must be the change of season.)

Anyway- Tooyoungtoteach has a great post up on learning Torah for girls.
It's actually a very interesting concept.

I'm not referring to girls learning Gemara, or the famous jokes about a certain seminary who seem to want chavrusas, not husbands (they were actually told at my friend from that seminary's wedding- it seems to be public knowledge.)

I'm talking about opening up a Chumash and learning inside. Or a Navi. Or some Kesuvim, or a mussar sefer- excellent from R' Shimshon Pincus- or Sifsei Chaim, Mesilas Yesharim, Chovos HaLevavos, or one of my personal favorites- Sichos Mussar.

What could be wrong with that? Maybe I'm just blessed in my company- but the women I talk to, and speak to- all seem to be well versed in these subjects, and incorporate them into their daily lives.

Mussar comes into play with child-rearing, with Yiras Hashem and Ahavas Hashem- and it comes into play with my daily life as well!

Plus, I may be very zoche- but my husband enjoys talking with me about such things. Thank
G-d, due to my voracious reading as a youngster, I have a very broad base of Tanach, with many midrashim- allowing me to have some points of reference to what he may bring up from Gemara. It's interesting, applicable- and I gain so much from it! (Thanks, Mr.NMF, if you're reading this.)

I was encouraged in seminary to look up things, question, seek answers, and find them, usually in one of the myriad sefarim that we learnt.

And here in Israel, everyone is knowledgable about Torah- from the bus and cab drivers, to the meshulachim, to the average housewife. It's more common, and more in practice to quote a line from the Sichos Mussar to your neighbor about Gaavah, in reference to a communal incident. (Just an example- fictional.)

Torah just spills out from this city- how could it be wrong for a woman or girl to benefit from this?

Please don't start talking about the controversial subjects mentioned above- but I think, personally, that learning Tanach and Mussar for women is an excellent thing, one I try to do as often as I can. Kudos to all those who do.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

UPDATE: Rachmana L'tzlan- the hostages in the Chabad house were brutally murdered- Hashem Yekom Damam.
The Rabbi, his wife, Rabbi Teitelbaum (T.A.Y. SIL), and three others are reported among those killed.

Such Tzaros for Klal Yisroel!! And they say that the Chabad house was a preselected target by the terrorists.
Oy. I'm weeping just hearing about it.

Please say tehillim for Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma (Rabbi Holtzberg), his wife (Rivka bas Yehudis) and all the other hostages in the Chabad-Lubavitch house in Mumbai. Two mashgichim are also being held hostage, one of them the son-in-law of the Toldos Aharon Yitzchak Rebbe.

For all those who want updates on the news- it seems that their son Moshe (2) has fled with one of the household help members, but the news on the Holtzbergs is still uncertain, as of Thursday afternoon, NY time. His grandparents have flown to Mumbai to try to ascertain the situation.

I'll try to post if I hear anything new.
For the news articles- try YWN here, or the NY Times here. Reports are saying 327 injured, and 125 killed.
Hashem should send a yeshua to all of those there.

Erev Shabbos #5

Here's my Erev Shabbos post for this week- as I seem to have a bit of time (I've been invited out for both meals- shame on me that I'm not cooking!!)

What to give as a gift for those you're going to?

When I was in Israel, for seminary, more often than not, the gift was store-bought food, usually candy or rugalach for the children, or a bottle of good wine for the parents. I tried to spend a minimal amount of money, yet invested time to make it look nice. And I always brought a gift, whether they said to or not- they appreciated it anyways.

I lived in NY for an extended period of time, and when I went out for Shabbos there- I also brought gifts, usually store-bought, but after a while, the families that I routinely went to, requested that I not bring gifts anymore- and they meant it.

Now, as I'm here in Israel- I still feel like I should bring gifts. But, these families with children probably wouldn't want a large amount of candy- or a bottle of wine. Oftentimes I find myself giving home-baked goods- like a cake on a platter, or cookies for the kids. Sometimes, with close friends, I even find myself offering a kugel or side dish for the meal- knowing how hard it is to cook a full Shabbos for many kids and guests.

I don't think I would have done that in the US- too many people are hechsher conscious of where their food comes from- so home-baked may not have been the best choice. But, it seems that in my neighborhood- everyone assumes that I use Badatz ingredients (which I do) and keep to high standards- so they are more than happy to take the delicious food, if I do say so myself :-)

So which is better? The store-bought, or the home-baked? Both probably show my degree of affection and gratefulness...but is one better than the other? Does home-baked show I put more time and thought into it- or was I just baking for myself and made extra? Does store-bought mean that I spent more money, and therefore it means more? Or does it show I was too lazy to do it myself?

Either way- it seems that it's nice to give a gift to those you head to for Shabbos.

So, I'm off to bake a cake or two.
Have a Gut Shabbos!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kotel Adventures- OII #2

So, I went to the Kotel yesterday- as written about in an earlier post.
I went there, because I haven't gone in a while- and I have wanted to go.
But also because I needed to get something done in the Old City.

I've had a bracelet, made of silver, and etched with the 7 gates of Yerushalayim on it, for about the last 5 years. I never take it off- wear it to shower, sleep, swim...

It kept me thinking about the Holy City while I was in America, and here it keeps me thinking about how lucky I am to be here! So many Tzaddikim (righteous people) (the Gra- the Vilna Gaon for example) never made it here- and here I am- how am I worthy?

But, to make a long story a bit shorter, after five years, I bent it a bit too far, and it started to crack, along the engraving. Needless to say, I was quite saddened.

So, I decided to go where I got it from and see if it could be fixed.
I headed off to the Old City after my visit to the Kotel, and headed to a small shop next to the Cardo. The more famous shop is Hadera? (sp.), which is where all the seminary girls go to get

their trinkets.
I headed to a small shop owned by two silversmiths, a father and daughter- with the last name Ben-Yekusiel. They use their small shop as a workshop as well, and create intricate designs, in the Yemenite fashion. I met the father a long time ago- and he told me that their family has been making these items for generations. He has a daughter, so he trained her in the art as well. Their work is truly exquisite- (of course with prices to match- but well worth it)- fitting for any Shabbos table, or just as a magnificent work of art and craftsmanship.

I bought my small bracelet from them, and the daughter engraved it for me with the 7 gates, and with the pasuk "Yerushalayim Harim Saviv Lah"- "Jerusalem, hills surround her...".
So, I headed back- and it's been a long time since I've been there.

I opened the door, and the daughter was there. I told her she probably wouldn't recognize me, but she said my face was familiar. I told her how I bought my bracelet 5 years ago, and now I'm married and living here in the Aretz. I asked her if she could fix it for me- and she said it would be her pleasure.

Watching a silversmith work is a fascinating thing. If you want just to see it- head to their shop- it's amazing. She fixed the crack, re-etched the line, and buffed it to maintain the silver. Unfortunately, the patina of older silver that had happened to the bracelet, after 5 years of wearing- disappeared- but now I have it for another 5 years.

She took the time to do this in the middle of her work day, and took care in her work.
When she finished- with a bracelet as good as new- I asked her if I could pay for her work.
She refused payment. She said it was her pleasure, and she loves seeing her own work again- cherished and used. I was shocked- as she did spend time on it, and effort. She refused again, and said, if I'd like, I could donate the money I would have paid her to tzedaka.

Wow- so special. She fixes something for me that many others would say- too bad, you bought it, you used it for 5 years, now it's your problem. Then, she refuses payment. And, to top it all off- she then asks me to give the money I would have given her to tzedaka.

Only In Israel.

Stop by her shop if you're ever in the Old City. I can't say you'll be able to afford anything there- but watching her and her father at work is a wonderful experience. And you could tell her I sent you :)

Tzedaka- From the Heart

I visited the Kotel (Western Wall) yesterday- to get something else done (story for another post), and of course, before walking through the gates, I needed to check my wallet.
Why, you may ask?

Well, there are at least 20 ladies on the women's side of the Kotel who collect tzedaka there, daily. They could be collecting for themselves, for Hachnosat Kallah, for a yeshiva, for a kollel, or many other such things. I have asked them once or twice who they collect for- but usually it is a cause that I can donate a shekel to, at least, or something like that.

So, I checked my wallet- was assured that I had at least 20 shekel on me, and set out.
Immediately, they asked in their pleading voices for tzedaka. I can't refuse- it's very hard for me to refuse a woman collecting. After all, we have an inner sense of tznius, of busha, (embarassment) of not being in the limelight- if a woman has to go out collecting tzedaka- it means she's usually in dire straights, with no one to help her, and she has no male children or a husband to help either.

So, I handed out a shekel to each one- making sure no one would get more than the others (they notice who gets more or less.)

(Oh, and if you're judging me as to why I only have a shekel per person- I'm sorry- but I also need money for food and lodging...I could try to give more- but usually I can't- as I give to the people who need tzedaka in Geula as well, plus, I can only give a mashehu without asking my husband for permission for more (he usually says yes, but if he's not there....)

Usually, they thank me- and I wish them the best- that they should have hatzlacha, and kol tuv.
And, I mean it. The words come from my heart, as do the money- I want them to be able to give more to the poor, I want them to no longer need tzedaka...

But yesterday, when I gave a shekel to a woman- and wished her all the best- her reply was, "A Shekel? Zeh Lo Kesef. (that's not money.)"

So I told her that was all I had, and she left it at that.

But it hurt. It hurt that she didn't care whether I meant it or not, that all she saw was a girl, probably American, who gives her "just a shekel", and then leaves.

I'm sure she's in pain. I'm sure that she has a very rough life. I'm judging her dan l'kaf zechus that she has so many tzaros in her life that when someone hands her a small bit of tzara, she reacts like that.

I called my mother, another frequent visitor to Israel, to tell her about it- we both sighed on the phone, at the tzara, and the pity on the situation. She told me that someone once threw the shekel back at her- signifying that it was too small a donation.

I guess this is a David HaMelech moment. That when someone lectures you- it's not from that person, it's from Hashem.

Maybe Hashem is telling me I should give more. Maybe Hashem is telling me not to think so highly of myself- that I have money and she doesn't- the wheel of fortune could turn at any moment.

I wish her, and all the other women who are out there collecting- all the best. Kol Tuv, and much Hatzlacha.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Okay, I'm using this blog to vent a little bit.

I read this post on Aidel Knaidel....and it kinda bugged me a bit. I live in a neighborhood where there are not so many young kollel couples- so I don't have much to judge myself against- as to why I'm not pushing a baby stroller yet, or the latest fashions, or the shiur I just HAD to attend- or else be ostracized from the N'shei of the community.

If you do live in those communities- don't get JEALOUS. DO something instead! Read my post about tzedaka- and get involved!! Want a child- help others with children, be a mom for a day- substitute for the amazing ganenet in your neighborhood when she needs help- for free. Work in a soup kitchen, volunteer at Yad Eliezer....the possibilities are endless.

I'm frustrated because I try to view a time without children as a time to help those who have children, as a time to offer my services, because I don't have major demands on my time yet. I'm blessed to be married- and that didn't happen the year after sem either!

So, yeah- I'm slightly frustrated. But I'm grateful for what I have. Thank You Hashem, for giving me the ability to help others, and eventually, be"H, if sometime I need help in the future, I'll have someone who might want to give to me.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"

Yep, famous quote from FDR. How does it apply today?

Well, yesterday, I decided to do a favor for a neighbor, and simultaneously accomplish some much needed errands. I was going to head to my local Bank HaPoalim and deposit money, along with slipping a check into the box for her in an already sealed envelope.

When I arrived there, I found pandemonium raging. At least thirty people were there, clamoring for something- I knew not what.

When I walked in, I noticed the computers and ATMs were all down.

I then inquired from a bank employee, who told me that there was a major computer failure in the entire Bank HaPoalim system from "Eilat to Metulla", and they were supposed to have it fixed, but it's been two days.

What could I do at the bank, you may ask? Well, the nice employee told me that basically, he
can't guarantee any money deposited yesterday, because he can't print receipts or record transactions. Not only that, but they didn't know when it would be fixed.

So, I dejectedly headed home, hoping to get to the bank another day, when the computer bugs were gone.

The funny thing was, that rumors started flying. No matter what any employee of Bank HaPoalim said, all the bystanders were sure that the bank was crashing, taking all their money with it. Some said other banks had the same virus, others said that Bank HaPoalim had lost everything in the US stock market- fears were rampant.

I stopped by my neighbor to tell her that I'll have to take care of her check tomorrow- and here too, she inquired if the bank had failed, if they would lose everything in the account....

So I turned to my faithful internet- and low and behold: computer failure. (Thanks, IBM). And, it was up and running again by the time the banks closed. (I have yet to verify this by going to a bank this morning.)

So- what is there to fear? Banks crashing, money disappearing? Nope- nothing but fear itself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Charity Begins At Home

I lived for a couple years in NY, where I met my husband. During that time period, I had occasion to go shopping for clothing, and as is the custom in my family, whenever I buy something new, I have to give away something old. Not necessarily old, just something that doesn't fit, seems to have one too many stains, or something that I bought on sale, intending to wear, yet it never seemed to match anything.

So, I trotted down to my neighbor to ask her where there was a gemach in NY for used clothes. She shrugged her shoulders and said that she doesn't know of any.

So I asked someone else- again, same response.
One person said she knows one family who collects shoes, but not clothing. And the shoes have to be brand new.

I kept asking, and asking- no one seemed to have a clue. There were no drives going on, no advertisements for a giant collecting agency, or for a day to drop gently used clothing off. Nothing.

So, I sent my clothing back to my home town, where there is a dedicated woman who operates a clothing collection out of one room in her house, and sends it to Israel. It's done anonymously, she just receives garbage bags at her front door, and then sends it off.

Shame. I wish I could have given to an NY gemach, but I guess that they are much harder to find.

Israel on the other hand- is totally the opposite. I received a letter just yesterday, advertising the used clothing collection place in my neighborhood. Open up a directory- the Israeli one, or the Newcomer's Guide- and you'll see thousands of gemachs, hundreds of clothing collection agencies- and some for things I never would have thought of. Free loan funds- check. Gowns for chasunas- check.

But have you ever heard of a breast milk gemach? That one startled me a bit- until I heard about the family that runs it.

It seems that there are babies born who's mothers don't have enough milk for them. Not only that, but some of these babies have major allergies, to common food products- making them allergic to most formulas.

So, this family started a gemach. Nursing mothers, who are willing to go on a strict diet (no wheat, soy, sugar, dairy, specific vegetables....) do that for 2-3 days, and then pump extra milk for these babies. The milk goes to this family, where they store it, and then give it to those babies in need. That way, they can live on breast milk, which is perfect for their digestive systems, until they can figure out a way past their allergies.

Who would have thought of this? First of all, the family that did- is exceptional- thinking of something like that, and then implementing it. Second of all- the mothers that do this are also exceptional- not eating their favorite foods, and not for their own child, but for someone else's.

Mi K'amcha Yisroel.

Here are some phenomenal articles about charity in Israel- from if you're interested in further reading- and if you're looking for a worthwhile charitable contribution):

The Chicken Lady, Mission to Care, Dining with Dignity, Out of the Mouth of Roni(ZAKA), Jerusalem's Supermen, Henny's Secret (Machlis Family)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Time Changes

Indicative of my own persona, I'm posting this one at around 11 AM.

For those who wonder what I'm referring to- it's the fact that I haven't quite adjusted to the whole "get up at 6 am, rest from 1-3 pm, eat dinner at 7, and in bed by 10:30" lifestyle.
I've always been a night bird, someone who stays up well past 3, and then takes advantage of her mornings to sleep till at least 9.

Heading to work during the week does involve a challenge- but I seem to be able to wake up by 7:30 and still make it on time.

Israelis on the other hand, have a totally different clock. It seems my neighbors are up at 6, the buses running and full by 7, and the phone calls to other people can start at 7:15. I mean, in the US, we don't call people till 9, or 8:30 the earliest! Here, I've received calls at 7:00, 6:30, even one really brave individual who called at 6:08 on the dot. (Sorry to all of those who I've answered the phone, sounding a tad groggy.)

And the 1-3 rest hour? Who invented that? I either have to get to the bank before 12 or after 4, but only on certain days of the week. Post office, government agencies, none of which are open after 1, or only reopen after 4 on some days of the week.

Imagine, if you will the same thing occuring in the US- I think people would go insane from the sheer "mah baiyah" ness of it all. Can you imagine if the stock market would just pause, from 1-3 every day? Or if the banks were closed during those hours. I think havoc would ensue.

How do people who work handle it? How do they get to the bank before 6:30 in traffic, if they end their work day at 5? It may be good for those who only work from 8-1, but what about the rest of Israel?

It's one of those confusing things that I guess I have to get used to. Oh well, WTI- welcome to Israel.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Needing Help Distinguishing

In reading Bad4's post on how she continuously gets 'red' (suggested) shidduchim based on her sterling qualities of being different than the norm, (what is normal, anyway?) I started thinking.

I'm constantly being asked to look for shidduchim (as if the fact I have a ring on my finger makes me some kinda expert - um, newlywed, that should say how much experience I have!) and when I try to make a shidduch, the guys ask- what makes this girl different from all the other girls? (I can just hear the Pesach tunes coming, and it's not even Chanukah.)

Is difference good? Or is it bad? How do we make someone stand out without being different, or make some one different seem the norm? I think these labels (kickback to ProfK- and her posts on Terms for Shidduchim- sorry, couldn't link) are starting to get confusing.

In Israel- people have differences. And they are recognized for them. Brisk vrs. Mir, Yashan/Chadash/Sniff/Whatever, neighborhood, hair covering, religious status, kippah covering, you name it- everyone has differences. What's so bad about that? It helps me a ton, in being able to describe people past the general qualities that I believe everyone has- kind, sweet, nice, middos, mentch.....

Labels are horrible- I get that. (Stereotyping, no clear definition, molds....) But what do I do when I get asked that Pesach question again?

How do I describe differences without resorting to labels?
Any comments out there would be much appreciated- for all of my friends who are single, special and different from each other, and for all the guys out there who are single, special, and different from each other.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Covering Up

I'm married, as you may have guessed- by my references to Mr. NMF, and by what it says on my profile.

When I got married, as I have grown up frum, I knew I would be covering my hair, and like the community which I lived in, that would usually comprise of buying a shaitel.

My mother wears shaitels (wigs), along with falls, berets, or hats outside the house, while snoods, and comfortable Israeli scarves inside the house. So, when I got married- I assumed I would do the same.

Hats were not really my style, or the style of the community in which I or my husband lived- and snoods were not commonly worn outside the house, as they were perceived as too casual.

Most people wore falls, or shaitels outside the house, while they reserved a comfortable pre-tied bandanna, or snoods inside the house. I also love Israeli scarves- they are the easiest for me to slip on inside the house, and the most comfortable to sleep in.

So, I wore a fall, and wore a shaitel for Shabbos- leaving my snoods inside the house, and my scarves just for sleeping. The shaitel was hot, and tiring, especially since I always had long hair growing up, so I wanted a long shaitel as well. I ended up clipping my shaitel into a banana clip or ponytail quite a bit, simply to escape from the heat.

And then I moved to Israel. I continued wearing my shaitel, and shvitzing, and watching it oxidize in the gorgeous sunshine. And then it hit me. I'm not in the US any more. So I started to watch and see.

My neighbors are mothers with kids- they wear snoods outside, almost all the time. I only see shaitels on Shabbos. Some are Sephardi- with the gorgeous scarves wrapped so elegantly. Some come from more chassidishe homes, with long scarves or cloths wrapped around every inch.
When I head to more JAPpy neighborhoods (Jewish American Princess, for those who don't know.) I see the women wearing shaitels, but mostly ponytail ones or really short- to deal with the heat.

And I said- Why in heaven's name am I wearing a shaitel? Why do I persist in wearing a long shaitel when there are thousands of stunning bandannas, scarves, tichels, snoods, and other beautiful items to wear? I belong to a community now where most women wear snoods- and they're right! It's hot outside! There are kids to worry about and places to go, work to do and people to see- wear something beautiful, colorful, and stylish- wear a snood, a scarf, a beret- but why wear a shaitel? Shaitels are beautiful as well- but can be saved for Shabbos!

And to think it took me so long to realize this- that there are so many Yidden here in Israel, and so many different ways that they all cover their hair- so many minhagim, so many different viewpoints- (for more information- read the fascinating book Hide and Seek by Lynne Schreiber, or Oz V'Hadar Levusha's section on hair covering (I know- I said the dreaded book's name- don't stone me.) )

So as of right now- I'm wearing a beautiful pink snood- excellently complementing what I'm wearing. And- I'm proud of it! I even walked into the JAP neighborhood, and had some stares- by all the shaitel wearers, but most just ignored- since there are so many different women all covering their hair different ways, everyone just gets used to it.

Mi K'amcha Yisroel- we women can all look beautiful, stylish, and gorgeous- while still listening to the Torah's precepts and covering our heads.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Healthy Minded

Living in Israel has given me an entirely new perspective on a healthy lifestyle.

America seems to be the land of 'super-size me', of fries and hamburgers, of cars and sedentary lifestyles, of three large meals a day, and steak for supper.

Israel is the land of walking, of salad, of exercise and enough sleep, of the 1-3 rest hours, and the day beginning at 7 am, 6 days a week.

Israel also is the land of alternative medicine, of therapy, reflexology, massage, chiropractors, vitamins, minerals, and supplements.

America is the land where DOs are a lesser class (no offense meant to any fine DO), anyone who does yoga is looked at slightly strangely (you mean they stretch, for fun?), and where the cesarean section rate is 50 percent, compared with Israel's 20.

I'm told by doctors in Israel, MDs, with funding from the Kupat Cholim to take vitamins, to get more B12, and to catch up on my D3. Oh, and have I tried swimming or yoga?

I'm told by doctors in America, also MDs, to take medication at the first sign of problems, to try to spend less time on the computer, and oh yes, that'll be X dollars copay.

Is it just me, or do I live a healthier lifestyle in Israel?

I walk (since I don't have a car, nor do I need one) far more than I used to, I eat healthier and take vitamins, with all the delicious fruits and vegetables around me, and the dessert of my choice is usually frozen yogurt with fruit. How's that for healthy living?

I think America should learn a thing or two from Israel and other European countries. It might help to solve obesity problems, and save lives. We may end up living longer as well.

So here's cheers, to being healthy-minded!


As emailed to me, and posted on SerandEz, Leah Larson has won the contest from Wells Fargo's Someday Stories!
Congratulations, Leah- and continue your excellent work!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Time Zone Traveler

Here's an amazing thing about Israel: We're 7 hours ahead of the US. That's right, 7.

Why is that a good thing?

Well for those yeshiva bachurim and seminary girls here in the Aretz, it's a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because at around 4:00 pm, it's 9:00 am in Chutz La'aretz, meaning that just as they finish classes or have a short break, they can call their folks back home and ask them for more American cream cheese, or diet peach snapple, to tide them over. This also saves money on phone bills, as there are only limited times people can call America, meaning less phone calls in general. It's a bad thing because they can't call 24/7, meaning that they actually have to improve their math skills.

"Let's see, 12-7 is 5, then add the 4 hours after 12...yeah, I think it's 9:00 am....although I could be waking them all up at 3 am for all I know about subtraction. Sheesh."

Other good things about being ahead of the times (pun intended). If there is a project that must be completed in America, someone could send it to me, fall asleep unhindered, while I complete it during my daylight hours, and still send it back to them so by the time they wake, they have a finished product! Walla- virtues of being 7 hours ahead.

Also, when you fly back to America (chas v'shalom!) you gain a day back that you lost- so it's a win-win situation!

Bad things about being 7 hours ahead:

Well, the early Shabbos times, for one. I can barely squeeze in a phone call to my relatives on the East Coast, and for those in the Midwest and the West Coast- well, almost nearly impossible.

I can't view the latest blog posts till sometime in the afternoon, when all the "lazy" (just kidding, everyone!) Americans wake up and start posting.

I view simchas on Onlysimchas a day late, since by the time the engagement is reported in the nighttime hours of the US, it is early morning for me....leaving me clueless about happenings until the middle of the day- shame.

I still think that the good far outweighs the bad. Anyone else have any thoughts as to what those magical 7 hours do for them?

So, enjoy the extra 7 hours folks, it's like an extra present for those lucky enough to live here in Israel!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sundays, Ahh the Fond Memories

Alright- there are some things I miss about America. Sundays, for one.

I mean- Fridays are the day off here in Israel- which is great for me. I can help my neighbors, cook for Shabbos, and generally putter around until Shabbos arrives in a fanfare of siren, sunset, and silence.

But, after Shabbos, after the Motzei Shabbos cleanup (why do all my dishes seem to triple by the end of Shabbos?) (and why do I have to have them all done by Sunday morning to feel as if I'm in control again of my household?) I have free time as well. This Shabbos started at 4:05, so it was over fairly early- making me finished by around 9, with a short nap as well!

Then, you wake up the next day- and POOF! Sunday. A work day. Back to square one- job, home, life, friends, teachers, kids...all simultaneously arrive on the doorstep, fresh and early Sunday morning. And, it continues like that till Friday comes around again.

Shabbos is the break here, I get it. There is no logical reason for Sunday off- it should be another school day or work day, as we get Fridays off early, and Shabbos off entirely.

So why do I miss it? Why do I miss the feeling of sleeping late, spending time with family, catching up on errands, and generally lazing around?

Am I a spoiled person who needs the time off? Isn't Shabbos supposed to be a day of rest and Kedusha- rest in the appropriate way, not laziness, like the classical American Sunday?

But, I feel like I need another day to catch up, another day to finish the errands that can't be done at night, or on a hectic Friday. I feel like it's too soon to jump into another workweek.

So what say you all? Sundays or no Sundays?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

To Buy, or Not To Buy

To preface this post, I would like to say that thank G-d, I have a good income, and I live in a neighborhood that is far from being 'poor', with most families able to support themselves.

Luxuries, wants, and needs are very different here than anywhere I've lived before. ProfK speaks all the time about what our wants and needs should be, and how to explain fiscal economics to even young children (phenomenal post- thanks!), and she's right. There are major differences between these two things, and how to achieve the balance, without running into debt, is what the American public as a whole is struggling with.

But in Israel- it seems there is a different standard. With so much coming from the country itself- health care, transportation, child support, schooling- there are less major expenses to pay here. So people live on a different standard- they get paid less as well, because there isn't such a high standard of living. And people are OK with that.

I'm not saying that there aren't people living in the red. I'm also not saying that there are people who are making excellent livings here as well (try dealing with real estate agents!) .

So the idea of luxuries, wants, and needs falls slightly lower than America.
A car- that's a want, or a luxury, not a need- since in most places there is adequate bus transportation. After school activities- usually a want, sometimes a need, since the children get out of school between 1-3.
Designer clothing- luxury. American clothing- luxury. And basics- toys for the kids, a 10 speed bike, even Kellogg's cornflakes instead of the Israeli brand- all could become wants, instead of needs. Cleaning lady- definitely a luxury.

I almost get ashamed when I walk into the grocery store and pick up a 14 shekel bottle of Shoko. How many families in my neighborhood would stare at it, and just walk past- because it's a want not a need? Plenty.

Saving money by folding down a stroller on the bus- 5 shekel. That 5 shekel could be used to buy 5 lebens for your 5 kids. So- paying it to the bus company- luxury.

And you know- the kids are happy here, despite having less. Their parents budget adequately, shower the kids with love and affection instead of toys or games, and all seems to run happily.