Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Just Gotta DO Something

You know that feeling of righteous indignation- where you see something going on, and you feel so passionately about it- you just HAVE to do something?
Well, it seems to happen a lot here in Israel.

All those signs put up every day and night on the walls of Geulah- telling the world about people's practices that have gone wrong, or the injustices of the world- those are people feeling passionately about an issue and doing something about it, even if that doing something is just as simple as hanging up a sign that most people ignore and few read.

The flyers that got dropped from the sky into my mirpeset about how a grocery store is being Mechallel Shabbos (violating the Sabbath laws), not to mention that it has expensive products as well, well- the person who did it felt that he needed to DO something, not just watch it happen.
(I don't know who these people are- it could very well be that they are biased, like owners of a rival company or something.)

The bag hanging on my door yesterday described how we in Yerushalayim are in desperate need of seperate seating buses for all the bus lines. Whoever put that one on my door felt it was a desperate issue and something had to be done.

I don't know if this is Kanaius- zealousy, in its best form, or these people should tone it down a bit...but either way, these people noticed what they felt was a problem, and tried in their own way to do something about it.

I don't necessarily agree with the idea of involving the entire city on issues such as these, or littering the streets with the flyers, and personally, I don't really feel too zealous on any of these particular issues being discussed.
But it does show one good thing. People want to DO something, not just sit around apathetically.

Recently, I noticed an issue that bothered me in my community, and it's something that could be fixed for the good of all concerned if someone became an activist. I'm a newcomer here, so I feel that it probably isn't my job to get involved. But, maybe if I do get involved, something might get done, and accomplished for the good of the entire community at large.
What do you think? Get involved, or mind my own business?

Monday, April 27, 2009

And the Pile Grows...

It's the wonderful time of year again- spring is here, and with that comes the Omer, and every little Israeli boy's favorite- the medura building. Bonfire building is an art here, something that starts as soon as Pesach is over, and doesn't finish till the last bonfire burns to ash.
(Yes- there is no avoiding it. We let small boys play with matches, lighter fluid, wood, and fire. Try stopping it- I dare you. The only thing we can do is make sure an adult supervises.)
There actually is a street in Yerushalayim that has to get permission from the city to build their bonfire- as it gets so big that it melts the street, and they have to pay to reconcrete it!

Our courtyard is littered with tens of piles of wood: trees, branches, 2x4's, and other assorted wood products. One of my neighbors has been roped into storing hundreds of cardboard boxes in her husband's office- she is one brave lady!

Yet, some dislike the medura craziness. Several neighbors complained that the trees were taking over the courtyard, and that the boys had to get rid of them. That's why my neighbor took pity on her poor sons and their friends, and allowed them to store these precious items (read boxes taking up tons of room) in her home.

One enterprising young man even labeled his gigantic tree branch, so that whoever dared to throw it out would know that it is "Prati"- someone's personal belonging, and use the phone number written on it to return it.

I personally don't think it is fair to make the cute little ones clean up and stop them from amassing more wood. It's one of those things that you can't really stop, and if you try to- it won't help all that much. It's just one of those things you have to take in stride, if you live in Israel.

Hey, I even wouldn't mind helping to collect!
It's a fun time here in Israel- and we just have to go with the flow.
Happy collecting, everyone!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Motzei Shabbos Maaseh #3- Tazria-Metzorah

Living in Israel, we don't even realize what we speak. I mean, we speak Ivrit, (Hebrew) but that language truly comes from the language of the Torah- Lashon HaKodesh.

Why is Lashon HaKodesh called Lashon HaKodesh- the holy language? Is there something so unique about it that it deserves to be called holy? (Besides for the fact that the Torah is written in it, and so therefore it is holy- it should be holy by itself in order to have the Torah written in it.)

The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (Guide to the Perplexed) gives an answer to it, that since Lashon HaKodesh has no bad language- no curses or swear words, therefore, it is called holy. This seems interesting- why does that give it the designation of holiness? Just because it doesn't have bad language?

In this week's parsha, it discusses Tzaaras, leprosy- which is a punishment for speaking Lashon Hara- negative facts about another person. It is very interesting, as it is a unique punishement for that sin.

R' Yerucham Levovitz, former Mashgiach of Mir, states some interesting facts about Tzaaras. Tzaaras is given not as a punishment for speaking negatively about another person, but it is a natural outgrowth of the person's negativity. As if the person himself has a flaw, and that flaw causes the natural outspurt of a physical problem. It's as if the flaw manifests itself on the outward part of a person.

A non kosher animal, known as a Behaimah Temaiah (impure animal), has signs of impurity- that it doesn't have split hooves, or chew it's cud. However, we might think that that is what makes it impure, unfit for Jewish people to eat. The answer is not that- but rather, that because these animals are not-kosher, they innately have this certain impurity, and therefore, it manifests itself on their outward apperance.

The same goes for holiness- if something is innately holy- it will express itself outwardly. There seems to be an outpouring of holiness from something, which expresses itself in the physical world.

That is why Lashon HaKodesh is holy. Because it itself is holy- it's "Kadosh Hu- it is holy"- as the Rambam says, so therefore, it has no bad language. It expresses the holiness in itself, and that is why the world was created and the Torah was written with Lashon HaKodesh.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Erev Shabbos #15- Spilt Milk

There's no use crying over spilt milk, the old adage says.
So too with other things in life, spilt cake batter (as happened to me this Erev Shabbos), lost time, and so on. There are some things that just fly by, or just happen- and we have to learn to roll with the punches.

On the early Shabbosim, sometimes it's really hard for me to get ready. I'm all in a tizzy, trying to figure out what to do next, what to do first, and how to cope with it all. And yes, sometimes I get upset, or frazzled, hassled, and nervous.

But I have to step back and realize: it's an Erev Shabbos. Do I really want to go into the holiest day of the week like that? It's only one day, which will set the tone for my week.
So therefore, although I may have made mistakes, and I do spill things occasionally, it's not worth getting upset about.

Rather, I should go into Shabbos with a calm demeanor, whether or not I have dessert.

So a Gut Shabbos everyone- and may this day be a calm and relaxing one for you!

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Story That Touches The Heart

Sometimes, you just read about something or someone- and it hits you, right there. It jars a window to your soul, opening your eyes to something you never felt before. I felt that today, reading this article about Dr. Rahamim Melamed-Cohen at

If you don't know who Dr. Melamed- Cohen is, well, he is one of the most inspiring people that I've ever read about. Dr. Melamed-Cohen was diagnosed with ALS- commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, when he was 57 years old. The doctors gave him 5 years to live. They told him that the disease would eventually claim all of his body, starting with paralysing his limbs, then making him unable to eat, and unable to breathe. Dr. Melamed-Cohen, a famous educator by trade, did not give in to the prediction.

He lives today, 12 years later, and is terminally ill, fed by a feeding tube, on a respirator, and communicates only via his eye movements. He has a special computer that interprets his eye movements into typed communication, much like Stephen Hawking, the famous mathemetician and physicist. However, he says that these years "are the most beautiful and happiest years of my life." He publishes books, teaches his students, writes his blog, creates artwork, spends time with his family and friends. His students visit him almost every day of the week. He still administers a Yeshiva that his father began, writes music, and he gives to everyone he meets.

He may not be able to move- but his open heart and mind are trying to give to everyone he meets. He is encouraging to others with problems, wishing them to have Simcha- happiness. He says, "DON'T DESPAIR, BE OPTIMISTIC, AND WORK ON SIMCHAH [JOY] IN YOUR HEART. NO MATTER WHAT YOU'RE LACKING, THINK OF WHAT'S POSSIBLE TO DO IN YOUR PRESENT SITUATION."

He debated with a famous doctor, Dr. Noam Reches, head of Israel's Medical Ethics Committee, who as the article states:

A searing segment of the film, "Heroes Against Their Will," shows Dr. Melamed-Cohen debating Dr. Noam Reches, the chairman of the Israel Medical Ethics Committee and a leading proponent of euthanasia, who himself has "pulled the plug" on request. Dr. Reches looks at the wheelchair-bound Dr. Melamed-Cohen, with the respirator tube connected to the tracheotomy in his neck, and says, "You can't feed yourself. You can't hug the people you love... If I were in your position, I'd want out."
Dr. Melamed-Cohen responds, "These are the most beautiful and happiest years of my life."
"Some other ALS patients when they were fully conscious asked to end their lives," Dr. Reches continues. "They didn't want to reach your situation of complete dependence on others."
Dr. Melamed-Cohen gazes at Dr. Reches and declares, "Believe me, my life is no less interesting than yours."

I admire you, Dr. Melamed-Cohen. Thank you for sharing your story.
Dr. Melamed-Cohen invites any interested reader of Sara Yoheved Rigler's article
to correspond with him at his email address:
Other articles on Dr. Melamed-Cohen: Rabbi Rutman
Jerusalem Post, Yad Sarah, and Dr. Melamed's Blog

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chinuch Atzmai Part Two

I don't know how many of my readers actually read this post when I put it up a while back: The Chinuch Atzmai Situation, but according to the news recently, the classes will no longer be separate after Pesach. It seems that the situation went to a Bais Din, chosen by R' Nosson Tzvi Finkel, head of the Mir, and they made the decision to join the classes. It also seems that the 'Americans' who were upset by this removed funding from the school as well.

Over Pesach though, I had the opportunity to discuss with someone who has been in that neighborhood for 15 years. She mentioned to me several points. The actions and behaviors of some of the 'Americans' living in the community were a major problem. These 'Americans' were only sojourning in Israel, as a sort of fad, and as such, they felt they could bring America into Israel. So, these 'Americans' became rather cliquish, and as such, the Israelis felt that they had no wish to integrate into society, and thus the situation developed.

Problem was, they didn't ask them whether they would like a separate class, and they lumped all 'Americans' into one category- if you had a US passport, you were in the second class, whether you or your children were a bad influence or not. And, punishing the children for the parents' problem is not a solution.

But the other side was approached as well. Sometimes by an American living here for a while, they change via osmosis. One who might be extremely materialistic now may not be in 5 years. So giving these people the opportunity to change might be useful. 15 years ago, there were only a handful of 'Americans'- and now there are much more. Yet, they still might need the room to change.

I don't know how many of my readers will understand what I'm talking about in this. There is such a concept of growing in spirituality while living in Yerushalayim, in Israel. Those who have lived here long enough, raised children here- are more sensitive to that, and more protective of any influences that may change the delicate balance here.

How does one deal with those who are only sojourning in the land- not really interested in this sort of life, and are planning on moving back to the US soon? And, the repercussions and stereotypes reflect badly on those Americans, like myself, who want to integrate and remain in society. In the end- these people are here to stay, and the decision reflects as such.

I admire those who can maintain a high level of spirituality while living in Israel, but I, as all people who didn't grow up with it, need to merge slowly, and hope to be given the chance to change and grow. I hope one day to look back on the other side and say that I successfully integrated here, but there will be many hurdles, like this one, to overcome before that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oh, and...

Before I forget- Erachet has an awesome parody of Dr. Seuss, entitled Pharoah the Mitzri!

A Bunch of Firsts

Well, my first Pesach and Sedarim made is now half over- hurrah!

I succeeded in getting the house clean, the two Seders (for our American guests) created, and all by the time of burning Chametz.

Birkas HaChama was another phenomenal first- standing out there with all the other women, looking at the sun in a new way- that only happens once in 28 years. It was phenomenal, inspirational, and a new recognition of Hashem- that even the largest luminary serves Him. My whole neighborhood gathered together- B'Rov Am, Hadras Melech- when more people come, it's more glory for the King of Kings.

This was the first year that I personally only kept one day of Yom Tov- quite fun to stand there taking pictures of a Seder that I didn't have to participate in...and I realized that I'll never have a 3-day Yom Tov again, except on Rosh Hashana, every once in a while.

It was also NBD's first Pesach- and even though she only made it past the first kos (cup), she still enjoyed it!

I'll be on a slight vacation till after Pesach (unless something really interesting comes up)- so Chag Kasher V'Sameach!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Overdoing It Much?

When I was younger, my mother cooked for my family. She made wholesome, delicious meals, always used her chicken leftovers in three different ways, and had a bit of Shabbos soup left over for a Sunday night meal. Freezer space was used for vegetables, and maybe a bit of frozen soup or challah. Everything was made fresh, for that day, to be used that day.

When I moved to Israel, I found out that most people here subscribe to the same theory. Fresh is better, tastes better, and looks better. Freezers are used, but infrequently. Vegetables grace the table at every meal, and it looks all the better for it. Have you ever tasted a fresh salad made with Israeli vegetables? I'm telling you there is nothing like it. Nothing.

But, I came here with my American nonsense. Freezers are meant to be used, to the housewife's advantage. So I don't cook by singles and eat it fresh. I cook by quadruples, or quintuples for that matter. Freeze, pull out, serve. I'm telling you- there's enough soup and kugels in my freezer to last my family (with guests) for weeks.

Overdoing it? Nah. There is no such thing as having too full a freezer. I mean- come on! It's a freezer, a luxury not had in olden times. So, we don't have to cook like we did in the olden times as well! (Except for Pesach- since my freezer is full of chametz, we're selling it, and I have to make do with a tiny freezer and my fridge. Oh, and my good neighbor's freezer shelf space.)

So hurrah for the freezer- use it well.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

OII #9- It's a War Zone- Really!

I decided to save some money this Pesach and join a co-op for vegetables. You had to order insane amounts of produce- like 9 kilo of potatoes, carrots, and onions, along with 5-6 kilo of other items- but it saved hundreds of shekels, at least in my calculations.

And I wasn't the only one- everyone I knew was ordering from them, telling me how easy it would be to head down to the local Bais Yaakov parking lot and just pick them up.
So, I blissfully sent in my money and waited to pick it up.

I offered to go myself, but Mr. NMF insisted on helping me out, and he went down. Little did I know what was in store.

He came back an hour and a half later- looking like he had just walked out of a war zone. Kippah askew, he told me, "That place is a madhouse. And, I didn't finish!"

So, I decided to go down to see for myself.
Hundreds of people, all crammed together, toting huge bags and sacks of vegetables. Trying to balance their chassa (romaine lettuce) and their green onions, on top of giant boxes of bananas, people were rushing back and forth, with baby carriages, shopping carts- you name it, they had it, to carry the produce.

I noticed two things.
Firstly- wow.
Mr. NMF has a rebbe who was here right after the 6 Day War. A friend of the rebbe's was sick, and the doctor prescribed eating apples. In order to get apples, they had to search, and finally found a rich Arab who was willing to sell them some apples from his one apple tree for a hefty price.
Now- we have abundance of produce- so much fruit and vegetables, that we can't even carry it home. Israel has come a long way since the days of no apples.

Secondly, a man was rushing back carrying his bag of apples, and it developed a hole.
Suddenly, everyone stopped, including me. We all dropped whatever we were carrying, and raced after the apples that were slowly bouncing down the hill, and retrieved them all. The man thanked us all profusely, and remarked- Mi K'Amcha Yisroel- who is like Your nation, Israel!

That's how everyone behaved. Despite the fact that it was a tumult, almost like a war zone, when it came down to it, everyone behaved like decent human beings, like a mentch.

So- if they say that Israel is a war zone- well, it could happen, but only during vegetable pick-up before Pesach.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Erev Shabbos #14- Ahh....

Well, thank G-d I'm exactly where I should be in Pesach cleaning. Which is a good thing.
Yesterday, I had an interesting experience that I will post about soon...

Now, is peace and preparing for Shabbos. It's like that breath of fresh air after a long day, or the cleansing feeling after a rainstorm. My apartment may smell of bleach, but that lemony scent is what makes it all the more relaxing. I can go into Shabbos not worried or frazzled, but calm and content.

Ever noticed how no matter what time Shabbos is at, there is always a rush to get ready on time? It's as if our brains calculate exactly how much time is needed depending on which time Shabbos starts at! Well, this Shabbos I'm determined not to rush or be impatient. And, I'll breath a sigh of contentment as I usher in the Shabbos Queen.

So Gut Shabbos everyone!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

OII #8- Patience and Products

I'll admit it: I was scared stiff. Yes, that would be me, the shy, nervous trembling person standing in the corner.
Why, you may ask?

Well, I was about to embark on a big step: Ordering my Pesach butcher order.

Don't laugh, it's not a funny business. When I moved here to E"Y, I knew the basics. Salamon- Salmon. A+B- Gefilte fish. Of- Chicken. And, so on.

Succos- I didn't order anything special or out of the ordinary. And, slowly I learnt more. I learnt there was Nile perch, sole, tuna, pike, carp, and silver carp. I learnt that Rolada meant a roast, and that I could get a bag full of Atzamot- bones for soup.

But, Pesach is the large order, the one that I can't afford (literally) to get wrong. And, I panicked. I mean, how in heaven's name could I figure out the Hebrew words for half the stuff I know how to cook? And then make sure it's Pesachdik? That was a challenge.

I came prepared. I marched in, and told them (my butcher only speaks Hebrew) in my best Hebrew the basics of my order. And then I got stuck.

I blanked out. I wanted ground pike and whitefish to make homemade gefilte fish, but I couldn't seem to get anyone to understand my wording.

Patiently, my butcher took time out from his busy schedule to try to help me decipher my own words. Slowly, we went through each fish, every single name, and he explained to me which ones were for which. And slowly, I figured out that pike is Booriy, and that there is no whitefish in Israel, but I could substitute silver carp- Kasif.
Meanwhile, he had customers waiting, but he took the time to patiently help me, the English speaker, without making fun of me.

For my meat order- I had to do more research. You see, in Israel, it's not done by name- like London broil, or sirloin, or ribeye steak. It's done by number- 1, 2, 3...with each representing a different cut.
So, I went home and turned on my trusty laptop, and lo' and behold- I found an amazing website- IsraelEasy, which showed me I'm not the only Olah to have this problem. Here's the links to the meats and fish of Israel- if it is of use to anyone.

And, my butcher was patient with me yet again, and helped me decipher my meat order as well, in slow Hebrew and broken English.

Thank G-d for kind Israelis. Otherwise, how would I eat!