Thursday, May 28, 2009

Honoring the Torah

Yesterday, I attended the most wonderful event. The children in my neighborhood have been talking about it for weeks, eagerly anticipating the fun and excitement that they would have. The parents were just as ebullient, reminiscing about other experiences, exclaiming on the fixer-upper work done to the shul, and remarking on how special this event was.

What happened? It's quite simple. My next door neighbor, unbeknownst to most, quietly worked on a Sefer Torah himself. And, he finished it, just in time for Shavuos. Yesterday was the Hachnosat Sefer Torah.

And what a beautiful event it was. The 7-9 year olds, despite the fire hazard, carried torches that were almost as tall as they were. There was a truck with lights and sirens, men selling popcorn and cotton candy, and for those deemed too young (well, really young this time) to hold a torch, they received glowing light sticks to wave proudly.

Everyone gathered, whether they were from the shul or not, and came to honor the Torah and bring it to its new home. First, they had the writing of the last few letters of the Torah, which I was privileged to witness from my next-door apartment. And then, the Torah came out, to dancing and clapping.

We walked around the neighborhood, music blaring, and escorted the Torah to the caravan shul where it would rest proudly. NBD slept through some of it, although she woke up at the end, in time to see the other Torah scrolls come out proudly to greet their new counterpart.

My neighbor is not in Kollel (and that's not a bad thing)- but his Chashivus HaTorah- respect of the Torah- drove him to spend his time in a labor of love, writing a beautiful Torah in honor of Shavuos. It was such a special event- everyone gathering together, to show their honor and love.
And how unique is it- that this is what the children were getting excited about- a gathering to honor the Torah. This is excitement for them.

And truthfully, there couldn't be anything more exciting in the world.
Chag Sameach!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Newsworthy Notes

Well, there have been lots of stuff and things (colloquial, I know) going on in the news lately, and frankly, although I've been reading it, I just haven't had time to post.

We have guests from America coming to us for the ENTIRE summer- and I've been in a bit of a cleaning frenzy. No, I don't think they'll notice if my bathrooms aren't shiny, but I feel like a clean home shows that a Kollel couple doesn't live in shmutz and dirt, but rather, also maintains the aesthetic appearance of their home.

It's like a Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d's name)- although I'm sure there are those who would say that it doesn't matter at all.

So, what's newsworthy nowadays? Let's see.

The Yeshiva World reported that the number 2 bus has 'unofficially' gone mehadrin, with women, by themselves, moving to the back, and men sitting in front. People commented that it isn't fair to force mehadrin status on a bus without it actually being mehadrin- but I feel that if people do it by themselves, then what's the problem?

I haven't taken the 2 lately, but as long as everyone is behaving 'menschlichdik'- that is, if a woman does sit in the front, she should have the right to, without being the comment of derogatory remarks or deeds- then, again, it shouldn't be a problem.

However, there is a committee working on getting all the mehadrin lines in Yerushalayim canceled. At least, according to the Yeshiva World article. I know that Mr. NMF won't step onto a crowded bus- packed beyond comparison when the doors can't even close properly, if he's going to get squashed between two women. He'll wait for the next one. So, it would be a shame if all the mehadrin lines were closed due to the inappropriate actions of some people who felt that tznius was more important than that 'other' commandment of shaming another Jew (or worse, hurting another Jew) in public.

Let's face it: people can comment quietly, or mention that it would be nice if they would move to the back (quietly) but they most certainly can not shame another Jew. It says in the Gemara (Sotah 10b, if I'm not mistaken) that one should rather jump into a fiery furnace than embarrass another Jew in public. Even for tznius- as proven by the story of Yehudah and Tamar. In that same Gemara, it then equates public embarrassment with murder, immoral actions, and idol worship- all sins that one should rather kill themselves than do.

Why can't women get on the front and men in the back? I have a reason (maybe there are more)- but women are the gender most often accompanied by a stroller, and strollers legally can only enter on the backs of buses for safety reasons. So therefore, women enter on through the back, and to make life easier, they sit in the back as well. Imagine getting on the bus with a heavy stroller, and then having to drag it all the way to the front!

Speaking of strollers, in baby related news- a great-great-great grandchild was born to R' Elyashiv. That child is also related to R' Chaim Kanievsky, and R' Aharon Leib Shteinman. Wow- that kid has yichus! And, such a zechus (privilege) for someone to live to see their great-great-great granchild!

In other child related news, there was a beautiful gathering at the Kotel this past Rosh Chodesh, for fathers and sons, all to say the special Tefilas HaShlah (usually said on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, but that came out on Shabbos), and for a Hachnasas Sefer Torah in memory of Rav Meir Shapiro zt'l- the father of the Daf Yomi movement.

I think that is so beautiful and phenomenal- that everyone would gather like that- parents to say a tefillah for the well being of their children- and for the Daf Yomi movement- it must have been a truly beautiful and heartwarming sight. For all those interested (I'm sure the Shlah wouldn't mind it being said on other times of the year) the Tefillas HaShlah is here.

I'm sure you've all read on SuperRaizy's blog about the new JAP doll- American Girl is putting out a Jewish doll, living in the tenements on the Lower East Side, with a grandmother called Bubbie. Sadly, she and her family are forced to work on Shabbos to make a living. But, at least the people at American girl got the situation right!

I never really heard about this, until I read the NY Times article. It seems that there was discrimination against Jewish doctors in the US during the time of WWII. They didn't want to hire or accept so many Jews as doctors, due to the war and anti-semitism. Yet, one doctor, Dr. Putnam, stood up, and hired the top Jewish neurologists of his day. And he was fired for it. Wow- what a story. He was a brave and courageous person.

Finally- Neve Yaakov residents are arguing over a shul...on wheels. Depressingly, the city has not given Neve Yaakov money for a permanent structure, nor allowed the construction of one, so therefore, the residents put a shul on wheels that would change places every three months.

Yet, there have been complaints about it, from both sides- those that don't want a chareid shul in their area, as Neve Yaakov is slowly becoming 'black'- and from those charedim who just want a permanent shul of their own. I hope that one day, disputes like this will be resolved, and all of Am Yisroel, the Jewish nation, will join together as one whole.

That's my news roundup for the week! Phew. Now, back to scrubbing my floors.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Just a Thought

Sometimes, I just look out the window and stare in amazement. Yup, that's Yerushalayim out there. Really? I'm here? It can't be. But it is.

The blue sky, like none other- it's like G-d went to Home Depot and mixed that exact shade of Jerusalem blue just for us. The white fluffy wisps of cloud that fade away so quickly.

I love walking the streets, seeing the sights- I love everything about this city. The people are open, friendly, blunt to a point. The melodies drift through the air- a street singer, a child learning Torah, a mother swaying with her child in the breeze.

I love this city.
I just needed to say that today. Thanks.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Motzei Shabbos Maaseh #4- Bamidbar

This week's parsha, Bamidbar, interestingly always comes out the Shabbos before Shavuos. I asked Mr. NMF this question at the table on Friday night, and by lunch the next day, he told me a very famous answer.

This week's parsha is also a parsha that ends in the middle of something. The Leviim are being counted- all three sons of Levi, Kehas, Gershom, and Merari, yet, it ends in the middle of the counting. Why does this happen?

The reason is, that we are approaching Kabalas HaTorah- the acceptance of the Torah, on Shavuos. Torah should be part of our daily life- every minute of our day should be asking ourselves, "What does G-d want from me now?" Torah can't just be in our lives just during the hours of Seder learning in Yeshiva- from 9-1, 3-7, and 9-11. We should always be in the middle of some part of the Torah- always 'holding'- being inside an issue, being in the middle of a parsha.

That's what Bamidbar demonstrates- how lucky we are, and how fortunate, that our lives revolve around the Torah ideals, and that Torah is always a part of our lives, which is never ending.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Married and Single

Those are titles used to describe girls, and it represents nothing more or less than their marriageble status. Lately, starting with SD's post on why she loves being single, and culminating with Chanie's post on stereotypes, there has been comments on the differences between the singles and their counterparts. AK hit it on the head: there are even differences in the way the two talk.

I talk to my single friends about everything and anything. How college/grad school is going, how's their work doing, how's the state of the universe, the president, the world, what Obama and Netanyahu are talking about lately, the newest ideas, styles, and fashions.

And, truthfully, I can talk to my married friends about the same things. I even talk to the single ones about dating, marriage, and all that sort of stuff as well. It's hasn't been so long since I left that parsha, so therefore, I still feel like I have some clue of what's going on.

However, there are some things my single friends just can't understand. Like breastfeeding. I mean, come on- how many of my single friends have done that one! Or labor and childbirth. Or the reason I'm up at 4 am. Or vaccinations, child care, dealing with weight loss, working from home, and so on. So Aidel is right. We do talk about different things with different people.

Those singles who say, "Those married people. All they do is talk about their home and their kids. Why can't they be more interesting and talk about other things?"

Marrieds don't only talk about those interesting things- we do. We just have other things on our minds, stuff that the singles just can't relate to. (And frankly, that stuff is interesting too. Anyone who's single know how to cure a clogged milk duct, or what's its scientific cause? Didn't think so.)We've been in the single life, so that means we can talk about that. But singles haven't been in the married life (unless they are divorced)- so they can't talk about those other topics.

Rather than focusing on how married people only talk about being married, why can't the singles realize that they only talk about (or deal with) issues relating to singlehood?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Frying an Egg

I could have fried an egg on the sidewalk yesterday, and today is no different. Who invented Chamsins (heat waves) anyway? Sheesh. It's so hot in my apartment, I actually have to leave it and seek out shade in order to be able to deal with the constant broiling. We don't have A/C, so until such time as we get it, we broil and use fans, alternately.

Things to do during a heat wave:
1.Fry an egg on a sidewalk
2. Stick your head in your freezer
3. Find shade, fast!
4. Sit in front of the fan all day.
5. Type on your computer (what else is there to do!)

I'm open to any and all suggestions. What are good things to do during a heat wave?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Havel Haveilim #217- The Discount Edition

HH #217 is up, with 2 posts by me- Final Wishes and Meduros and More- hope you enjoy!
Since I put up the HH widget- on the bottom left- I've been distinctly derelict in putting up the announcements. But I hope you all go and enjoy this week's!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Books Abound

Reading has been part of my life since I was a little child- unfortunately, that often means that I get sidetracked from basically everything when a good book is in my hands. The most often complaint I heard during childhood was asking me to pick up the books lying in various stages of pages around the house.

Here in Israel, I don't have access to public libraries- so I've started a new book regimen- the Jewish books out there. Now, before you start bashing them, stating how there are no good Jewish books out there these days, I will state that is exactly what I said at first. But, having no other alternative, and reading is as necessary to me as breathing, I started to take the plunge.

Truthfully, the Jewish book market is different than it once was. There are talented authors out there, new and interesting material (that doesn't constantly contain one of the three themes: marriage, kiruv, or children.), and there are more and more popping up each day. I've actually found some worthwhile reading, along with some lemons, but I would find that reading secular books as well.

Unfortunately, there are those lemons. And some of them, as Mr. NMF said recently, are just secular (and trashy) novels with Jewish names stuck in. I don't mind reading a good book, but if it is just badly written, a poor plot, and a trashy idea, then I'm not interested. And, there are those books out there. Yet, they are classified as 'Jewish' reading material.

That's sad. If the names were not Jewish ones, the book itself would probably not be read by religious Jews. Now, just because they added in a Jewishly themed plot and some Yankels and Goldas, the book is okay. Frankly, I'd rather read a good old classic novel, like Jane Austen or Alexandre Dumas over some of these so called Jewish books.

At least, with the secular books out there, I knew what I was reading- I knew which ones to pick, which ones to stay clear of, and which I would find the most interesting. Here, I'm a bit lost- because they are all categorized as 'Jewish' and therefore 'appropriate'- when in reality, there is no such correlation.

So, from now on, just as I choose which secular books to read, and which ones to avoid, I also have to do the same with the 'Jewish' books out there. And frankly, I'm saddened I have to do that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ramat Eshkol Video

Firstly, I don't live in Ramat Eshkol. And, I don't own a Bugaboo.
Secondly, no offense meant to any of my readers from Ramat Eshkol. (The video is kind of satirical though.)

I found this video hysterical- and now, on to the show!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Meduros and More

Last night, Mr. NMF and I took NBD 'medurah hopping'. For all those who are so inclined, medurah hopping means traveling from one bonfire to the next, to see 'all you can see, see, see." (It's also one of my favorite days, due to the fact that it's my birthday!)

We live in a wonderful neighborhood, and as such, there are meduros everywhere one can look. The yeshiva for the young boys in the neighborhood had a special medura just for the boys. Seeing all the young ones dancing in a circle while their tattys, abbas, and daddys danced in another one was a beautiful sight to behold. Here's a picture for your viewing pleasure.

I didn't see any violations of basic fire safety, which was good to see- and I saw plenty of kids roasting marshmallows, but only after the fire had died down to glowing embers.

Everywhere I turned, there was a small medurah, built with love by the kids of the neighborhood. They take such pride in it- it's stunning to see how much they care about it.

Rabbi Chaim Walder, author of the Kids Speak series, actually has a story about how rival meduros actually led to ostracizing one kid, until both decided to join their wood and forces for the sake of peace.

For kids, medurah building, and the national Israeli pastime- ajuim/gogo collecting, are serious business, not to be taken lightly.

For those who don't know, ajuim (as they are known in Yerushalayim)/gogos (as they are known in Bnai Brak) are the pits of apricots, used in a popular Israeli game of sharpshooting. They treat the ajuim like money- and as Chaim Walder says in one of his books, how a kid uses his gogos is representative of how he will use his money later in life. The same goes for medurah building.

These games and pastimes of kids are representative of how they will act in older years, with more complicated situations.

So, encourage your kids and neighbor children to build their meduros with pride, and to share them with all. After all- they are built in R' Shimon bar Yochai's honor- and he would want all those celebrating to come and go in peace.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Favorite Series Poll

Alright, the voters have spoken.Out of my three series that I've started since my blog began, the favorite is....

Which Series Do You Like Best?

the Only In Israel series!

Well, that would be one of my favorites too! I love seeing how this land is truly unique and special, down to the phenomenal people who live in it!
If anyone is interested, there is a series of books written on the subject by Tzivia Ehrlich-Klein, entitled with interesting titles like On Bus Stops, Bakers, and Beggars.They detail wonderful experiences had in the Holy Land.

I hope to continue to provide my own version!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Belated Mother's Day Post

"Do they have Mother's Day in Israel, " my grandmother inquired. I answered, "I'm not sure, seeing as it is a holiday promoted by the greeting card industry, but I'll celebrate it anyway if you'd like."

This was my first Mom's Day, and I did the dutiful daughter thing and called all the moms to wish them a happy day.

And then I watched my daughter play on the floor of the kitchen while I washed dishes- and I remarked to myself, "Life can't get better than this."

Happy Mom's Day to moms everywhere!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Erev Shabbos #17- Travel Help

I haven't owned a Shabbos calendar in three years, unfortunately. It seems that when I threw out my last one, I forgot to reorder, and as such, I haven't gotten one for three years consecutively. So, I had to find another way to figure out when candle lighting for Shabbos is, as well as shkiya (sunset).

Then I discovered a phenomenal website that has every time and halachic hour one could wish for. They have a phone service, a text service, and an omer service, all to help any person everywhere in the world. Just type in a zip code, or a city, and MyZmanim will find it for you.
Better yet, they now have every specific place in Israel- new on the bottom of the page!

The technological age helps us so much- this is just one wonderful example.

So, this Shabbos, candle lighting is at 6:48.
Gut Shabbos Everyone!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Final Wishes

I just recently was skimming news on Yeshiva World (I have a news addiction. I check the NYTimes, MSN, and Yeshiva World almost every day.) when I saw an interesting article that I'd like to share.

It seems that in this article, a grandfather left explicit instructions in his will that only those grandchildren who marry a Jewish person (either by birth or conversion) will inherit. If they do not, then they will be disinherited.

Well, this will is being contested in court by a grandchild who married out of the faith, and the court is leaning towards reversing the will. So, the Agudas Yisroel got involved- as a 'friend' of the court, stating that this is a major decision for almost all Jews, and they feel they should be heard as well. As last reported, they will have a say in the case.

Why is this so interesting? Well, first of all, intermarriage is an issue that affects all Jewish people. We don't care if someone is black, white, purple, gray or pink- we just want our children and grandchildren to marry someone Jewish. If they don't, their children could be not-Jewish- if born of a non-Jewish mother.

Parents throughout the generations have found ways to prevent their children from intermarrying. I recently read the book How To Prevent an Intermarriage by Rabbi Packouz, and in it he details the story of one man who went on a hunger strike until his daughter agreed not to intermarry. Compared to that, someone who just doesn't give money that he rightfully worked for, and that he has control over who he gives it to, seems rather tame.

People disinherit their children for all sorts of reasons. So, a religious reason seems a valid one to me, and I personally don't believe that a court could actually rule that the man's will is invalid. The Agudas Yisroel is getting involved because sometimes money will do what a passionate speech about the beauty of the Jewish nation can't. A will has been used as a tool to prevent intermarriage before, and as such, they want that to continue.

I think his final wishes should be respected, as he cared for his grandchildren and the future of the Jewish nation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Freezers Revisited

I recently wrote a post about freezers. Well, now I'd like to touch on a different aspect of freezers- what's inside mine at the moment.
Besides for the assorted meats, vegetables, cakes, and soups, my freezer right now is holding someone's order of meat from America. And do you know what?
That meat has been in my freezer since NBD was born.
People- let's talk. I wrote a post on this, and I'd like to announce it loud and clear.
If people have the courtesy to ship stuff for you over 6,000 miles (6,195 to be exact)- please, please pick it up.
For further reference- read this post on what is proper courtesy on taking items to and from countries.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

OII #10- Yet Another Driver

Somehow, Israeli taxi drivers are the best of the bunch. Seriously, I have more special stories involving taxi drivers than I think any other 'group' in Israel- and I usually take buses!

However, this week, although I took a bus to the Geulah neighborhood of Yerushalayim, I felt it practically impossible for me to take a bus home, as I was laden with packages, food, and NBD.
So, I started to snag a cab.

Now for those of you who know Geulah, and who know how to catch a Monit (taxi) there, you know it's a busy and dangerous business.
I usually head down Malchei Yisroel, until I reach a corner- because that way the taxi can pull over without blocking traffic, and without having everyone and his neighbor beep their horns insistently.

So, I did so, and a nice taxi pulled over. Now, again, usually, the driver doesn't have a chance to get out of the car, as the cars behind him would threaten to murder him if he blocked their right of way, so I prepared to fold up the stroller, put NBD in the back seat, and place the stroller in the trunk by myself.

Yet, the driver got out of the car and helped me do all of that, all with a smile on his face. When I told him I was ok- he said, "But I want to help!"

We got in the car, and were on our way. About 10 minutes into the drive, he started to munch on a bag of roasted peanuts. He turned to me and said, "Would you like some? They're so tasty!"
When I refused at first, he kept pressing them on me, so I took a few and made a bracha to please him. Yes, they were delicious, and I told him so. When he heard that, he offered me the whole rest of the bag! Now, I had just taken them to be polite, not to take his snack- so I refused. But he insisted on giving me the address of the store, so I could get some of these "Tayim"- tasty peanuts.

Last but not least, on the way back, he closed his window, remarking that he wanted to close it for the baby's sake. When I said that NBD had a hat on, and it was okay if he'd like to open it, he turned to me and said, "But you have to be extra careful for the baby's sake, even if she has a hat!"

Truly a wonderful experience. I love meeting people with such Simchas HaChayim- joie de vivre.
EDIT: A new poll is up to the right, feel free to vote!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Erev Shabbos #16- A Mad Dash

This week, I'm ready for Shabbos, before the siren.

No last minute dish washings, no forgetting the bathroom lights, no last minute cake baking (or spills).
I'm on time, this week (and I was last week as well). And you know what?
I like it!

It's a heady feeling, with my white tablecloth all ready to go, to know that I can light candles on time with all of Klal Yisroel. In Israel, the siren goes off at candle lighting time, which is 40 minutes till the actual coming in of Shabbos, at shkiya time.

In America, it's only 18 minutes till the show stopping minute, so I'm less likely not to light on time in America, since what would be the point- I only have 18 minutes extra.
But sometimes I find myself here thinking automatically- Oh, I have 40 minutes left, no problem, I can take a shower then.

So, this week, I'm not doing that. I'm going to be on time, and light licht right then and there.

Gut Shabbos, everyone!