Thursday, October 29, 2009

Water Company Form

Sheesh- you would think I would know about such things ahead of time.

It seems the Gichon, water company, is asking all Jerusalem residents to send in a form with the number of people in their household to update their records, and if not, then they get a large fine, and they get charged much more for every cube. Oh, and this has to be done by the end of October...which is in TWO DAYS!

It can be faxed in, emailed in, or mailed in.
Here's the form with all the information.

Now, if someone could help me in the comments- how do I fill in a PDF like this one?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Learning to Say No...or Yes

The title is rather ambivelant, don't you think?

But it actually makes sense to me. You see, this week, I'm bogged down with responsibilities, mostly chesed, that I've taken on. And I was wondering to myself whether or not I should have said no to some of them.

For example, I'm hosting a women's gathering in my house (read N'shei, for those who know these things) today. I have to drop off something else far away from my house today for someone who needs it. I do have a job, and I'm doing that too. Oh, and did I mention I'm hosting guests for Shabbos? And sleeping guests? And cooking a meal or two for a new mother? And I'm cooking for the annual Melava Malka?

Now. Each one of these projects is worthwhile in itself. And, I did say yes to everything, so I am going to do it all. And, I'm happy about doing it all, that I have the chance to do so much chesed. So, that's the yes factor in all of this.

The no factor is that I still have a house to run, a job to do, and a baby to take care of. And, I didn't have to take on everything this week specifically. I could have said no, and had a slightly easier and less draining week. I would have had more time for myself, possibly, and would be a bit more relaxed about everything. So that's the no side.

All chesed is giving of one's self. Giving of the innermost side of one's self, that one wants to help others and is showing it by using their self and their talents to help others. So who wouldn't want to do that? That's why most people say yes when asked for a chesed job.

But there are times when it's necessary to say no. Add a couple more jobs on my plate and I would have had to say no to a few 'extracurricular' activities. And, I would have felt bad about that, because I do want to say yes. But sometimes one has to say no.

It's all about finding a happy medium.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tznius and Perception

Whether it's due to reading 6 Diaries recently, or just having too many conversations with friends on the same topic, I've come to the conclusion that certain areas of tznius are about perception.

Sometimes, someone is on a different level of tznius than others. Sometimes the chumras or ideas that one person takes on are not necessarily fit for another one, at least at a certain time. I know this sounds rather vague, but it has large applications.

For example, when I first arrived in Israel, unmarried, I was accustomed to wearing knee-high black stockings. Then, arriving in some of the charedi and other religious sector areas, I saw the girls wearing nude tights. Not opaque, just skin color. When I saw that I stood out like a red (or in this case, black) thumb, I decided to take upon myself to wear nude tights. When I arrived back in the US, I continued to wear them, and I haven't worn my black stocking since.
Now. Would I say that wearing nude tights is the best thing to do halachically, and everyone should take on this idea? No. For me, was it a good idea? Yes.

This has nothing to do with the Israel versus America debate on whether black or nude should be the appropriate color for women's stockings. (For an in depth analysis on that, see R' Falk's book, Oz V'Hadar Levusha.)

It's all a matter of a person's perception. A matter of what they want out of the mitzva of tznius, and what they are willing to do for themselves, on their level.

Here's another example. When I moved to Israel as a married lady, I was accustomed to wearing my shaitel, as that is what most people do in America. However, when I moved here, I switched to wearing mostly bandannas, tichels, and scarves, because I saw my compatriots do the same. But as I wrote in the comments on that post, there are tznius issues, like covering the hair right around one's temples, that I wasn't sure about. So, I called my rebbitzen, and she basically told me to do what the community does (and to consult R' Falk, who says that hair on the temples doesn't have to be covered).

So, when people look and see one wearing shoes that have closed toe- don't look at the girl as a frummy, and for the girl who covers those toes, don't look at those around you and say they are kofrim (rejectors of the mitzvos). It's all a matter of perspective, and a private perspective at that. That's the meaning of tznius.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chesed Makes a Home

I was outside, playing with NBD this Shabbos, when two of my neighbors' daughters stopped by. They stopped to chat, play with the baby, and generally relax while watching all the women stroll down the street, waiting for their husbands to return from shul and for their children to finish playing in the park.

One of the girls shmoozing with me remarked that people keep stopping to inquire as to who I am and welcome me to the neighborhood (as I am new, and I have a very friendly and welcoming neighborhood.) She compared it to people coming to check out my house, which has, besides for new occupants (us), new furniture (since we are new here).

I, then said something to the effect of that in ten years, or even in a year from now, my furniture will no longer be new, and neither will I. But I took it one step further, not wanting these precious and aidel girls to get the wrong opinion of life. I said that it's not the furniture or walls that makes a home, it's what you do with it.

I turned to one of the girls, who's mother runs a chesed program delivering food to new mothers. "Your home is a home of chesed, because your entire family does chesed with it. That's what truly makes a home, not the furniture inside it."

The world is a world built on chesed, kindness. That's what truly builds a family, builds a home, not the stuff contained in it. Most families in my neighborhood espouse that philosophy. Their dining room chairs may have seen better days, but no one can compete with them when it comes to seating as many guests as their table will hold.

I hope to live up to what I said, and to be able to claim in the years to come that it doesn't matter how my furniture looks, but rather what I do with it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

OII #17- It's a Gemach, Not a Store

Well, I'm basically settled in, and I started to explore the neighborhood. But I had a secret confession to make: I used to live next door, literally, to a major cheap supermarket. So, I was determined to find a way to do my shopping in the same manner- convenient, close, and cheap.
Little did I know that those things are possibly oxymorons.

At first, I took the bus ride to the nearest large and cheap supermarket, thinking that with all the money I'll save, I can make up for the bus ride and delivery charges. This was true, but a major hassle.

Then, I found a smaller, not as cheap, but still large supermarket, a short bus ride away, that I would also have to pay for delivery. Not financially worthwhile, except on the days they have major sales.

I tried the store advertised in the local circular, but although they have sales, the other items are inflated to much higher prices.

The local market suited me fine, as it was a makolet with it all, but I heard rumors about the Arab men working there, and that just scared me off.
So where to shop?

Then I heard about the other local makolet. It was stocked with American products, albeit that the prices were sky high, but everyone, and I mean everyone, shopped there.
Why? What was the hype? I had to go and check it out.

The first odd thing that struck me was that the store owner was manning the checkout.
The second odd thing was that he said hello to me, and welcomed me to the neighborhood.
The third odd thing was that every one, all the workers, were Jewish, and not only that, but were extraordinarily helpful.
Even odder- they all spoke English.

So I shopped there. And continuing with the oddities, I was subjected to the help asking me if I needed any.

When I checked out, I asked for delivery, and how much it would cost. "Free," he remarks to me, asking where I live in the next breath.

There was a small notecard box next to him, and I immediately realized that this was a store where people shopped on credit. If they had money, or they didn't have money, everyone was able to buy food, and then pay it off when they needed to.

I remarked on my unusualy experience with the Rebbitzen of the neighborhood, and she informed me that the owner has a heart of gold. He can't stand to see anyone go hungry, and he allows all who need to pay over many months. "It's a 'gemach', not a store," she told me. He just keeps on giving, and those loyal customers who actually do pay are keeping his business afloat for those who can't.

Mi K'Amcha Yisroel- where a storekeeper uses his entire shop to perform mitzvos. May he continue to have success in his business.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Floor Aliyah...Going Up!

So I had a meeting with Nefesh B'Nefesh. And, well. It went well. So, aliyah is now more of a possibility than ever before. In fact, I probably am only pushing off the inevitable.
In fact, when I asked the NBN counselor why I shouldn't make aliyah, as to what the downside is- she responded: "There is no downside."

Aliyah comes with many benefits- free schooling, a grant just for living here, rent subsidies, no arnona payments for a year, and of course, the chance to never have to update my visas ever again.
Downside: Wait, I just said, there is no downside.

They don't even make you pay taxes on American income for the first ten years of living here. So, until I get all my finances sorted out in the US, I don't have to worry about taxes here.

So why do I feel so nervous?

I spoke with one of my former neighbors, who has lived here her entire married life (the one with seven kids who's oldest son was just bar mitzvah, and oldest daughter is in high school) and hasn't made aliyah. When I asked her why, she told me that her relatives back in America don't want her to, and since she gets help from them, she listens. But she wishes she could.

When I asked her if I should, her response was positive. She informed me that for some religious schools, if their girls want to get into a job track after high school, they have to make aliyah anyway. And, the longer I wait to make aliyah, the more benefits I lose out on.

For example, the 'sal klita'- 'absorbtion basket' of money that new olim get can only be given if the oleh hasn't spent more than 18 months in Israel in the last 3 years. As soon as they have done that- that whole grant disappears. The free schooling also has an age limit.

So why don't more people make aliyah? Why do we have so many American families, living here for so many years, without any one of them making aliyah?

I guess I can't speak for them. But it looks like I'll be joining the ranks of those 'going up' sometime soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blogged Down

Sorry for the lack of posting. I'm in the middle of dealing with some issues relating to school, and as such, I have no time.

Mazel Tov to Jewish Side on her engagement- it's like an epidemic in the Jblogosphere! First, Bas~Melech, Corner Point, Michelle....who's next?

Currently, I have no shidduchim to my track record- I've tried to set people up numerous times. As soon as I got engaged- my thoughts turned to my friends still stuck in the shidduchim rut. And, I ransacked Mr. NMF for any and all friends who might be available. After all, being a guy, he knew of more single guys than I did.

One interesting shidduch I redt was actually suggested by 2 more people, but alas, didn't work out.

I still think of shidduchim every once in a while, but the furthest I've ever gotten with a single shidduch is about five dates. But, it doesn't hurt to continue to try!

It's as hard as splitting the sea, the Gemara says. I used to believe that if a couple would just go out on a date- that deserves a kiddush or l'chaim, at the very least. People are very adverse to even go out with another- due to unusually rigorous checking, or adversity to even date at all.

But that's a topic for another post.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Erev Shabbos #21- Guest Shabbos

As you can probably see from the title, I'm having guests for Shabbos. Now, I'm not a newlywed, persay, in the manner that I've never had guests before. I'm used to having guests, no matter the week, and I usually cook for about 5-6, even if it is just me, Mr. NMF and NBD. (We eat the leftovers throughout the week if no one shows up unexpectedly.)

But, when I first got married, I heard about the interesting idea that a young couple should not have another young couple as guests. This was rather intriguing, so I probed more.

It seems that if a young couple hosts, they may end up comparing their spouses to the others at the table, which may be a lack of tznius. It also is slightly uncomfortable- if you are a newlywed, possibly your husband/wife has not had too many conversations with one of the other gender, and may feel slightly uncomfortable chatting freely.

I didn't feel it was such a big deal at first, but there are those who have this sensitivity. So, I didn't end up inviting couples so much in the beginning of my marriage.

Now, since I've been married for a while, and I have a little one, slowly but surely, those couples are coming for meals, including this Shabbos.

It's rather nice, actually- since you usually have a lot in common with people of your own age group and life stage. And, it makes for a very welcome and interesting Shabbos meal.

So, welcome, guests, and I'm so very glad you could make it for Shabbos.
Gut Shabbos everyone!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Old Fashioned Cooking

There was a wonderful article in the New York Times on good old home made cooking.

Remember when your grandmother would make you a bowl of meat and barley soup, the author asks- why don't we make these type of things today- she queries. And so she went home to make herself a hearty bowl, and learn a bit of frugality.

I laughed while reading this article. Why? Because that's what Jewish Moms have been doing throughout the ages- cooking with what they had, using every last drop, and making delicious, hearty, homemade meals for their growing families.

It's not something new to me to use every part of the chicken, or to make hearty soups or cake with coffee. I don't need twelve types of spices or a specific cut of meat to make soup. And, frankly, neither does any other type of Jewish Mom that I've met. The best meals are those turned out with a minimum of fuss, and less than 5 ingredients. Oh, and even better, if most of those 5 are made from scratch.

I've gone to houses to eat, and the best chicken always seems to be the one roasted in its own juices, with just paprika, or duck sauce, for seasoning. The best potato kugel always seems to contain just that- lots of potatoes, lovingly grated (or chopped in a food processor- I'm not getting into that debate on which is better. Suffice it to say that my mother made mashed potato kugel.)

So, who really needs the fancy cookbooks or the elegant recipes that take hours? All we really need is a nice Jewish Mom cooking, throwing her love and care into every bite.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back to Reality

Isru Chag is almost like a letdown. It sounds weird, but just getting back into the swing of things after so much preparation, action, and adventure, is a hard thing to do. It's like Garfield hating Mondays- they take so much more effort than the rest of the week, simply because they arrive after Sunday.

I escaped to Tzfas (Safed, for those who don't know) over the Chol HaMoed break, and then to Netanya for a barbeque with those cousins in the Shomron- see my earlier post. Just coming back to plain old (although it's never really plain and old) Yerushalayim was a letdown of sorts- home, no need to travel, no strange and interesting people, no hectic rushing and crazy landings. Especially after visiting Tzfas, city of air and mysticism, coming back to Yerushalayim's fire of home and Torah is something different.

I love visiting Tzfas- it's one of those places that has a claim on my heart. It's wild, imaginative, and something different- a breath of fresh air.

For those who don't know, there are four holy cities in Israel, each representing one of the four basic elements. Tiveria (Tiberias) is one, representing water, with the Kinneret lake at its center. Chevron (Hevron) is another, representing the earth in which the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried. Yerushalayim represents fire- the fire of the Temple, the fire of Torah, and the fiery people who live there (see the riots and protest that go on!) , and Tzfas represents air- a whiff of fresh air, something different. Or the fact that there must be something in the air there- that makes many a poor soul make their way there to be understood.

Anyway. Isru Chag is a culmination and a letdown. The succahs are being demolished in my front yard, the schach is being packed away, and the esrogim are being made into besamim. Here's a phenomenal powerpoint from Chananya Kramer- that shows exactly how to do that if you are interested:

Chananya Kramer- Esrog Besamim Project

All in all, another wonderful Chag has come to an end. Hoping next year's Succos is just as wonderful!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Shechiyanu Fruit

I never realized how special Shechiyanu was until I moved to Israel.

I had grown up in America, where food was something I took for granted. I would walk into a supermarket, or fruit and vegetable store, where every available amount of produce was sitting there, just waiting for me to pick up and enjoy. Foods in season, out of season, coming into season, and never in season were always in season at my local stores.

My mother has a friend who came to America from Russia. The first time she stepped foot into a a grocery store, she fainted. She had never seen so much food available in her entire life- as she lived in Russia, where rationing, and food shortages were common.

Of course, price was an issue in America, as those fruits that were out of season were more expensive, but usually, after shopping around, one could find them for decent prices also.

Then I moved to Israel. Israel is built on an agrarian society- where food is grown by the people in the country themselves. And not everything is available all the time. Seasonal fruits are really seasonal. There are times when I can't get celery, or parsnip. Pomegranates are a yearly treat, as are clementines. Sometimes I even can't get sweet potatoes.

So, there are those who hold that the Shechiyanu blessing, made on a 'new' fruit, is one made when the fruit has just come into season. In America, almost all fruits were available all the time, making finding an interesting fruit a necessity. Here, I feel blessed to make the blessing on a plain old clementine, as I truly haven't had them in a year- since the last season was last year.
Some use mangoes, or kiwi, pretty commonplace in other parts of the world.

But it makes me feel so blessed- since it helps me recognize Hashem's bounty, and enjoy His simple delights and creations- like a fruit that only shows up once a year.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chol HaMoed Blogaversary

Happy Blogaversary to me....actually, that was yesterday, but as yesterday was Shabbos and Succos, I wasn't about to post! So, welcome to the completion of one whole year of blogging! Hurray!

It's funny. I have guests staying with me from Succos, and they keep two days of Yom Tov. So, I get the pleasure of listening to hints about how dark it is in the room, or how cold the water is.

But, I enjoy it, because it means that I'm staying here in Israel for good- that I'm part of those for who Simchas Torah and Shmini Atzeres are the same day. And, plus, this year has the most non-Shabbos days of Chol HaMoed- since all Yom Tov comes out on Shabbos. We can plan trips throughout the week- I'm actually hoping to head to Tzfas- so if I'm not blogging, you'll know why.

I also received some excellent news lately- I got accepted to the school of my choice here in Israel, which means that I'm finally going to be able to pursue my degree, right here.

I know I've been neglecting posting- but so many wonderful things go on- it's like Hashem saying, "Enjoy life. See how wonderful it is. So much good is out there. Take advantage of it."

When you're at a computer, you can't enjoy the life outside the screen. So I'd rather shut down my laptop, and unplug it to enjoy the wonderful world that Hashem has out there for me.

It's like taking pictures- you have to enjoy the moment, not just take the pictures to remember the moment. After all, the moment only happens once, and if you're behind the lens instead of in the photo, you've missed the opportunity.

So, Chag Sameach everyone- and enjoy life to it's fullest!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Erev Shabbos #20- Succos Shabbos

Well, this year we don't take the four species as a commandment from the Torah, but rather, just from the Rabbis, as this Shabbos is also Succos, when the lulav and esrog are muktzeh. So, I'm busy cooking up a storm, as we have guests, sleeping guests, and a tiny but beautiful succah to fill.

This is my first succah built in my new apartment, which makes it all the more special a Shabbos. I can just envision it- white material covering my walls, flapping gently in the breeze, as my decorations sway and shimmer to the light of my Shabbos candles.
I can hardly wait.

Succos this year should be a total blast- as we have trips galore planned with relatives and friends who came in from America just to see us. Oh, and of course, what would Succos in Israel be without a trip to the Kotel for Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing given on holidays?!

I visited the Machene Yehuda shuk yesterday, to pick up last minute items, and everyone wished the other a Chag Sameach, happy holiday, along with the traditional Shabbat Shalom. It's a wonderful combination that only comes once in a special while- to combine the freshness and newness of Yom Tov with the gaity and relaxed festivities of the weekly Shabbos.

So a Gut Yom Tov and Gut Shabbos to all- wishing you a wonderful week!