יום שישי, ספטמבר 02, 2011

Testing Testing

Just testig the new Blogger interface.  I have a number of post waiting to be written but that will wait for more free time or more wasted time.

יום שלישי, אוגוסט 09, 2011

Reading the Tisha B'Av news

Reading the daily news is a good thing to do. It goes well with a cup of coffee.

Reading the news most days is enough to remind us of the churban. You can read about corruption in government, the rabbi stabbed by the guy unsatisfied with the bracha he got, the men who won't give gitten and the schools forced to close due to lack of funds. And that's considered a good news day, a day with no really bad news.

Most days we read these articles, krechtz, and move on because we have to. We have to bring home a paycheck, pay our bills, walk the dog and celebrate our kids’ birthday.

Going into Tisha B'Av this year it occurred to me how grateful I am for the halachot that we don't greet each other. I found myself in a beit knesset with a number of people who I hadn't seen in a while and not having to socialize allowed me to focus on my thoughts and on the issues of the day. In the same way that everyone understands that Yom Kippur is a day where we focus on teshuva and our connection with God, the halachot that free us from socializing allow us to be those mourners who, if they so choose, can wrap themselves in their own thoughts and in the sorrow that they feel.

I am also grateful that I live in a society that my boss understood when I told him that I was taking Tuesday off. I know that no matter what he won't think of calling me to discuss some technical problem or client (even though he would if I were home sick for the day). I can take the day and read the newspaper and not have to move on because today there is nothing more important than those articles.

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יום שני, מאי 09, 2011

Yom Hazikaron - two wars we are winning

Today is Yom HaZikaron, where Israel remembers all of the brave men and women of the Israeli Defense Forces who gave their lives defending the people, land, and Torah of the great and divine Nation of Israel. The IDF is as highly professional, civilized, skilled, ethical, and humanitarian as an army comes, and they fight on the clearest of front lines between good and evil.

The above was written by my good friend Jason Pearlman. Throughout the day I've been hearing similar statements of remembrance and pride. What caught my eye about his comments was his closing note "the clearest of front lines between good and evil". In thinking about it, I'm not sure that is right. War never has "clear front lines between good and evil". That is a large part of the struggle. To kill and yet keep your humanity. To be compassionate while still being guarded.

I am bothered by people who in looking to make liberaler-than-thou statements go out of their way to find the photo shoot or the news story of the IDF soldier beating up an old man or keeping an ambulance from crossing a checkpoint. They are seeing the exceptions and they think that it is the rule.

In a similar fashion I am bothered by those who think that the wars we fight are cut and dry. That we are obviously right and the Arabs are obviously wrong. All Arabs are terrorists who will kill you if only given the chance and every action done for the cause of securing our claim to the land is a just one. Life doesn't work that way. We all know this from our own lives - why is war any different?

Part of what makes the IDF great is that they fight the fights anyway. Both fights. They fight for safety and survival and they fight to raise up banner of compassion and morality. In my service I have seen so many times and places where soldiers, officers, and army policy struggle with the dilemmas of how to keep people safe and maintain the highest moral standards. It doesn't always work and we don't win every battle. But fighting those fights, to my mind, shows the beauty of Am Yisrael and it's army.

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יום שני, מאי 03, 2010

Blogger and web design

I'm here to amuse myself. In case that was not clear.

Do I want to amuse myself by upgrading the template of this blog?

יום שלישי, אפריל 20, 2010

Yom Ha'atzmaut Emunah

Emunah that God would redeem us used to be easier.

If one were to ask a Jew in Hungary or Iran 300 years ago if they believe in God’s redemption they’d say yes. If you were to ask them how they will be redeemed they would say that God will redeem them and the details are unknown. There might be some eagles and wings involved.

The Zionists messed it all up for us. It is now a lot messier a topic and a harder question to answer. Today only the truly anti-Zionist Jew can give the answer his great-great-grandfather gave. For him, the world is in the same state and as such we wait for the redemption as we always have. The challenge is presented to those who view the events of 1948 as game-changing.

An Israeli family we know sent us an email invitation to their Yom Ha’atzmaut barbecue. In the body of the email they wrote that they were pleased to invite us and that dinner was called for 5pm. There was also an attached document which I assumed was a repeat of the email text in a nicer font along with a picture or two.

Opening the attached document opened my eyes both to them as individuals and showed me a different type of emunah.

Most unusually, the invitation opened with recognition of a challenge. They wrote that it is not so clear that we should be celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut anymore. Many people are unimpressed by the current situation in Israel. We've given it our best shot and the government we have is no better than the others out in the world and more corrupt than many. We have no clear plan to build God’s temple or to establish a Torah-based society. The great hopes of those who said Shechiyanu in 1948 have not been fulfilled and it doesn’t look like we are on a path to do so.

Despite our efforts to give the day spiritual significance and a religious nature, Yom Ha’atzmaut is little more than a day off from work, in a first-world, western society, where the celebrants happen to be Jews. Nu. Is this really a reason to have a religious holiday? This was the challenge posed by their invitation.

The response was a very honest and very religious one. Emunah – faith. The tradition passed down to us says that the exile of Edom is the last exile. If we see the events of 1948 as removing Jews from the exile of Edom by granting us self determination, then our faith in our tradition allows us to grant religious significance to those events. We will not return to wandering the earth, subject to the whims of other nations. This is the beginning of God’s redemption.

But as I wrote at the beginning of this letter, it is a different and perhaps more challenging type of emunah than that of eagles and wings. While in the past emunah in the redemption was in spite of the world beating us up, celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut today requires an emunah in redemption in spite of our own flaws.

I can understand those who disagree with the above position that 1948 was the end of the exile of Edom. In that case, today should be a lovely day for a picnic and they can continue to have faith that God will redeem us from exile at some point in the future. But for those who point to the current problems of the state of Israel and say that the Zionist enterprise has failed or that Yom Ha’atzmaut no longer has religious significance... Well, they may just be lacking a bit in their emunah.

So I called up my friend and thanked him for his letter and I bless us all with emunah to celebrate despite the flaws.

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יום שלישי, מרץ 02, 2010

Easy and cheap granola

I wanted easy and cheap granola. I looked at lots of different recipes. I wanted crunchy. I wanted chunky. I wanted something that would not be too sweet.

Over the past two weeks (in preparation for Purim) I've made over 12 batches of granola. I'd like to share with you my final recipe.
  • 1 C oats
  • 1 1/2 C instant oatmeal oats (the fine cut ones)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (you can use more if you'd like)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 egg white, well beaten
  • 1/3 C almonds, rough chopped
  • 1/4 C raisins
  1. Heat the oven to 350F. Cover a 9x13 pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl mix everything but the nuts and raisins. Spread it out on the parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the nuts and stir the mix with a spatula to incorporate the nuts. This is where you decide what size chunks you want. Turn the oven down to 325F and put the tray back in for 15 mins.
  4. Add the raisins, stir again and put the tray back in for 5 mins. Let it cool and then pour in to a container.
That's it. It is a super flexible recipe. The only measurement I am exact about is the salt. Other than that you can change just about anything. You can toast it longer if you want but just add the raisins later. Stir more or stir less. Add coconut. Do whatever. Have fun!

Total time 35mins
Update: It's now three days later and I made a batch of granola according to my own recipe. It works! It is crunchy and not too sweet and has flavor. Cool!


יום שישי, ינואר 22, 2010

Asking Moses, God, and Yeshivas about Halacha, Hashkafa, and IVF

So the internet provides alot of anonymity. And it's great! I can search for anything and everything.
Among the few remaining challenges are: how to learn to find the needle in the haystack and what do you do when your needle ain't there.
Today's linkdump will include a few interesting things that I've found recently. To you they may be old hat but I feel they are good contributions to the online Jewish community.

First off is a blog of a New York simcha musician. He gives wonderful insight to what goes on behind the bandstand at your wedding, the frustration of being a musician, and a bit of an insight into being a religious artist.

Next is an alternative to AskMoses.com (the Chabad run ask-a-rabbi site). The BeitEl Yeshiva has open halachic Q&A forums with a Modern Orthodox bent. There were a few other such sites I wanted to highlight but for some reason many were down.

A project that (I think) was just opened is a set of information about fertility treatment and halacha. The Puah Institute has created a site with articles about IUI and halacha, ovulation testing on Shabbat, and the highly identifiable "halachic infertility" (ovulation before mikvah). I think it's a good idea that someone is finally putting all of this information in one place. Warning: it does say that it is currently in beta-test.

I'll close out this post for now with one truly strange little yiddel. A fellow by the name Jonathan Rose has created a news service about himself. So he shares his thoughts, reviews and daily schedule with the world at the JRNS (Jonathan Rose News Service). It seems he even has other people writing articles about him for this news service. Yet again, the internet shows us the best, the worst, and the strangest.

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