Monday, January 31, 2005

Israel Advocacy Training

I've been working with people from Hasbara, Hagshama, and Brooklyn Hillel to pull this together. I think it'll be really great and it's free and open for registration to all CUNY students.
So go ahead and register now!

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Brownsville Girl, Show Me All Around the World

I regret to inform you of the passing on of the greatest pet I ever had:

Brownsville Girl
June 2003-January 2005

Posted by Hello
Between Rocky, Bullwinkle, Goofy, Blueberry, Strawberry, Shmubbles, Brownsville, Hurricane, Biscuit, and Rainyday Woman No. 12 (all the fish I ever had under my care), I have to admit that Brownsville was, without a doubt, my favorite--even though he bit me twice (Beta fish respond to people, so when I would feed him, I’d wiggle my finger at the top of the bowl and he’d come up to me and then follow my finger to where the food was but Beta fish can also jump pretty darn high…).
The presumed cause of death is old age.

The first time I picked Brownsville up, well, his bowl anyway, was at the pet store, when I had gone to replace my last dead goldfish. I lifted his bowl and as I was thinking about how beautiful his blue, shimmering scales were, I noticed a spot of brown on top of his head. The next thought to pop into my mind did so in Dylan’s voice and sounded something like this, “Brownsville girl with your Brownsville curls, teeth like pearls shining like the moon above. Brownsville girl, show me all around the world, Brownsville girl, you're my honey love.”
Well, the name stuck.

Goodbye, Brownsville. I’ll miss you.

Please note: this is really posted by BrownsvilleGirl (not the fish, the me--admin of this blog) but I had to post it under DB because he was kind enough to download Hello which I have on my laptop that my sister took away for two days.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Whose Boots, They're Your Boots, Not My Boots...Whose Boots?

I was walking in the city yesterday and as a girl who frequently walks the streets of Manhattan, I am accustomed to being checked out by guys who pass me. I'm also accustomed to guys making remarks on how I look. I even have the glare down right because it always makes me so upset (and argue all you want that when men say, "have a good morning, beautiful," they are just being nice, but I can guarantee you that they aren't saying that to men). But yesterday, I got a compliment I've never heard before.
While walking down 42nd street on my way to a meeting in the snowy, slushy, and very dirty city, some guy checked me out and said, "nice boots."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tu b'Shvat Hegiah Chag ha'Ilanot

A lesson about trees:

Devarim 20:19-20: “When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to seize it, do not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them, for from it you will eat, and you shall not cut it down; is the tree of the field a man that it should enter the siege before you? Only a tree that you know is not a food tree, it you may destroy and cut down, and build a bulwark against the city that makes war with you, until it is conquered.”

I love this law. It’s so easy, when you’re slaughtering people left and right, to forget how to be human. Not that I know from personal experience--but war, it seems, dehumanizes some people and hyper-sensitizes others. This little bit about being careful not to destroy trees that can give you fruit is unbelievable. At least I think so.

Further Reading: Hasidic Gentile wrote something really nice for Tu B'Shvat...I recommend you check it out.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ranting and Confusion

I stayed at Brownsvillegirl’s house for Shabbat this weekend. It was Shabbat Shira. Her mom makes the most amazing pie you’ve ever tasted. Don’t tell her, but I’m smuggling the remainder of the dessert home in my messenger bag. After living with two roommates for this entire year, it was nice to be at a family Shabbat and not worry about whether or not I turned off the refrigerator light.
After taking a sabbatical over the past few months, I decided to go to shul on Shabbos morning. Coming from a Conservative family, growing up I always went to egalitarian (men/women mixed and equal) shuls on Shabbat. Even though I don’t spend much time in church (although I have to admit I’ve been inside churches out of mere curiosity at how people can sit in front of a giant picture of a bloody dying man on a cross and still be ok), I always felt like the conservative shuls around my area were frighteningly similar to Christian houses of worship. Maybe it was the oversized sanctuaries, gaudy stained glass, wooden benches, and a giant cross at the center of the Aron Kodesh…ok that one’s not true.
So I decided to do the Orthodox thing this weekend. I arrived at the shul and proceeded to the balcony so I could check out the mechitza. It was not as offensive as many I’ve seen, but the problem is that no matter what, I find any mechitza to be disturbing. The question repeatedly plagues my mind, “Why should women be pushed to the back, made to sit behind a curtain or a glass wall, and shut out of public t’fila completely?” It’s degrading.
I also see the flipside to this. Women need privacy to daven. They’re not meant to participate in public t’fila because they could be viewed as sexual objects and they wouldn’t want to compromise tz’niut. And then there’s a whole bunch of halacha that just makes the situation incredibly messy. The truth is, I have no problem with the idea of separation of the sexes. I actually think it’s a good idea. But why not have entirely equal, separate services, one for men and one for women. I know women are supposed to be on a spiritually higher plane than men, but I feel like that’s just a rationalization for the fact that in many cases, women are far less active in public t’fila than the men of their communities.
While it’s not such a problem for many women, it’s an issue that confuses me daily. Conservative Judaism has egalitarianism and openness while Orthodoxy has commitment and family unity. Do I have to choose one or the other; and if so, which one do I choose? Whatever. For now I’m just a Jew…ess.

Punks of Zion Redux

Check out the new logo I put together for punks...
If you guys like it, I think we should replace the old one with this one.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Parshat Beshalach

This Shabbos is known as Shabbat Shirah because we read Parshat Beshalach--the Torah parsha that includes Shirat haYam (the song we sang after the splitting of the Red Sea). Shirat HaYam starts out with “Az yashir Moshe” and is read everyday as part of the morning prayer, Shacharit.

In this week’s Parsha, Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael that HaShem would give them a double portion of ma’an on Fridays so that they wouldn’t have to do labor intensive work gathering the ma’an on Shabbat. The midrash says that Datan and Aviram, two troublemakers (!), took extra ma’an on Friday and scattered it around on Shabbat so that when the Jews would leave their tents, they would see that ma’an had fallen on Shabbat. During the night, before the Jews woke, the birds pecked away at the ma’an and in the morning of Shabbat there was nothing left.
To show our appreciation to the birds, it is customary to scatter breadcrumbs outdoors for them.

Just as a note: This week we celebrate Tu B'Shvat, "Rosh HaShana" for the trees. Between understanding that all in nature deserves respect (the birds--this shabbat) and appreciation (the trees), we can hopefully develop a clearer understanding that all things big, small, human, non-human, male, female, Jewish, or not Jewish are worthy of dignity and respect.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

$$ - Od Yeshama V'Oray Yehuda - $$

the Gittels and Berels of Baltimores Jewish community seem to have a vexxing problem. Apparently there is a major singles epidemic in this lovely southern city. Is it the bad baseball team? the water in Baltimore Harbor? Or too much Gemara cominng out of Ner Yisrael? What ever the cause of this dramatic trouble for the Baltimore Yingles and Yiddles, Star-K Kashurus is offering a rather Jewish incentive for match makers. Ever make a match? I know Browngirl has, well she and many others can now go from ameteur to professional shidduch makers thanks to your friendly Baltimore-based Hashgacha. The only question remains is, what if the couple is too frum for Star-K? Can their matchmakers keep the gelt? If you still dont get it just read this.

Cash rewards for shidduch
By Uriel Heilman

In a bid to tackle an increasingly vexing problem in the Orthodox community, a kosher certification agency is using an old-fashioned inducement to address the problem of unmarried women in the community: cash rewards.

It's a throwback to an old Jewish tradition, but with a new twist: Instead of fathers demanding dowries of their daughters' would-be suitors, the Star-K kosher agency is offering $2,000 to anybody who can get a nice Jewish boy to marry a nice Jewish girl from the agency's hometown of Baltimore.

The catch: The couple must be committed to observing kashrut, Shabbat and the Jewish laws of family purity (oy vey)...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Very Interesting Indeed

I've been thinking alot lately, almost too much, about the situation at school with the sign in which the Palestinian Club compares Jews and Nazis. All too often we see the ignorant righteous ones and not so righteous and ignorant of the world comparing Israel to the Nazis. Wether or not comparing Zionism to Nazism is fair, is a debate in of itself. However we spend too little time stressing the links between Palestinian/Arab Nationalism and Nazism. I found this article on which I think every person should read. Its a little old (published in 03'), but that shouldn't be a problem. It should also be worth mentioning that Haj Amin al-Husseini WAS Palestinian Nationalism from around the 1930's till 1948. Husseini was the equivalent of Arafat in his days to sum it up.

The Nazi Origins of Modern Arab Terror
Chuck Morse - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

The agenda and political faith of Saddam Hussein, Yasir Arafat, Osama bin Laden, Hamas and the rest of the international Islamic terrorists can be traced back to World War II and two key figures, Adolf Hitler and Amin al-Husseini, known as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

Much has been written about the Mufti, all well-documented, including chapters by such prominent authors as Connor Cruise O’Brien, former Irish ambassador to the U.N. Mountains of documented evidence is out there and available to anyone who cares to look.

The Nuremberg and Eichmann trials revealed that Nazi official Adolf Eichmann met with the British-appointed Mufti in Palestine in 1937. Following this meeting, the Mufti would become essentially an agent of Nazi Germany charged with the funding and organizing of pro-Nazi organizations in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Iraq.

In 1941, along with Rashid Ali and Khairallah Tulfah, Saddam Hussein’s uncle, guardian and later father-in-law, the Mufti instigated a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq with Nazi-supplied weapons and aircraft. After the coup failed, the Mufti fled to Berlin, where he would hold his first of several meetings with Adolf Hitler.
At this meeting the Mufti was reported to have dissuaded Hitler from considering the deportation of the Jews to Palestine. Instead, the Mufti advocated and even possibly suggested what came to be known as the final solution against the Jews. In 1942, the Mufti would intervene and stop the Nazis from exchanging 10,000 Jewish children for Nazi POWs.

The Mufti’s activities in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe would set the stage for today’s Islamic terrorism. On April 25, 1941, the Nazis sent the Mufti to Nazi-occupied Bosnia, where he assumed the title “Protector of Islam.”

On Feb. 10, 1943, Hitler ordered the creation of the Nazi SS Division Hanzar and approximately 100,000 Bosnian Muslims volunteered. The Mufti, serving as chief administrator, referred to these Nazi-Muslim brigades as “the cream of Islam.”

The Hanzars, deriving their name from the type of dagger carried by Ottoman officers, played an active role in the extermination of Christians and Jews in the Balkans. The Mufti attempted to implement the Nazi “Pejani Plan,” which called for the extermination of the Christian Serbs and which the Nazis eventually abandoned.
All in all, the Bosnian Muslim Hanzars assisted in the extermination of approximately 200,000 Christian Serbs, 40,000 Gypsies and 22,000 Jews.

In 1943, Hitler appointed the Mufti as head of a Nazi-Muslim government in exile. From his headquarters in Berlin, a confiscated Jewish mansion, the Mufti laid out plans for a concentration camp for Jews near Nablus in Palestine modeled after Auschwitz. Photos exist of the Mufti touring Auschwitz with Heinrich Himmler.
Nazi attitudes regarding Islam were perhaps best expressed by Himmler, who is reported to have stated: “I have nothing against Islam because it educates the men in this division for me and promises them heaven if they fight and are killed in action. A very practical and attractive religion for soldiers.”
Deriving financial support from a fund of confiscated Jewish money known as the Sonderfund, the Mufti was installed as head of the Nazi-created Islamic Institute (Islamische Zentralinstitut) in Dresden, where he would begin the process of educating future Islamic leaders in Nazi ideology.

To spur them on to victory, the Mufti delivered a speech in Berlin on March 1, 1944, to an audience of Hanzar troops in which he said: “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases god, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.”

On that day, future Islamic terrorists received their marching orders.

Monday, January 17, 2005

This Is What Happens When You're Bored

I was watching one of the animations on Aljazeera's website that said something about Yehiel Hazan, a member of the Israeli Knesset, calling Arabs worms. Not that Aljazeera's news reports neeeeeed to be checked out, but I like doing independent study anyway; I just find it more interesting to read things first hand rather than through a secondary source.
One of the top finds I got on Google under "yehiel hazan" +worms was this blog.
After reading what this Angry White Kid had to say, I went down the comments and found this refreshingly interesting perspective:
It is men like you who keep the Arab world weak and silly. Why such fear of accepting responsiblity? Why do all our failures have to be laid at the doors of others? I'm sure you think that when Arab men murder Darfurian women and children that this is somehow someone else's fault. After all, if you can find any role played by any Westerner in the history of Darfur, then--gotcha!--this proves that Arabs are not to blame.
I'm so tired of people like you. You make me despair of ever seeing a better future for the Arab people. But of course, there are six billion people on this planet, and the world is bigger than just the Arabs. But this observation makes me a "house nigger" in your silly, feckless eyes. Westerners have convinced you that it's okay for you to be a racist, because after all you're only an Arab and when an Arab is racist he is a freedom fighter.
You're the pet Arab of young Western pseudo-radicals like Angry White Kid. He means well, so he has an excuse. What's your excuse?
Posted by: al Farabi January 7, 2005 02:14 AM

Ooooooooh. I really hope those guys answer back because I'm dying to hear how they can defend themselves against that one!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Independent Women Can Bet on Being On Their Own

My parents were in Flatbush for shabbos, which they usually try avoiding at all costs. But they had very close friends’ son’s aufruf…and my mom (and I) had made the shidduch. So, there they were when a good friend of my grandmother approached my mother in shul to tell her that she has a friend with a son she thought would be good for me. Apparently, she mentioned my name to his mother who said, “Oh, he already went out with her. He really liked her a lot but she’s a militant vegetarian, and that wasn’t for him. So he said no.”
It took me a while to remember who this guy was and I went out with a total of how many shidduched guys--three, perhaps four? Then it dawned on me. He was the guy who told me that when he comes home late from law school hungry, he can’t just reach into the fridge and prepare himself something to eat because his mother makes food ahead of time and if she opens a container with food for Wednesday on Wednesday and it’s missing a portion, she’ll be upset. Instead of solving this by, say, making his own food for his own 20-something self, he tells his mother he’s hungry and she prepares a dinner for him. He also told me that his sisters are really accomplished--they can already cook like his mother and they’re only in high school! Needless to say, I didn’t go out with him again.
My 16 year-old brother teases me often that no one’s ever going to want to marry me because I won’t cook meat or chicken. I usually respond that I’m not looking for a son; I’m interested in marrying an independent man who won’t need me to wipe his tushy, pick his laundry off the floor, or cook for him.
As for me being referred to as a “militant vegetarian,” I was a bit upset. How stuck in his own little world does a guy need to be not to notice that a vegetarian who suggests a non-dairy restaurant (on a first date) because he’s the hungrier one is probably not all that militant? And besides, I’m way too laid back to concern myself with what other people eat. And I only preached how gross the process from birth to feed house to slaughterhouse is once at a table--and I was out with my family who were bugging me about not enjoying the delicious, amazing Prime Grill steaks they were all eating. As a matter of fact, I’m only a vegetarian because when I look at meat the voices in my head that usually sing me songs when I walk start up a chorus of “moos” and when I look at chicken I hear “baaawk, baaawk” and subsequently get very nauseated. If I cared so much about being a “militant vegetarian,” I’d get rid of my suede skirts and leather bags and shoes. It’s pretty obvious from meeting me that I’m no militant when it comes to saving animals.
Hence, my theory: Shidduch Boy was afraid he’d have to do something for himself if he were to marry me (namely, cook).
Maureen Dowd’s op-ed for the January 13th New York Times is called, “Men Just Want Mommy.” In it, she writes, “as Dr. Stephanie Brown, the lead author of the study, summed it up for reporters: ‘Powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less-accomplished women.’” Unless, of course, like Shidduch Boy, you consider accomplishments to mean cooking abilities.

Dowd’s article was interesting--but nothing I didn’t already know. I mean, doesn’t everyone know that “a high I.Q. hampers a woman’s chance to get married?” Weren’t we all already in the know that “women who challenge men are in trouble?”
A beautiful, educated, genius of a girl I know never went on more than one date with any of the guys she was set up with except for the one she ended up marrying. Apparently, guys were not that interested in a girl who was intelligent, intellectual, and enjoyed conversations. (And if you’re thinking it was her looks, I can guarantee you that with her soft brown curls, humonganoid brown eyes, and beautiful body that that wasn’t the issue.)
I cannot imagine that there are no men out there who like girls who challenge them intellectually, or who talk to men with no less assertiveness than they talk to women with, or who don’t plan on cooking for them. As a matter of fact, I’m certain of it. But then…I am still unmarried.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Parshat Bo

Last year, I felt a bit left out that I would go into Shabbos now knowing anything about the parsha. Since Parsha had always been my favorite class in school, and discussing Torah one of my favorite pastimes (seriously), I started a Divar Torah Yahoo!-Group with a few friends. This week's devar Torah was written by Zahava Friedman, so instead of writing my own...well, here's hers:

Time for another plague! Hashem sent Moshe to warn Paroh about the upcoming Macat Arbeh (Locusts, Grasshoppers). The servants of Paroh heard the warning, and pleaded with Paroh to allow the Jews to take their three day trip to serve Hashem in the midbar. Paroh was willing to grant this to bnei Yisrael, until Moshe mentioned that the women and children would be going, as well. With this information, Paroh immediately withdrew his word and Macat Arbeh began.
Before this episode, the pasuk tells us that Hashem hardened Paroh's heart. So we've got a question: If Hashem hardened Paroh's heart, why did Hashem even bother sending him warnings? Sending warnings seems rather cynical, "Repent Paroh! Oh wait... you can't!"
And Note: Only after Paroh davened to Hashem - (lashon vaye-etar), did the plague stop.
The Netivot Shalom has the answer... (written by the Slonimer Rav)
Rashi explains under the title "And I (Hashem) Hardened Paroh's Heart," that this meant, Moshe should go warn Paroh. But how does this answer the question, asks the Netivot Shalom. If Paroh's heart had already been hardened, warnings would not help?!
The Rambam, in Hilchot Teshuva (where he discusses different laws and issues regarding repentance), writes, it is possible for a person to commit many crimes or one huge crime that will prevent him from doing teshuva. And, the only way that he will be forgiven is when he dies with his wickedness, his death will atone for his sins.
So Hashem hardened the heart of Paroh because he was unforgivable after he treated Bnei Yisrael so terribly. To conclude this explanation, Hashem sent warning to Paroh, to teach us that some people must die in their wickedness in order to be forgiven.
The Netivot Shalom rejects the Rambam's concept in this context, and he brings down the Chidah, B'Nachal Kidumim who explains: Hashem sent warnings to Paroh because Paroh WAS able to do teshuva!
But again--how is teshuva possible, if Paroh's heart is hardened?
Says the Slonimer Rav, we could understand this concept through comparison: Within Gashmiyut, a person has natural abilities that he is aware of. Hashem also gives a person qualities which he is unaware of. Under normal circumstances, these hidden qualities are unrevealed. Only at a time of danger, when a person's usual abilities will not suffice, do the other, spiritual qualities surface. For example, a person who is drowning will seek different methods to save himself that he may not have thought of if it weren't for the danger he found himself in.
So too, in ruchniyut, a person has spirituality that comes naturally to him, and hidden spirituality, which lives deep inside if him. At a time of danger, a person's spirituality awakens the hidden strengths that Hashem has planted in him, so that the person can find his way out of the problem.
Similarly, with teshuva: teshuva can be natural, and easy for a person to attain, or it can be a higher type of teshuva, which exists above this "typical" teshuva. The Zohar names these types of teshuva: 1)teshuva t'taeh and 2)teshuva ila'ah. Having committed certain flaws, the first, basic teshuva, will not gain forgiveness, and only the higher, deeper teshuva can/will. Only the mesirat nefesh, and dedication of the soul, that accompanies the higher repentance, can attain forgiveness, and can fix what is unfixable within nature.
Just to clarify this concept before moving on: Hashem made rules of nature for the world. Hashem is totally capable of working above these rules, but normally Hashem works within these rules.
The emunah that each Jew has will awaken the nature that is hidden within him. Emunah is a very deep concept that can not be summarized in the word "belief." R' Zev Krov (in the book Da Ma sheTashiv LiatZmicha), explains emunah as something deeper than intelligence and emotion. Emotion is fickle and can change daily while intelligence is limited to a person's knowledge. The depth of true love, a connection between lovers, is limited by words. So too, our awareness of Hashem, our source of life, should tie us so strongly to Hashem, and leave us with unexplainable feelings. These feelings will be neither strange nor new to us, because they are natural and found within us, and once recognized, will be obvious to us. (Further understanding: Emunah in the coming of mashiach, is not do I or do I not believe that Mashiach will come, rather it is knowledge that he is on the way.)
When a person is fully in the hands of the yetzer hara, he needs something stronger than his normal abilities to pull him out. Chazal tell us that king Menashe sinned a lot. He davened to Hashem, and the Torah uses lashon vaye'etar--the same lashon by Paroh. Hashem had to make an "underground" in the heavens that would accept the prayer of Menashe, because he had sinned so greatly that he was unable to do teshuva. Manashe realized his teshuva (lashon vaye'etar-like the lashon found by Paroh) was above nature, and so he recognized and feared G-d, and malchut was restored to Yerushalayim.
Back to Paroh, Despite his hardened heart, Paroh was capable of this higher teshuva. Hashem sent warning to Paroh because Paroh could have prevented the plague. We see Paroh did teshuva because he said "Who is hashem, I will listen to His voice." The plague stopped after Paroh prayed and it was then that Paroh recognized that there are powers that exist in heaven and on the earth that work above nature.
When we are commanded to remember the exile of Egypt (which happens in this parsha!) The Ba'al Shemtov says: we were on the lowest of the 49 levels of Tumah, and Hashem arranged that our tefillot should reach a special underground entrance to his Kiseh HaKavod. This entrance out stepped nature, and freed us from the worst, and this is what we must remember each day.

Shabbat Shalom!
P.S. Feel free to discuss/respond to the d'var Torah, last week's was reply was great (thank you Chaim!)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

From the Desk of Mrs. Allman

That's right. I spoke to GREGG ALLMAN. The number one man on my To Do List.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The 21st Century: Topsy-Turvy

During the beginning of the 20th century, a little mobster-in-training who just arrived here from a distant land while waiting at Ellis Island might’ve tried to imagine what the then future (21st century would be like). He would’ve thought along the lines of Uzi’s, flying cars and housekeeping robots. Although the Uzi part has come true, the future is for from what the Jetsons make it out to be.

In the beginning of the 20th century, I’m sure that one would’ve imagined that a cure to rid mankind of all dreadful diseases would be found. Although many remarkable cures have been made in the fields of Medicine and health care, other ailments still run rampant. Where ever I turn, I see Schizophrenics. It is an epidemic. Wherever I turn, people are holding their heads and talking to an invisible partner. Is it the UV rays? The roaches found in the food of neighborhood restaurants? Whatever it is, it’s known as Cellular Phonopsychosis and the only known cure is to slowly stop talking. Withdrawal symptoms include: holding your hand on the side of your head while talking, the inability to find people within the crowd because of the lack of ability to use your Nextel, Sprint, Nokia or Cingular homing device. The inability to find a suitable mate may also stem from this treatment. This is due to the subsequent confiscation of the evolutionary organ that causes the distinct sound of the male mating cry to be heard by suitable mates. Ironically this organ is artificially produced by Nextel, Sprint, Nokia, Cingular and other mate-finding appliance makers.

Man has become lazy since the turn of the century; he has substituted quality with compact and cheap oriental technology. People have become spoiled with all the money they have, they say who needs pen and notebook when I can have a digital palm held typewriter. Anyway, the ghost of the Egyptian guy who invented papyrus (the forerunner of not-so-modern paper) is getting his laugh of these non-paper worshippers. Just one slip, misstep or fall and all your terms notes go the way of Alchemy and the Horse and Buggy. If you heathens return to the proper method of writing then you can all but burn your notes and no evil curse of the future can erase it.

As the old Millennium and finally the 20th century progressed, mankind believed it had dumped it’s barbaric self back in Yugoslavia (last major war of the 20th century). In fact we believed that we could advance humankind by developing cloning. How wrong were we? When we want to copy things now we burn them! Now as Jan hus, the late Joan of Ark (Noah’s wife?) and most cattle can attest, being burnt as a steak is hardly humane. Why Nero B. ROM is no better than his musician, ancestor, emperor Nero of Rome. He fiddled while Rome was copying, er burning. Now you know why you shouldn’t play with fire.

Throughout the late 19th and throughout the 20th century liberal Western civilization tried to curb warfare and enhance the quality of human life on this planet. At the end of World War I, President Wilson tried to end all wars and make the world safe for democracy by establishing fourteen points for peace. I don’t know what Wilson was thinking, but the other victors must have thought that he meant the fourteen points as a punishment. The other victorious allies decided to impale the Krauts on these fourteen points, ouch!! After another bloody war, they realized that impalement on fourteen points was not a good way to end all wars and make the world safe for democracy. President Truman’s secretary of state, George Marshall, decided to help rebuild the losing countries and thus end all the hostility. We then did just that with raving success and we even put our backsides out, protecting the Germans from the then powerful Reds. Luckily the hand never came down at least not in that way, and we managed to survive a long and frigid war thanks to all the rice and Agent Orange Juice supplied to us from Vietnam.

And so as the Iron Mehitza came down and the caves in Afghanistan went up, we thought that mankind might survive without annihilating itself. However, a spaceship from another planet landed and out stepped the Abominable Sandmen: “Uncle Sam’s evil international clone” Osama Ben Laden and Bush family arch-nemesis Saddam “who let the dogs er my boys out” Hussein. We thought we left the crusades in Acre, the last time we left, how wrong we are as usual. Welcome to the world of Anthrax, rat-poison soaked nails and color coded warning signals. Hmm, I wonder what colors the hippies would’ve thought of. This is the Crusades part two – “the war to end all wars, the war to make the world free of Abominable Sandmen”.

So as you sit in your sealed room waiting for the all clear siren, try to think about how to make the 22nd century a success. If you don’t care, try to think about the mobster-in-training’s great-great-grandson in fallout filled New York. Or you can look at it this way, if the streets can’t be made of gold; glowing green is also a cool color. After all, the future is solely in the cell phones, palm pilots and other so-called time saving devices that of the billionaire Jewish directors and producers who make the future on the silver screen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Chocolate Chips Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies can be too greasy, too chewy, soggy, too crunchy, or too metallic tasting. A perfect specimen of a chocolate chip cookie should be crunchy around the edges without being so thin that the edges crumble, soft in the center without being soggy, and thick enough that you feel satisfied when it’s done.
I figured, since it's snowing outside (here in the sticks), that I'd share with you the best Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I have found after years of research (I’m not kidding).

From Baking Illustrated
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18 Large Cookies

You’ll Need:
2 cups plus 2 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (I prefer light)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.
4. Roll a scant ¼ cup of dough into a ball. Following the illustrations, hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 ½ inches apart.

5. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a wide metal spatula.

Some personal input: If you don’t like very rich cookies, try substituting the butter with margarine. Use half milk chocolate chips and half dark chocolate chips for a really yummy mix!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Parshat Va'eira

My totally schizo dvar Torah for this Shabbat...
     This week’s parsha, Parshat Va’eira, starts out with HaShem appearing to Moshe and telling him, “I am HaShem. I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yacov as El Shakkei, but with My Name HaShem I did not make Myself known to them. Moreover, I established My Covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning, in which they sojourn. Moreover, I have heard the groan of the Children of Israel whom Egypt enslaves and I have remembered My covenant.”
     Now, I thought it was interesting that HaShem mentioned that He did not appear to the avot with the name HaShem, so I went to Beresheit to find the first time the name HaShem is used. Lo and behold, I found that the first mention of the name HaShem comes right after the mention of Shabbat and in conjunction the creation of man and subsequently, the creation of the etz hada’at. “These are the products of the heaven and the earth when they were created in the day that HaShem God made earth and heaven—now all the trees of the field were not yet on the earth and all the herb of the field had not yet sprouted, for HaShem God had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil. A mist ascended from the earth and watered the whole surface of the soil. And HaShem God formed the man of dust from the ground, and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life; and man became a living being. HaShem God planted a garden in Eden, to the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed. And HaShem God caused to sprout from the ground every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food; also the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad.”
     The name HaShem appears five times in the above passage. It also appears five times in the complete quote from this week’s parsha… “Therefore, say to the Children of Israel: ‘I am HaShem, and I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be a God to you; and you shall know that I am HaShem your God, Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt. I shall bring you to the land about which I raised My hand to give it to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yacov; and I shall give it to you as a heritage—I am HaShem.’” There must be a parallel.
     The Abarbanel says that God’s underlying intention in creating man was that he’d strive to emulate HaShem. What HaShem wanted was Adam and Chava communing with God and gaining perfection of wisdom through HaShem—all together. So HaShem made everything in Gan Eden readily available to Adam and Chava so that they wouldn’t have any concerns.
     The Etz HaDa’at was symbolic, according to the Abarbanel. It represented the need for physical pursuits. HaShem made this tree accessible to Adam and Chava because we need limitations to grow and HaShem was being m’chanech them. Although they had everything else to eat from, the two of them started pining after physical pursuits that they didn’t need. God’s intention in providing them with everything was that they wouldn’t be diverted by physical things and able to focus on their personal development.
     Our time in Egypt was crucial for us to bring Mashiach because it was in Egypt that we became a people. Had we not been forced to keep to ourselves (I highly doubt that slaves were allowed to mingle about like the natives of Egypt were), who’s to say that bnei Yisrael would have stuck so closely together? It was after we were taken out that we accepted HaShem and the religion of Judaism…we were a people first.
     Then, of course, we had to be taken out of Egypt because it was impossible to focus on anything but the physical labor and pain that we suffered from while there. To work on personal development, to push forward and achieve what HaShem had planned for man to achieve in Gan Eden, we had to be brought to Eretz Yisrael.
     In his Sefer Kuzari, R’Yehuda HaLevi writes, “There are sites in the Holy Land what are without doubt worthy of being called ‘the gates of Heaven’ We find that when Yacov had his prophetic dream (Beresheit 28), he did not attribute the vision he saw to the purity of his soul or to his deep faith or to his integrity, but to the significance of the place itself, as he said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other but the House of God, and this is the gate of heave.’ Earlier, his arrival there was described, ‘He encountered the place’ (28:11), indicating its special nature.
     When Avraham, the very root of the chosen Am Yisrael, was found worthy of Divine revelation, HaShem removed him from his birthplace and set him in the one land in which he could attain perfection” (as translated by Rabbi Avrohom Davis).
     It is possible to experience spiritual growth anywhere, but it is easiest to achieve higher levels of spirituality in Eretz Yisrael. R’Yehuda HaLevi gives an excellent example to illustrate his point. “When an agriculturist finds a good fruit bearing tree in a wilderness, he transplants it into properly tilled ground to improve it and cause it to grow there. He changes it from a wild fruit tree into a cultivated one, from a tree which bore fruit by chance, into one which produces a regular, bountiful crop. This can happen only if done at the proper time and in the proper place.”
     Of course we can grow anywhere—but it’s an unpredictable growth. It is only when Am Yisrael, the nation we became when HaShem redeemed us from Egypt, is living in Eretz Yisrael, that we can grow to the level HaShem had planned for us to in Beresheit, and bring the world back to the level we need to be at for the era of Mashiach to be among us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Reclaiming the Jewish American Princess

I hardly ever watch TV, but now that I’m on winterbreak and have no plans (that’s right—friend’s getting married smack in the middle of my mooooonth long break), I’ve been watching a lot of television.
I was watching “Cheesetastic” on VH1, a show about the cheesiest celebrities ever, and there—at number something I can’t remember—was Fran Drescher of The Nanny and Pimp-and-floozy-inspired-dress fame! Danielle Schneider, one of the commentators explained that as a Jewish American Princess, she understands that Fran Drescher is the absolute Jewish American Princess. As a matter of fact, she even went beyond that to crown Fran Drescher the ultimate Jewish American Queen.
Fran Drescher our JAQ? I think not! And who’s this Danielle Schneider anyway? Just because she gets to make fun of people on VH1 doesn’t make her qualified to choose our Queen!
Of course, if there’s one thing I learned at Man. HS for Girls with Too Much Time and Money to Do Anything Productive, it’s that you never settle for what’s handed to you. Don’t like something? Change it.
So here I am, on my not-really-known-by-more-than-six-people-blog, ready to change the world. I present you, six people, with my Jewish American Queen!

(throat clearing…)
The Spot of No. 1 JAP/JAQ…goes to:
Harvey Fierstein
…and it’s the 21st century, I can do that!

Now, I was once hanging out with this Jewish guy from Argentina. After the tour I gave him of the Met, we were having coffee and he very excitedly told me that I am “a true JAP.” Had it been a movie, I woulda slapped him. It took a bit of explaining to do but I was finally able to get him to understand why I had been offended. He thought, since the word princess is in there, JAP is a compliment. It’s not.
I know some people think the term “JAP” is funny. It’s not. The whole concept of the “Jewish American Princess” is just as awful as the concept of the money-grabbing Jew, or politics-controlling Jew. Here’s a quote I love from Saul Bellow’s book Ravelstein, “And you’re a Jew, besides. The Jews had better understand their status with respect to myth. Why should they have any truck with myth? It was myth that demonized them.” Brilliance!
When it comes to JAP’s and myths, I’d like to just explain for a bit where the term originates. Apparently, Jews came to America with nothing. Apparently, they made a lot of money and not knowing what to do with this money, spoiled their daughters silly. With a lot of money, a lot of time, and nothing better to do, these rich-Jewish American girls would shop. But, of course, since they weren’t given the bringing up that their wealthy WASPy counter-parts got, they’re a lot louder, whinyer, and obnoxious. That’s right. JAP is derogatory. And here’s something even worse. It isn’t even a phrase used for “just” Jewish girls with lots of money. It’s become a slur for whiney, annoying, spoiled rich girls—which I think is a lot worse.
To counter this, I’d like to go ahead and create my own list of American-Jewish women who should make you proud to carry the title of Jewess, because it is something to be very, very proud of.
Judy Blume
Heroine of young girls everywhere, Judy Blume is a deserving member of my list.

Deborah Lipstadt
Deborah won the suit brought against her by David Irving, one of the biggest, ugliest, and most deluded Holocaust-deniers! I did a project on Holocaust Denial when I was in 12th grade and I have to say, if you’re going to honor a Jewish woman who got what she wanted and did good for the greater good in doing so, all hail Deborah! (She’d make her namesake proud!)

Ruth Reichl
She can cook, bake, write books, edit magazines, and kick ass! (my personal hero!)
Henrietta Szold
Founder of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization. Just to give you an idea of what she’s like, in 1881, most of the Jews who immigrated the the united States arrived in the ports of Baltimore. Henrietta and her father would go out to greet them to help them find homes and jobs. Henrietta taught them to speak and read and write in English. She started out with about 30 students. Soon, she had 60, and eventually, when she had many more, the government took over and what Henrietta started became the first official night school in Baltimore.
Betty Friedan
I shouldn’t even have to say anything here!

There are millions, millions more I’m sure, who deserve to be on this list. But I limited myself by saying “American-Jewish” and I’m limited, too, by my own lack of knowledge in fields other than writing and justice-fighting! So I do apologize.

Jewish Motherhood--Here I...I...want to come!!!

I lost it. I have completely and totally lost it.
I was watching a Sex and the City re-run the other day when the realization that I am insane hit me. After taking a tour of her mother-in-law’s garden, Charlotte meets her husband and they start talking about something or another. About five seconds into their conversation her little watch alarm goes off and she says, “ooh! Those are my eggs. I’m ovulating.” Or something along those lines, anyway. So, she and her husband had sex. Charlotte's me.
When I was younger, I’d walk around saying, “I want a baby. I want a baby. I want a baby.” This of course went on for years (12-16 years old) until my mother threatened to lock me in my room if I’d say it again. I still want a baby. I want a baby so bad that every guy I meet goes through the test in my head…
Potential Father Exam
Question 1:
Is this guy fun enough that sex with him for the rest of my life will be interesting?
Question 2:
Would I want my grandchildren running to this guy screaming, “grandpa/savta/zaide?”
Question 3:
Do I want my children to have this guy’s brains/middot/looks and would he sit and do gemara homework with my sons and learn with me on Shavout night?
Okay, so maybe I really only ask myself those first two questions, but that’s not half as intense as what goes through my mind when I pass baby clothes stores! As a matter of fact, just the other day I got hit with baby-itch (noun: an intense desire to give up your figure for nine months so that you can bring a child into the world who you will love, cherish, have lots of stress over, and get ugly veins in your legs from) so strongly I almost cried.
While shopping for myself (because it's still JUST ME), I wanted to look at some skirts hanging a bit to my right. I couldn't just walk straight there, though, because there was a woman with a stroller in my way. I walked around the woman and looked down at what were the four most beautiful, gorgeous eyes I had ever seen!!! THE WOMAN HAD TWINS! And they were amaaaaaaaaazing. Bundled up from hood to footy, the two babies were laying side by side. The only thing that outdid the adorablness of their cheeks that were puffing out over their coats, were their huge and shining and beautiful eyes! I didn't know what to do with myself. So I did what I always do when I find myself staring at the amazing miracle of a baby--I made faces. I know, I know, but I can't help it.
I want a baby.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

And Now For My Random Weirdness of the Day

I know this has nothing to do with anything, but while I'm posting pictures I just think this is hysterically funny! Posted by Hello

Monday, January 03, 2005

There's Hope For Peace!

Look closely at the tie Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (seated on the left) was wearing when he addressed the Israeli Knesset for the first time on November 20, 1977.
Credit to Randy for pointing this out because it's dear...

And to think, even when we do make peace with neighboring Arab countries what they're thinking...
Posted by Hello

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