Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: “When God is Near: On the High Holidays”

Shanah tovah!

I hope you too had a wonderful Rosh Hashanah.

The honor of writing the first Our Shiputzim post of the year goes to the one and only YZG (aka “Mr. S.”) – known to veteran readers for his Solomonic wisdom, his erudite halachic discourses, his ability to replace gas oven ignitors, and his previous book review.

Take it away, YZG!


“When God is Near: On the High Holidays”

by YZG

“When God is Near: On the High Holidays” is an incredible collection of sichot (talks) that were delivered by Rav Yehuda Amital zt”l - one of the two founding Roshei Yeshiva of the world-famous Yeshivat Har Etzion and a renowned Jewish thinker of the previous generation - over the course of 40 years.

The sichot, which were given during Elul and the Yamim Nora’im in the yeshiva, were collected and adapted by Rav Amital’s son, Rav Yoel Amital, a ra”m at Yeshivat Shaalvim.

Koren Publishers recently released an English translation of the collection. Since I received a review copy of the book just before Rosh Hashanah, and since I want to publish the review before Yom Kippur – i.e. while it’s still relevant - this review will be fairly short.

Many of the nearly 50 sichot were published elsewhere – in particular, on Yeshivat Har Etzion’s website. However, this is the first time that they appear together.

Each of the sichot offers a glimpse at Rav Amital’s unique style and worldview, and the book’s essence is captured by the younger Rav Amital’s introduction. As he writes:

My father’s sichot are distinguished by their ability to penetrate the heart while at the same time appealing to the intellect.”

For example, one of the sichot on the Slichot prayer provides food for thought by explaining why prayer involves praising God as well as making demands and requests of God. Rav Amital’s intriguing approach gives meaning to Slichot in particular and prayer in general.

One of Rav Amital’s primary themes is that this time of year is about finding ways to improve ourselves - both in terms of our service of God and also in terms of our service to the Jewish community as a whole. I also appreciated his insights on the Biblical sources used to develop his ideas.

I highly recommend this book. Not only will it make the Yamim Nora’im more meaningful, it will greatly enhance the reader’s understanding of what God expects of us.

Note: I was not paid to review this sefer, but we did receive a review copy from Koren Publishers.


Great job and thank you, YZG!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776

.תהא שנת עליה וגאולה
May 5776 be a year of aliyah and redemption.

As you may recall, every year my mother prepares a very special family calendar. Here is a certain Shiputzim daughter’s beautiful contribution to the 5776 edition:

Feb2016Parshat Trumah – February 2016
(Roughly corresponding to Shvat-Adar I 5776)

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום!

May you and your families have a wonderful, happy, healthy, prosperous, and sweet new year!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Seudah Shlishit… Glidah

Note: In keeping with a longstanding Our Shiputzim tradition, the waning hours of a [very long!] fast day are dedicated to blogging about food.

During the summer months here in TRLEOOB*, seudah shlishit tends to involve homemade ice cream. (Please consider this post to be an invitation to drop by one Shabbat!)

Initially, our repertoire was limited to chocolate, vanilla, and coffee flavors, but over the years, we’ve added a few more – including:


More Homemade (Philadelphia Style) Ice Cream

Philadelphia style ice cream (as opposed to custard style ice cream) has no eggs. Like our original recipes, the next four were adapted from a combination of several different sources.

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 3/5 cup whole milk (we use 3% milk)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP cocoa
  • 135 grams milk chocolate – coarsely chopped

White Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 3/5 cup whole milk (we use 3% milk)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 135 grams white chocolate – coarsely chopped

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • ¾ cup milk (we use 3% milk)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup chocolate sandwich cookies – crushed

Mint Chip Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • ¾ cup milk (we use 3% milk)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup thin chocolate-covered mints – chopped


Mix all the ingredients - except the cookies and the mints, when relevant - in a small pot over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and just beginning to form tiny bubbles. Remove from heat and refrigerate for a few hours or even overnight.

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For the cookies-and-cream and the mint chip, add the cookies/mints when the ice cream is about 75% churned, and continue churning.

Freeze overnight before serving.

.צום קל ומועיל

Have an easy and meaningful fast.


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How the war was won

Israel’s media outlets have spent the past week obsessing over what they’ve been shrilly referring to as a looming “culture war.”

Except that amidst all the breathless reports and pessimistic hand-wringing, our intrepid analysts and columnists seem to have overlooked a very important detail.

Namely, that their so-called “war” is already all but won… or lost, depending on one’s worldview.

The turning point came about a week ago, and fittingly, it occurred on the evening news itself.

You see, noted journalist Sivan Rahav-Meir was anchoring Channel 2’s 6:00 newscast, and she was interviewing Deputy Foreign Minister MK Tzipi Hotovely (who is – for all practical intents and purposes – the virtual acting foreign minister). The former didn’t hesitate to ask tough questions, but the latter held her own and responded confidently, knowledgeably, and assuredly.

Of course, under any other circumstances, a respected senior politician being interviewed by a respected news anchor on national television wouldn’t warrant a second glance – let alone an entire blog post.

But what made this moment so significant, IMHO, was that although both women happen to be sheitel-wearing, modestly-dressed, and religiously-observant mothers, no one (well, no one except yours truly… :-)) cared or even noticed.

Aside from the fact that one could characterize the exchange as a veritable Kiddush Hashem, it was – as it should be – a complete and utter non-issue, and THAT’S exactly why it was such. a big. deal.

And so, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, dear media types, but while you were preoccupied with the ineloquent rants of has-been actors and busy confusing a potential removal of state funding with censorship, you somehow missed that Israeli society and culture were quietly evolving in the meantime…

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Yehi zichram baruch

Yom HaShoah 5775 coincides with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945.

Tomorrow morning, as the siren wails and the entire country comes to a mournful standstill, I will think about the following Holocaust survivors:

- My great-grandmother z”l, who used her wits, courage, and determination to save her daughters and then survive the Kovno ghetto (where she lost her beloved husband) and then two different concentration camps.

- My grandfather z”l. A gifted talmid of both Rav Elchanan Wasserman zt”l and Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l, he left behind a remarkable letter for his descendants.

- My grandmother z”l. She was such an important part of my life, and I miss her greatly.

יהי זכרם ברוך.

May their memories be blessed; may they be meilitzei yosher for their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, yblt”a, as well as all of Am Yisrael; and may we all be privileged to continue along their illustrious paths.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pesach 5775: Shmitah and brownies

Moadim l’simchah!

I hope you’re having a wonderful Pesach and enjoying the weeklong vacation.

B”H, thanks to YZG and the amazing Shiputzim kids, we had a beautiful seder and yom tov, and we’ve been spending chol hamoed visiting with family and going on various trips and outings.

It was on one of the aforementioned outings that we observed the following #onlyinIsrael sign hanging on the gate of a certain agricultural community:

IMG_6834Translation: “Shmitah is observed here!”

And speaking of Pesach, I know you won’t be surprised to learn that here in TRLEOOB* – as in many other households - we consider brownies to be a Pesach staple. (The Shiputzim kids made 7 batches this year.)

<quick explanation> As I mentioned elsewhere, although we don’t eat gebrochts on Pesach, we’re not fanatic about it. Basically, the only thing we avoid is matzah mixed with water. Other liquids are fine, and thus, the Shiputzim family’s favorite Pesach brownie recipe contains matzah meal but no water. </explanation>





Mezonot Pesach Brownies

Our electric hand mixer can handle four recipes at a time.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope vanilla sugar (can be included as part of the cup of sugar)
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup matzah meal
  • 5½ TBSP cocoa


Beat eggs and sugars well. Gradually add remaining ingredients, and mix together.

Pour batter into baking-paper-lined pan (we use aluminum pans that are slightly smaller than 9x13). Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Let the brownies cool before cutting.

Note: They freeze well. (We freeze the brownies whole and only cut them into squares immediately before serving.)

מועדים לשמחה, חג שמח ושבת שלום!

Have a fantastic chag and Shabbat, and enjoy your Shabbat Parshat Shmini/Isru Chag kitniyot!

*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Friday, April 3, 2015

Euphonic Friday: Erev Pesach 5775 Edition

The food is cooked. The table is set. Showers were taken, and here in TRLEOOB*, everyone is enjoying their traditional pre-Seder naps while listening to this newly-released song by Gad Elbaz:

!שבת שלום וחג כשר ושמח

May you and your families have a wonderful, joyous, and kosher Pesach, and may we all be privileged to celebrate together next year in rebuilt Yerushalayim!

*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Monday, March 30, 2015


Looking for some appropriate music for Pesach cleaning?

Here’s the Maccabeats’ latest video:

Happy cleaning!