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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Port of call

Warning: The following post may exceed the recommended daily allowance for other people’s vacation pictures. Proceed at your own risk.

Think of it as an amendment to the original rule.

You see, according to the highly-acclaimed Our Shiputzim General Theory of Pesach Cleaning, now is the time for Stage II:

“Talking and blogging about cleaning in lieu of doing anything constructive.”

But seeing as this stage is essentially all about avoidance and denial, I would posit that an even better way to accomplish this goal is to ignore Pesach preparations altogether and, instead, to turn one’s attention to possible chol hamo’ed activities.

With that in mind – and with your permission, of course – I’d like to recommend a visit to the Ashdod port.

In principle, the Ashdod port meets the stringent criteria for “Ideal Late Summer Outings” – seeing as the tour is both free and air-conditioned. (Additional free and air-conditioned activities include the Bank of Israel in Yerushalayim and the Nesher Cement Factory in Ramle.)

But during most of the year, the Ashdod port is only open to schools and other large groups. However, during chol hamo’ed, families are welcome. [Note: Advance reservations are required.]

We were there on Succot (as you can see, it took me a while to get around to writing this post…), but I believe that the Pesach tours work the same way.

Seeing as there were no small children in our own group, we were very glad that kids under nine years old were not allowed (this rule is strictly enforced), because it meant that the tour was geared for adults and older kids.

The tour lasted about 1½ hours and was divided into two parts: a tour of the visitors center (where they have a few exhibits about the port’s history and operations, a couple of interesting audio-visual presentations, and several educational games) and a fascinating bus ride around the port itself.

IMHO, it is the latter that makes the Ashdod port well-worth the trip.

At one point, we found ourselves parked right next to a large ship, and we got to watch as the ship’s cargo was first unloaded and then reloaded.

Before I show you the threatened promised photos, I should explain that due to security concerns, visitors are only permitted to take pictures from outside the port’s perimeter, from inside the visitors center, or from a nearby scenic overlook known as Givat Yonah (literally, Jonah’s Hill – supposedly the burial site of Yonah HaNavi).

As always, please feel free to click on the pictures for a much better view:

IMG_3011The entrance to the port

IMG_3023A view from inside the visitor center

IMG_3043A view of the manmade breakwater from Givat Yonah

IMG_3044Two ships (as seen from Givat Yonah)

IMG_3050Cranes loading and unloading shipping containers (as seen from Givat Yonah)

IMG_3052Shipping containers (as seen from Givat Yonah)

In short, we all (yes, including the teenagers!) really enjoyed our visit to the Ashdod port. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable; getting to watch the port in action was quite thrilling; and we learned a lot.

I don’t know if it’s too late to make reservations for Pesach, but if not, I highly recommend that you do.

Have you ever been to the Ashdod port?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Heblishization of the Megilah IV

Since it wouldn’t be Purim here at Our Shiputzim without a healthy dose of Heblish,
the Our Shiputzim Editorial Board and OOOFNHS
(=one of our favorite native Heblish speakers)
once again proudly present:

The Official Heblish Translation

of

Megilat Esther - Chapter 10

(1) And the King Achashveirosh put a mas on the land and the islands of the ocean.

(2) And all the action of his attacking and his gevurah and the parsha of the bigness of Mordechai, that the king made him bigger: halo, they are written on the book of the things of the days to the kings of Madai and Paras.

(3) Because Mordechai the Jew is second to the King Achashveirosh and big to the Jews and ratzui to most of his brothers; he doreishes good to his nation, and he talks peace to all his zera.

Open-mouthed

¡ɯıɹnԀ ʎddɐH

םירופ חמש!

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P.S. In case you missed them, be sure to check out the Heblish translations of Esther 3, Esther 5, Esther 7, and Mah Nishtanah.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Important posts

Chodesh tov!

In a stunning display of hypocrisy, inconsideration (schools and businesses across Yerushalayim were forced to close early, and thousands upon thousands of Israeli citizens were greatly inconvenienced), vindictiveness ("you push us, we'll push back," a chareidi MK reportedly said about his fellow religious Jews), ingratitude, and baseless hatred, chareidi MKs and community activists organized a mass rally/protest against military/national service today.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time for a full-length post, but I would like to share several important points.

Please click on the following links for details:

1) Serving in the IDF is a mitzvah. Period.

2) Of course, learning Torah is a mitzvah too. But that’s just one of the many reasons that - as Shiputzim family friend David Weinberg explains - the recent spate of attacks on the hesder program is particularly shocking.

3) Much of what is being said about the IDF and religious soldiers can best be described as misrepresentations, slander, and outright lies.

4) As Rav Natan Slifkin writes, many feel that those behind today’s demonstration do not seem to care about Am Yisrael as a whole.

May we all be privileged to remember that
kol Yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh”
(literally, “all of Israel are guarantors for each other”),
and may we soon enjoy
besurot tovot, yeshu’ot
v’nechamot
(good tidings, salvation, and consolation)
for Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael,
speedily and in our days.

!חודש טוב ומבורך

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fashion Friday: 1970 Edition

This past week marked the yahrzeit of my great-grandmother z”l, a valiant Holocaust survivor from Kovno, Lithuania, and an incredibly talented seamstress.

Here we are, admiring the latest in December 1970 fashion:

BOX72_A20-01As always, please click on the picture for a better view.

.יהי זכרה ברוך

May her memory be blessed, and may she be a meilitzat yosher for all her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, yblt”a.

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Freshly Baked Goods Friday: Lemon Cake Edition

It was one of those rare confluences of events.

B”H, we had plenty of lemons on our tree; we were in the mood for something more substantial than lemonade; and the Studentit had some time on her hands in between studying for finals.

<brief cultural observation>
Back in the Old Country – or at least back in the part of the Old Country centered around Midtown Manhattan’s 34th and Lexington – four weeks typically separated the fall and spring semesters: a week to study (aka “reading week” בלעז); an intense examination week, which often involved two finals per day; and then two blissful weeks of vacation.

Meanwhile, here in Israel, intersession (i.e. chofshah bein hasemesterim, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) also lasts four weeks, but the difference is that finals are spread out over the entire month. In other words, although one never really gets to enjoy an actual vacation, one is spared the stress and pressure of having all the exams in a single week.

But I digress…
</observation>

All this is to say that to the delight of the denizens of TRLEOOB*, the aforementioned convergence had a delicious result:

IMG_3528

Lemon Cake

Adapted from “Kosher by Design”

Ingredients

  • 1½  cups sugar
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder (i.e. one envelope for my Israeli readers)
  • ¾ cup mango juice (orange juice works too)
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs

Glaze

  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice

Directions

Mix sugar, flour, and baking powder. Add juice, oil, and vanilla. Beat in eggs and mix well.

Pour batter into oiled and floured bundt pan. (We used a tube pan without a removable bottom.) Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until done.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, use a toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the hot cake, and immediately pour the glaze all over the cake and especially into the holes.

Let cool in pan before serving.

!בתאבון ושבת שלום ומבורך

______________

*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: “Koren Talmud Bavli–Tractate Sukka”

Back by popular demand, YZG (aka “Mr. S.”) – known to veteran Our Shiputzim readers for his Solomonic wisdom, his erudite halachic discourses, and his ability to replace gas oven ignitors – graciously agreed to write a book review.

Take it away, YZG!

****

“Koren Talmud Bavli – Tractate Sukka (Noé Edition)”

by YZG

Koren Publishers kindly provided us here at Our Shiputzim with a review copy of their newly released “Koren Talmud Bavli  – Tractate Sukka.” We received the standard-sized hardcover edition (“The Noé Edition”), which includes full-color pictures and diagrams.

The timing was perfect, since I am currently learning Masechet Succah with my chavruta. We used the “Koren Talmud” during our next learning session.

The Gemara is beautifully designed and divided into two parts.

When you open it as a Hebrew sefer (i.e. from the right), you will find the traditional Vilna Shas layout. However, vowels and full punctuation have been added to both the Gemara and Rashi texts. That by itself is a significant aid to learning, and for many, that alone will make the Gemara worth getting. Of course, as can be expected from Koren, the printing is clear and a pleasure to read, and the text is printed on off-white paper, which is easy on the eyes.

When opened as an English sefer (i.e. from the left), you will find the text of the Gemara alongside an English translation. The translation is brand new and based on the principles set out by Rav Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz and overseen by the editor-in-chief, Rav Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. The translation is clear, concise, and easier to follow than other English translations I have used. For instance, words that are literal translations of the Gemara’s Aramaic text are shown in bold, and words that are derived from other languages have interesting sidebars (called “Language”), describing their etymology along with more in-depth explanations of their meaning.

In addition to the “Language” sidebar, there are other sidebars called “Notes,” “Background,” “Personalities,” and “Halakha.” My chavruta and I found these sidebars to be very helpful. In particular, we liked that the sidebars were divided into different types, because the divisions make it clear where to look for different types of information:

  • The “Background” sidebars contain historical, geographical, and other background information, which enhances one’s understanding of the Gemara by explaining the context. This can be a short explanation of a topic that the Gemara mentions only briefly, or a historical/geographical explanation. For example, the sidebar about “Usha” describes Usha’s location and historical significance.
  • The “Personalities” sidebars offer short biographical sketches of the scholars quoted by the Gemara and other historical figures.
  • The “Halakha” sidebars explain what the final halachah is. This is one of my favorite features, because in most cases, the Gemara doesn’t clearly state the final halachic ruling.
  • The “Notes” sidebars expand on the translation. Typically, these sidebars quote one or more Rishonim and add a bit more depth to the text.

The “Koren Talmud Bavli” includes full-color photographs and diagrams, which prove that a picture really is worth a thousand words. For instance, when the Gemara talks about fibers growing around a palm tree, a photograph of a palm tree shows exactly what these fibers are. Also, Masechet Succah famously discusses many different succah configurations, and the clear diagrams help make sense of it all.

In summary, I highly recommend the “Koren Talmud Bavli – Tractate Sukka,” and my chavruta and I look forward to using it as we continue learning the Masechet.

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!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Israel: A Look Back

In the spirit of Facebook’s recent spate of “Look Back” videos, here’s a really beautiful one:

אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹאֲלוֹ, בָּרֵךְ אֶת מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, רֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ. הָגֵן עָלֶיהָ בְּאֶבְרַת חַסְדֶּךָ, וּפְרֹשׂ עָלֶיהָ סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶךָ, וּשְׁלַח אוֹרְךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ לְרָאשֶׁיהָ, שָׂרֶיהָ וְיוֹעֲצֶיהָ, וְתַקְּנֵם בְּעֵצָה טוֹבָה מִלְּפָנֶיךָ. חַזֵּק אֶת יְדֵי מְגִנֵּי אֶרֶץ קָדְשֵׁנוּ, וְהַנְחִילֵם אֱלֹקינוּ יְשׁוּעָה וַעֲטֶרֶת נִצָּחוֹן תְּעַטְּרֵם, וְנָתַתָּ שָׁלוֹם בָּאָרֶץ, וְשִׂמְחַת עוֹלָם לְיוֹשְׁבֶיהָ.
וְאֶת אַחֵינוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, פְּקָד נָא בְּכָל אַרְצוֹת פְּזוּרֵיהֶם, וְתוֹלִיכֵם מְהֵרָה קוֹמְמִיּוּת לְצִיּוֹן עִירֶךָ וְלִירוּשָׁלַיִם מִשְׁכַּן שְׁמֶךָ, כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה עַבְדֶּךְ: אִם יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ ה’ אֱלֹקיךָ וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ. וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ ה’ אֱלֹקיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְהֵיטִבְךָ וְהִרְבְּךָ מֵאֲבֹתֶיךָ.
וְיַחֵד לְבָבֵנוּ לְאַהֲבָה וּלְיִרְאָה אֶת שְׁמֶךָ, וְלִשְׁמֹר אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָתֶךָ, וּשְׁלַח לָנוּ מְהֵרָה בֶּן דָּוִד מְשִׁיחַ צִדְקֶךָ, לִפְדּוֹת מְחַכֵּי קֵץ יְשׁוּעָתֶךָ. הוֹפַע בַּהֲדַר גְּאוֹן עֻזֶּךָ עַל כָּל יוֹשְׁבֵי תֵּבֵל אַרְצֶךָ, וְיֹאמַר כֹּל אֲשֶׁר נְשָׁמָה בְּאַפּוֹ:
ה’ אֱלֹקי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֶלֶךְ וּמַלְכוּתוֹ בַּכֹּל מָשָׁלָה, אָמֵן סֶלָה
.

(Tefilah L’Shlom HaMedinah – The Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

HaShkeidiyot Porchot

As you may recall, our almond tree (i.e. our shkeidiyah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) is, how shall I put this, um, well, rather, um, flower-challenged.

I mean, it got to the point that the only way we could sing the classic Tu B'Shvat song about the blossoming almond tree was with a healthy dose of irony and a great deal of snickering.

But as it turned out, the tree would be the one to have the last laugh.

Because sometime last year, we suddenly noticed that somehow, we were now the proud owners of a second – and more flourishing – almond tree. Apparently, seeds from the first tree had landed on the ground and had started growing.

And as if two almond trees weren’t enough, this year we discovered that there is now a THIRD – albeit still very small - tree on the premises!

Which means that we may have to rename TRLEOOB* to the Shiputzim Family Almond Orchard (i.e. pardes shkeidim, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you).

But I’ll let you be the judge of that:

(As always, please click on the pictures for a much better view.)

IMG_3794IMG_3795IMG_3798IMG_3802

!שבוע טוב וחודש טוב

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*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog