Thursday, December 31, 2009

Parshat Mikeitz Redux

Yes, I do realize that this week is Parshat Vayechi.

But when we were in Avnei Eitan on the second Shabbat Chanukah, TSG gave a beautiful dvar Torah on Parshat Mikeitz, and she asked that I post it on the blog.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because – coincidentally or not – last year, she gave a different beautiful dvar Torah on Parshat Mikeitz.

Once again, the Dvar Torah Committee had requested that two of the Shiputzim children deliver divrei Torah. Last year, the two volunteers were the Resident Ulpanistit and TSG. This year our family’s two speakers were the CTO and… TSG.

BA”H, she did a great job, and for those of you who weren’t privileged to hear her in person, here’s what she had to say: (English translation available upon request.)

אני מקדישה את דבר התורה שלי לעילוי נשמת הרב יהושע פסח בן הרב חיים יעקב אברהם ז”ל.

בפרשת מקץ כתוב: "וַיַּרְא יוֹסֵף אֶת אֶחָיו וַיַּכִּרֵם; וַיִּתְנַכֵּר אֲלֵיהֶם וַיְדַבֵּר אִתָּם קָשׁוֹת, וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם מֵאַיִן בָּאתֶם, וַיֹּאמְרוּ מֵאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן לִשְׁבָּר אֹכֶל. וַיַּכֵּר יוֹסֵף אֶת אֶחָיו; וְהֵם לֹא הִכִּרֻהוּ. וַיִּזְכֹּר יוֹסֵף אֵת הַחֲלֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר חָלַם לָהֶם..." (בראשית  מ”ב:ז-ט)

נשאלת השאלה: למה יוסף לא אומר לאחיו שהוא יוסף? למה הוא גורם להם – וליעקב אבינו – כל כך הרבה צער? הרמב"ן מסביר שהסיבה היא, "וַיִּזְכֹּר יוֹסֵף אֵת הַחֲלֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר חָלַם לָהֶם." יוסף מבין ששני החלומות שלו – החלום עם האלומות וגם החלום עם הכוכבים, השמש והירח – עכשיו מתגשמים. הרי יוסף עכשיו משנה למלך ומושל על אחיו. אבל כדי שכל חלקי החלומות יתקיימו, יוסף מכריח את אחיו להביא גם את בנימין למצרים ואחר כך גם את יעקב אביו.

אבל נחמה ליבוביץ שואלת למה יוסף לא יכול להגשים את חלומותיו בדרך אחרת, מבלי להכאיב ולצער את משפחתו? כתשובה, היא מצטטת את הרמב"ם שפוסק בהלכות תשובה, פרק ב', הלכה א': "איזו היא תשובה גמורה? זה שבא לידו דבר שעבר בו ואפשר בידו לעשותו, ופירש ולא עשה, מפני התשובה – לא מיראה ולא מכישלון כוח."

כתוצאה מתחבולותיו של יוסף, בנימין נכנס למצוקה. בנימין הוא בנה של רחל ואהובו של יעקב, בדיוק כמו שיוסף היה בזמן מכירתו. אבל הפעם, האחים לא עוזבים את אחיהם הקטן, אלא ההפך. הם מוכנים למסור את נפשם עליו.

זאת אומרת, מפני שיוסף אוהב את אחיו, הוא עוזר להם לעשות תשובה גמורה.

שבת שלום.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Aaaand it’s a wrap

If you thought my Torani communities post was controversial – and based on the comments, apparently some people did – just wait until you read the following:

Sadly, over the past few years, we’ve witnessed the development of a very disturbing trend here in Israel.

I have no idea if it’s spread around the world yet, but I don’t recall seeing any signs of it before we made aliyah.

In any event, here in Israel, this troubling phenomenon has crossed sociological, cultural and geographic boundaries, and apparently, no segment of the population is immune from it.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m of course talking about clear cellophane wrapping paper – an oxymoron, if I’ve ever heard one.

Yes, as my fellow Israelis are surely aware, it’s gotten to the point that one can’t go buy a present and ask that it be gift wrapped without being assaulted by this bizarre fad.

Inevitably, the salesperson will envelop the present in clear cellophane, stick a handful of dried leaves or petals inside, and tie the package up with a bit of raffia ribbon for a pseudo-rustic look.

Admittedly, the effect is rather attractive, but – and here’s the controversial part – I’d be hard-pressed to describe it as “gift wrapped”, per se.

I mean, in contrast to traditional opaque wrapping paper which actual covers the present, cellophane – by definition - leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. And as a result, the mystery and suspense of opening one’s presents is gone.

This is clearly (no pun intended) unacceptable, and I believe that it’s time we take a stand against the insensitive and monolithic gift wrapping industry.

So, dear readers, I ask that you join me in demanding an end to, uh, transparency and openness…


Sunday, December 27, 2009

HH and Sneaking Around

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Baila for including my post on Torani communities.

And on a related note, the following incident occurred a number of years ago.

Sitting at our  Shabbat table here in TRLEOOB*, an American guest told us that she wasn’t very impressed with our community.

I can see that people here aren’t machshiv Shabbos (Yeshivish for “don’t value or honor the Shabbat”),” she intoned.

Stunned, YZG and I just stared at her blankly.

Yes,” she continued earnestly. “I mean, I was in shul this morning, and I was very surprised to see some boys wearing… sneakers! Obviously, their parents don’t really care about Shabbos, because otherwise, they wouldn’t let them go to shul like that!

(At this point, I can see that many of my Israeli readers are smiling, but I’ll go on for the benefit of my foreign readers.)

Actually, it has nothing to do with being ‘machshiv Shabbos,’” I explained, amused. “I do realize that sneakers in shul on Shabbat looks very strange to American eyes, but believe me, Shabbat is very important here.

It’s just that kids’ shoes – and adult shoes, for that matter! – are very expensive, and many families don’t feel like they can afford to buy sneakers, sandals, and shoes for Shabbat for all their kids.

But the guest was still skeptical.

No, that can’t be it,” she insisted. “Because I’ve been to Chareidi communities, where I assume people have much less money, and yet somehow they manage to purchase Shabbos shoes for all their kids…

Well, yeah,” I conceded, as I tried hard not to laugh. “But that’s only because they don’t buy their kids sneakers! Instead, they wear their dressy black shoes all week long…

The guest had nothing to say in response.

I don’t know if she was convinced or if she was just being polite.

But I like to think that maybe - just maybe - we got her to rethink some of her preconceived notions.

And hopefully, she walked away from that Shabbat with the recognition that one shouldn’t judge a community by its footwear…



*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog


To help pass the time until the fast ends, check out all the gorgeous pictures over at the latest JPIX.

Special thanks to Leora for including three of my posts:

.צום קל ומועיל לכולם

Have an easy and meaningful fast.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You just might be a Religious-Zionist

(Subtitle: Thinking out of the Chareidi box)

“The only reason I’m not making aliyah is because there are no communities in Israel where I’d feel comfortable living and no acceptable schools for my kids. I mean, everything is just so polarized there!”

If I had a shekel for every time I heard a variation of this absurd statement, I’d be able to retire my stehmp and spend my days as a full-time blogger…

Why do I refer to the above statement as absurd?

Because it’s patently untrue.

You see, contrary to what some misguided individuals would have you believe, Israel is chock-full of wonderful communities populated with amazing, committed Jews who value secular education and yet also observe the mitzvot - kalah k’vachamurah (meticulously), are kovei’a itim (regularly set aside time for Torah learning), dedicate much of their time and effort to chessed, and (for the women) cover their hair and dress with tzniut (modestly).

And these communities boast first-rate schools and yeshivot, whose alumni go on to excel in both the Torah and secular worlds.

I’m speaking, of course, about Israel’s many Torani communities.

So, then, you rightfully ask, what’s the problem? Why don’t would-be olim avail themselves of these communities and schools?

The answer is very simple. In general, people who live in Torani communities don’t wear black hats.

The thing is that in the States, wearing a black hat means that one is committed to Torah observance. (Yes, I do realize that this is a gross overgeneralization. There’s no need to bring counter examples.) For instance, even many so-called “Centrist” rabbis wear black hats in the States.

In contrast, here in Israel, black hats are pretty much the exclusive domain of the Chareidi world. (And IMNSHO, “Chareidi Lite” and ”American Yeshivish” are, for all intents and purposes, really subsets of the Chareidi world.)

However, many Americans may find themselves at odds with the Chareidi world on a wide range of issues, including:

  • Kollel vs. working (aka “learn or burn” ;-))
  • Secular education
  • Daas Toirah (i.e. the infallibility of the “gedolim)
  • And much, much more

And as a result, these Americans eventually conclude that there are “no normal communities in Israel” [sic].

Of course, the obvious solution is to move to one of the aforementioned Torani communities.

But many Americans won’t consider these communities, because it bothers them that most Torani boys don’t wear suits and ties on Shabbat – even at their own bar mitzvahs. It bothers them that Torani girls dress like ulpanistiyot. And it bothers them that illustrious Torani rabbanim and roshei yeshiva wear crocheted kippot rather than black hats.

You know, “important” stuff like that.

In other words, the problem isn’t that Israel is “too polarized” [sic].

The problem is that many Americans unfortunately let themselves miss the Torani forest for the superficial trees…


On a related note, check out this fascinating guest post over at the Life in Israel blog. It was written by someone who is torn between the Torani and Chareidi worlds.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A bloggers’ evening

Bloggers A Mother in Israel and Mimi of Israeli Kitchen are organizing another bloggers’ get-together this coming Motza”Sh in Nes Tziona.

As it turns out, I’m not going to be able to make it. But judging by the reports of the previous bloggers’ event, I’m sure this one will be a lot of fun.

For more information and registration, click here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avnei Eitan

According to an unwritten Israeli law, one must vacation in the North during the month of August and in Eilat during Chanukah.

But rebels that we are (why do I hear snickering from the audience? ;-)), we like to mix it up a bit, and so, as you will recall, we spent Shabbat Chanukah 5669 in Achziv.

And then this year, we decided to raise the stakes and spent a long Chanukah weekend in the Golan.

Specifically, we stayed in a beautiful tzimmer (refers to one of the many cabins/bungalows/vacation homes which dot Northern Israel) in Avnei Eitan, a moshav in the southern Golan Heights.

And now, without further ado, here are some scenes from our trip. As always, click on the pictures for a closer view.

IMG_0303 - Copy The Kinneret, as seen through our car window on a very rainy and foggy day

IMG_0323 Celebrating the 7th night of Chanukah in Avnei Eitan

IMG_0377Feeding the calves in Avnei Eitan

In short, we had a wonderful time and highly recommend Avnei Eitan as a vacation spot. Also, once again, YZG and I would like to thank our parents for a very special weekend.

And now back to work and school.

Those groans you hear in the background are the kids digging out their knapsacks…



Update: For more Chanukah pictures, check out Batya’s post.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winner takes all

Don’t let the title fool you.

This isn’t yet another dreidel post.

Instead, it’s about that other popular Chanukah game - the one that we here in TRLEOOB* refer to as “Who Won?”

As everyone knows, dreidel is a game of chance, which involves at least a modicum of skill. (I mean, one does have to know how to spin it.)

In contrast, “Who Won?” is based on… pure luck.

Sounds thrilling, no?

Here’s how you play:

  • 1) Each night of Chanukah, the players note whose candles lasted the longest. The player with the longest lasting candle is declared that night’s winner.
  • 2) Some families – like ours – have two winners each night: one for the people who light on candles and one for those who light on oil.

Yes, it really is that simple!

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I don’t quite see the game’s attraction. But since a significant portion of the Shiputzim family plays “Who Won?” every. single. night. of Chanukah, I have to assume that this game is way more exciting than it appears.

So, go ahead and try it at home. I’m sure that you’ll be very glad you did.

After all, “Who Won?” provides, uh, seconds of enjoyment for the entire family…


!חנוכה שמח


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Monday, December 14, 2009

Aliyah memories: Make yourself at home edition

The following incident took place soon after we made aliyah, when I had yet to master the local mores.

But now, some 11½ years later, I’ve obviously become quite the expert on Israeli social conventions. And if you believe that, I have an unfinished bridge to sell you…


A then-little boy who lives across the street had spent the afternoon here in TRLEOOB* playing with a Shiputzim son.

But now it was suppertime, and the kid showed no sign of leaving.

I was still used to American-style playdates, where the mothers arrange everything – including the pickup time - in advance. However, we had been in Israel long enough for me to realize that the system works very differently here.

So I decided to try the direct approach.

ME: You have to go home now.

KID: No, my mother said I don't have to be home until 7:00.

ME: {at a loss} Um, yeah, but we're about to eat supper.

KID: {unconcerned} Oh, that’s okay. I'll just play on your computer while you're eating...



*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dreidel (Dreidel());

Shavua tov!

Some people play dreidel for money. Others use chocolate chips, toothpicks, or little colored candies.

But here in TRLEOOB*, we take a rather recursive approach and play dreidel for… dreidels.

In other words, the “pot” consists of dreidels of various sizes, shapes and colors, and the winner is the player who ends up with the most dreidels.

What does your family use for your dreidel games?

Here’s a selection from the Shiputzim family’s dreidel collection:

IMG_0144 If you look very carefully, you can see which dreidels predate our aliyah and which ones were acquired here in Israel.

!חנוכה שמח


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A seasonal Chanukah party

The kids were adorable; the performance was beautiful; and the mothers surreptitiously shed a few tears.

But nevertheless, in many respects, the recent gan Chanukah party was rather disappointing.

I mean, consider the following flagrant breaches of gan Chanukah party protocol:

1) In stark contrast to last year’s paean to pyromania, this year’s party was surprisingly free of fire hazards. The requisite purple lights and their electrical cords were well out of the kids’ reach, and the gannenets lit the chanukiyah themselves. Moreover, they used tea lights rather than glass jars filled with olive oil, and they blew out the flames a minute or two later. (More on this chanukiyah below.)

2) Although the gannenets dutifully obeyed the edict from on high that gan must be dismissed early on the day of the Chanukah party, the kids were sent home at the relatively civilized hour of 12:00 – rather than at the more typical but highly inconvenient 11:00.

3) The party actually started more or less on time and ended a mere 1¼ hours after it started.

4) Many of the classic elements were missing, including the Giant Dreidel Piñata, the Building a Chanukiyah Out of Wooden Blocks, and the Joint Parent-Child Arts & Crafts Project.

5) Very few of the kids are eldest children. Thus, there was only one (1) pushy mother blocking everyone else as she attempted to video her precious offspring from every. single. angle.

And yet, in spite of these egregious lapses, the Gan Party of 5770 does have one claim to fame.

In years to come, it will surely be remembered as the only Chanukah celebration to feature a… tinsel-festooned chanukiyah:

IMG_0129“We wish you a merry, er, Chanukah…”


Monday, December 7, 2009

Third time’s a charm

Here in TRLEOOB*, we take a rather mixed approach to seudah shlishit (aka shalosheudes) on short Shabbatot in the winter.

In principle, we try to wash and have lechem mishneh – even on the earliest Shabbat. But then, each member of the family does something different.

Some stop after the challah and wait for after Shabbat  to eat a real meal (i.e. Melaveh Malkah). Others have things like chocolate spread (see how Israeli we’ve become!), peanut butter and jelly, assorted salads, hard boiled eggs, and nuts. Then there are those who dine on leftovers from Shabbat lunch – such as deli, schnitzel, and even cold chicken.

So, how does YOUR family handle seudah shlishit in the winter? Do you:

  • Skip it altogether?
  • Hold that one can be yotzai with Torah learning?
  • Make do with just fruit or cake?
  • Wash and have some bread but nothing else?
  • Wash and have a very light meal?
  • Partake of a traditional seudah shlishit with all the trimmings – fish, salads, quiches, pashtidot, etc.?
  • Enjoy an ice coffee, as you lord it over everyone around you that you’re a yekke** – or married to one - and thus only wait three hours…



*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

**This doesn’t apply to us. As I noted here, we wait 5½ hours.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A new computer and HH

We recently acquired a new computer here in TRLEOOB*:

IMG_0093 IMG_0092 Note the “Go Fish”-themed mouse.

As you can undoubtedly see on the monitor, someone’s in the middle of a [fictional] game called “Doorknob”. The  software developer – who, coincidentally, is also the hardware designer and engineer - tells me that “Doorknob” has ten levels and is geared for players between the ages of five and thirteen:

“[A certain 14-year-old of our acquaintance] could also play, but it probably will be a little bit too easy...”

Apparently, this computer doesn’t have Internet access, but if yours does, you can check out the latest edition of Haveil Havalim both here and here.

Special thanks to Batya for including Malke’s guest post about finding Heblish on Rakevet Yisrael.


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A figment of his imagination

Note: The following post was inspired by one of Baila’s recent Facebook statuses.

YZG insists that he grew up watching something called “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and that it was one of his favorite TV shows.

But I say that he made the whole thing up.

To back his claim, he showed me a whole slew of websites dedicated to the alleged show - including the Wikipedia page, which asserts that it ran from 1963-1988 and was then revived in 2002.

But I believe they done her in that YZG is probably behind each of those sites.

He even tried to prove his case by downloading an episode, but – surprise, surprise! - “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom is not available for download”.

How convenient.

Those of you who know us in real life will, no doubt, point out that it makes sense that only YZG remembers this show. After all, a program about animals is exactly the kind of thing which would appeal to YZG but most definitely not to me.

But I prefer my theory – namely, that the show is a figment of his imagination.

So, please tell me, did YOU ever watch “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”?

Before you answer this question, I should warn you that if you answer in the affirmative, I’ll know that YZG made you an offer you couldn’t refuse…



P.S. A reader suggested that I explain that this post was meant as a joke.