Monday, October 31, 2011

Around the J-Blogosphere

Several items of note:

1) An amusing piece about the psychometric exam (the Israeli equivalent of the SATs). Watch this space for my take on this test…

2) The Chief Rabbi of South Africa discusses the Shalit deal.

3) The latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here. Special thanks to This American Bite for including my pasta salad recipe.

And finally:

4) As you may recall, YZG kept a journal of his 11th grade trip to Israel. (Be sure to check out the original post –- and see how the CTO isn’t the first generation of the Shiputzim family to have an interest in computers… :-))

In any event, here’s what YZG had to say about Beit Guvrin:

Friday, February 4

…Then, we went to see 3 caves. The first one is called Bell Cave. It is a cave that was formed by mining out the chalk there. Next we went to the Pigeon Cave. This cave was used to keep pigeons in. The last cave is called Grave Cave. It was once used as a tomb…

Aren’t you glad he cleared THAT up?


Friday, October 28, 2011

National Parks: Beit Guvrin Edition

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 the antidote to our Neot Kedumim trip.

Because unlike the Neot Kedumim trip, our second chol hamo’ed tiyul on Succot was planned well in advance, began first thing in the morning, and – most of all – involved a national park.

Located not too far from Beit Shemesh, the Beit Guvrin-Mareishah National Park contains numerous man-made, limestone caves and includes the ancient cities of Mareishah (see Yehoshua 15:44) and Beit Guvrin (from the time of the Second Beit HaMikdash and the Bar Kochva Revolt).

And now, without further ado, the aforementioned pictures:

First, the requisite shot of the price list, in order to show how much money we saved as a result of our National Parks Authority membership:IMG_5379

Next, the entrance to one of the caves:

IMG_5394 The sign says that the narrow, one-way, 20-meter-long tunnel leads to the columbarium and that flashlights are recommended.

An underground olive oil press:IMG_5413

Interior of one of the caves: IMG_5452

An opening to another cave:IMG_5461

A view of the “Bell Cave”:IMG_5510

As always, feel free to click on any of the pictures for a closer look.

!חודש טוב ושבת שלום ומבורך

Monday, October 24, 2011

Going beyond our comfort zone

The symbolism was striking.

After all, Succot is all about leaving one’s comfortable home.

And, similarly, our chol hamo’ed trip to Neot Kedumim was - in so many ways - all about leaving our natural comfort zone…


Take, for instance, the destination itself. Not only isn’t Neot Kedumim a national park, but it figures prominently on the Shiputzim teens’ list of “Places We Should Never Go Ever Again, Because We’ve Gone Every. Single. Year. Without. Fail.”

(Except that a quick calculation revealed that we hadn’t actually been there as a family in about ten years, and so the aforementioned adolescents had no choice but to temporarily suspend their moratorium on visits to Neot Kedumim...)

And then there was the way the tiyul was, er, “arranged.” (Please note that I use the term VERY loosely…)

You see, as those of you who know the extended Shiputzim family in real life are well-aware, we’re not exactly the spur-of-the-moment, impulsive types.

Instead, we’re big believers in advance planning, detailed schedules, and early arrival times (especially during chol hamo’ed).

But oddly enough, our trip to Neot Kedumim involved none of these things.

We only decided to go at the last minute; we didn’t get there until several hours after the park opened; and our largish group kept getting separated.

And yet, nevertheless, a great time was had by all.

In particular, everyone enjoyed seeing the life-sized succahs representing each of the kosher and non-kosher cases discussed in the Mishnah (Masechet Succah). For example:

IMG_5287A succah on a boat (KOSHER)

IMG_5298A succah that is less than ten t’fachim high (NOT KOSHER)

IMG_5304A succah with no roof (NOT KOSHER)

IMG_5311A succah with only two walls (NOT KOSHER)

When was the last time you visited Neot Kedumim?


P.S. The latest Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to the Rebbetzin’s Husband for including my ArbaMinimMaintainers post and also my post about Netanyahu’s “V’Shavu Banim L’Gvulam” speech.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Winter 5772

Choref tov u’bari! (May you have a good and healthy winter!)

This Shabbat – Parshat Breishit – marks the beginning of cholent season here in TRLEOOB*.

Normally, we might wait until the weather gets colder, but two distinct events converged this week:

  1. We’re IY”H hosting a number of yeshiva guys (aka honorary Shiputzim family members) for lunch.
  2. I decided that after the seemingly-endless cycle of erev yom tov/yom tov/erev Shabbat/Shabbat (repeat ad infinitum), a simple and easy to prepare dish (i.e. cholent) was in order.

But for those who aren’t yet up to cholent – and in order to finish up our frozen lemon juice before the new crop comes in – I also mixed up a quick pasta salad:


Lemony Pasta Salad


  • 1 package (500 grams) pasta
  • 1 can baby corn, drained and sliced
  • 1 small red onion, chopped


  • ¼ cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 TBSP honey
  • Minced clove of garlic (or several shakes of garlic powder)
  • Dried herbs (I used parsley)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Cook pasta and drain. Place in bowl with corn and onion. Prepare dressing (I used an immersion blender to mix it, but shaking well should work too) and pour over salad. Toss. Chill in refrigerator for a few hours – or overnight – before serving.

!בתאבון ושבת שלום ומבורך


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

“And the sons will return to their border”

PM Netanyahu’s speech at the Tel Nof Air Base:

The following translation was released by the Prime Minister’s Office:

Citizens of Israel, today we are all united in joy and in pain.

Two-and-a-half years ago, I returned to the Prime Minister's Office.  One of the principal and most complicated missions that I found on my desk, and which I set my heart to, was to bring our abducted soldier Gilad Shalit back home, alive and well.  Today, that mission has been completed.

It entailed a very difficult decision.  I saw the need to return home someone whom the State of Israel had sent to the battlefield.  As an IDF soldier and commander, I went out on dangerous missions many times.  But I always knew that if I or one of my comrades fell captive, the Government of Israel would do its utmost to return us home, and as Prime Minister, I have now carried this out.  As a leader who daily sends out soldiers to defend Israeli citizens, I believe that mutual responsibility is no mere slogan – it is a cornerstone of our existence here.

But I also see an additional need, that of minimizing the danger to the security of Israel's citizens.  To this end, I enunciated two clear demands.  First, that senior Hamas leaders, including arch-murderers, remain in prison.  Second, that the overwhelming majority of those designated for release either be expelled or remain outside Judea and Samaria, in order to impede their ability to attack our citizens.

For years, Hamas strongly opposed these demands.  But several months ago, we received clear signs that it was prepared to back down from this opposition.  Tough negotiations were carried out, night and day, in Cairo, with the mediation of the Egyptian government.  We stood our ground, and when our main demands were met – I had to make a decision.

I know very well that the pain of the families of the victims of terrorism is too heavy to bear.  It is difficult to see the miscreants who murdered their loved ones being released before serving out their full sentences.  But I also knew that in the current diplomatic circumstances, this was the best agreement we could achieve, and there was no guarantee that the conditions which enabled it to be achieved would hold in the future.  It could be that Gilad would disappear; to my regret, such things have already happened.

I thought of Gilad and the five years that he spent rotting away in a Hamas cell.  I did not want his fate to be that of Ron Arad.  Ron fell captive exactly 25 years ago and has yet to return.  I remembered the noble Batya Arad.  I remembered her concern for her son Ron, right up until her passing.  At such moments, a leader finds himself alone and must make a decision.  I considered – and I decided.  Government ministers supported me by a large majority.

And today, now Gilad has returned home, to his family, his people and his country.  This is a very moving moment.  A short time ago, I embraced him as he came off the helicopter and escorted him to his parents, Aviva and Noam, and I said, 'I have brought your son back home.'  But this is also a hard day; even if the price had been smaller, it would still have been heavy.

I would like to make it clear: We will continue to fight terrorism.  Any released terrorist who returns to terrorism – his blood is upon his head.  The State of Israel is different from its enemies: Here, we do not celebrate the release of murderers.  Here, we do not applaud those who took life.  On the contrary, we believe in the sanctity of life.  We sanctify life.  This is the ancient tradition of the Jewish People.

Citizens of Israel, in recent days, we have all seen national unity such as we have not seen in a long time.  Unity is the source of Israel's strength, now and in the future.  Today, we all rejoice in Gilad Shalit's return home to our free country, the State of Israel.  Tomorrow evening, we will celebrate Simchat Torah.  This coming Sabbath, we will read in synagogues, as the weekly portion from the prophets, the words of the prophet Isaiah (42:7): 'To bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.'  Today, I can say, on behalf of all Israelis, in the spirit of the eternal values of the Jewish People: 'Your children shall return to their own border [Jeremiah 31:16].'  Am Yisrael Chai! [The People of Israel live!].

!ושבו בנים לגבולם

Monday, October 17, 2011

The latest hiddur

Everyone has their own favorite method for ensuring that their arba minim last until the end of Succot. (What’s your preferred solution?)

For instance, YZG - who says that the key is to keep the hadassim and aravot dry – always removes them from the lulav after davening and places them in a tightly sealed bag (usually the bag from the hadassim) in the refrigerator.

This year, YZG integrated a new element into his traditional AMPS (=arba minim preservation system):IMG_5230 (2) IMG_5234 (2)As you can see, they’re simple plastic clips.

However, don’t you agree that if we thought up an original name – e.g. KosherKlips, SimplySuccot, GuardYourGreens, ArbaMinimMaintainers (please post your own ideas in the comment section) - added a catchy logo, and  got a couple of impressive-sounding hechsherim, we could easily market these clips?

We could even offer several models. The mehadrin edition would be available in white, and the mehadrin-min-hamehadrin edition would come in, well, black, of course. (Clearly, the pink version would have to go… :-))

These clips could be the greatest invention since eruv tavshilin kits


Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Succot 5772

By now, most of you are probably very familiar with the Shiputzim family’s succah – whether it’s our loud and tacky bright and colorful stationary succah or our cool, cutting-edge succah on wheels.

But since every year, we make a point of not only rearranging the decorations in the former but also adding new ones, a few glimpses into this year’s succah are certainly in order.

(The advantage of having all the kids home from before Yom Kippur is that our succah was fully decorated by Sunday afternoon… :-))

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

IMG_5043 IMG_5211See something familiar in the second picture?

And, no, I’m not referring to this blog’s new icon. (Can you spot it?) I’m talking about something that’s connected to someone else’s blog.

Let’s zoom in for a better look:

IMG_5066 Recognize this?

It’s a postcard with Leora's lovely watercolor of a pomegranate. (Don’t miss the rest of the paintings in her beautiful simanim series.)

Leora sweetly sent me the postcard (yes, even bloggers sometimes communicate via snail mail…) before Rosh Hashanah, and I couldn’t wait to hang it in our succah.

Thank you, Leora!

And now for my annual pre-Succot offer: If you still need aravot, please feel free to stop by TRLEOOB* until candlelighting and pick some. BA”H, we were privileged to have a bumper crop this year…

!חג שמח

May you and your families have a wonderful and joyous Succot!


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Shavua tov and shanah tovah!

Wondering why the country seems to be awash in schoolchildren today – even though Succot doesn’t start until Wednesday night IY”H?

Well, you’re not alone.

And thus, recognizing the widespread confusion and trying - no doubt - to be helpful, the Education Ministry posted the following explanation on its website:

חופשת הקיץ תקוצר בחמישה ימים. ימי החופשה שנגרעו מחופשת הקיץ יתווספו במהלך שנת הלימודים התשע"ב... בין יום הכיפורים לחג הסוכות יתווספו שלושה ימי חופשה. החופשה תחל ביום  שישי, ט' בתשרי התשע"ב, 7.10.2011. חופשת החנוכה תוקדם ביום אחד, ותחל ביום רביעי, כ"ה בכסלו התשע"ב, 21.12.2011. חופשת הפסח תוקדם ביום אחד ותחל ביום רביעי, ה' בניסן התשע"ב, 28.3.2012. חופשת הקיץ תקוצר בחמישה ימים ותסתיים ביום ראשון, ח' באלול התשע"ב, 26.8.2012 (במקום ב-31.8, כפי שהיה מקובל בעבר).

Loose translation:

  1. The 5772 (2012) summer vacation will be five days shorter than usual.
  2. In order to make up the days, three days will be added to the 5772 Succot vacation (hence, this week’s hordes of seemingly-delinquent kids), one day to the 5772 Chanukah vacation, and one day to the 5772 Pesach vacation.
  3. The 5773 (2012-2013) school year will begin on August 27 (instead of the traditional September 1).

So there you have it.

Or maybe not.

Because if you think about it for a minute, you’ll realize that the Education Ministry is, in effect, organizing what can only be described as a Ponzi scheme. (Hat tip: YCT)

After all, they’re taking five days from the 5772 school year (i.e the “Peter” of this post’s title) in order to make up for the lengthened 5773 school year (i.e the “Paul” of the title)…


Is this moral? Ethical? Logical?

Does it serve any useful purpose whatsoever?

I’ll let you be the judge…

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bar Bei Rav D’Chad Yoma

Bar Bei Rav D’Chad Yoma (literally, “a son of the Rav’s house for one day” in Aramaic) refers to an annual day of Torah learning, generally held during Asseret Yemei Teshuvah. The brainchild of the Kaliver Rebbe, Bar Bei Rav programs can be found across the country.

In fact, countless yeshivot and midrashot now organize their own Torah-oriented yemei iyun (daylong seminars/colloquia) this time of year, and one could easily spend all of Asseret Yemei Teshuvah going from yom iyun to yom iyun.

But nearly forty years ago, back when the Kaliver Rebbe originated the concept, inviting people to take a day off from work to learn Torah was considered to be an innovative and radical idea.

Together with ACAOSR (=a certain anonymous Our Shiputzim reader), YZG has been going to the same Bar Bei Rav since we made aliyah and eagerly looks forward to it from year to year.

ACAOSR, who first attended this Bar Bei Rav just a few years after it started, reports that one of the speakers (Rav Yaakov Galinsky shlit”a) once asked an intriguing question:

(I’m paraphrasing here. All errors and misrepresentations are my own.)

What’s the point of this gathering? Who are we trying to fool? We spend 364 days a year focused on the mundane aspects of life in this world, and we imagine that if we spend one day before Yom Kippur learning Torah, Hashem will somehow think that we’ve been doing so all year long?!

As an answer to this question, the speaker shared a beautiful mashal (parable), which can serve as a powerful reminder for all of us.

There was once a poor family who wanted to take a family portrait. Since they didn’t want to pose for the picture in their old rags but couldn’t afford to buy new clothes for the occasion, they borrowed what they needed from their neighbors.

Afterwards, they proudly hung the picture of themselves in their borrowed finery on the wall of their humble home and displayed it for all to see.

Now, obviously, no one would look at the picture and think that the family dressed like that every day. Clearly, it wasn’t an accurate representation of reality. So why did they go to all that trouble?

The reason is that the portrait showed what they wished they looked like and the way they dreamed of presenting themselves. In other words, the picture reflected what they considered to be the ideal – even though they understood that such an ideal is unobtainable and unrealistic and that they had no hope of ever achieving it.

The speaker then presented the nimshal (the moral of the story):

Similarly, when one takes a day off to learn Torah in the period leading up to Yom Kippur, one demonstrates that spending one’s every waking moment immersed in Torah is the ideal to which one aspires.

Of course, such an ideal is unobtainable and unrealistic in this world, where we must earn a living and deal with numerous everyday matters and concerns. But, nevertheless, during Asseret Yemei Teshuvah, we must stop and decide how we wish to present ourselves, as we stand before Hashem on יום הסליחה והכפרה (the Day of Forgiveness and Atonement).

May Hashem see us all in the ideal light in which we choose to present ourselves, and may all our prayers be accepted b’rachamim u’v’ratzon.

!גמר חתימה טובה

Have an easy and meaningful fast, and may we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good, sweet, happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful new year!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Our Shiputzim undergoes shiputzim

As you may have noticed (please feel free to head on over to the blog, if you’re reading this on the feed), Our Shiputzim is currently in the process of acquiring a new look.

Why now, you ask?

Well, you see, the one benefit of having a son with stitches (assuming, of course, that I do) and of having that son be this blog’s CTO (assuming, of course, that he is) is that he finally came home from yeshiva in order to have said stitches removed.

Which, naturally, meant that he had a little bit of time on his hands and was able to upgrade the blog.

So, what do you think?

It’s still very much a work in progress, and thus, your input would be very helpful and much appreciated.

Comments, suggestions, observations, recommendations, הארות with an aleph, and even הערות with an ayin are all welcome…


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Reason #7043 for making aliyah

Shavua tov and shanah tovah!

What better way to begin 5772 here on Our Shiputzim than with an aliyah-promotional post?

But, don’t worry, this isn’t going to be yet another essay extolling the joys of one day of yom tov.

(Although coming, as it does, on the heels of two days of Rosh Hashanah followed by Shabbat, such a post would certainly be, uh, in its place – if I may use the Heblish term...)

The thing is that I’ve pretty much covered the topic here, and also, I realize that it’s very difficult for those who haven’t yet had the privilege of experiencing one day of yom tov to see it as an advantage. (And, IMHO, the standard “day and a half” halachic arrangement offered to many visitors from abroad doesn’t count as “experiencing” one day of yom tov.)

Because chances are, if you’re like many Diaspora Jews – my pre-aliyah self included – you love yom tov and, in spite of all the cooking and preparations, can’t imagine willingly giving any of it up. (But check out my original post if you’re curious.)

And, so, instead, this post will focus on a different, albeit related, reason for making aliyah – namely, hot showers on yom tov.

Yes, that’s right.

Contrary to popular belief, one may, in fact, take showers on yom tov – as long as one adheres to certain conditions and restrictions. (For example, one can’t wash or immerse one’s entire body at once; one can’t shampoo one’s hair; etc. CYLOR for details.)

Of course, this is true in chu”l as well. However, outside of Israel, few – if any – people have solar water heaters, and thus (again, CYLOR), cold showers are the only option on yom tov in the Diaspora.

But here in Israel, where – except for on rainy, winter days – we heat our water with the ubiquitous dude shemesh (solar water tank/boiler), most authorities hold that one may use hot water for showers on yom tov.

In other words, my friends, if you, too, wish to enjoy a hot shower on yom tov, you have a little less than two weeks to pack your bags and join us here in Israel… before Succot and Simchat Torah (which are both three day affairs in chu”l this year).

Of course, ironically, considering that we only celebrate one day, hot showers on yom tov aren’t that essential here…Open-mouthed

.צום קל ומועיל

Have an easy and meaningful fast.