Sunday, April 29, 2012

It’s a small world after all

You can tell a lot about people by noting which alonim (i.e. the weekly parsha sheets issued by a wide range of institutions and organizations and distributed every Shabbat in shuls across the country) they read.

For instance, seeing as how the Shiputzim family includes, inter alia, Anglo parents as well as Israeli teenagers, it should come as no surprise to hear that “Olam Katan” (literally, “A Small World”) and “Torah Tidbits” (put out by the OU’s Israel Center) are both very popular here in TRLEOOB*.

Thus, I was quite flattered when a number of readers observed that a recent humor piece (scroll down to Page 5) in “Olam Katan” about Israel’s national-religious world reminded them of this blog.

It's like the kind of thing that you write, Imma...” one of the Shiputzim kids even said.

And on a somewhat related note, be sure to check out the extraordinary lead article (the article starts on Page 1 and continues on Pages 4-5) in this past Shabbat’s “Torah Tidbits”.

What are your family’s favorite parsha sheets?


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Monday, April 23, 2012

Soaking it all in

Warning: The following post may exceed the statute of limitations on post-Pesach wrap ups. Proceed at your own risk.

I have a question which I suspect no one has ever asked the Rav before,” YZG began.

The Rav was skeptical. There isn’t much he hasn’t seen or heard.

We’ll see,” he replied noncommittally but with a definite twinkle in his eye.

And so YZG explained.

For 14 years – i.e. since the last time Shvii Shel Pesach (the 7th day of Pesach) came out on a Friday {insert: requisite Torah Tidbits stats, which note that there won’t be such a long break for another 200 years or so} – we’d been planning that this year, we’d spend the last day of Pesach and Shabbat Parshat Shmini (aka Isru Chag) at our gebrochts-eating relatives.

You see, the Shiputzim daughters are all determined NOT to be one of those women who grow up not eating gebrochts and then refuse to serve it to their families - even if their husbands DO indulge in knaidlach, matzah brie, matzah farfel kugel, and so on.

But in order to avoid falling into this surprisingly common trap, the Shiputzim daughters need to taste the aforementioned soaked delicacies.

And so, for the sake of the Shiputzim daughters and their future husbands and kids (BA”H), we decided to go to our relatives for that Shabbat.

After all, when it comes to gebrochts, they’re the experts. In contrast, we’re mere amateurs, at best.

But a couple of weeks before Pesach, we suddenly realized that there might be a problem.

Because assuming that such a thing is possible, said relatives are even more fanatic about early Shabbat than we are.

Which meant that it would not yet be Tzait HaKochavim (loosely, nightfall) when we were going to be accepting Shabbat.

Was there any way, YZG asked, for us to have gebrochts at that Friday night meal?

The Rav smiled.

No, he certainly had NOT been asked that question before… :-)

However, be that as it may, he continued, we should wait until after Tzait to eat the gebrochts (although for this purpose, we could abide by a lenient opinion of Tzait).

Translation: We wouldn’t be able to have knaidlach with our soup, but if we stalled and sang a few extra zemirot, we could easily partake of the matzah farfel kugel that was set to appear during the main course.

For the record, our gracious hostess offered to switch the courses and serve the soup course AFTER the main course - thus allowing us to have the knaidlach, albeit at the price of the matzah farfel kugel.

And so, as we are wont to do, the Shiputzim family took a vote.

We all agreed that the picky eaters among us (read: those who wouldn’t commit to eat both the knaidlach AND the kugel) had no say in the matter. In addition, the voting commissioner (that would be me) ruled that YZG couldn’t vote, because it’s his fault that we don’t eat gebrochts… :-)

With only a handful of eligible voters remaining, the decision was unanimous. Everyone opted for the kugel. (Their reasoning was that they’d all had knaidlach before – although admittedly not up to our hostess’s standards – but no one makes matzah farfel kugel when it isn’t Pesach. No, not even during Gebrochts Week)

And, so, to make a long, boring story even longer and more boring, we had gebrochts, and all was right with the world.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we wasted our time on gebrochts when we could’ve been eating kitniyot </reason #2119 for making aliyah>, wonder no more.

Because on that Shabbat afternoon, we had some Doritos, and all would’ve been even more right with the world. Except that surprisingly, unlike dishes containing soaked matzah, salty corn-based snacks just don’t seem to lend themselves to long-winded, drawn-out posts…


Did you eat gebrochts and/or kitniyot on Shabbat Parshat Shmini/Isru Chag?


P.S. Speaking of Pesach, check out the latest Kosher Cooking Carnival here. Special thanks to Jennifer in MamaLand for including my non-gebrochts choco-nut bars.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Yom HaShoah 5772

The following moving video speaks for itself: (The English song begins after about a minute.)

אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים שׁוֹכֵן בַּמְרוֹמִים, הַמְצֵא מְנוּחָה נְכוֹנָה תַחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה, בְּמַעֲלוֹת קְדוֹשִׁים וּטְהוֹרִים כְּזֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ מְאִירִים וּמַזְהִירִים, לְנִשְׁמוֹת אַחֵינוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַקְּדוֹשִׁים וְהַטְּהוֹרִים שֶׁנָּפְלוּ בִּידֵי הָרוֹצְחִים וְנִשְׁפַּךְ דָּמָם, בְּאַווּשְׁוִיץ, מַיְידַנֶק, טְרֶבְּלִינְקָה, וּבִשְׁאָר מַחֲנוֹת הַשְּׁמָד בְּאֵירוֹפָּה. שֶׁנֶּהֶרְגוּ וְנִשְׂרְפוּ וְנִשְׁחֲטוּ וְנִקְבְּרוּ חַיִּים, בְּכֹל מִיתוֹת מְשֻׁנּוֹת וְאַכְזָרִיוֹת, עַל קְדֻשַּׁת הַשֵּׁם… בְּגַן עֵדֶן תְּהֵא מְנוּחָתָם.

לָכֵן בַּעַל הָרַחֲמִים, יַסְתִּירֵם בְּסֵתֶר כְּנָפָיו לְעוֹלָמִים וְיִצְרֹר בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים אֶת נִשְׁמָתָם.

ה' הוּא נַחֲלָתָם וְיָנוּחוּ בְשָׁלוֹם עַל מִשְׁכָּבָם, וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן.

(From the special Kel Malei prayer recited on Yom HaShoah)

Monday, April 16, 2012

National Parks: Herodion Edition

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

As longtime readers are aware, it wouldn’t be Chol Hamoed here in TRLEOOB (=the real life equivalent of our blog) without a trip to one of Israel’s beautiful national parks, and so, on the Wednesday of Chol Hamoed Pesach, we set out for Herodion.

The weather was windy yet clear, and we were thrilled to be joined by Guest Blogger Malke and her family.

Located just outside of Yerushalayim in eastern Gush Etzion, Herodion resembles a truncated cone and dominates the surrounding area. From the top, one can see the Dead Sea and even the mountains beyond.

Herodion was originally built by Herod as a sumptuous palace/fortress, and it boasted the absolute latest in Roman era mod. cons. and amenities - including cisterns, saunas, a theater, and a lavish swimming pool with an island in the middle.

Historians believe that out of all of Herod’s massive construction projects (e.g., renovating the Second Beit HaMikdash, Caesarea, etc.), Herodion was his favorite. After all, it was the only one he named after himself, and it was where he was buried. (The park’s requisite movie focuses on the hours leading up to Herod’s funeral. Apparently, the funeral’s organizers had the foresight to video the proceedings… :-))

Later, during the Great Revolt (66-70 CE - i.e. HaMered HaGadol, for the Hebraically-oriented among you), Herodion served as a base for the Jewish fighters, who were unimpressed by the luxury and added a beit knesset and several mikvaot instead.

Then, during the Bar Kochva Revolt (132-136 CE - i.e. Mered Bar Kochva, for the Hebraically-oriented among you), the fighters dug out a cleverly-engineered network of  tunnels, which today’s visitors are allowed to explore.

And now, without further ado, the threatened promised pictures:

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

IMG_6918Note the little bird resting on top of the sign.

The view from the fortress:

IMG_6933The square with the round thing in the middle in the foreground is the remains of Herod’s swimming pool.

Inside the fortress:

IMG_0038 IMG_6925 The green tarp covers the beit knesset.

And, finally, inside one of the Bar Kochva tunnels:

IMG_0049 As always, feel free to click on the pictures for a closer view.

Have you ever been to Herodion?


P.S. Coincidentally, Batya also visited Herodion during Chol Hamoed (although not on the same day as us). Be sure to check out her post.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chol Hamoed at the Museum

It’s Chol Hamoed Pesach, and you know what that means, right?

Yes, that’s right! It means that it’s once again time for me to bore you to tears with our family vacation photos! Yay!


But for a change, this post won’t include any national park pictures (although I can’t promise that they won’t appear here on the blog later this week IY”H).

The thing was that yesterday’s warmer temperatures seemed to call for an indoor attraction, and Yerushalayim’s Israel Museum fit the bill.

Although it’s been nearly two years since the museum’s renovations were completed, we hadn’t been there since it reopened, and so when a Shiputzim daughter asked if we could go this week, YZG and I were happy to oblige.

Because not only is admission free for kids under 18 throughout chol hamoed, but the Israel Museum is somehow able to pull off that rarest of feats:

You see, it’s very interesting and has much to offer for visitors both young and old. (In particular, the Judaica collections, the interiors of the old shuls, the wedding gowns, and the Holyland model are some of the Shiputzim family’s favorite things to see.)

However – and here’s the amazing part – at the same time, like any museum, it, by definition, raises the KQ (the all-important Kvetching Quotient) to astronomical levels. And as I’ve noted elsewhere, there’s nothing that YZG and I enjoy more than some good, old-fashioned, adolescent grumbling… </sarcasm>

And now, without further ado, here are the promised photos…

Assorted archeological finds:IMG_6830IMG_6831

A succah from late 19th century Germany:IMG_6847

The interior of an Italian shul from 1700:

IMG_6852BTW, a somewhat similar 18th century Italian Aron Kodesh can be seen in Beit Knesset Renanim, Heichal Shlomo’s on-site shul.

And of course the famous Holyland model of Yerushalayim from the time of the Second Beit HaMikdash, which is now located near the Shrine of the Book:IMG_6857

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

What are your favorite parts of the Israel Museum?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Changed beyond recognition

The original idea was to bake some pesachdik (i.e. kashla”p, for the Hebraically-oriented among you) mandelbroit, using a recipe from here.

But unfortunately, that plan didn’t pass muster with TPTB (=the powers that be) – i.e. He Whose Fault It Is That We Don’t Eat Gebrochts (that would be YZG, for those of you who are just joining us now) – who felt that mixing matzah meal and apple sauce was too extreme, even according to our admittedly-lenient gebrochts standards.

And so, the Resident Ulpanistit and I took the aforementioned mandelbroit recipe and made so many additions, subtractions, and modifications, that the end result proved to be a different dessert entirely:

IMG_6709IMG_6714IMG_6724Non-Gebrochts Choco-Nut Bars

Adapted and altered beyond recognition from here.


  • 2 eggs + 2 egg whites
  • cup oil (we used canola oil, but nut oil should work too)
  • ¼ cup applesauce (increase sugar if you’re using unsweetened applesauce)
  • cup sugar (next year, we might try to replace half the sugar with brown sugar)
  • 1 envelope vanilla sugar
  • 2½ cups chopped almonds
  • ¼ cup potato starch
  • 1+ cup chocolate chips (next year, I’d add even more)
  • (optional) brown sugar or cinnamon/sugar for topping (we used cinnamon/sugar)


Beat eggs and egg whites with oil and applesauce. Add sugar, vanilla sugar, almonds, and potato starch, and mix well. Pour batter into a 9x13 baking-paper-lined pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over batter in the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and use a knife to form a marble pattern (a la chocolate swirl blondies). If using cinnamon/sugar or brown sugar, sprinkle over swirled batter. Return pan to oven for an additional 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from oven. Cut into bars and let cool in pan.

!מועדים לשמחה ובתאבון

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fish Tank Friday: Erev Pesach 5772 Edition

As you may recall, our pet goldfish answers to the no-frills yet functional name “Fish.”

Which is highly appropriate, considering that from the moment he first arrived here in TRLEOOB* over five years ago, he (by tacit agreement, it was decided that Fish is a “he”)  has been living in what could charitably be called a no-frills yet functional aquarium – i.e. a cheap plastic container with jagged holes in the lid.

Yet lest you feel sorry for Fish and accuse us of animal cruelty, I should note that in spite of our best efforts and the benign neglect he has endured thanks to our tender, loving care, he actually seems to have thrived in his modest abode.

But last night, in honor of Pesach, Fish, um, moved a house (if you’ll excuse my Heblish).

And while admittedly, his larger and brighter new home – like his old one - is just a simple plastic container, at least it’s not as cheap and has smooth, round holes on top:

IMG_6748IMG_6765 IMG_6755 As always, please feel free to click on the pictures for a closer look.

!חג כשר ושמח

The entire Our Shiputzim staff wishes all our readers a very happy and kosher Pesach.

May we all be privileged to eat in rebuilt Yerushalayim from the zevachim and from the pesachim, speedily and in our days. Amen.


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Sunday, April 1, 2012

One man’s trash

You know what they say: One person’s trash is another person’s, um, blog fodder…


And since desperate times (read: the week before Pesach when even the Our Shiputzim General Theory of Pesach Cleaning doesn’t really allow for too much blogging time) call for desperate measures (read: scouring one’s local email discussion group for material), here’s a partial list of the stuff that people in our community have tried to foist on their unsuspecting neighbors to generously give away for free over the past week:

  • Filo dough and fleishig kishke for cholent
  • Electric scooter and charger (the scooter isn’t charged)
  • Broken printer
  • Old vacuum cleaner (the on/off button doesn’t always work, and the machine is a “picky eater”)
  • Amcor refrigerator (needs to be fixed)
  • 3 women’s hats (2 straw hats and one brown winter hat) and a number of Purim costumes (including Superman and Power Rangers)
  • New projector (still in original package) and a small TV (seems to work)
  • Boxwood display cabinet
  • Child’s desk
  • Infant car seat (the upholstery is torn)
  • Crystal washing machine (working condition) and a crib
  • Morphy Richards steam cleaner with all the parts (excellent condition); two keyboards; and two computer mice
  • Fresh chicken bones for soup (kosher for Pesach)
  • Baby carriage and Israeli hiking guidebook
  • Couch cover (ideal for a clubhouse or a snif)
  • 13 cassette tapes of Rav Ovadiah Yosef’s shiurim (on Shabbat and Yom Tov)
  • Hebrew and English vocabulary flash cards
  • Cookbooks
  • 50 back issues of a children’s nature magazine
  • Metal spotlights
  • Electric burner with room for two pots (not clean)
  • 700 grams of Stage 1 baby formula


What have been some of the more interesting pre-Pesach offerings in your neck of the woods?


P.S. The latest Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Trip'n Mommy for including my shattered dreams post.