Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blogging the war

Although I’ve alluded to the war, I haven’t actually blogged about it outright.


The main reason is that I have nothing to add. Other bloggers are saying it better than I ever could.

But also, B”H, life goes on. I think this is very difficult to explain to someone who isn’t here.

On one hand, we are at war. This is a tiny, interconnected country, and no matter where one goes or lives, the war isn’t very far away – neither geographically nor emotionally. I’d rather not go into details which would jeopardize my semi-anonymous status, but I will say that TRLEOOB (like much of Israel) is relatively close to at least some of the places which have been mentioned in the news over the past few days.

Meanwhile, we know some people - including one of ESG’s teachers – who have received Tzavei Shmoneh (emergency call-ups), and many of our neighbors are once again opening their homes to strangers (as they first did during the Expulsion from Gush Katif and then again during the Second Lebanon War).

Yet, on the other hand, we continue with much of our mundane daily routines. For example, ASG started driving lessons this week; AMG is writing an English book report on “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”; MAG had an orthodontist appointment today; and so on.

How do I write about this dichotomy? I don’t want to sound callous and indifferent. But at the same time, I don’t want to suggest that we are chas v’shalom enduring anything resembling that which the beleaguered residents of an ever-growing swath of the country are suffering.

Your thoughts?

יה”ר שיצליח ה’ את תפילתנו ויחזק את ידי מגיני ארץ קדשינו

One last Chanukah post

Chanukah vacation is over, and everyone headed back to school today. But as we were putting all the chanukiyot and draidels away until next year IY”H, ESG reminded me that I had neglected to post a picture of the unique chanukiyah he made at his school’s Chanukah party.

ESG attended this party by himself – even though the parents were invited as well - because YZG and I had to go to a funeral. ESG understood but asked if I could at least post his decorative chanukiyah on the blog.

So, here goes:


For more of ESG’s handiwork, be sure to check out his mizbach haketoret model as well as his Parshat Vayeishev diorama.

Monday, December 29, 2008

TSG, public speaker par excellence

Recently, some of TSG’s older siblings observed that she rarely appears in the blog.

Fortunately, recent events provided me with a perfect opportunity to remedy the situation.

A few days before our wonderful visit to Achziv, the official Dvar Torah Committee requested that two members of the Shiputzim family speak over Shabbat.

So, I informed the older Shiputzim children that two of them would have to volunteer.

The first volunteer was the Resident Ulpanistit, who delivered a beautiful dvar Torah. She asked that I not embarrass her with maternal accolades, and therefore, I’ll simply say that she did a great job.

But we still needed a second volunteer. However, before another member of the older set could offer their services, TSG asked if she could speak.

And speak she did.

BA”H, although there were nearly 40 people there over Shabbat, TSG wasn’t flustered. Instead, she spoke loudly and with much poise and self-confidence. Afterwards, she asked me to post her speech to the blog.

Here, then, is her dvar Torah (an English translation is available upon request):

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

בפרשת מקץ, מסופר שיעקב אבינו אמר לבניו ללכת למצרים לקנות אוכל מפני שהיה רעב בארץ ישראל. אחר כך, בפרק מ"ב, פסוק ג', כתוב, "וַיֵּרְדוּ אֲחֵי-יוֹסֵף, עֲשָׂרָה, לִשְׁבֹּר בָּר, מִמִּצְרָיִם." יש לי שתי שאלות על הפסוק הזה

א. למה כתוב " וַיֵּרְדוּ" במקום וילכו

ב. למה כתוב " אֲחֵי-יוֹסֵף" במקום בני יעקב? הרי, יוסף לא היה שם בכלל

לפי רש"י, התשובה לשאלה השנייה היא שהאחים התחרטו על מכירת יוסף. הם רצו עכשיו להתנהג אליו עם אחווה – כמו אחים – והיו מוכנים לפדות אותו אפילו בהרבה כסף

והתשובה לשאלה הראשונה היא שארץ ישראל היא ארץ הקודש. ולכן, מי שבא לארץ ישראל נקרא "עולה". ומי שיוצא מארץ ישראל נקרא "יורד". ברוך ה' זכינו לגור כאן בארץ ישראל – ארץ הקודש. שבת שלום

May TSG – and all of us – continue to appreciate that it is indeed a privilege to live here in Israel, in both times of peace and times of war.

שנשמע בשורות טובות

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Zot Chanukah

In honor of Zot Chanukah, here are pictures of our chanukiyot from the sixth night – which we lit in Achziv on Erev Shabbat.

Some family members lit inside the shul:


And everyone else lit just outside the shul:


Here’s the inside of the shul:


(As you can guess from the size of the Aron Kodesh, there was only one Sefer Torah. But, BA”H, the CTO’s laining was excellent – as always – even though one Sefer Torah on Shabbat-Rosh Chodesh-Chanukah meant that there was a considerable amount of rolling involved…)

May we soon be privileged to once again enjoy Zot Chanukah’s original triumphs – both the military victory as well as the miracle in the Beit HaMikdash.


Shavua tov, chodesh tov, and happy Chanukah!

We were privileged to have spent a very special and extremely enjoyable Shabbat-Rosh Chodesh-Chanukah together with our extended family at a field school in Achziv, which is on the northern Mediterranean coast – just south of Rosh HaNikra.

Here is a picture of the field school grounds:

IMG_4174Note to my Israeli readers: We highly recommend this field school as a place to stay. It may not be a 5-star hotel, but it was pretty, clean and fixed up very nicely. Plus, the staff went out of their way to accommodate us in every way. (Feel free to contact me at OurShiputzim at gmail dot com for more information.)

The Achziv beach:


Rosh HaNikra as seen from Achziv:


The ocean:


The exterior of our well-appointed room:


The view from inside our room:


The coast:


YZG and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our parents for a truly wonderful weekend.

Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers are with the IDF and the brave residents of the South.

בשורות טובות

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

KCC #37

The latest edition of the Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here.

Special thanks to Leora for including my potato kugel post.


חג אורים שמח

From all of us here at Our Shiputzim!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Heblish III

That’s right, Heblish fans. It’s time for another exciting edition of everyone’s favorite made-up language. Here, then, are some actual words and phrases used in TRLEOOB*:

To give a pe’ulah: Hebrew source – להעביר פעולה. English definition – To lead/run an activity. Sample usage - “Today, our madrich is going to give a pe’ulah about Chanukah.”

Cell-a-phone: Hebrew source – פלאפון. English definition – Cell phone. Sample usage – “She wasn’t home. So, I called her on her cell-a-phone.”

Catch: Hebrew source – תופסת. English definition - Tag. Sample usage - “Today in recess, we played catch, and I was the catcher. I had to run and catch everyone else.”

More than… in: Hebrew source – …יותר… מ… ב. English definition - More than. Sample usage - “He is older than her in two years.”

As what: Hebrew source – אז מה. English definition – So what. Sample usage - “As what if you called the computer first; it’s still my turn!”

Happy Chanukah!


*TRLEOOB = the real life equivalent of our blog

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thoughts on a funeral

Last night, after we lit the first Chanukah candle, YZG and I went to a funeral. As you can imagine, the juxtaposition of the two events was jarring – to say the least.

But that’s not what I want to blog about right now.

I want to talk about the funeral itself. By YZG’s estimate (I can never judge these things), there were well over a thousand people there.

A crowd like that might lead you to think that this was the funeral of a major Rav or a noted celebrity.

However, it wasn’t.

It was the funeral of a wife. A mother. A grandmother. A sister. A daughter. A teacher. A seemingly “ordinary” person…. who turned out to be extraordinary.

A significant percentage of those in attendance probably didn’t know her personally. Some of them were her children’s friends; others were her husband’s work colleagues. But the truth is that during her all-too-brief time on earth, she left her impact on all of them. After all, she was the one who made her husband and her children be who they are.

Her death is an unbearable and unfathomable tragedy. In his hesped, her husband asked, “How can we possibly go on without her?!”

And yet, in spite of the sadness and in spite of the grief, every single person who was there last night walked away inspired and moved to somehow emulate her.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

“V’habor reik – ein bo mayim…”

About a year and a half ago, ESG made a diorama about Parshat Vayeishev, which will be his bar mitzvah parsha* in a few years IY”H.


Be sure to click on the picture for a closer view of the nechashim v’akrabim (the snakes and scorpions in the pit).

Check out this post for another example of ESG’s artwork.


* I’m told that Parshat Vayeishev is a cool parsha to lein, because of the shalshelet in Shishi… Of course, MAG’s parsha (Vayishlach) has its own advantage: the 613 Torah Avenue “Vayishlach Song”. Yes, on Friday night at the bar mitzvah, we forced all our relatives to sing were pleased by the way everyone willingly joined in. (Sorry, guys, and thanks for being such great sports!)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

One week later

Shavua tov.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a week since the bar mitzvah. Of course, we’re still eating our way through the leftovers, and MAG is busy enjoying every minute of thank-you-note writing </sarcasm>. But overall, life is more or less back to normal.

For those of you who were unable to join us in person, here is a look at the Friday night meal (i.e. the seudat leil Shabbat, for the Hebraically-oriented among you).

As some of you know, we followed the model we had used for the CTO’s bar mitzvah (which was based on reader MB’s bar mitzvah model) – namely, I did the Friday night meal (with lots of help from various family members) as well as seudah shlishit, and we had Shabbat lunch and the melave malka catered.

Friday night menu

  • Appetizer: Potato burekas with mushroom sauce
  • Main course: Brisket; schnitzel; potato kugel; mushroom rice; green beans with almonds; lettuce salad; copper carrot salad
  • Dessert: Assorted cakes and cookies; taiglach; jelly beans; tea

Recipes available upon request.

Here’s how the room looked set up for Friday night. (These pictures were taken before the flowers were added.)




Have a good week from all of us here at Our Shiputzim!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Channeling her inner pyromaniac

As a rule, Israeli ganenets have never met a fire hazard they didn’t like.

Whether it’s the ubiquitous ooltra with the electric cord lying right where the kids can trip on it or the sparklers which the kids are supposed to hold at their birthday parties (!!), these ganenets do everything in their power to show their disdain for basic fire safety.

But at this evening’s Chanukah party, the ganenet took things to a whole new level.

The performance began innocently enough. Each child was given an oversized wooden block covered in gold paper, and they then built a giant chanukiyah out of the blocks.

Now, before any of you interrupt and say that “Building a Chanukiyah Out of Wooden Blocks” is a standard element of gan parties (along with the Giant Draidel Piñata), let me explain that this chanukiyah was different.

Instead of placing the blocks on the floor in a single layer, the kids built up. In other words, the chanukiyah was over a meter high. And since the blocks were not uniformly sized, the top layer was far from level.

When the kids were finished, the ganenet put nine (i.e. 8 plus 1 for the shamash) glass bottles each filled with water, olive oil, and floating wicks – on top of the very rickety, wooden structure*.

She then lit the “candles”, and the kids stood around and waved colored paper streamers not too far from the dancing flames.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was nervous, because one of the kids shouted out, “Zeh me’od mesukan!” (“That’s very dangerous!”)

Yet the ganenet merely smiled.

She knew that the laws of physics don’t apply when it comes to gan parties…


* Sorry, no pictures. Our camera’s battery died soon after I arrived at the party.

That unique English-speaking look

Yesterday, in two separate and unrelated incidents which occurred less than an hour apart, two different people guessed that I was a native English speaker before I had a chance to say a single word.

In fact, the first woman told me that she could tell just by looking at me that English is my mother tongue.

It must’ve been that scarlet A – for “Anglo” – on my chest…

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not quite back to blogging

Hello, Our Shiputzim fans!

I have lots to write about, but for now, I’ll have to suffice with two brief blogbits:

1) B”H, the bar mitzvah was wonderful, and we all had a great time. MAG did an incredible job (BA”H) with his laining and also with the siyum he made on Masechet Taanit. (Not that I’m biased or anything…) Also, thank you to everyone who helped in so many different ways.

2) If you’ve been wondering (i.e. you’ve been in metach) about apple green, please check out the napkins in the following picture from the melave malka:


Kol hakavod to Ilana Davita who correctly guessed that the color would resemble a Granny Smith apple. Well done!

I’ll leave you to decide whether or not this color is the green equivalent of Nechama Leibowitz’s “Iyunim B’Sefer Breishit”.

Hopefully, more bar mitzvah posts to come…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chatting with ENG: Education edition

You’ll all be glad to hear that in spite of the pre-bar mitzvah tumult here in TRLEOOB, ENG is not neglecting her studies. The following conversation took place this morning as ENG was getting was ready for gan:

ENG: Imma?

Me: Yes?

ENG: Now we’re learning about Chanukah in gan, but before that we learned about water.

Me: Hmm.

ENG: It gets used up.

Me: What?

ENG: The water. It gets used up.

Me: I see.

ENG: And before we learned about water, we learned about something else.

Me: Oh?

ENG: But I don’t know what it’s called…

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

…And we are “GO” for new clothes

I realize that some of you were concerned that our resident ulpanistit* hadn’t yet found any new clothes for the fast-approaching bar mitzvah. (If you don’t have your own resident ulpanistit or an equivalent thereof, you probably don’t understand what’s so difficult about finding clothes. However, you’ll have to trust me on this one.)

So, I decided to take a quick break from cooking, cleaning, shopping, arranging, organizing etc. to bring you the good news. B"H, all the female members of the Shiputzim family now have new outfits, and the sartorial crisis has been averted.

Thank you to our resident ulpanistit’s Savta for saving the day!



* An ulpanistit is one who attends an ulpanah (a girls’ religious high school) – i.e. a teenage girl בלעז.

Monday, December 8, 2008

In lieu of original content

While the entire staff is off getting ready for the bar mitzvah IY”H, here are two classic posts for your blog-reading pleasure:

1) A journey to the center of the duct – Yes, this is a renovations post. But it includes some very cool pictures of the inside of our A/C duct. (And no, they aren’t as boring as they sound…)

2) And that’s my other brother Darrell – Try your hand at proving ENG’s Theory of the Gilads…

See you soon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

HH 194

The next edition of Havel Havelim can be found both here and here.

Thank you to Batya for including my maternity ward post.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

They did the ooltra…

Shavua tov!

Yes, I’m still here. It’s just that the bar mitzvah is this coming Shabbat IY”H, and so things are understandably busy here in TRLEOOB.

And on a related note, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my real-life friend and commenter MB and her family for hosting us for the now-traditional Meal on the Shabbat Before the Simcha (or, in Our Shiputzim-speak, the MOTSBTS). May our families continue to share many, many future smachot!

As some of you know, the Shiputzim children are members of Ariel* – rather than Bnei Akiva. (Ariel uses the same names as Bnei Akiva does – hence, last week’s HaGevurah post.)

Anyway, this Shabbat was Shabbat Irgun for the girls. (This coming Shabbat – yes, the Shabbat of the bar mitzvah! – will IY”H be the boys’ Shabbat Irgun.)

The reason I mention this is to reassure our loyal readers that yes, there was an ooltra. And the truth is that – all kidding aside – the dances were, as always, quite beautiful.

In fact, the girls introduced a new twist to the ooltra dance. Usually, such a dance is done to fast, up-beat music. However, this time, they did something completely different.

This shevet’s (age group) theme was “Captives and MIAs”. After showing a short slide show about the Israeli MIAs, the girls did a slow ooltra to Boaz Sharabi’s haunting “K’she’tavo”, a song about Ron Arad. The entire audience agreed that dancing in the dark was a moving and fitting tribute to the MIAs.

And in conclusion, mazal tov to our resident HaGevurah member on the new name. (Admit it – the name is starting to grow on you, isn’t it? smile_regular)

* That is – some of the Shiputzim children are Ariel members. Others are adherents of what is euphemistically known as “Iyov” (aleph,yud,vav,vet – an acronym for אשרי יושבי ביתך – literally, “Praiseworthy are those who dwell in Your House”) – i.e. they prefer to stay home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Return to 34th and Lex

Those of you who recognize the address in the title will be surprised to learn that this post is actually subtitled: “Life on an Israeli Maternity Ward”.

Let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up…

First, two caveats:

Caveat #1: My American experiences obviously pre-date our aliyah, and even my Israeli experiences aren’t very recent. (After all, BA”H, our “baby” isn’t exactly a baby anymore…) However, I can’t imagine that there have been any significant changes in the interim.

Caveat #2: This post is not about giving birth; it’s only about the postpartum period. However, I should note that the medical care I received in both countries was excellent and equally advanced.

Basically, two main issues distinguish Israeli maternity wards from their American counterparts:

1) Ambulation: In the States, the objective seems to be to let the new mother get some much needed rest. In contrast, here in Israel, the message is: You’re not sick; get out of bed. Obviously, if chas v’shalom anything is wrong, the mothers stay in bed. But, assuming that everything is fine, the mothers are encouraged to get up and walk around. For instance, as long as the mother is up to it, she goes to get her baby from the nursery (rather than waiting for the nurse to bring the baby to her). Also, in some (most?) Israeli hospitals, the new mothers go to a small private dining room to eat their meals. Only mothers who are non-ambulatory (e.g. after a C-section or within the first six hours after giving birth, etc.) receive their meals in bed.

2) Socialization: Unlike in America, Israeli maternity wards serve as postpartum support groups. Except for at night and – perhaps – during the traditional 2-4 PM rest hour, the curtains separating the beds remain open. By the time I left the hospital after each birth, I knew all kinds of personal things about my roommates. In contrast, in America, I barely knew my roommates’ names!

The net result was that when each of my “sabras” were born, I felt like I was back in Stern College (hence the title!) – with two notable differences:

  • Instead of staying up late studying and comparing dating stories, my roommates and I stayed up late nursing and comparing birthing stories.
  • Instead of saying things like, “Oh? Are you going to eat? Then please save me a seat in the caf.,” we said things like, “Oh? Are you going to eat? Then please save me a seat in the chadar ochel (dining room).”


Monday, December 1, 2008

Generation gap

The Our Shiputzim R&D department is pleased to announce the beta release of a complex algorithm which can determine a reader’s age group.

Please feel free to try it. You’re likely to find it surprisingly accurate. All you need to do is answer a single question:

When you heard that “HaGevurah” – הגבורה - (fortitude, heroism) is the new shevet's name, your immediate reaction most closely resembled:

[a] “HaGevurah sounds like a very nice name. What’s not to like about it? After all, gevurah is the midah (trait) of Yitzchak Avinu. I’m sure that the kids in the new shevet are very pleased with their new name.”

[b] “I’m so glad that we didn’t get that name…”

[c] “Oof! Why were we stuck with this name?! Why couldn’t they have given us a normal name?!”

[d] “I’m glad that they got rid of that name this year…”

If you picked [a], you are over the age of 30.

If you picked [b], you are between the ages of 16-29.

If you picked [c], you are in 9th grade.

If you picked [d], you are in 8th grade or below.