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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Guest Post: Stop and go

Hey, kids!

Listen up.

If you stay in school and practice your Heblish, you, too, can end up working for the Israel Railway Authority.

Guest blogger Malke has the scoop:

Heblish - Israel Railway Authority Style

A Guest Post by Malke

Usually, I take the 7:43 AM train to Tel Aviv, which is an express, or as the intercom proclaims in both Hebrew and English:

"Harakevet hina rakevet mehira l'Tel Aviv - This train is an express train to Tel Aviv."

Yesterday, though, I took the local, or as Rakevet Yisrael (Israel Railways) informed me:

"Harakevet hina rakevet parvarit l'Kfar Saba - This train is a stopping train to Kfar Saba."

Now mind you, this wasn't some young Israeli guy picking up the mike and talking. This was the official, pre-recorded announcement of the Rail Authority…

Thanks, Malke, and I’m glad to hear that yesterday’s commute was less stressful than usual. I mean, it must have been nice not to have to jump out of a moving train, for a change…


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Carnivals and Family Lore

1) The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Shmuel Sokol for including my shocking (shocking!) revelation about Chodesh Irgun.

Bli neder, that will be my last Chodesh Irgun post… until next year, anyway. :-)

2) The latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here. Special thanks to Pesky Settler for including my lukshen kugel post.

And in what is rapidly developing into a bit of a tradition, my mother graciously added some background to one of my cooking posts.

Specifically, some of you were surprised to learn that my grandmother a”h felt that potato kugel wasn’t elegant enough for Shabbat meals.

Hence, my mother explained that as Holocaust survivors, my maternal grandparents a”h were very grateful for the tremendous blessings they felt they had received from HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Not only were they granted the opportunity to rebuild their lives in the US after the war, but B”H, they no longer had to skimp on food – especially on Shabbat and the chagim.

And since potatoes are cheaper than noodles, potato kugel was considered to be more of a “poor man’s dish” and thus not fitting for Shabbat.

Thank you, Imma!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fashion Friday: The shirt off his back edition

Does the following scenario sound familiar?

Mother: {sees that her son is about to leave} Hey, wait a minute! You can’t go to school in that shirt! Why don’t you wear one of those new shirts I got you?

Son: I’m saving them for when I outgrow this shirt.

Mother: You outgrew it a long time ago! And besides, it’s full of holes…

Son: {adopts a deceptively innocent tone} Holes? Where do you see holes?

Mother: {points} Um, there. And there. And also there, there, and there. Shall I continue?

Son: Ohhh! You mean THOSE holes! {shrugs} Don’t worry. No one will notice them.

Mother: {sarcastically} I noticed them.

Son: {brightly} Yeah, but you’re an imma, so you don’t count…

P.S. The mother in question would like her son’s teachers to know that it’s. not. her. fault…smile_teeth

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stand in judgment

Warning: The following post may lead to the shattering of a long-held and cherished childhood belief. Proceed at your own risk.

Essentially, Chodesh Irgun* – accurately described by Baila as a “month long color war” – is a competition between the various shvatim (age groups).

And like any competition, Chodesh Irgun requires judges.

Traditionally, the judges are usually alumni of the snif (chapter) who, for one reason or another, do not serve as madrichim (counselors).

Which brings me to today’s shocking revelation.

But first, I think you should prepare yourself. Are you sitting down? Do you have a glass of water handy – just in case?

I hate to have to disillusion you like this, but the truth must be told.

{gulps and prepares to blurt out the stunning news}

The system is… rigged!!

{checks to make sure that none of the readers have fainted}

The judges, you see, are really just symbolic figureheads, who have absolutely no say. Instead, the madrichim are the ones who decide in advance – at one of their many yashvatzim – who will win.

I realize that this is all deeply disturbing.

But aren’t you relieved to know that our intrepid reporters – and their reliable inside source - are on the case?

And in related news, it turns out that I’m an investigative blogger after all...



*Yes, I AM aware that I’ve been milking Chodesh Irgun for far more than it’s worth. Why do you ask? ;-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Generation Gap 1.5

As you will no doubt recall, last year, the Our Shiputzim R&D Department released a critically-acclaimed program which could accurately guess a reader’s age group.

Go ahead and try it out for yourself.

Now, according to the development team’s long-term strategic goals, the plan was to issue a brand new release in honor of this year’s Chodesh Irgun.

No one anticipated any problems, and in fact, the developers were certain that the new release would merely involve some minor tweaking to last year’s version.

After all, their inside source to the hadrachah world had told them the new shevet’s name on the Sunday before Shabbat Irgun. (Pretty cool, no? :-))

Note: The new name is Lehavah – להב”ה – literally, flame, but also an acronym for “L’Ma’an Shmo B’Ahavah” (Bnei Akiva’s theme this year) and “L’Shanah Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim HaBenuyah” (“Next year in rebuilt Yerushalayim.”) </Note>

Unfortunately, however, due to circumstances beyond their control, the developers had to settle for a mere upgrade – i.e. Generation Gap 1.5 (rather than Generation Gap 2.0).

What happened?

Well, after they were burnt last year, the older generation (i.e. 30+) was decidedly noncommittal:

“Lehavah? Hmmm. I’d better ask my kids what *they* think…”

But the only thing their kids would say was:

“At least it’s not HaGevurah…”

P.S. According to a popular joke currently making the rounds, Lehavah stands for Lo HaGevurah, Baruch Hashem


Sunday, November 22, 2009

HH 244 and No More Investigative Blogging?

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to A Mother in Israel for including my exposé on the American seminary which has blacklisted TRLEOOB*.

And on a related note, a number of eyebrows – virtual and otherwise – were seemingly raised at my short-lived attempt at more serious blogging.

Apparently, some readers felt that I should be sticking to lighthearted topics, like Heblish, hadrachah, and the bagruyot.

Your thoughts, please?


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yashvatz and tchupar (gesundheit!)

As promised, here are two more secrets from the glamorous world of hadrachah:

1) Yashvatz (ישב”ץ) stands for yeshivat tzevet (ישיבת צוות) – literally, “staff meeting”. (Yes, this yet another one of those odd, unintuitive acronyms)

Naturally, being a madrich/madrichah means attending many yashvatzim – especially during Chodesh Irgun, when there’s a yashvatz practically every. single. night.

But lest you feel sorry for the, ahem, “poor, overworked” madrichim, let me assure you that these are not your father’s staff meetings.

Don’t believe me?

Well, take a look at a recent yashvatz. There were neither conference tables, dull PowerPoint presentations, nor uninspiring speakers.

No, this so-called “staff meeting” involved a treasure hunt at a mall followed by pizza.

I rest my case….

(Hat tip: Baila)

2) Tchupar (צ’ופר) is usually translated as a bonus or an added benefit.

But as far as I’m concerned, tchuparim are the reason why I would’ve made a terrible madrichah.

Because in all my many years as a youth group leader and a camp counselor, I never had to prepare cute, little handmade prizes – aka tchuparim - for all my campers.

However, according to the Oral Law of Hadrachah, tchuparim are to be distributed at a number of pre-designated occasions – including after the Shabbat Irgun hofa’ot (performances).

Here’s a picture of what a certain madrichah gave out to all her chanichot (charges) at her peulat petichah (opening event):

IMG_0078Loose translation of the inscription: “The next two years depend on (talui – literally, ‘hang on’) us. We hope they’ll be the best ever. With lots of love, ####”

Other instances where tchuparim are de rigueur are at the machaneh, on various trips and hikes, and, of course, at the yashvatz


Monday, November 16, 2009

A shining example of Ahavat Yisrael (NOT!)

The following post rant isn’t exactly my usual blogging fare. But I think it’s a must-read for Diaspora parents of daughters who are thinking about coming to seminary in Israel next year I”YH:

As those of you who know us in real life can attest, YZG and I try to raise our kids to be yirei Shamayim, bnei Torah, and ohavei Yisrael.

But apparently, that’s not enough.

After all, a certain seminary for American girls here in Israel has ruled that its students may not visit us on Shabbat.

Why? Because, according to this seminary, TRLEOOB* isn’t located in a “charedi community” [sic].

And in a stunning display of what can only be described as extreme sinat chinam (baseless hatred), the seminary’s administration prohibits their students from spending Shabbat in any place which has been anachronistically labeled by the school as a “Mizrachi community” [sic]. (Hint: The Mizrachi party was submerged into the National Religious Party way back in 1956.)

Note that this draconian decree applies to many fine, upstanding neighborhoods, villages, towns, and cities throughout the country.

Oddly enough, the seminary’s students are allowed to come here during the week, because – the school explained - that’s an appropriate time to visit one’s “not frum” [sic] relatives…

What’s the administration afraid of? What evil things do they think we do here in our den of iniquity neighborhood?

I have no idea.

But either way, if your daughter is planning on spending a year in an American seminary in Israel, please make sure to check out the school’s Shabbat policy before she arrives.

Because speaking from personal experience, I’m certain that your Israeli friends and relatives will be dismayed to learn that their homes and chosen communities have been deemed unacceptable and not up to proper standards…smile_sad


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Sunday, November 15, 2009

HH 243

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Phyllis for including my post on madashim and other mysteries.

And on a related note, watch this space for some more secrets from the world of hadrachah…

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Secrets from the world of hadrachah

Kids staying out late every night? Check.

Homework being ignored? Check.

Paint-spattered clothing? Check.

{nods} Yup. Tis the season.

As bemused, exasperated, but ultimately resigned parents across the country are well aware, Chodesh Irgun has arrived. (Which means that the ooltra is surely on its way...)

With most (but not all*) of the Shiputzim children being dedicated and active youth group members, we’ve seen this movie many times before.

But this year, there’s a significant difference.

You see, a few weeks ago, ACIT (a certain Israeli teenager) became the first member of the Shiputzim family to “go into hadrachah” (to use the Heblish term) – i.e. to become a madrich/madrichah (a youth group counselor).

Which means that I’ve been privileged to get a glimpse at some of hadrachah’s more esoteric aspects.

For instance, I now know that while chevrayah bet (i.e. the older division) is referred to by the acronym חב”ב (pronounced chaBAB), one never, ever says חב”א (i.e. chaBA) when discussing chevrayah aleph (the younger kids).

Also, I recently discovered that the Hebrew word for co-counselor is madash/madashit – מד”ש/מד”שית. (Madash is masculine, and madashit is feminine.)

Apparently, madash/madashit is an acronym for madrich/madrichah she’iti -  מדריך\מדריכה שאיתי – literally, “counselor who is with me”.

Here’s how one would use madash/madashit in a sentence:

.המד”שית שלי נוסעת לשבת – Hamadashit sheli nosa’at l’Shabbat. - My madashit is going away for Shabbat.

And if we expand the acronym in the above example, we get the following:

.המדריכה שאיתי שלי נוסעת לשבת – Hamadrichah she’iti sheli nosa’at l’Shabbat. – My counselor who is with me is going away for Shabbat.

As to be expected, ACIT didn’t see why this amuses me. (“What? Madash is now a regular word…”)

But I suspect that some of you might appreciate the humor.

And as an extra side benefit, now that you’ve learned about madashim, perhaps you’ll be able to decode a bit more of your Israeli teenagers’ Facebook statuses



*As I noted in this post: The other Shiputzim children are adherents of what is euphemistically known as “Iyov” (איוב – an acronym for אשרי יושבי ביתך – Ashrei yoshvei veitecha - “Praiseworthy are those who dwell in Your House”) – i.e. they prefer to stay home…

Monday, November 9, 2009

The poor step-sister of Shabbat kugels

You’ve got to feel sorry for lukshen kugel.

I mean, in the Shabbat kugel pantheon, it always gets short shrift.

Because no matter how you slice it (pun intended), lukshen kugel just doesn’t have the same mouthwatering cachet as fresh, hot, hand-grated potato kugel.

Nostalgic interjection: Interestingly, my grandmother a”h held the opposite view. Studded with bits of chopped meat, her lukshen kugel came replete with a crisp crust and was considered to be the ultimate Shabbat side dish. In contrast, she felt that potato kugel wasn’t elegant enough for Shabbat and should be relegated to weekday meals. </nostalgia>

Yet here in TRLEOOB*, it’s potato kugel that gets star billing.

But don’t get me wrong. I like lukshen kugel as much as the next blogger.

After all, notwithstanding its lowly status, lukshen kugel is still delicious. And in fact, since its preparation involves neither peeling nor grating, lukshen kugel is my go-to side dish when I’m pressed for time and energy.

Yet, before lukshen kugel could become a mainstay of the Shiputzim kitchen, I first had to resolve two issues:

1) Sweetness - In keeping with my Lithuanian forebears, I was raised exclusively on so-called salt-and-pepper lukshen kugels. However, YZG and the kids enjoy a touch of sweetness, and so I learned to make what a guest once oxymoronically but accurately referred to as a “sweet salt and pepper kugel”.

2) Margarine - Over the past few years, I slowly phased margarine out of our diets. But since my favorite lukshen kugel recipe called for 100 grams of margarine (i.e. just under half a cup), I simply stopped making lukshen kugel.

Until, that is, I saw Leora’s lukshen kugel post and was inspired to adapt my recipe. Here’s the result:

Sweet Salt and Pepper Lukshen Kugel


  • 500 grams noodles
  • 2-3 soupspoons vegetable oil
  • 6 eggs (5 eggs would probably be fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (use much less for a more traditional taste)
  • About 1 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste (we like it peppery)


Cook noodles. Drain and rinse quickly with cold water. Return noodles to pot, and toss with the oil. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Place in an oiled 9x13 baking pan, and drizzle a little extra oil on top. Bake at 375 degrees for an hour and a quarter or until the top is golden brown.



*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fun and Games Friday: True confession edition

No one reads this blog, right?


Because otherwise, I’d be uncomfortable admitting that… I’ve developed quite the KenKen habit.

Known as “Sudoku on steroids”, KenKen – unlike the original – is all about arithmetic. Essentially, it’s one big math problem.

It’s fun, challenging, and – as I noted above – highly addictive.

And now that I’ve shared this little secret, it’s your turn: What’s your favorite online vice (other than blogging, of course)?

Come on, don’t be shy.

After all, there’s no one here but you and me…


!שבת שלום ומבורך

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

At least he said “please”…

This past Shabbat (Parshat Lech Lecha), a certain gan-age child of my acquaintance (ACGAC) was telling us about the parsha.

Brief digression: As usual, most – if not all – of what ACGAC said was based on the Midrash, rather than the pshat. I sometimes wonder if preschool teachers should be placing more emphasis on the actual text. What do you think? </Digression>

Anyway, everyone at the table enjoyed the presentation. To the gannenet’s credit, ACGAC had been taught well and had much to say.

And although the handful of charming errors and adorable Heblishisms elicited a couple of hastily suppressed giggles, for the most part, everyone was dutifully trying to hide their amusement from the young speaker.

But then ACGAC reached the part in the story where Avraham is thrown into the kivshan ha’esh (the “fiery furnace”).

At that point, most of those in attendance burst out laughing, while the more restrained members of ACGAC’s audience attempted - with varying degrees of success - to wipe the broad smiles off their faces.

You see, according to ACGAC, Nimrod politely asked Avraham’s father, Terach:

“Will you please give me your baby so I can kill him?”

The calm, matter-of-fact tone in which ACGAC said this line brought the house down…


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gannenet Appreciation Day

Warning: This post may exceed the recommended daily allowance of snarkiness. Proceed at your own risk.


The thing about Israeli gannenets is that it’s very easy to make fun of them, and as long time readers know, I’ve taken ample advantage of this convenient fact.

Indeed, I’ve frequently mocked discussed with obvious love and affection gannenets’ many foibles and idiosyncrasies – including their pyromaniac tendencies, the ritualistic pageantry of gan birthday parties, and, of course, the bizarre gan meeting.

And so, it’s only fair that I also give them credit where it’s due – namely, their innate resourcefulness.

You see, their creative, never-say-die attitude is what enables them to erect straw men identify pressing problems and then skillfully knock them down devise clever and original solutions.

Here are two examples:

I. The neglected holiday

Problem: Coming, as it does, at the tail end of the festival-laden month of Tishrei, Simchat Torah always gets short shrift in most curricula.

Solution: Gannenets don’t even try to cover Simchat Torah before the holiday. Instead, they use the “hakafot shniyot” model and throw a big party on Friday, Erev Parshat Breishit. Decked out in their most elegant kacholavan, the kids dance, sing, and imbibe inordinate amounts of candy.

Ahh, good times, good times…

II. The missing season

Problem: In a recent post, Mother in Israel discussed autumn in Israel – or the lack thereof. As she correctly observes, there’s no real transition between summer and winter. Furthermore, aside from a few noted exceptions, the traditional signs of fall – i.e. the brilliant foliage, that crisp autumn air, etc. - simply don’t exist here in Israel.

Solution: Israeli gannenets teach that autumn in Israel is nonetheless significant, because it heralds the arrival of the… nachlieli (white wagtail).

The gannenets ensure that their young charges are very familiar with the distinctive, long-tailed, black-and-white bird. In fact, even as adults, Israelis of every stripe can still easily pick the nachlieli out of a bird lineup.

Moreover, the gannenets stress, seeing a nachlieli is a joyous and momentous occasion.

Thus, last week, a certain gan-age child of my acquaintance came home bursting with exciting news. The breathless report soon followed: They had gone on a siyur stav (literally, “an autumn tour” – i.e. a nature walk), and – guess what?! – they SAW TWO NACHLIELIS!!! (Space considerations prevent me from including the full complement of exclamation points, but I think you get the general idea…)

And so, dear readers, the next time an obscure blogger sets his or her sights on the much maligned and often misunderstood gannenet, please refer them to this post in order to provide them with further ammunition to remind them to appreciate all that the gannenet has to offer…


P.S. On a serious note, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the incredibly dedicated and talented gannenets who have done – and continue to do - such a wonderful job educating the Shiputzim children over the years.

Monday, November 2, 2009

HH 241

The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here.

Special thanks to Simply Jews for including two of my posts:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Physical Fitness Friday: “We’re not in Kansas anymore” edition

Recently, the Resident Ulpanistit got a 95 on a test.

Now, I realize that no one wants to read a long, dull post about all of the Shiputzim children’s amazing accomplishments BA”H.

But I just had to share the Resident Ulpanistit’s grade with you, because, you see, her test was on… handstands.

Yes, handstands.

I’m sure you’ll all agree that nothing more needs to be said, and so I’ll conclude with the Resident Ulpanistit’s explanation:

“I got 90, because I stood on my hands with only one girl holding me up. (If two girls hold you up, you get 80, and if no one holds you up, you get 100.) And then I got another 5 points for hishtadlut (effort)…”

You can’t make this stuff up.


!שבת שלום ומבורך

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The truth is in the, er, appliances??

Good morning, class.

As you’ll recall, we’re in the middle of our unit on the American oleh, and today we’re going to learn how to figure out which year an oleh arrived in Israel.

Now, as we’ve discussed many times, there are many clues which can give us a general idea:

And so on.

The answers to these questions should help you determine whether the oleh is just off the boat or else a veteran Israeli.

But what should you do if you want to know the exact year he arrived?

No problem.

Get yourself invited to his home*, and check out his… household appliances.

Yes, you read that correctly.

You see, everyone who made aliyah in a given year has the exact. same. major appliances.

For instance, anyone who made aliyah from the US circa 1998 – as we did – probably brought most or all of the following items on their lift:

  1. A Maytag washer and dryer
  2. An Admiral (or Maytag or Magic Chef) self-cleaning gas stove (More on this oven coming soon...)
  3. A GE Profile refrigerator
  4. A Miele dishwasher

Feel free to try this [more or less] fail-safe technique* for accurately guessing an oleh’s aliyah date.

You’ll be the hit of the party as you amaze your friends and relatives with your uncanny abilities…



* Void where prohibited. The Our Shiputzim management is neither responsible nor liable for any adverse results or undesirable outcomes. :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

News from around the J-Blogosphere

1) The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Artzeinu for including my alternate blog names post.

BTW, be sure to check out the comment section for more great name suggestions. In fact, in addition to all the very funny ideas listed there, commenter and guest blogger Malke had a serious one: “Shirbutim” (שירבוטים –  literally, doodles or scribbles) – which is what I’d probably use if I ever did decide to change the blog name for real…

2) The latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here. Special thanks to Mimi, who not only included my sweet and sour meatballs post but also inspired me to write it in the first place!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Heblish: “I’m going to have to sit down for that” edition

Shavua tov!

The Our Shiputzim Complaints Department has officially notified me that many of our readers aren’t pleased.

Apparently, they’re annoyed that not only haven’t I blogged since last Tuesday, but it’s been over two months since my last Heblish post.

Mea culpa.

But before I get around to rectifying this inexcusable lapse, commenter and guest blogger Malke submitted the following:

“My son was quoting from some parshan (commentator) that ‘אין שמחה אלא בישיבת ארץ ישראל’ (‘there’s no joy unless one dwells in Eretz Yisrael’), and so he explained that, ‘we can’t be truly happy unless we're sitting in Eretz Yisrael.’  Because, you see, if we happen to be standing, it's just not the same…”

And now, without further ado, here’s yet another batch of entries from the Official Our Shiputzim Heblish-English Dictionary:

Go over a [negative] mitzvah: Hebrew source לעבור על לאו. English definition – Transgress a negative mitzvah. Sample usage - “If you eat bread on Pesach, you go over the issur of eating chametz.”

In X shekel: Hebrew source שקל X-ב. English definition – For X shekels; at X shekels. Sample usage – “That store is having a sale. They’re selling tops in 20 shekels.”

In its place: Hebrew source במקום. English definition –Appropriate. Sample usage – “His comment was in its place.”

Scared from: Hebrew source …לפחד מ. English definition – Scared of. Sample usage – “On my way to school, I passed a big dog, and I was scared from it.”

Dots: Hebrew source נקודות. English definition – Points. Sample usage – “I had seven dots, but she had ten dots. So, she won the game.”


Previous Heblish editions are available here: Heblish I, Heblish II, Heblish III, Heblish IV, Heblish V, Heblish VI, and Heblish VII.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A blog by any other name

The problem with having “an irrelevant and misleading” [see sidebar at right] blog name is that it’s, well, irrelevant and misleading.

But adopting a new moniker at this stage of the game isn’t as easy as a hop, skip, and a mouse click either.

I mean, what about brand recognition? What about the legions of worldwide fans? What about all those water cooler discussions about the latest post? What about--


I guess I can change this blog’s name after all…

So, here are some of the shortlisted suggestions*:

  • Our Shipudim – The life and times of an early 21st century carnivore
  • Our Shikorim – The life and times of an early 21st century drunk
  • Our Shikulim – The life and times of an early 21st century weight watcher
  • Our Shizufim – The life and times of an early 21st century beach bum
  • Our Shidurim – The life and times of an early 21st century television personality
  • Our Shiputim – The life and times of an early 21st century referee
  • Our Shivukim – The life and times of an early 21st century retailer
  • Our Siddurim – The life and times of an early 21st century florist
  • Our Shidduchim – The life and times of an early 21st century matchmaker
  • Our Shibutim – The life and times of an early 21st century mad scientist


Let me know what you think about these ideas, and please feel free to add a few more of your own.


* Glossary:

  • Shipudim – שיפודים – Skewers
  • Shikorim – שיכורים - Drunkards
  • Shikulim – שיקולים – Weighing (plural)
  • Shizufim – שיזופים – Suntans
  • Shidurim – שידורים - Broadcasts
  • Shiputim – שיפוטים – Judgment calls
  • Shivukim – שיווקים – Marketing (plural)
  • Siddurim – סידורים - Arrangements
  • Shidduchim – שידוכים - Matches
  • Shibutim – שיבוטים – Cloning (plural) 

Mazal tov: Bar mitzvah edition

The entire Our Shiputzim staff extends

a very warm mazal tov to

commenter and guest blogger

Miriam and her dear family

on yesterday’s beautiful bar mitzvah celebration

at the Kotel.

The bar mitzvah boy did a wonderful job, and we look forward to the rest of the festivities on Shabbat IY”H.

Mazal tov also to all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

HH and Learning Torah with ACSC

Two unrelated items:

1) The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Phyllis for including my description of our trip to Caesarea.

2) Last night I was originally supposed to attend the blogger’s get-together in Petach Tikva.

However, instead, I ended up spending the evening learning Rashi on Parshat Breishit with a certain Shiputzim child (ACSC).

After we finished learning, ACSC graciously and sweetly thanked me and then added:

“Actually, Imma, it’s for your own good that you didn’t get to go to that blogging thing. Don’t you know that you’re not supposed to go to strangers’ houses? I mean, what would you have done if they’d offered you candy…”


In any event, I really enjoyed our marathon learning session. Not only was it great to have an opportunity to learn the parsha, but ACSC always asks thought-provoking questions and has many intelligent insights to share.

So, thank you, ACSC, and shavua tov and chodesh tov to all!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

National parks: Caesarea edition

About a year or two after we made aliyah, the Shiputzim Family Legislature (read: YZG and I) enacted an iron-clad ban on driving up North during chol hamo’ed.

Suffice it to say that we had several bad experiences sitting in traffic around Tel Aviv.

Indeed, even after Kvish 6 (the Trans-Israel Highway) opened, we were still wary.

But this year, our determination to hit as many national parks as possible prompted us to bite the bullet and brave the holiday hordes.

And so, first thing one fine chol hamo’ed morning, we set out for Caesarea.

The site’s numerous attractions include the well-preserved ruins (click here to read about the funny thing that happened on the way to the forum amphitheater); a movie about the ancient city’s history; an interactive exhibit where one can “speak” (via computer) to actors portraying many of the historical figures associated with Caesarea; and, of course, the bright blue ocean.

IMG_6415IMG_6421 IMG_6476 IMG_6477 As always, click on the pictures for a closer view.

But, arguably, the highlight was the equestrian show in the remains of the Roman hippodrome.

To say that this show was the height of kitsch is putting it mildly.

First of all, there were riders dressed like Roman soldiers, complete with gaudy red costumes and what looked like brightly colored plastic brooms on their helmets. As these soldiers entered the arena, the loudspeakers blared the “Back to the Future” theme.

Also, the confusing and highly anachronistic storyline involved Herod’s daughter, a traitorous Roman legionary, and even a pirate.

And yet…

I actually found myself moved to tears.

Because right there, in the middle of the destroyed hippodrome – once the ultimate symbol of the Roman Empire’s might, hegemony, and cruelty – the modern Jewish actors proudly carried an Israeli flag:  IMG_6428 IMG_6434 IMG_6430

!עם ישראל חי

Am Yisrael Chai!

Monday, October 12, 2009

HH and History Comes Alive In Caesarea

Two unrelated blogbits:

1) The latest edition of Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Jack for including my “everything you ever wanted to know about using your car’s sunroof as a succah but were afraid to ask” post.

2) As we were entering the Roman amphitheater during our chol hamo’ed visit to Caesarea (B”N, much more on this trip in a future post), I overheard an American girl gush excitedly to one of her companions:

“This is exactly where he was!”

Naively, I assumed she was referring to R’ Akiva or perhaps to some other important historical figure.

But then the young scholar continued:

“This is exactly where Shwekey had his concert!”

Her teachers must be so proud…


Sunday, October 11, 2009

A scrumptious and satisfying Simchat Torah solution

Planning the menu for Simchat Torah night can be somewhat of a challenge – especially when Simchat Torah falls out on Shabbat (a convergence, BTW, which never occurs outside of Israel).

After all, one doesn’t really know what time shul will end, and obviously, one doesn’t want to serve one’s guests dried-out, overheated food.

Thus, when I read Mimi’s mouthwatering pre-Rosh Hashanah post on sweet and sour meatballs, I realized she had found the perfect solution.

I like to make sweet and sour meatballs with cranberry sauce, because that’s how the world’s best cook – i.e. my grandmother a”h - would prepare them.

However, since she didn’t have a specific recipe - “as much as it takes” was one of her standard measurements – I adapted the following recipe from the “Spice and Spirit” cookbook (“The Purple Cookbook,” בלעז).

Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs


  • 2 cans cranberry sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 200 grams tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 3-4 cups water


  • 2 kg ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped very finely
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped very finely
  • 2 eggs
  • A dash or two of pepper


Place all the sauce ingredients in a large pot, and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.

After twenty minutes, raise the flame, and bring the sauce to a rolling boil. Form meat into balls and gently drop – one at a time – into the sauce. Cover the pot, and let the meatballs simmer over a low flame for at least an hour.

Serve hot with rice. (Brown rice works very well.)