Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A hero of Biblical proportions

The other day, Jameel blogged about a Bedouin teacher who hopes to compete in the upcoming Chidon HaTanach (National Bible Contest) for adults.

As it so happened, I was recently privileged to hear yet another would-be Chidon HaTanach competitor speak.

R’ Moshe Abu Aziz is the religious seventh-grade teacher and father of eight from Or Akiva who famously won one million shekels on a TV trivia game show and was, by all accounts, mekadesh Shem Shamayim in the process.

During the course of his talk, he shared some of his winning strategies. For example:

  • He uses various mnemonics and acronyms in order to learn all sorts of things by heart.
  • In addition, he prepares “crib sheets” of whatever it is that he’s studying. He believes that written summaries are a great way to memorize large amounts of information.
  • Whenever he has to look something up – whether it’s in an encyclopedia or the Rambam or whatever – he makes a point of also reading the preceding and succeeding entries.
  • He stressed that winning these types of contests has nothing to do with luck. Rather, it takes hard work and a strong desire to keep on learning, studying and asking.
  • In advance of the Chidon HaTanach, he now spends up to 15 hours a day learning Tanach and takes a Tanach with him everywhere he goes. Even in the car, when he’s driving, he listens to recordings of the Tanach.

Interestingly, he didn’t speak a word of Hebrew when he made aliyah at age 12 from Morocco, and yet now he’s considered to be an expert at word games and verbal challenges.

For instance, he said that many people – including his wife! – had wondered at the confidence he had displayed during the TV show. (At several points during the game, he could’ve taken the money and left. But instead, he risked everything and kept at it until he reached the final bonus round.) How could he have been so sure of himself?

R’ Abu Aziz explained that he realized he would be successful as soon as he heard that it was the TV show’s 103rd episode. After all, he noted, “Abu Aziz” (i.e. his last name) equals 103 in Gematria  - as does the word “mazon” (sustenance). As R’ Abu Aziz told the enchanted audience, Hashem always provides for those in need.

During the Q&A session at the end, an audience member asked if a “baal chidonim” (literally, a “man of contests”) is a profession.

In response, R’ Abu Aziz quipped:

“No, but a baal teshuvot (literally, a “man of answers”; also, a play on “baal teshuvah” – a penitent) is…”


בהצלחה to him in all his future endeavors!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seeking the truth

On one hand, blogging is a great way to while away the waning hours minutes of a fast day.

But on the other hand, hunger-induced dullness doesn’t exactly lead to witty, fascinating, or even coherent posts.

Thus, now’s the perfect time for a blogging cop-out to list some of the more amusing search terms which led to this blog.

And, so, without further ado, here they are:

  • goat herding problem
  • things my shaliach never told me
  • operation cast read
  • the song that never ends
  • bilingual blues
  • is second to none a good thing
  • "two kitchens" are necessary for Passover
  • how to say work in progress in French
  • how to make smoked tuna
  • name of the goat in the lonely goatherd
  • how to speak with an Israeli accent
  • naf naf grill
  • Hephzibah written beautifully in the Hebrew language
  • making good mud for wallowing
  • snowball games for the first day of class
  • truth about aliyah
  • why teenagers deliberately misspell

.צום קל ומועיל

Have an easy and meaningful fast, and may all the fast days soon be transformed into festivals and days of joy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Around the J-Blogosphere

Several items of interest:

1) The latest Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Toby for including my excuse for not blogging about the gan graduation after all.

2) The latest JPIX is available here. Special thanks to Leora for including two of my posts:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fine Arts Friday: Calendar edition

Every summer, in what has become an annual tradition, my mother prepares a family calendar for the upcoming year.

These beautiful printed-and-bound calendars contain family photos and mark everyone’s birthdays, anniversaries, and other important milestones.

Normally, my mother decorates the pages herself, but this time, she asked some of the grandchildren to provide appropriate drawings.

Three of the Shiputzim kids were among those assigned specific months, and here’s what they came up with (in ascending order, according to the young artists’ ages).

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

scan0001 February 2011 (roughly corresponding to Adar I 5771)

scan0002 May 2011 (roughly corresponding to Iyar 5771, including Yom HaAtzma’ut)

scan0003 October 2010 (roughly corresponding to MarCheshvan 5771, including Rachel Imeinu’s yahrzeit)

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A little consideration, please

Sadly, being a blogger isn’t always as glamorous as it seems.

I mean, on the rare occasions when we step away from our computers, we’re inevitably dismayed to discover that our online fame and fortune 4.56 NIS don’t carry the same weight in the real world.

The main problem is that, strangely enough, many people fail to take bloggers’ needs into consideration when making plans and organizing events.

Take, for example, the recent gan graduation (i.e. the mesibat siyum - מסיבת סיום – the end of year party).

After documenting the first two major dates on the gannenet’s calendar – namely, the infamous gan meeting and the Chanukah party - I’d been looking forward all year to blogging about the third one.

Indeed, the resultant post was to have been the concluding panel in my gan highlights triptych.

But when the mesibat siyum finally rolled around, all my hopes and dreams were shattered.

Because, you see, the party wasn’t amusing!

Yes, it was beautiful. Yes, it was heartwarming and emotional. Yes, the kids did a wonderful job. And yes, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

But funny? Absurd? Open to ridicule and mockery?

Not so much.

And so, dear readers, I must unfortunately disappoint you and regretfully announce that there will be no mesibat siyum post after all.

Which naturally begs the question: Is there any reason why the gannenet couldn’t have designed a blog-worthy program?!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Birthday cake, as nature intended it

About a year and a half ago, I discussed the Resident Ulpanistit’s (inexplicable, as far as her brothers are concerned) fondness for non-chocolate birthday cakes.

But when anyone else here in TRLEOOB (=the real life equivalent of our blog) has a birthday, the cake is inevitably… chocolate.

Here, then, are the Shiputzim family’s favorite chocolate cake and chocolate frosting recipes. Note that they’re each made with oil, not margarine.

H.’s Chocolate Cake

My mother received this recipe from her friend H. and slightly modified it.


  • 2¾ cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 heaping tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups oil (I use canola)
  • 1 cup boiling hot, strong coffee
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup juice (I use 1 container of Rich’s Whip instead)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


Mix five dry ingredients together. Add oil and coffee. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add juice and vanilla. Mix well. Grease pan or line with baking paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until done.

Yield: Two 8” round cakes or one 9x13” rectangle.


Yummy Chocolate Frosting

I got this delicious recipe off the highly-recommended Israel-Food list.


  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 4 TBSP cocoa
  • 4 TBSP oil (I use canola)
  • [(optional) 1/3 tsp coffee (I omit this)]
  • 4 TBSP hot water (or more)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar


Mix all ingredients together. Add more water as needed, until desired consistency is achieved.


!ויום הולדת שמח

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fashion Friday: Discriminatory edition

In general, I prefer to shy away from controversial or political issues. But recent events have raised the ugly specter of discrimination, and I feel obligated to share my thoughts on the subject.

I’m talking about a very disturbing trend at weddings.

(Why? What did you THINK I was referring to? ;-))

You see, the period between Lag BaOmer and Shivah Asar B’Tamuz is high wedding season here in Israel.

<brief cultural digression>

Note that even without a calendar, one can easily figure out when wedding season has begun.

After all, this is the time of year when Israel’s highways and byways are plastered with those ubiquitous arrow-bearing signs informing you that this is the way to “Guy and Shir’s wedding” or “Liron and Tal’s henna”…


Yet, the problem at many of these weddings (besides the square plates and the frequent lack of seating cards) is that the posts supporting the chupah are often swathed in bolts of heavy white cloth.

Moreover, giant view-obstructing drapery wings frequently fan out to the chupah’s sides.

Which means that the ONLY guests who can watch the entire proceedings are those who are sitting or standing directly in front of the chupah.

And THAT, my friends, is what we call discrimination.


Somebody call the Supreme Court…


!שבת שלום ומבורך

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jane Austen would be so proud

By now I think we can all agree that I’d make a terrible gannenet.

I mean, my deplorable tendency to laugh at these dedicated caregivers clearly indicates that I lack the proper gravitas and solemnity required to succeed in this hallowed profession.

Yet as it turns out, my regrettable levity renders me unsuited for another job as well.

I’m speaking, of course, about a career as a gym teacher.

[This would be a perfect opportunity for me to write, “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” But since it’s only been five months since the last time I used this quote, I’ll have to manage without it... :-)]

You see, first, there was the whole being graded on one’s handstand thing.

And now there’s the following:

As part of the requirements for the physical fitness bagrut, the CTO’s gym teacher announced that the seniors would have to make up any gym classes they had missed.

Specifically, the teacher explained, he expected twelve minutes of nonstop walking for every missed lesson.

Note that we’re not talking about high-speed power walking. In fact, a gentle, slow-paced stroll or even a relaxed saunter was deemed to be more than sufficient.

Now, as it so happened, the CTO had somehow missed five gym lessons* this year and thus owed the gym teacher an hour of walking.

In practical terms, this meant that - under the gym teacher’s benevolent yet watchful eye - the CTO and some of his friends spent 24 minutes yesterday and an additional 36 minutes today taking leisurely turns about the perimeter of their yeshiva’s basketball court.

It was like a scene straight out of Pride and Prejudice – except that it took place outdoors rather than in an elegantly-appointed drawing room, and the amblers wore kippot and tzitzit in lieu of high-waisted Empire dresses…



*I’m told that one of the CTO’s classmates missed 14 lessons this year and therefore had to walk for almost three hours! :-)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mazal tov: Engagement edition

מזל טוב

to Our Shiputzim guest blogger Malke and her family on their son’s/brother’s engagement!

May the chatan and kallah be privileged to build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael, and may our two families continue to share many, many future smachot!


And in unrelated news:

  1. The latest Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Phyllis for including Heblish: Around the Dinner Table Edition.
  2. The latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here. Special thanks to Batya for including my tuna croquette recipe.

Shavua tov and chodesh tov to all!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Heblish: Around the Dinner Table Edition

For many bloggers, conversations held around the dinner table frequently serve as an excellent source of blog fodder.

But when the blogger in question is an Anglo with an inexplicable need to chronicle her family’s Heblishisms, these discussions are like finding the mother lode.

Take, for instance, the Shiputzim family’s recent suppertime debate about school uniforms, which produced this gem:

  • Go with it: Hebrew source  ללכת עם זה. English definition – Wear it in public. Sample usage - “If my school has a uniform next year, there’s no way I’m going to go with it.”

Or how about these two family favorites:

  • To fall in the hagralah: Hebrew source ליפול בהגרלה.  English definition – To be chosen in a lottery. Sample usage – “I got to go first, because I fell in the hagralah.”
  • Maximum: Hebrew source – מקסימום. English definition – At most; worst case. Sample usage - “Maximum, I’ll take the test again on mo’ed bet.

And finally, we have the following, which veteran Israelis will no doubt recognize as the inverse of the classic new oleh mistakes “lakachat miklachat” and “lakachat mivchan” [sic]:

  • Make a break: Hebrew source – לעשות הפסקה. English definition – Take a break. Sample usage - “I got tired from all this studying, and so I made a break for five minutes.”



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

Monday, June 7, 2010

Our Shiputzim undergoes shiputzim

As you can see, this blog has a gorgeous new banner – designed and produced by our very own, multitalented CTO.

(If you’re reading this on the feed, click here to check it out.)

Test your Our Shiputzim beki’ut: Two points to the commenter who can identify the greatest number of posts pictured in the banner. (Hint: Some of the pictures aren’t from the blog.)


And on an unrelated note, the latest Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Benji for including my rant post about square plates.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fashion Friday: Uniforms Edition

They’re baaaack!

Or, rather, they WILL be back, come September 1st.

I’m talking, of course, about school uniforms.

You see, back in the early days of the State, virtually every Israeli school had a uniform.

But during the mid to late 1980’s, most schools began to phase them out, and by the 1990’s, school uniforms had become a thing of the past (except in the Bais Yaakov school system, where they never really disappeared).

However, over the past 5-10 years, uniforms have started to enjoy a bit of a mini-revival – as a number of mainly secular high schools across the country voluntarily adopted some sort of uniform (usually, just matching t-shirts).

And, then, several months ago, the Education Minister decided to take this grassroots initiative to the next level and decreed that uniforms would be mandatory for the 5771 (2010-2011) school year.

According to the official directive, each individual school has considerable leeway as to the precise nature of the uniform (i.e. tilboshet achidah – תלבושת אחידה - for the Hebraically-oriented among you), and here’s where it gets interesting.

Because while some schools immediately got to work and made all the necessary arrangements, others are only now beginning to weigh the implications and ramifications of the new edict.

How are your children’s schools handling this issue? What are your feelings about school uniforms?

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Squaring the circle

About a year and a half ago, I wrote:

No, pie are round; CORNBREAD are square.

“As anyone who has been to an Israeli catered affair any time over the past five years knows, square plates are all the rage.

“However, as everyone ALSO knows, square plates are quite annoying. They may be aesthetically pleasing – although that point is highly debatable – but they’re far from functional.

“And so, I beseech all the plate manufacturers out there: Please go back to making round plates, as nature intended.

“Thank you.”

I wish I could say that the aforementioned manufacturers have since come to their senses and that square plates have finally disappeared from the catering scene.

But I can’t.

Because, to the dismay of party-goers around the country, square plates are more ubiquitous than ever.

Moreover, since we don’t live in an ideal world, I can’t even say that I’ve somehow made my peace with these awkward assaults on the dining experience.

No, they’re just as cumbersome now as they were back when they made their initial, very unwelcome debut.

In other words, don’t look for a fairy tale ending, where the square plates and I dance merrily off into the sunset.

However, on a related note, I’d appreciate it if any of my informed readers could provide answers to the following questions:

1. Who was the not-exactly-brilliant thinker who woke up one morning and said, “You know, people have been comfortably and happily using round plates throughout the millennia. So, why don’t I come up with an inconvenient redesign of something that’s not broken?

2. What happened to all the round plates?! Did the caterers throw them out? Are they all sitting in some giant warehouse somewhere, waiting for this unfortunate fad to fade away?

Inquiring minds want to know…


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A feature, not a bug

Those seeking accurate information about the flotilla affair should check out  Jameel and friends excellent and up-to-the-minute coverage. May we soon be privileged to enjoy besurot tovot, yeshu’ot, and nechamot (good tidings, salvation, and consolation) as well as the fulfillment of the well-known pasuk from last week’s parsha:

And it was, when the Ark journeyed, Moshe would say: Arise, Hashem, and may Your enemies be scattered, and may those who hate You flee from before You. (Bamidbar 10:35)


Interestingly, in the days immediately following Shavuot, the Shiputzim kids willingly – and even eagerly - make an exception to their longstanding aversion to leftovers.

Of course, when the original menu includes favorites such as potato soup, milchig lukshen kugel, cheesecake and more, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that leftovers regularly enjoy a brief spell of popularity during the post-Shavuot period.

Yet, there are those here in TRLEOOB* who would argue that tuna croquettes are the primary factor behind leftovers’ all-too-fleeting, annual turn as a feature-not-a-bug.

Here, then, is the recipe:

Tuna Croquettes

Note: This recipe is extremely forgiving. In fact, I rarely bother measuring any of the ingredients.


  • 4 cans tuna in water, drained and chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 TBSP onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (I use rolled oats instead.)
  • 4 TBSP mayonnaise


Mix ingredients together and form into patties. Place patties into a well-oiled pan (I use canola oil), and bake at 400 degrees. When the first side is golden-brown, turn and continue baking. Eat warm or cold. (We prefer them cold.)



*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog