Thursday, November 21, 2013

Euphonic Friday: Burn Edition

At the request of the Resident Ulpanistit (a title that was recently passed down to its next holder), here is the Maccabeats’ latest release, their fourth Chanukah video:

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I do not think it means what you think it means

Warning: The following post exceeds the recommended daily allowance for pedantic nitpickiness (even by the notoriously lax standards of this blog). Proceed at your own risk.

If you’re like the denizens of TRLEOOB (=the real life equivalent of our blog), you probably spent a significant portion of last week – i.e. the week of Parshat Vayishlach – listening to Yonatan Razel’s hauntingly beautiful “Katonti”:

And who could blame you (or the aforementioned denizens)?

After all, not only is it a gorgeous song, but most of the words come straight from last week’s parsha. (The rest of the lyrics come from Sefer Tehillim.)

But – and here’s where the threatened nitpickiness comes in – a closer look at the words reveals that there’s something very funny about this song.

I mean, at first glance, the song seems to be about Yaakov thanking Hashem for His benevolence:

”קָטֹנְתִי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת עַבְדֶךָ כִּי בְמַקְלִי עָבַרְתִי אֶת הַיַרְדֵן הַזֶה וְעַתָה הָיִיתִי לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת. הַצִילֵנִי נָא…
”כִּי חַסְדְךָ גָדוֹל עָלָי וְהִצַלְתָ נַפְשִׁי מִשְׁאוֹל תַחְתִיָה.

“I have been diminished by all the kindnesses and by all the truth which You have rendered Your servant; for with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Deliver me, please…” (Breishit 32:11-12)
“For Your kindness is great toward me; and You saved my soul from the lowermost depths of the grave.”
(Tehilim 86:13)

But as Rashi - citing Chazal – explains, Yaakov is actually concerned that he has “used up” all his zechuyot (protective merits) and that he is no longer worthy of being saved:

”נתמעטו זכיותי על ידי החסדים והאמת שעשית עמי. לכך אני ירא, שמא משהבטחתני, נתלכלכתי בחטא, ויגרום לי להמסר ביד עשו.“

“My merits have been diminished by the kindnesses and the truth that You have done for me. Therefore, I fear that since the time You promised me, I may have became sullied with sin, and it will cause me to be delivered into Esav’s hand.”

In other words, as lovely as it is, “Katonti” is a so-called “Lo Ra’av” song.

A Lo Ra’av song has nice-sounding lyrics that turn out to mean something else entirely, when one checks the words’ original source and context.

The name comes from a pasuk (verse) in Amos:

הִנֵה יָמִים בָּאִים… וְהִשְׁלַחְתִי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ לֹא רָעָב לַלֶחֶם וְלֹא צָמָא לַמַיִם כִּי אִם לִשְׁמֹעַ אֵת דִבְרֵי ה’.“

“Behold, days are coming… and I will send a famine into the land; not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of Hashem.” (Amos 8:11)

Over the years, this pasuk has been set to music several times, and there are now many different versions of this song, including:

The Dveykus version

The R’ Shlomo Carlebach version

Apparently, those behind these songs felt that a situation that involves thirsting for Hashem’s words is a wonderful, praiseworthy, and song-worthy thing.

But in actuality, the pasuk means that there will be hastarat Panim (literally, that Hashem will “hide His face”) – i.e. a terrible punishment, and thus not exactly something that most people would choose to sing about!

Which is why “Hinei Yamim” always makes me laugh…


Please share your own amusing examples of “Lo Ra’av” songs in the comment section below.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A beautiful election story

Although it’s been two weeks since the municipal elections, the excitement has yet to die down.

In a handful of cities, run-offs are being held today, because no single candidate garnered a clear majority. Meanwhile, serious allegations of widespread fraud and vote tampering have prompted residents of another city to demand an investigation and, if necessary, a revote.

Would it be totally inappropriate for me to take advantage of their situation to plug my post on Torani communities? ;-) </shameless self-promotion>

And outside the cities – i.e. in the villages, kibbutzim, moshavim, and other smaller communities that make up the rest of the country – the process is only just beginning. Elections for the regional and local councils are not scheduled to take place until December.

Yet, contrary to what some of the above would lead you to believe, elections don’t necessarily have to be about infighting and controversies.

I mean, consider the following story:

With the permission of the administration, the Shminist and the other 12th graders at his yeshiva high school were hired to work for a certain political party on Election Day. (The money they earned will go toward the Hachtarah, their graduation, and other end-of-the-year activities.)

Each senior was given a different job, and the Shminist was assigned to a particular voting station as an observer (i.e. a mashkif, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you).

The people at the station – both the election officials and the voters - represented a wide array of parties, but nevertheless, a wonderful sense of camaraderie pervaded the room. For instance, they joked about which party brought its employee the best food. (All agreed that the Shminist and his party won, hands down. Apparently his pizza trumped everyone else’s egg sandwiches and tired pastries. :-))

In any event, at about 2-3 in the afternoon, things quieted down, during the lull between the lunch break crowd and the post-work rush. Someone suggested that it would be a good time to daven minchah, but a quick count revealed that there were only 8 kippah-wearing men in the immediate vicinity.

But before anyone could go outside to round up a few extra men, a woman – who represented a decidedly secular party and whose outward appearance indicated that she wasn’t especially religiously observant – piped up.

You don’t have enough for a minyan? How about those two guys over there?” she asked, and then called out to a couple of bareheaded young men in the corner. “Hey! They’re a little short over here. Would you be willing to make up the minyan?

Happily!” they replied, and they sounded like they meant it.

The Shminist later reported that he assumed that the two men’s sole contribution to the cause would be to stand off on the side in order to be technically counted for the minyan, but he misjudged them.

Not only did they wrap t-shirts around their heads as makeshift kippot, but they actually davened with everyone else.

And several hours later, when it was time for maariv, the minyan was again comprised of a beautiful mix of religious and secular Jews.

It was a moving lesson in achdut (unity) for the Shminist and his friends, and it proved that far away from the blaring headlines, Israelis think of themselves as one big, boisterous but loving family:

 ”כאיש אחד בלב אחד.

“As one man, with one heart.”
(Rashi – Shmot 19:2)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

HaAdom, HaAdom HaZeh

Shavua tov!

”הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶה…

“Pour into me now some of this red, red…”
(Breishit 25:30)

Like what seems to be a significant portion of the Jewish world (if Facebook and the J-Blogosphere are any indication), here in TRLEOOB*, we had red lentil soup today in honor of Parshat Toldot.

IMG_3171 (3)

IMG_3184 (3)Sorry, no pictures of the cooked soup.

Parshat Toldot Crock Pot Red Lentil Soup

Inspired by at least half a dozen different recipes – including my mother-in-law’s recipe

Note: It turns out that if you take your crock pot out of the kitchen to clean for Pesach, but then leave it sitting right in the middle of the living room floor instead of carrying it upstairs and putting it away immediately, someone WILL trip over it. And when THAT happens, the crock pot insert WILL crack and break. In other words, I made the soup in our relatively new 8-quart crock pot…


  • 1 large onion - chopped
  • 3 large carrots - sliced
  • 2 celery stalks - chopped
  • 2 chicken necks
  • 4 cups red lentils - checked and soaked (I used split lentils, but I think next year, I’ll IY”H try it with whole lentils)
  • 800-gram can of crushed tomatoes (about 28 oz. for my American readers)
  • 5 turkey/chicken hot dogs – sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • Dried parsley
  • Dried oregano
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Water


Put all the ingredients in the crock pot and fill it up with water. Cook on high for a few hours, and then turn the crock pot down to low before Shabbat.


P.S. Laura shares a different red lentil soup recipe here.


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog