Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fine Arts Friday: Lost and Found Edition

Warning: The following post may exceed the recommended daily allowance for maternal boasting. Proceed at your own risk.

A Shiputzim daughter recently had to do a project for her Mishnah class.

Yes, her Mishnah class.

Note that such a concept certainly didn’t exist in my out-of-town Bais Yaakov-wannabe school.

In fact, the word “Mishnah” never appeared anywhere near our course schedule.

I mean, sure, we did learn a bit of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers)here and there – albeit it mostly on a rather superficial level.

But it was clearly understood that this was the one exception to the hard-and-fast rule that girls. don’t. learn. Mishnah. Period.

After all, it could, um, lead to mixed dancing, which could lead to [gasp] something even worse: learning Gemara…

Winking smile

In contrast, the aforementioned Shiputzim daughter is currently studying Masechet Bava Metzia and chose to do her project on the second mishnah of the second perek, which discusses the mitzvah of hashavat aveidah (returning lost property) and includes a list of items that the finder must declare.

As always, please feel free to click on the pictures for a much better view:


Several close-ups of some of the details:


If the poster’s style looks vaguely familiar, it’s because it was produced in the same studio as last year’s Makat Dam project, which, coincidentally, is very appropriate for this week – i.e. Parshat VaEra.

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pa’am Shlishit Glidah

Warning: The following post has been flagged by the relevant authorities for ignoring local culinary conventions. Proceed at your own risk.

After all these years in Israel, I like to think of myself as a real Israeli.

But then along comes the storm of the century, and while all self-respecting sabras instinctively turn their attentions to proper winter foods like sahlab, crembos, and hot soup, I instead choose to blog about… {lowers voice and shifts eyes furtively from side to side} well, about ice cream.

However, lest you think that I’m deliberately trying to defy native cultural norms, I should explain that here in TRLEOOB*, we recently acquired a brand new ice cream maker.

<brief explanatory interjection> About 15 years ago, we switched from individual Chanukah presents to one or two larger presents for the entire family. What’s your family’s approach to Chanukah presents? </interjection>

Yet, as it so happened, OS (=Our Soldier) spent the entire Chanukah on his base.

We thus decided to wait to taste our homemade ice cream (recipes below) until he came home the week after Chanukah, and we had our “Post-Chanukah Chanukah Family Celebration and Ice Cream Party”:


Upon hearing about our delayed celebration, guest blogger Malke asked if I thought that the ice cream maker was worth it and if it’s difficult to use.

Here’s what I told her:

“In a nutshell, it’s definitely worth it. Without exaggeration, we all thought that it rated among the best ice cream we've ever had - the taste, the texture, the flavor, it's all good. And pricewise, homemade ice cream comes out significantly cheaper per liter than the bought stuff (once you factor out the cost of the machine itself, of course). It's also not very difficult to make. Obviously, it's not as easy as hopping in the car and taking a container of ice cream out of the makolet’s freezer section, but it's fairly straightforward.”

Homemade (Philadelphia Style) Ice Cream

Philadelphia style ice cream (as opposed to custard style ice cream) has no eggs. These recipes were adapted from a combination of several different sources.

Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 1¼ cups whole milk (we used 3% milk)
  • ¾ cup sugar

Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 3/5 cup whole milk (we used 3% milk)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ TBSP cocoa
  • 140 grams bittersweet chocolate – coarsely chopped

Coffee Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 1¼ cups whole milk (we used 3% milk)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1¼ TBSP instant coffee (we used decaf)


Mix all the ingredients in a small pot over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and just beginning to form tiny bubbles. Remove from heat and refrigerate for a few hours or even overnight.

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze overnight before serving.




*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sharing the mitzvah

When several individuals were recently arrested for draft dodging, crowds of extremist chareidim took to the streets in bizarre defense of their compatriots’ (and by extension, also their own) inexplicable and inexcusable shirking of their civic, moral, ethical, legal, national, and - most of all - halachic responsibilities.

Which is why now would be an excellent time to remind those who choose to forget that serving in the IDF is a mitzvah.

In fact, as Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohein Kook zt”l explained, serving in the IDF actually involves two mitzvot - namely:

1) Pikuach Nefesh (saving a life): Note that we’re not just talking about saving a single life but rather about saving the lives of the entire Am Yisrael.
Pikuach nefesh is made up of three separate mitzvot:

  1. The positive mitzvah of saving lives. (See Vayikra 18:5.)
  2. The prohibition against “standing idly by the blood of your fellow.” (See Vayikra 19:16).
  3. The positive mitzvah of hashavat aveidah (returning lost property – see Devarim 22:2). Since we must return a person’s property, all the more so must we “restore” his body.

2) Yerushat HaAretz (establishing and maintaining Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael – see Bamidbar 33:53).

Furthermore,  as the Mishnah (Sotah 8:7) famously teaches, during a milchemet mitzvah (an obligatory war), NO ONE is exempt from serving:

“Everyone goes out [to war] – even a bridegroom from his chamber and a bride from her wedding canopy.” (See also the Rambam - Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 7.)

And according to most (all?) authorities, the current situation constitutes a milchemet mitzvah.

Sadly, however, many believe (or pretend to believe) that none of the above matters, because of their false claim that “the IDF isn’t an appropriate environment for religious or chareidi soldiers” [sic].

But as I showed in my IDF myths and facts post, such a claim is simply untrue and, IMHO, even slanderous.

So what, then, is the halachic source for widespread military exemption? In other words, is there any heter (halachic justification or license) for not serving in the IDF?

Some cite the Gemara (BT Bava Batra 7b), which states that unlike the other residents, Torah scholars don’t have to pay to build a wall to protect their city. But Rabbi Riskin explains that this source can’t be used to justify military exemptions for Torah scholars:

“This [Gemara] would seem to imply that the Torah serves as a protective shield, and from this perspective, perhaps scholars ought be freed from military service. However, the Talmudic commentaries (most notably, the Baalei Tosafot ad loc as well as the Hazon Ish) insist that the exemption is only from payment for protection against thieves; if the wall is necessary for protection from murderers, even the scholars must contribute, because ‘we dare not rely on miracles.’”

Meanwhile, others quote the Rambam (Hilchot Shmitah V’Yovel 13), who states that talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars or sages) resemble Shevet Levi (the Tribe of Levi) and are thus exempted from military service.


  1. Shevet Levi was only exempted from fighting in order to serve as teachers, and the Leviim were still required to provide logistical, spiritual, and moral support during times of war. (See here for more details.)
  2. It is highly unlikely (read: virtually impossible) that the ENTIRE chareidi community, en masse, rates as “talmidei chachamim.” After all, in today’s world, very few people (with the exception of a few leading Torah giants) can honestly look themselves in the mirror and say that they meet the Rambam’s very specific criteria for talmidei chachamim.

In other words, there is no real source or halachic justification for not serving in the IDF.

Yet, nevertheless, learning Torah is also a very important mitzvah, and as Rabbi Riskin observes:

“There is no doubt that the study of Torah is of crucial importance and the greatest guarantor of the future of the Jewish people.”

However, any discussion of learning Torah in lieu of serving in the IDF must be predicated on two things:

  • An acknowledgement that any exemption from military service is actually an exemption from doing a mitzvah.
  • A sincere and vocal hakarat hatov (literally, “recognizing the good” – i.e. gratitude and appreciation) for those who dedicate their lives to serving and defending Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, according to Torat Yisrael, and thereby enable their brothers to sit and learn Torah.


Your thoughts?
(Please keep it civil. Thanks!)


Rains of blessing

As the blessed rain continues unabated, Israelis of every stripe are glued to their favorite news outlet in hope that the predictions come to pass and that today’s gloriously wet weather does, in fact, turn to snow.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has instructed that one recite the traditional Thanksgiving Blessing for Rain.

Our community’s rabbi explained that both men and women should recite the blessing and that it can be recited either in public (i.e. as part of a congregation in shul) or in private.

Here is the Hebrew text followed by an English translation*:

ברכת הודאה על הגשמים

מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ ה' אֱלֹקינוּ וֵאלֹקי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ עַל כּל טִפָּה וטִפָּה שֶׁהוֹרַדְתָּ לָּנוּ.

ואִלּוּ פִינוּ מָלֵא שִׁירָה כַּיָּם, וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה כַּהֲמוֹן גַּלָּיו, ושִׂפְתוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁבַח כּמֶרְחֲבֵי רָקִיעַ, ועֵינֵינוּ מאִירוֹת כַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ וכַיָּרֵחַ, ויָדֵינוּ פרוּשׂוֹת כּנִשְׁרֵי שָׁמָיִם, ורַגְלֵינוּ קַלּוֹת כָּאַיָּלוֹת, אֵין אֲנַחְנוּ מַסְפִּיקִים להוֹדוֹת לךָ, ה' אֱלֹקינוּ וֵאלֹקי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, וּלְבָרֵךְ אֶת שִׁמְךָ עַל אַחַת מֵאֶלֶף אַלְפֵי אֲלָפִים, ורֹב רִבֵּי רבָבוֹת פּעָמִים הַטּוֹבוֹת, נִסִּים ונִפְלָאוֹת שֶׁעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּנוּ ועִם אֲבוֹתֵינוּ.

מִלּפָנִים מִמִּצְרַיִם גּאַלְתָּנוּ ה' אֱלֹקינוּ, מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים פּדִיתָנוּ. בּרָעָב זַנְתָּנוּ וּבְשָׂבָע כִּלְכַּלְתָּנוּ. מֵחֶרֶב הִצַּלְתָּנוּ, מִדֶּבֶר מִלַּטְתָּנוּ, וּמֵחְלָיִם רָעִים ורַבִּים דִּלִּיתָנוּ.

עַד הֵנָּה עֲזָרוּנוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ ולֹא עֲזָבוּנוּ חֲסָדֶיךָ.

עַל כֵּן אֵבָרִים שֶׁפִּלַּגְתָּ בָּנוּ, ורוּחַ וּנְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּפַחְתָּ בּאַפֵּנוּ, ולָשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר שַׂמְתָּ בּפִינוּ, הֵן הֵם יוֹדוּ וִיבָרְכוּ וִישַׁבּחוּ וִיפָאֲרוּ אֶת שִׁמְךָ מַלְכֵּנוּ תָּמִיד. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֵ-ל רֹב הַהוֹדָאוֹת.

The Thanksgiving Blessing for Rain

We gives thanks to You, Hashem, our God and the God of our fathers, for each and every drop which You sent down for us.

And were our mouths as full of song as the sea, and our tongues as full of joy as the multitude of its waves, and our lips as full of praise as the expanse of the heavens, and our eyes as radiant as the sun and the moon, and our arms as outspread as the eagles of the sky, and our legs as swift as hinds, we still could not thank You enough, Hashem, our God and the God of our fathers, or bless Your Name for even one of the thousands of thousands and the myriads of myriad favors, miracles, and wonders which You performed for us and for our fathers.

From Egypt, You redeemed us, Hashem, our God; from the house of slaves, You liberated us. In famine, You nourished us, and in plenty, You sustained us. From the sword, You saved us; from the plague, You rescued us; and from malignant and numerous diseases, You spared us.

Until this point, Your mercies have helped us, and Your kindnesses have not forsaken us.

Therefore, the organs which You fixed in us, and the spirit and the soul which You blew into our nostrils, and the tongue which You placed in our mouth – they will thank and bless and praise and exalt Your Name, our King, forever. Blessed are You, Hashem, God of bountiful thanksgivings.


* The Hebrew-to-English translator who provided the above translation has asked me to announce that she’s available for translation work. For more information, please contact me at OurShiputzim at gmail dot com, and I’ll gladly forward all serious inquiries to her.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chanukah 5774 wrap-up

IMG_3344Zot Chanukah

As Chanukah 5774 comes to a gloriously wet and wintery end, and as the younger Shiputzim kids prepare to return to school tomorrow morning IY”H (“Oof, why can’t there be a gesher*?!” a certain annoyed Shiputzim child wondered), here are several items of interest or note:

1) I updated my post from last year about my Zaidy z”l and his extraordinary letter.

2) Rabbi Wein shows how satire can be used to help change the mindset of those who are disconnected from reality.

3) Rafi G. shares a beautiful story about a bus ride.

4) And finally, in a shocking break with tradition, we weren’t able to visit any national parks over Chanukah. In our defense, however, we DID drive all the way to the Yarkon and Tel Afek National Park earlier this week – only to discover that it was closed due to strong winds.

Actual exchange:

Park official: It’s really too bad that you schlepped all this way for nothing.

Us: Was there any way that we could have known in advance that the park was closed?

Park official: {surprised at such a ridiculous question} Why, of course! We posted it on our website.

Us: Um, we looked at your website this morning to get directions. We didn’t notice anything about the park being closed.

Park official: {clicks on computer} Oh. {shrugs} Well, apparently we forgot to post…

Open-mouthed smile

But the good news is that we WERE able to snap the requisite shot of the price list, to show how much money we [would have] saved as a result of our National Parks Authority membership and to prove that we were actually there:


!שבת שלום ומבורך


*Gesher – Literally, a bridge. Refers to an extra vacation day or two.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Zaidy z”l (Updated)

Note: I am reposting the following from last year (with a few updates), because I think that the amazing letter at the end should not be missed.

Tonight – the eighth night of Chanukah - marks the yahrzeit of my beloved maternal grandfather z”l, a Holocaust survivor originally from what is now the Ukraine.

Zaidy z”l was the oldest of four sons. His father – who died when Zaidy was only nine years old - was the Rav of their shtetl and the author of several well-regarded seforim. (Sadly, only one of these works – a fascinating treatise on bringing korbanot in our time – survived the Nazi onslaught.) Zaidy’s mother and two youngest brothers Hy”d were murdered by the Nazis and their willing local accomplices in 1941.

A gifted talmid of both Rav Elchanan Wasserman zt”l in the Ohel Torah Yeshiva in Baranovitch and then Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l in the Kletzk Yeshiva (Zaidy z”l was only 17 when he received smichah – rabbinic ordination – from Rav Kotler) before the war, Zaidy z”l later earned an engineering degree from the University of Moscow.

SurvivorsZaidy z”l (standing, in the hat) teaches other survivors in the DP camp in Frankfurt in 1946.

Throughout his life, learning Torah was Zaidy’s greatest joy, and after a long, hard day working to support his family, he would “unwind” with a sefer.

ChanukahA family member watches as Zaidy a”h and I light the candles – Chanukah 5731 (December 1970).

Nine years after the above picture was taken, my family was living in Israel on a sabbatical, when Zaidy z”l suddenly passed away - on Shabbat Zot Chanukah 5740 (December 1979).

Some two weeks later, we received an extraordinary letter (written on an aerogram - remember those??) from him. Apparently, he had dropped it into the mailbox on his way to shul on Erev Shabbat – i.e. just a few hours before he died.

What follows is an incredibly moving excerpt (edited slightly for clarity) from that remarkable letter:

“…With Hashem’s help, our letter will find you all in good health and high spirits. Amen.

“We are, thank Hashem, fine. It is already the 6th day of Chanukah, and usually you are all here. Mommy prepares the pancakes; [REDACTED] takes them sledding in the snow; and we pass out the Chanukah presents to the kids.

“This year, there is no snow yet. The kids and you all are far away in far away places; and the presents for the kids are somewhere; and a mailman will do chores instead of our pleasure.

“But as they say, count your blessings. Thank Hashem for [having] been blessed with children who have chosen to follow in the שביל הזהב (the Golden Path), who are שומרי תורה ומצוות (observe the Torah and the mitzvot) and [are] bringing up their own children to do the same.

“This is the real meaning of מסורה (Jewish tradition) – to transfer the Torah and her commandments as it was given to our forefathers on הר סיני (Mount Sinai), not to add or deduct.

“Our parents planted the seeds in us. We did the same to our children, and you are doing the same to your children.

“Let us pray [that] the seeds you are planting will bear fruit. Amen…”


May Zaidy’s memory be blessed, and may Zaidy and Bobi’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren be privileged to continue along the path set out by our special parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents z”l.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Heblish: Chanukah Edition

What does Chanukah have to do with Heblish?

Well, on a simple level, most of the Shiputzim kids (except for those who are currently serving and protecting Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael according to Torat Yisrael) are home all week on vacation – which naturally means that the Heblishisms have been flying fast and furious around TRLEOOB*.

But there’s also a deeper connection between Chanukah and Heblish.

You see, Chanukah famously commemorates the fact that the Maccabees thought they only had enough oil for one day, but miraculously, it ended up lasting for eight days.

Similarly, I thought that I only had enough Heblishisms for one post, but miraculously, it ended up lasting for over five years…

Open-mouthed smile

And now, without further ado, here’s the 23rd (!!) batch of entries (ken yirbu…) from the Official Our Shiputzim Heblish-English Dictionary:

Didn’t do nothing: Hebrew source - לא עשה כלום. English definition – Didn’t do anything. Sample usage – “We passed some cows on our tiyul. They were just lying there, and they didn’t do nothing.”

That what: Hebrew source – זה מה. English definition – That’s what. Sample usage – “That what I meant.”

Girl/boy: Hebrew source – בת\בן. English definition – Daughter/son. Sample usage – “Today my teacher brought her girl with her to school.”

Borrow for me: Hebrew source – להשאיל לי. English definition – Lend me. Sample usage – “Does anyone have a pencil to borrow for me?”

Low/high: Hebrew source – נמוך\גבוה. English definition – Short/tall. Sample usage – “All the low girls stood in front, and all the high girls stood in the back.”

Open-mouthed smile

!חג אורים שמח

Please submit your family’s favorite Heblishisms, and I’ll be glad to include them in a future post. You can leave a comment at the bottom of this post or send an email to OurShiputzim at gmail dot com.


Previous Heblish editions are available here: Heblish I, Heblish II, Heblish III, Heblish IV, Heblish V, Heblish VI, Heblish VII, Heblish VIII, Heblish IX, Heblish X, Heblish XI, Heblish XII, Heblish XIII, Heblish XIV, Heblish XV, Heblish XVI, Heblish XVII, Heblish XVIII, Heblish XIX, Heblish XX, Heblish XXI, and Heblish XXII.


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog