Friday, August 31, 2012

Preparing for a Sweet Year

Top of the evening all...

As many of you are aware, the new year of 5773 is fast approaching.  Like many of my colleagues, I am now far behind in writing my sermons.  I have no clue who decided that Rosh HaShanah should tend to coincide with the beginning of the school year.  The Being and I should have words soon though.

Whenever we travel, we make it to the first rest stop on the Thruway before having to take a break.  There is a honey salesman there.  It is cash only though, and I never have cash with me.  We always purchase more honey at Rosh HaShanah.  One of the practices at the new year is to dip apples in honey.  The reason is to symbolize our hope for a sweet year.

When we moved up to Toronto, we instituted a new practice.  I never remember to pick it up in New York.  Still, we rarely purchase our honey at the market.  Rather, there is a honey merchant at one of the farmers' markets.  He sells numerous types of honey - acacia, buckwheat, wildflower, blueberry, etc.

Jennifer and I purchase various honeys.  We put them all out on the table.  One next to the other, you would be surprised how different the tastes are.  It is a delightful way to start the new year.

This also works with olive oil, although I recommend not doing this quite as often.  It can go to your middle.

Shanah Tovah.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

But I Am Not Bitter...

Top of the evening all....

I have been going back to reread some of my earlier postings.  Having read them, I realize that you might draw the erroneous conclusion the Gorman marriage is the idyllic union.  Perhaps that is so, but it has not always been.

Let me tell you about two incidents that happened.  One of those incidents occurred before we had been married 24 hours.

I remember the wedding.  Wow.  It was a blast.  The band was never too loud.  They did not play any of the songs that I hear too often, but that should not be played at weddings*.  The food I got to taste was wonderful.  We had selected a chocolate wedding cake with fresh strawberries.  I got one bite of that cake, before being whisked away to shake hands with Uncle Max or whoever it was.

Due to an accident with bug spray, we had to go back to my in-laws' the next day to get some freshly-laundered clothing.  There, sitting on the table, resplendent in strawberry attire, was the top layer of our wedding cake.

Did you all know that there is a tradition of freezing the top layer of the wedding cake and enjoying it at the first anniversary?  I did not know that either.

I cut myself a piece of wedding cake.  For the life of me, I have no clue how both Jennifer and my mother-in-law heard me doing this, but they were in the kitchen before my fork was in the cake.  The piece of cake was put back.  The cake was wrapped.  We put it in the freezer at her aunt's house.

(Note passage of several years, moving, freezer burn, and so on).

I never saw my piece of wedding cake.

But I am not bitter.

The second event also took place during our first year of marriage.  I wanted to go to Turkey over winter break.  Jennifer insists that she was not taking a cruise from Haifa to Izmir on a deck chair.  Instead, she wanted to buy a painting.  It is a lovely painting.  I am staring at it even as I type.

But I am not bitter.

I am not bitter.  We laugh about it every few months.  Next year will be twenty years for us.  I am going to custom design our anniversary cake.  I wonder if I can do a Turkish chocolate-strawberry cake.


*I have heard "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" and "I Will Survive" at weddings.  Who thinks of this?

Companies I Like

Hi all....

I always thought it would be fun to take tours of companies whose products I like.  I want to go to the coffee factory at Kicking Horse Pass.  I want to go to Cape Cod to see how to make potato chips.  I have managed over the last couple of years to see some of the places I like.

We drove back to Toronto yesterday.  Our route takes us through the town of Easton, Pennsylvania.  Many of you will instantly recognize that as the home of Smith & Binney, makers of Crayola crayons.  We decided to stop.  It was wonderful.  I get the feeling, first of all, that if I somehow ran into a 100-year old box of Crayola crayons, it would look, feel, smell, and taste the same.  Some years back, Crayola made its 100-billionth crayon.  Mr. Rogers moulded that crayon.

I like Crayola.  It is a company that has affected every single one of us, as kids, as parents, and as grandparents.  The company's goal is to bring colour into the world.  What can be bad with that?  As well, they are seeking ways to become greener.  Any paper products they use come from their own sustainable tree forest.  They are doing a great deal of work with solar power.

On another note, Easton, PA is lovely.

We have also visited the Hershey's factory.  Yes....enough said.  But there is more.  Mr. and Mrs. Hershey had no children.  They started a school for orphans as a result, raising many children as their own.  The school is still there, with close to 2000 students.  Hershey's uses only local ingredients.  The company has been certified kosher for over 100 years.  One of the original goals of the company was to make chocolate available for everyone, instead of just a luxury of the rich.

Last is the Zippo company.  Zippo makes lighters.  The Zippo lighter has been of exceedingly high quality.  The history of the Zippo is also very much wrapped up in the history of the United States military.  A lighter that will not go out is useful for signalling, and has been used as such.

In 1943, the owner of the company noticed a design flaw in the lighter.  He shut the company down for several months while he fixed it.  He also kept everyone on salary.

These are companies I like and have visited.  I hope that there will be others.  I would like to see Newman's Own.  A company that only has interest in making decent food and donating all profits to charity is worth a visit, and more importantly patronage.

I am going to forage around the house for a Hershey bar now.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

From the Mouths of Babes

"As you know, Ima, jewelry is very important in a girl's life." - Keren, in the jewelry department at Target.

"Do you see my estate?  Is this not totally posh?" - Gavi, showing me his computer fiefdom.

I am not even sure what to say.

Good night everyone.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Lessons from the Lawn Mower

Hi all...

At the beginning of the summer, our lawn mower died.  I tried to be sad.  I could not.  The lawn mower never had any oomph to it.  On top of that, any money we might have saved purchasing an electric mower was probably wasted with the three heavy-duty extension cords that we mowed with the grass.

We replaced the lawn mower.  This one has power.

Anyway, I was cutting the grass a couple of weeks ago.  The chute that is there to eject the grass out the side came off.  It is a breakaway part.  The flap immediately closed.  I did not think too much about it.  I assumed that the grass would then go into the bag.  I toss that on the compost.  As well, my neighbour is very meticulous with his yard.  I did not wish to get in the way of the care he gives his lawn.  The grass shooting out the side of the lawn mower has to go somewhere.

While Jesse was mowing the lawn last week, it stopped.  He could not get it to restart.  I came home, and had no problem.  I started cutting the grass, and the same thing happened.  I tilted the lawn mower, and cleaned out the grass buildup from underneath.  It happened again, and again.  I started tilting the lawn mower in the air every time it sounded like it was about to stall.  It belched out grass each time.

It dawned on me that the piece that was on the side had the task of preventing grass buildup.

We learn several lessons here:

1.  Sometimes those around us tell us without words that there is a problem.  Listening involves more than our ears.

2.  Seemingly useless parts might have a function even if we cannot immediately recognize that function.

3.  Do not remove parts just because you do not like them.  They may be useful anyway.

Have a good evening.


Crossing into the US

Good morning all....

So the Gorman family recently crossed into the United States.  While on the QEW, we called to get current bridge information.  The message told us that there was a wait of about 30 minutes to cross at all the bridges.

Mistake #1: I trusted the message.
Mistake #2: I crossed at Lewiston.

The 30-ish minutes that we were supposed to be there was really about an hour and 40 minutes.  I started talking to people going the other way, stuck in similar traffic on the way back.  I told someone to pack a lunch.  Someone else asked me how long I had been waiting.  I said "since yesterday."

This was annoying.  The wait though did give me time to look around.  I got to notice the river as it flows north towards Lake Ontario.  There were seagulls.

I found it very disconcerting though that while stuck for a long period of time in traffic, there were two turkey vultures circling the bridge.  I really hope that those two things are not connected.

Have a good day.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Looking for a Meal and a Fight

Gavi....Gavi Gavi Gavi...

He is my medium child.  When he was born some 12 years ago, he came out looking for a meal and a fight.  He knew how to nurse, and was happy to do so.  He hit 20 pounds in six months only on a natural diet.  He has slimmed down quite a bit since then, but is still willing to take a risk with his food.  I am teaching him the barbecue.  I said to a waitress today that he should only have a tiny bit of hot sauce on his sandwich.  He demanded to know why.

As he learned to move, he decided he really liked wrestling.  I used to wrestle with Jesse.  Suddenly, this baby would be in the middle of it.  That part has not left him.

He is also my comedian.  Almost seven years ago, my then five-year old came into the kitchen.  He stuck his head in the cabinet and GENTLY closed the door.  He then yelled at the top of his lungs: "the cabinet is eating my head."  He removed his head from the cabinet, pulled his shirt up over his head, and then started walking around the kitchen yelling: "I have no head.  The cabinet ate my head."

He has left whoopee cushions in dark places where he knew I would walk.  Even now, I risk ambush from a flying stuffed animal if I walk too close to his bedroom door.

He likes tools.  I once had to put something away in his night table drawer.  I opened it up to find several screwdrivers.

And his love of tools combined this week with his ongoing need to wrestle me into submission.  I was sitting on a tree stump earlier this week.  Gavi came over and sat on my shoulders.  Then, he grabbed my head, and said "lefty-loosy righty-tighty", and started twisting my head back and forth.

I am offering him

Good night all.


Monday, August 13, 2012

So Perhaps I Should Not Have Chuckled

Top of the evening all...

Several years back, I stifled what would have been an inappropriate chuckle.  It seems that one of my bosses had majored in library science during his university years.  It hardly seemed like a hard subject.  I was wrong.

Fast forward to this summer...

Jennifer and I are up at Camp Ramah.  Normally we come up to teach.  They asked us to do something different this summer.  No one has organized the library in a couple of years.

I am no longer chuckling.

We have put in two days of work.  We still have at least one more to go.  It is a great deal of lifting.  the summer has been dry.  There is thus a layer of dust on all of the books and on all of the shelves.  We have been wiping everything down and re-shelving books.

There are challenges.  We found a book about Golda Meir.  Should that go under biographies, under a section on famous Jewish women, or under Israel?  That type of question has come up more than once. We have been getting help from a camper.  He has his own ideas as to how things should be organized.  His ideas are good, but we can only have one method going at a time.  He has somewhat accepted that we are in charge.

It is interesting bringing two sets of rabbinical eyes to this endeavour.  We are able to make distinctions between a regular siddur and the siddur of Sa'adya Gaon.  The regular siddur goes with all of the other siddurim.  The siddur of Sa'adya goes with the history section, as his was the first one out there.  We can also look at the writings of Nachmanides and figure out what goes in the rabbinics section and what goes with philosophy.  The last person who organized the library really did not make such distinctions.

We will likely be asked to do this again at the end of next summer.

Have a good night everyone.


P.S. For the non-Hebrew speakers out there, 'siddur' is 'prayerbook.'

P.P.S.  Camp is, as always, lovely.  I do not know why we send kids.  We should send kids to grandparents, and then go to camp on our own.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


We have a garden.  The pumpkin attacked me today.  I had to beat it back with a machete.  There is a truce presently.  I do not go on its side of the yard.  It does not attack.  We are still trying to figure out who gets control of the deck.  The pumpkins will be wonderful.  They make a dynamite soup, either sweet or savoury.  As well, pumpkin pie is a reason for living in its own right.  The seeds are also a very healthy snack.

Jennifer is the gardener.  She understands dirt.  I understand mud pies.  In the spring, she spends lots of money on seeds.  We spread last year's compost over the beds.  Somewhere on this computer, there is a layout of the garden, with what is planted in each bed.  Not that it matters.  The squirrels have moved one of the plants already.

Compost is a good thing.  We make our own, using only organic matter.  Every once in a while, I will also empty the lawn mower bag onto it.

At this point, the heavy work is done.  I have given away no fewer than 5 heads of lettuce.  It is still growing.  The tomato plants are sending forth tomatoes left, right, and sideways.  Some of them actually make it into the house.  Many of them I eat off the bush.  The cucumber vine and the beans have elected to leave home, and are now taking over a couple of trees in the neighbour's backyard.

And the title of this blog entry is "Audrey."  Audrey was the name of the plant in "Little Shop of Horrors."  The plant grew and grew, and ate everything in its path.  I am waiting for it to tell me to feed it.

Have a good night everyone.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

10000 Visitors!!!

Hello everyone.

As of about five minutes ago, we have gotten to 10000 visitors to this blog.  Primarily, the readers have been from the United States and Canada, but people have connected to this blog from every continent.

Some of the countries I would not have expected.  Who would have thought that a reader in Malaysia would check out the website of a Rabbi in Canada?  This week alone, I have multiple hits from the United Arab Emirates.  There are also hits from Israel.  I wonder if two people hitting this website from those countries counts as tacit recognition.

The most-read entry is "The Original Rules of Marriage."  That was back in January 2011.  This is the link:  That entry has received 249 visits.  It is one of my favourites.  I also like "The Marital Bed," "Lessons from the Walk of Shame," and "A Jewish State."  I thoroughly amused myself in writing some of the entries that were intended to be funny - "Codename: Operation Avocado," "The Joke," and "Finally."  I hope you found them worth a chuckle or two, or at least a groan and a Rolaids.

I have found both surprising and fun the challenge of coming up with the right titles for each of the entries.  I have found surprising the fact that I really like your comments.  I would love more discussion on some of the entries, especially the ones on marriage. 

Two things will happen in honour of reaching this auspicious occasion.  The first is that I am going to change my wallpaper.  It is time for a new look.  The second is that if you walk into a McDonald's in Canada on any day between today and August 12th, tell them that you read my blog, and then ask for a small coffee, McDonald's will give you that coffee for free.  Please note that the coffee is fine.  I am specifically not recommending any other menu items due to significant dietary concerns.

I thank all of you for being interested in reading my blog,  It is quite flattering.


Sunday, August 5, 2012


Top of the evening all...

You will remember that the doctor gave me four months to get my blood pressure down to acceptable levels.  After wearing a monitor for 24 hours, my average pressure was 143/94.  That is stage 1 hypertension.  Pre-hypertension is when the top number is between 120-139.

Over the last two months, I have been much better about exercising.  I have been eating a handful of almonds daily, as well as lots of fruit.  Soy-milk smoothies are enjoyable.  Also, Emerald nuts makes a cocoa-covered almond.  It is quite tasty.  They have a brand new line coated in cinnamon.  I just bought some tonight, but have not yet tasted.  I have been taking 500 mg of vitamin C every day.  I have been sleeping roughly seven hours a night.

The net result is that my numbers seem to be tacking towards the pre-hypertension levels.  This is not a diagnosis.  Rather, it is a report of progress.  The doctor may well still look at it and put me on medication.  This evening, I took my pressure four times.  The best was 127/68.  That 68 is more than 20 points below the numbers in May.  All the numbers are recorded on a document.  I will send it to my doctor before I meet with him in October.

I think it is the vitamin C.  Jennifer thinks it is the sleep.

The challenge will be maintaining the sleep and finding the time to exercise.  With children away at camp, it is easy to shut down for the night at a reasonable hour.  It is easy to take time on the treadmill when one only has to clear dinner for two instead of five.

We will see what September brings.

Have a good evening all.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Key Words

I was looking around my blog statistics.  One of the things one can learn is the key words used to locate a web site.  Apparently, someone looked up my name with 'bicycle' and 'Shabbat.'  I have not written on that topic on this blog.  Nonetheless, if someone wishes to use those words to find me, it seems rude not to have it available.

For those of you who do not already know, I like to ride my bicycle.  I ride for bike-a-thons.  I ride for exercise.  I ride to commute.  I ride for errands.  I ride for fun.  At the end of the day, I like it.  On more than one occasion, someone has asked whether it is permissible to ride on Shabbat.

The overwhelming majority of poskim (decisors) do not permit.  I believe them all to be in error.  Their reasons are as follows:

1.  There is a risk of going outside the eiruv
2.  You might get a flat or have a chain come off, and then come to fix it
3.  It is too much like a weekly activity

I will deal with each concern in turn.

1.  Risk of going outside the eiruv: It is forbidden to carry outside of a private area.  There is a leniency in Jewish law that allows us to designate a neighbourhood, town, or even a city as a private area.  The process is not crucial.  When such eiruvin might include the entire city of Los Angeles, or a rather substantial area in Toronto, one can comfortably stay within the eiruv and still have an enjoyable ride.  Those of us who are concerned about the eiruv know the boundaries.  This is not an issue.  Furthermore, if that is an issue, it is also an issue for those who are on foot.  That defeats the whole purpose of an eiruv.

2.  Lest you come to fix it: I have been cycling both for commuting and recreation for over 14 years.  In that time, my chain has come off once.  Outside of the aberrant occurrences at Guantanamo, I have had only five flat tires and no chain popping.  My bicycle goes for a tune-up once a year.  A minimum of maintenance is necessary to operate a bicycle.  Halakhah does not react to such rare occurrences.  Moreover, I have had more problems than that with my kitchen cabinets.  They have come off hinges many times, including on Shabbat.  Shall we forbid kitchen cabinets for the same reason?  Last, Rav Ovadiah tells us that we are not allowed to make new decrees from our own minds.  If the Sages did not forbid this activity, we are not allowed to do it either.  We are also not allowed to fit it neatly into a category that the Sages developed.

In short, the bicycle does not break easily or often.  We are not allowed to add on to what is already forbidden.  The 'lest you come to fix it' argument does not work.

3.  Too much like a weekly activity: that is saying that riding a bicycle is not in the spirit of Shabbat.  Really?  Says who?  The spirit of Shabbat is an important consideration.  That being said, it is also a fluid concept, varying by season, geography, community, and more.  It seems to me that cycling is a wonderful way to spend time with family, or to take some personal relaxation time.

In short, happy riding.  Stay inside the eiruv.  Think Shabbat-like thoughts while you ride.  If your chain pops, walk the bicycle home.

And now, it is time for a touch of theology.  I have no problem making a statement that something is prohibited, even if the Torah does not explicitly state so, and even if the Sages do not explicitly say so.  However, in this day and age, the burden of proof is on the Rabbi, and not on the Torah.  Furthermore, any rabbinic lightweight can say no.   I prefer not to be a lightweight.  For our second piece of theology, I will add that whatever the answer is, it is an answer that is acceptable.  I will not tell you something is forbidden, and then go off and do it.  I will also not tell you that something is permitted, but it is not good enough for me.  I do not like snobby Halakhah.

Have a good day everyone.  Ride carefully.