Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jennifer Is Making History and I Am Home with the Kids

I need to go to sleep.

You may all wish to go to There, you will find an article written by my wife. It has links to articles in the Jerusalem Post and on YNET. There are also pictures.

For the first time in history, there was an egalitarian minyan at the Knesset in Jerusalem. Jennifer led it. Her place in history is secure. Kol haKavod to her!!

I still have to fold the laundry.


Claims of Authenticity

Top of the evening, oh ye loyal readers.

I have been teaching a class over the last three weeks. The title of the course is "The Kosher Bedroom." You may use your imagination to figure out the subject matter.

A couple of questions kept popped up in different forms. On one matter, as we were discussing a piece from the Shulchan Arukh, someone asked what verse in the Torah was the basis for the Halakhah at hand. I had no answer. There is no answer. A question arose over the millennia of Jewish history that the Torah did not directly address. This happens. The Torah itself admits to being finite. Hopefully, as we encounter new situations, we use the legal traditions and connected issues to reach a proper practice. Moreover, the list of sources in the Shulchan Arukh rarely lists the Torah as a source. It usually only goes back to the Talmud.

The other question that I found difficult tonight was one of "whether or not the hassidim would rule the same way." Frankly, I do not care. I do not learn Halakhah from people who insist that men and women must walk on opposite sides of the street. Who knows what other laws they might have invented? That being said, I use the same texts. The Talmud is the Talmud. The Codes are the Codes. The Poskim are the Poskim (decisors).

Those who claim authenticity the most loudly are usually the ones with the weakest attachment. The Torah is wonderful, with 70 different ways to read it. It is disingenuous to say that only one way is correct.

I constantly tell my students: it is not enough to pick a text. It is vital to pick an editor. Your Rav should be someone who is knowledgable. Your Rav should be someone whose understanding of the focus of Jewish Law and tradition makes sense within your own world view. Your Rav should be brave enough to say yes absent a compelling reason to say no. Your Rav should be someone who can look you in the eye and have the courage to insist that you demand more from yourself. For some people, it is those who insist on separate sidewalks. For others, it is someone who rides a bicycle instead of driving.

On a different note, the daughter of one of my congregants has been subject to a certain amount of vitriol due to her participation in the 'Occupy' movement. I have been watching this movement for several months now. I can safely say that I have not the faintest clue what the movement's goals are. The vitriol has been from the congregant's rather traditional friend, who seems to think that being Jewish means being at odds with the goals of the 'Occupy' movement.

I am missing it. Jews formed the backbone of many of the vital social movements of the last century. It seems logical that they would continue to do so. Moreover, the young lady in question put up a sukkah while occupying St. James Park. I have been leery of the 'Occupy' movement. However, it seems to me that she understands what she should do as a Jew, and it drives her both ritually and socially.

Good for her!!

Good night everyone.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Defending This Caveman

Good evening everyone.

Jennifer wrote about all of the wonderful things she is expecting to find upon her return from Israel next week. Amongst them, she expects to find all of the household laundry clean, but unfolded.

I admit that this expectation is not entirely without reason. I would rather do just about anything than fold laundry. Let me give you a sample conversation that could happen:

Me, yelling down the steps: what are you doing?
Jennifer: Folding laundry. Do you want to help?
Me: Uhhhhhh...I have to go out and make sure that there is air in the spare tire. I think there is a place over on Yonge that charges a quarter less.

I hate folding laundry. I hate sorting it.

For the record: all of the laundry that has been done during Jennifer's absence is folded. The four of us here will sort it out tomorrow, as I cannot tell Jesse's clothes from Gavi's. The kids have eaten dinner and breakfast every day. They have gotten out the door to school on time. Keren has one more dose of her antibiotics. She will take it first thing in the morning. All of the dishes in the house are clean. The kids will empty the dishwasher tomorrow. The grocery shopping is done. There are no leftovers spawning new life in the refrigerator. I changed the linens and pillowcases. This took the better part of 30 minutes. After 18+ years of marriage, I do not understand why we have six pillows on the bed. I also do not understand how it is that Jennifer can tell them apart. Nonetheless, they all have new pillowcases done exactly the way she had it.

I have also managed to fulfill all of my rabbinical responsibilities. I am averaging 6.5 hours of sleep per night. I could extend it if I were not writing blog entries in the middle of the night.

To all of the women we love: we can bring home the (kosher) bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never ever let you forget that we're men.

Go to sleep everyone.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Suppose The Boys Do Grow Up

Hi all...

It is fascinating watching children. My sons have both been quite interesting lately. We will start with Jesse.

Jesse's reach has always far exceeded his grasp. This is often a challenge with overly intelligent children. It took years to teach him to ride a bicycle, as he was very afraid of massive trauma from falling. Technically, it could happen. It is unlikely. He reads too much non-fiction and believes what he reads.

I suppose one of the results of this reach and grasp issue is that after living in Canada for over six years, the young man still does not know how to use ice skates. All of the cajoling in the world did nothing to help. What finally worked? Well, as in many cases, cherchez la femme. In this case, la femme is his best friend's girlfriend. They have been friends for a long time. Jesse is the third wheel. She dragged him out on the ice last night. He did okay, despite being remarkably tentative. He did not fall. Apparently, there was also some bribery involved. One of his other friends owes him $1.25 for his having gone out on the ice.

It is also fun to watch him go to the bookstore. When announced, Jesse will grab every penny he has in the house. By the time the evening is over, he will have spent all of it, and borrowed a few dollars to come out of his next allowance. He will devour the books quickly. I wish we lived closer to a library.

Then there is his brother. Because of Gavi, we instituted a household rule as to the the maximum amount of money they are allowed to have in the safe. When trips to the bookstore are announced, Gavi will take $20 out of his cash and purchase one thing. He has likely identified that one thing before even getting to the store. Gavi asked me to give him his allowance for the year all at once. He would like to receive a salary (his word, not mine).

It is no small point of pride that they will choose the bookstore over the movie theatre, despite the two being right across the hall from each other at the mall.

And Gavi on skates....Gavi is teaching himself to skate. Last night, he was moving pretty well, never having taken a skating lesson. He has been teaching himself over the years that we have been up here. Anyway, Gavi's reach does not exceed his grasp. He knows the risks. He just does not care. That attitude pervades everything he does, and brought one of our friends to comment on the perceived size of his anatomy (thank you Patrick).

It is a delight to watch them go from boys to young men. I hope that I was half as cool as they are.

Go to sleep everyone.


P.S. Keren is in bed with strep right now. I will write about her another time.