Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tales from HP 2

During Sukkot the shteibel I attend had a Simchat Beit Shoevah. One of the Bostoner customs is that during the celebration the 15 Psalms that begin "Shir HaMalot" are recited. For each psalm Reb M would ask someone to recite the psalm (with everyone repeating each verse), and then pick a zemer (song) or niggun (wordless melody) for us all to sing.

My ability to read a random Hebrew text is limited - I can stumble through it, but it is obvious I am struggling. Since there were more than 15 men there I was relaxed since Reb M is familiar with how much I dislike reading unfamiliar texts aloud. Imagine my surprise when he called on me to read! Oh well, into the breach. Shir Hamalot, Bishuv Hashem, Et Shivat Tziyon .... He asked me to read the psalm we say on Shabbat and Yom Tov before bentching! I was so pleased he had done such a thoughtful thing. I got through it without difficult and led people in my favorite niggun.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Yated letter that needs to be read

Dear Editor,
I’m pretty sure that I am speaking on behalf of many Jewish girls. I’m sure they will agree with me on an issue I’ve finally decided to voice my thoughts on.
A “frum-from-birth” person is born frum and born to live a religious lifestyle. She has no choice; she was born that way. She’s expected to do all the mitzvos, no questions asked. Chas veshalom if you ask questions about Judaism. A baalas teshuvah, however, becomes frum on her own free will. Why? Because everything, Judaism and all the mitzvos, were explained to her, detail by detail. She asked myriad questions and she got answers. This was all probably through a kiruv organization.
“FFBs,” however, are expected to act frum with no explanations. Judaism isn’t explained to us. To whom should we address our questions without anyone’s eyebrows being raised?
In school, lessons are being taught, but questions arise. You can’t ask questions in school because, number one, there are too many, and number two, because classmates and teachers will think you’ve gone crazy! Well, maybe not all my classmates, since I’m sure I’m not the only one. After all, I’m a normal, smart, yeshivishe Bais Yaakov high school student from Monsey and no one suspects a thing. I’m actually considered one of the more yeshivishe and frum girls of my class, but I still harbor questions! So you never know, there may be so many more like me.
Maybe Yiddishkeit can be explained to frum Bais Yaakov girls as much as it’s explained in a kiruv shiur or a kiruv camp.
Thank you.
S. F.

Larry's comments follow:
I couldn't agree more. This cry is repeated at all levels - BTs complain that after they leave their initial kiruv situation they feel abandoned and neglected, gerim say that post-conversion their formal education comes to an end. Judaism is supposed to entail education for life - and not just the rote memorization of halacha and minhag, and not just divrei torah, but serious spiritual struggle with both our texts and the world. Growing up as a Conservative Jew, I was told that one of our big differences from other religions is that free questioning was not just allowed, but desired. That spirit needs to be part of Orthodoxy as well. No one ever died from a question, but people need to ask them if only to hear an authority figure say "I don't know, but nevertheless I believe."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Alphonse and Gaston with Mitzvot

Everyone knows the old Alphonse and Gaston routine, right? Two guys trying to go through a door, but the keep deferring to one another rather than one of them just going through already?

Well, I see that happen at my shuls all the time, and there often is some creative jockeying for position. One morning I was walking into shul. Someone was holding the door already, and Avi and I were about to pass through. I gestured to Avi to go first, and he handed me his siddur. As soon as I took it, he said "You're holding a sefer, you go first." Point to Avi.

This past Shabbat at Shalosh Seudah I was trying to go through a door after washing before eating bread, and Yaakov was trying to pass through the door the other way. He smiled, backed out of my way and said "You're doing a mitzvah, you take priority." Point Yaakov. On the way out after benching, we got tangled up in the door again and I told him "You're the zaken (elder, wiser one), you go first." He looked a little hurt and said something about "I'm not sure that was fair" but he went through anyway. Point me.

A Joke and A Serious Question

First the Joke:

Back in the 30s Sheinar Shendle was a new immigrant to the US from her shtetl in Poland. She quickly found a neighborhood fool of landsmen and found a rabbi to consult for her shailas. She had one peculiarity - every Friday morning she took her chicken to the rabbi to check that it was kosher. Week after week she came, the rabbi looked, and pronounced it kosher. Finally, after many months, the rabbi asked her "Why are you bringing these chickens to me to check every week? You should only come if you see something that makes you doubt it is kosher." Sheinar Shedle replied "I knew it! But the other ladies in the community insisted that A&P grocery store chickens were treif!"

The serious question:

If I bring home a chicken today from a shochet, rather than buying it at the store, is there any kind of inspection that can be done to reveal that the chicken is actually treif? Obviously we can't review the knife, or whether the shochet said the blessing, but what can be done? On the one hand, there are lots of stories about women taking their chicken to a rabbi when they aren't sure it is kosher. On the other hand, once the feathers are off and the internal organs removed, what is left to inspect?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Yom Kippur humor

Last minute tickets on youtube.

Kosher Agencies Merger

From Kashrut Today:

Orthodox Union set to announce KOAOA merger 
New York…The near 100 year-old Kosher Overseers Associates of America (Half-Moon-K symbol) has ceased to exist and is already a part of the Orthodox Union (OU). A spokesman for the Orthodox Union confirmed the widely reported rumors about the merger, including a report on at least one kashrus website, but he said that a formal announcement would be made in the coming weeks. Founded in 1910 by Rabbi Hyman Sharfman, the Los Angeles based KOAOA, had in recent years upgraded the level of its certification but in the end decided it was better to merge with the world’s largest certification agency. KOAOA was headed for many years by the founder’s son, the late Rabbi Harold I. Sharfman, a flamboyant and outspoken personality who had on occasion clashed with the kashrus establishment. His half-moon K symbol was challenged in the courts by the Brooklyn based OK Labs which charged copyright infringement, citing the “similarities” of the symbol. Rabbi Sharfman was a passionate defender of kashrus but his certification was never fully accepted by many mainstream kosher consumers. After his demise in 1998, the agency made a major effort to upgrade its certification and several kashrus authorities had even gone out on a limb with the improvements.

While the half-moon K symbol will continue to appear on many products, the Orthodox Union is planning to phase out the symbol and replace it with the Circle U. Kashrus sources say that any products with the half moon K symbol were already produced under widely accepted kashrus standards. Rabbi Dovid Jenkins, who was the manager of KOAOA kashrus operations, is now part of the OU kashrus team in its Manhattan headquarters. In an open letter in June 2007, Rabbi Jenkins and Rabbi Zushe Blech, the senior kashrus administrator, spoke of the upgraded standards for the KOAOA’s 580 certified companies representing 20,000 products. It was not clear how many companies and products will be affected by the merger.

ME and I have been telling people for a while that the Half Moon K's certification had improved and most products were considered reliable.  A number of people simply refused to believe us.  They weren't even willing to investigate on their own, just told us that 'everyone knows' that it is an unreliable certification.  They got upset when we told them that was Lashon Harah.  See this earlier post of mine as example of doing it right.