gnomi: (cooking-whisk (shoegal-icons))
This week, we're home for dinner and out for lunch. Our original set of guests (new neighbors and their two-year-old son), for whom this menu was originally tailored, had to cancel on us, but by then [ profile] mabfan and I were in the mood for fleishigs (meat) (which I had planned due to the new people factor). And thus we have same menu but different guests. Our new guests are three folks with whom we've been friends for a while.

And the menu is:

-- Grape juice & challah
-- Gefilte Fish a la Jen (though she says it's Meir Green's recipe)
-- Brisket a la lcNlc with potatoes and carrots (but no onions due to guest allergy)
-- Pasta salad to be brought by guest
-- Broccoli-rice casserole from a recipe I mostly made up
-- Brownies (recipe from [ profile] dancingdeer but without the peppermint or cocoanut)
-- Cookies from the same bakery where I got the challah
-- Coffee and/or tea for those that want
gnomi: (yeshiva_stewart)
-- As I alluded to last week, I again have the "Early Erev Shabbat, Too Much Stuff to Do Before Licht Bentchen Blues."

-- While doing some of my Shabbat cooking on Wednesday night while [personal profile] mabfan was out at Town Meeting, I started composing a new musical: "Vegetable Cooking Spray!" (the more health-conscious sequel to "Grease!"). Two songs from it: "You're the Bowl That I Want" and "Greased Bundt Pan" ("Oh, greased bundt pan/I'll bake a lemon bundt cake in you.")

-- The reason I was cooking on Wednesday was that last night (since there was no Town Meeting, the issues having been covered in two nights) [personal profile] mabfan and I went to see a real movie, in a theater (or theatre) no less. We saw "The Social Network," which we'd both been interested in. Good film, and a fun night out thanks to very good friends who gave us the gift of babysitting. We left them with a sleeping Muffin and Squeaker, so they had a relaxing evening of videos while we had a night out.

-- We went to see the movie at the Chestnut Hill AMC, and on the way out of the movie we saw a bunch of folks lined up to see the midnight premiere of "Harry Potter." As we walked back to the Chestnut Hill T stop, we saw all sorts of people in Gryffindor scarves. It took me a minute, but I realized why Gryffindor was the most represented house: Gryffindor shares its colors with Boston College, which is within walking distance of the cinema.

-- Today I attended a mandatory seminar at The Work Place (mandated by the MA Department of Unemployment Assistance. I'd been concerned, because a Friday class in Standard Time, even a morning class, makes things tight for Shabbat prep (which is another reason I cooked on Wednesday). But much to my amazement, and very much appreciated, while we started ten minutes late to accommodate late arrivals, we ended at 10:57, giving me time to do the errands I was worried I'd have to skip if the class went long.
gnomi: (yeshiva_stewart)
I haven't done one of these in a while...

This is the first Shabbat after the return to Standard time, which means that here in Brookline Shabbat comes in at 4:09. This is a major change from last week, when 5:15 seemed crazy early for a Shabbat starting time.

But here it is, half an hour before Shabbat starts, and my food is all cooked and I'm working my way through the Shabbat prep list. I'm kind of shocked, but I'm gonna just go with it.

Shabbat shalom, all!
gnomi: (yeshiva_stewart)
This week... hachnasat orchim -- welcoming visitors, or, more broadly, hospitality.

In Massechet Shabbat (Tractate Shabbat) of the Babylonian Talmud, page 127a, it says:
These are the precepts whose fruits a person eats in this world but whose essence remains intact for the World to Come, and they are: honoring one's mother and father, acts of kindness, arriving early for morning and evening services, opening one's home to others, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, accompanying the dead, absorption in prayer, making peace between a man and his friend and the study of Torah is equal to all of them."

(translation from here; emphasis mine.)

This passage is said every morning in the daily prayers. So, every morning, we are reminded that "opening one's home" -- hachnasat orchim -- is one of the acts that garners one reward both in this world and in the world to come.

Hospitality takes many forms. For [personal profile] mabfan and me, especially recently, it has manifested itself in having people over for Shabbat meals. I've mentioned previously that people feel comfortable inviting themselves to our table, and that I think is, for me, part of the key to this mitzvah. It's not just being hospitable; it's making the kind of home that people feel comfortable in, one that is open and welcoming. So if our quiet Shabbat alone has expanded to include one guest, why not two? Why not five?

(I have two cooking modes: cook for one or cook for a small army. Since [personal profile] mabfan and I are, by definition, more than one, I typically cook for a small army, thus leaving leftovers for the rest of the week. So what's one more at the table? I've got plenty of food.)

May we all be zocheh (worthy, privileged) to perform this mitzvah when possible.

Shabbat shalom!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
...but, again, only kinda-sorta (I do hope to get back to real ESJB posts eventually).

On July 4th, [personal profile] mabfan and I were talking to friends (::waves to said friends::) about... something. I can't even remember what. But somehow we came around to the topic of whether or not to ask a rabbi a shaila (again, I have no clue how or what). And that's when I figured it out -- some communities seem to have a "Don't ask, don't posken" policy.

Have a good Shabbat, all. I promise (bli neder) I'll put more of my brain to ESJB topics for the future. If anyone has a suggestion of a Jewish-related topic I should tackle/discuss/whatever, please do leave it here.
gnomi: (frum_chick)
[personal profile] gnomi to [profile] lcmlc, on Shabbat preparations:

"The 18 minutes is proof that Hashem loves us."
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, Chanukah!
Y'mei ha-Chanukah, Chanukat mikdasheynu
B'gil u'v'simcha m'malim et libeynu
Laila v'yom s'vivoneynu yisov
(note from NSB -- some say "levivot") nochal bam larov
Heiru hadliku nerot Chanukah rabim
Al hanism v'al hanifla-ot asher chol'lu haMakabim.

The days of Chanukah, the dedication of our Mikdash (Temple)
With joy and happiness we fill our hearts
Day and night, we'll spin our sevivonot (dreidels)
Jelly doughnuts (some say "potato pancakes"), we'll eat many of them.
Shine, light the many Chanukah candles
For the miracles and the wonders that the Maccabees perpetrated.

It is traditional on Chanukah to eat foods that encorporate oil to recall the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 days. To that end, I've made 3 side dishes that involve oil (two of which use olive oil). There will also be latkes. Though, because it's a meat meal, there won't be sour cream.

Chag ha Chanukah sameach and Shabbat shalom!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
(OK, so not Erev Shabbat Jewish Blogging, per se, but close-ish)

-- It's going to rain this Shabbat. I can tell you that with almost certainty even without having checked the forecast, because it almost always rains for Parshat Noach (in which we read the section from the book of Genesis about the flood). My mother and I estimated that about 85% of the time, Parshat Noach gets rain.

-- For reasons that I haven't actually figured out, I was in the mood to make Tex-Mex food for this Shabbat. The menu is:
Gazpacho (yeah, it's not so Tex-Mex, but it goes well)
Salmon with Mango Salsa
Black bean and chocolate chili
Corn bread
Chocolate cheese pie for dessert

-- Yesterday's unexpected day off allowed me to get a good jump on my Shabbat cooking this week. I still have to make the gazpacho, cook the salmon itself (the salsa I made last night, though I'm going to make more today), and make the whipped cream for the dessert.

-- This is the first Shabbat since 22 September that wasn't Shabbat Somethingorother. We had Shabbat Shuvah the week after Rosh HaShannah, and last week was Shabbat Mevarchin MarCheshvan (the Shabbat on which we say the blessing of the new month). And, yeah, so we get Shabbat Mevarchin once a month, but it was also Machar Chodesh (the day before the beginning of the new month), so it was still something of a different Shabbat. This week is just Shabbat, with nothing different or additional in the davening (prayers) or k'riyah (Torah reading) or the haftarah (the section of prophets that is read after the Torah).

Shabbat shalom, all!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
Erev Shabbat Jewish Blogging!

This week (reposted from last year, with thanks to [profile] kmelion, who first posted it...

Rules of the Succah )
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, Yom Yerushalayim.

Today is the 28th of the month of Iyar. On this day, we commemorate the reunification of the city of Jerusalem (Yerushalayim) following the Six-Day War.

From the time of the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 until June 1967, Jerusalem was a divided city. On 7 June 1967, the 28th of Iyar 5727, Israeli Defense Forces captuerd the eastern half of Jerusalem, leading to the reunification of the city.

Yom Yerushalayim is the most recent holiday added to the Jewish calendar. It is a day of minor religious observance:
Following the model of Yom Ha'atzmaut, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has decided that this day should also be marked with the recital of Hallel (psalms of praise), and with the lengthier version of Psukei d'Zimra (the psalms in the earlier part of the morning service). It is quite clear that ultra-Orthodox Jews, in Israel and abroad, have not accepted Yom Yerushalayim, but it is not clear how many Orthodox Jews chant the Hallel psalms on this day.


Jerusalem has been central to Jewish belief and practice for much longer than 39 years, however. As far back as the time of King David, the city has been the focus of our prayers. It is remembered in song and story, in psalm and piyut. We remember the beauty of the city and we mourn its loss and the loss of the Beit HaMikdash.

Psalm 137 recalls Jerusalem after the beginning of the Babylonian Exile. From this psalm, we have the following, sung by many right before Birkat HaMazon (the blessing after a meal) on Shabbat afternoon:

Im eshkachech Yerushalayim
Tishkach yemini
Tidbak l'shoni l'chiki
Im lo ezkereichi
Im lo a'aleh et Yerushalayim
Al rosh simchati

If I forget you, oh Jerusalem
May my right hand forget [its skill]
Let my tongue stick to my mouth
If I do not raise you up
Above my greatest joy

Shabbat shalom.
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, Shabbat menuchah -- the rest that is an intrinsic part of Shabbat.

Shabbat has a lot of restrictions regarding work. There are 39 categories of melacha (usually translated as "work"), corresponding to the 39 categories of labor done for the mishkan (tabernacle) in the desert. The rabbis expound upon what qualifies as work, what falls into which category, and -- as new technologies are developed -- whether the use of these technologies qualifies as melacha. On Shabbat, I am forbidden to cook, to use my computer, to turn on the television, etc.

And, yes, one could look at it as a list of things you cannot do. However, it's actually a path to something one is supposed to do -- rest. Not having to care about day-to-day business, not having to worry about e-mail waiting for me, or bad news on the television, or whatever, I am encouraged to rest, to relax, to indulge in the menuchah -- peacefulness -- that is integral to Shabbat.

And after weeks like this, that have been crazed and causing sleep deprivation, having Shabbat to rest is a lovely gift.

Shabbat shalom, all.
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, acrostics for Shabbat.

Hebrew poetry comes in many forms. One very popular one is the acrostic. And in the Shabbat davening (prayers) and in the z’mirot, we have a number of acrostic poems.

Some acrostic poems use all the letters of the alphabet in order. Examples from the Shabbat liturgy of this type of acrostic poem are Eishet Chayil, "Woman of Valor," recited before Kiddush on Friday night and Anim Z’mirot, recited at the end of Mussaf on Shabbat morning.

Other acrostic poems use the first letters of each stanza to spell out something. The four stanzas of Yedid Nefesh (sung between Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday night as well as at Seudah Shlishit on Saturday afternoon) spell out the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter name of God. Other acrostics spell out the names of their authors: Lecha Dodi spells out "Shlomo Chazak" – Shlomo, may he be strong – for Rabbi Shlomo Halevy Alkabetz; Yom Zeh l’Yisrael spells out "Yitzchak" for Rav Yitzchak Luria; Yom Shabbaton (also known as Yona Matzah) spells out "Yehudah" for Rabbi Yehudah Ha Levi of Toledo. Ki Eshmira Shabbat spells out "Avraham" for Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra.

And on this, the 22nd day of the Omer (one day for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet), I say Shabbat shalom.
gnomi: (count_omer_count (madmadharri))
This week, aspects of counting the Omer.

Each night from the second night of Pesach through erev Shavuot (the night before Shavuot), we count the Omer. We say a bracha (blessing), "...Asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al sefirat ha Omer (...who sanctified us with his mitzvot and commanded us regarding the counting of the Omer). We then recite the number of the day, with the following formula:

In the first six days, we say:

Hayom yom ____ laOmer (Today is day ____ of the Omer)

Beginning with day seven, we count the days and the weeks: Hayom yom _____ she'haim ____ shavuot v' _____ yamim laOmer (Today is day ____, which is ____ weeks and ____ days of the Omer). (This is true of day 15 and onwards; due to grammar, the Hebrew of Week One is different).

The mitzvah of counting the Omer is from Vayikra (Leviticus) chapter 23, verses 15-16:
15. And you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day from the day you bring the omer as a wave offering seven weeks; they shall be complete.
16. You shall count until the day after the seventh week, [namely,] the fiftieth day, [on which] you shall bring a new meal offering to the Lord.

(source: Judaica Press Tanach)

The verses above refer to both "the seventh week" and "the fiftieth day." In the repetition of this mitzvah, in Devarim (Deuteronomy) chapter 16, verses 9-10, it refers just to the seven weeks. The rabbis had a question as to which was required to fulfill the mitzvah, and thus we do both.

(An anecdote: [personal profile] mabfan once said to me, "Why is it that we count both the days and the weeks?" I said, "The rabbis have a question..." [personal profile] mabfan, knowing my penchant when it comes to questions of halacha to present the full picture, said, "Please just cut to the chase. Why do we count both the days and the weeks?" I responded, "The rabbis have a question...")

There are lots of little details regarding what is considered a valid counting and how one can discharge one's obligation to count. Even though the tradition is that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah of counting unless both the days and the weeks are mentioned, we strive not to even mention what day of the Omer it is before performing the counting according to ritual. The custom has arisen to refer to the previous day's count if asked. For instance, if Reuven asks Shimon what day of the Omer it is in preparation for doing his own counting, Shimon will respond, "Last night we counted [whatever the previous night's count was]."

(This practice has led to a number of jokes, including the woman who, when asked "What's for dinner?" responds, "Last night we had chicken.")

Shabbat shalom and Chodesh tov (what with today and tomorrow being Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new month).
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, Pre-Pesach Pondering

In Devarim (Deuteronomy)16:3, B'nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) are commanded to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt) "all the days of your life." During the Seder, two opinions are brought about the interpretation of this phrase:

-- Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria says in the name of Ben Zoma that it means that we should remember Yetziat Mitzrayim at night (as well as in the daytime). And we do so, saying the Shema in both Shacharit (the morning prayers) and Ma'ariv (the evening prayers).

-- The Chachamim (usually translated as "The Sages") say it means we should remember Yetziat Mitzrayim in this life, and in the world to come.

Hashem takes us out of Egypt to be His nation, as we are told in Shemot (Exodus) 6:7:
I will take you to Myself as a nation, and I will be to you as a God. You will know that I am God your Lord, the One who is bringing you out from under the Egyptian subjugation.

(translation from Navigating the Bible II)

It is Yetziat Mitzrayim that made us a people, and it is, to a large extent, Pesach that keeps many people connected to the Jewish people. There are many people who do not observe any other Jewish holiday but who observe Pesach, by attending a seder, or eating matzah for the week, or observing other aspects of the holiday.

And on that, an administrative note. I will not be doing Erev Shabbat Jewish Blogging next week, as it is Yom Tov and I will not be online.

Shabbat shalom!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, Jewish time.

No, I don't mean the stereotype that every Jewish event starts 15 minutes after the posted time (though I've heard this called by other nationalities/groups besides Jews as _____ time). I'm referring to what we mean by an hour in halacha (Jewish law).

There are a number of mitzvot that have to be performed by a specific time of day. For instance, the sh'ma has to be recited by "the third hour." And on Passover, we are required to stop eating chametz (food not kosher for Passover) by "the fourth hour" and have destroyed/nullified the chametz by "the fifth hour."

We do not mean 60-minute hours. The hours to which the rabbis of the Talmud refer are calculated by taking the total number of daylight hours and dividing by 12. We refer to these hours as "sha'ah z'manit" (plural "sha'ot z'maniot). So different times of the year have different-length hours. The beginning of third hour in the month of Nissan (the month that contains Passover) falls at a different time than the beginning of the third hour during Kislev (which is the month that contains Chanukah).

Here is a list of some of the times that are important in Judaism.

Shabbat shalom!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, observing and remembering.

The word we use for observing or guarding is "shomer" or "shemira." There are many things we're told to be "shomer." In fact, the Torah uses "shomer" to command us -- multiple times -- to observe the laws given by Hashem.

The word "zachor" means "remember." There are things that we are specifically told to remember: the day we left Egypt (see Exodus 12:14), what Amalek did when we left Egypt (see Deuteronomy 25:17).

With regards to Shabbat, we are told both. In the Torah, the Aseret HaDibrot (10 Commandments) appear twice, once in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy. In Exodus, we are told "zachor," and in Deuteronomy, we are told "shamor." And tradition has it that the two words were spoken simultaneously when the Commandments were given. There are aspects of both remembering and observing in the way we keep Shabbat, and thus both words apply.

Shabbat shalom!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, Lecha Dodi

Friday night's davening has a section known as Kabbalat Shabbat that is for welcoming the beginning of Shabbat. As part of Kabbalat Shabbat, we sing Lecha Dodi, a song composed in the 16th century by Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz.

In Lecha Dodi, Shabbat is referred to in turn as a bride (whose husband is the Jewish people), as the "source of blessing,"as "last in deed but first in thought" (meaning that Shabbat was the last thing created but the primary focus of creation), and as the "crown of her husband."

The paytan (composer) then talks to Jerusalem, which is in mourning for her children who are in exile. Jerusalem is urged to rise, to shake off the dust of mourning. God, she is told, will show compassion to her and the days of the Messiah will come. At that time, the oppressors will be "downtrodden," her children -- the Jewish people -- will return to her, and she will rejoice with them.

The final verse of Lecha Dodi is as follows (translation from the Art Scroll's "Siddur Ahavat Shalom"):

Enter in peace, oh crown of her husband
Even in gladness and good cheer
Among the faithful of the treasured nation
Enter, O bride! Enter, O bride!

For this verse, we traditionally stand and turn to face the entrance of the synagogue. We bow at "Enter, O bride," showing Shabbat the respect she deserves. And at that point, Shabbat has truly begun.

Shabbat shalom!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, Purim!

Purim this year falls Monday night, 13 March, through Tuesday, 14 March. But Purim is actually just the culmination of a period that starts this Shabbat with the reading of Parshat Zachor and its associated haftarah. In the maftir, B'nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) are instructed to remember what Amalek did as B'nei Yisrael left Egypt, attacking them and especially targeting the weak and the young. In fact, there are two mitzvot in Zachor -- one to remember what Amalek did and a second to wipe out the memory of Amalek.

This wiping out is why, on Purim, we use graggers every time the name of Haman (who is descended from Amalek) is read from Megillat Esther (the Book of Esther).

Monday is the Fast of Esther, a dawn-to-dusk fast that ends at the time of the reading of the Megillah on Monday night. And on Tuesday, we hear the megillah again, give gifts of food to one another (mishloach manot, and have a festive meal. As part of the ritual meal, we are commanded to get to a state such that one cannot tell the difference between "Aror Haman" (cursed is Haman) and "Baruch Mordechai" (blessed is Mordechai). Many people interpret this as a commandment to get drunk. Because I cannot drink, I get to that state by -- when possible -- taking a nap.

And right after Purim, many of us swing into the beginnings of Pesach (Passover) preparations. Which will be the topic of a future post, most likely.

Shabbat shalom!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
Last week, I asked for topic suggestions, and [personal profile] chaiya responded (in part):

Easiest is probably that I want to hear more about Jewish music. I didn't grow up with it, and I only tend to be exposed to that which has English on the cover, and a tiny fraction of that. What's good? What's classic? What brings back memories?

So, this week I'll talk more about Jewish music.

My exposure to Jewish music started at a very young age. We listened to a lot of Jewish music at home -- Paul Zim, Shimon and Ilana, lots of others -- and we sang a lot, as well. My parents had vinyl albums of Hebrew songs, and I recall an 8-track tape of songs written at the time of the Yom Kippur War.

Some of my most vivid memories from when I was in Kindergarten through 3rd grade involve the Chanukah pageant put on by my school. I remember the principal of the school (who is the rabbi who did [personal profile] mabfan's and my wedding) teaching us songs to sing at the pageant.

And I grew up in Young Judaea, so there's a lot of Hebrew music that I think of as YJ songs. These include both songs we sang (such as "Lo Alecha" and "Halicha L'Keisaria (Eli, Eli)") and songs we danced to (such as "Hora Nirkoda" and "Od Lo Ahavti Dai").

There are the songs -- such Shabbat zemirot and the various songs that come out of the davening -- that I think of as being specifically religious songs.

And there are the things that one can do with some Jewish songs. I have a mental list of songs that I've tried to get "Adon Olam" to fit to (one can sing "Adon Olam" to many, many things). There's the fact that I periodically sing "Ain K'Elokainu" to the theme from "The Addams Family" ("Nice...spice...grind twice"), since I discovered during college that it works. I have inflicted "Aishet Chayil" as sung to "Old MacDonald" on a number of my friends over the years.

There is touching, beautiful Jewish and Hebrew music. And there is raucous, rocking Jewish and Hebrew music. There are new songs and there are ancient songs. Songs of love and war, songs of survival and despair. Songs for the holidays and songs for the workday. And songs of Shabbat, as I discussed last week.

Shabbat shalom!
gnomi: (frum_chick)
This week, Shabbat Z'mirot

Z'mirot (singular: z'mirah) are liturgical songs. Specifically, Shabbat z'mirot are the songs we sing on Shabbat at the three meals commanded for the day.

Because Hebrew calendar days start in the evening, the three meals at which we sing z'mirot are Friday night dinner, Saturday lunch, and a meal on Saturday called "se'udah shlishit" (which translates as "third meal" and is traditionally eaten after mincha (the afternoon service) on Saturday afternoon).

Each meal has a set of songs that are associated with it, but people tend sing whichever of the z'mirot they want to at either dinner or lunch (while there are specific ones that are traditionally only associated with se'udah shlishit). The texts of the z'mirot traditionally speak of the laws of Shabbat, or of the Jews' relationship to Hashem through Shabbat observance.

There are CDs of Shabbat z'mirot available. Because I love a cappella music, I highly recommend West Side Z'mirot from Beat'achon.

Shabbat shalom!


An administrative note -- if people have topics they'd like me to cover in future Erev Shabbat Jewish Blogging posts, please let me know. As [personal profile] mabfan can attest, I sometimes have trouble coming up with topics.

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