Thursday, February 28, 2013

More Snow & Shoveling

Yesterday the falling wet snow was rather icky to walk in.  Okay, it's still icky to walk in now that it's on the ground.  No, that's not really true.  The snow is great.  It's the so-called cleared sidewalks that are not cleared, but instead are slushy messes, that are icky.  I slipped over a dozen times walking to the bus stop.  My favourite moment was when, office in sight, a large clump of wet snow flew from atop a streetlamp, and fell, plop, right on the top of my head.  After the initial indignation it was pretty funny.  Anyway, as I was saying, wet snow may not be fun to walk in, but it clings.  This means that when I finally opened my eyes wide enough to see, and my brain woke up enough to focus, I looked out my bedroom window into a world that had been frosted.  It's a sight that makes me smile, a feat pretty damn hard in the morning. 

Of course this meant the driveway needed shoveling again.  I shoveled another 15 minutes.  Sean had shoveled so our wonderful carpool could get into the driveway after the plow went by.  For reasons I do not understand, Sean left the top of the driveway snowy.  He also cleared just enough space for Lindy's car.  This meant that I slipped carrying backpacks into the car, and we all trekked through snow.  It's not the snow that's slippery.  It's the wet slush underneath, made more slippery by Sean having melted and packed it with his feet.  I like to have our full driveway cleared.  If you don't clear the entire thing, each time it snows you push the snow to the sides, and the open space gets just a little narrower.  Then the packed and piled snow freezes, and there's nothing you can do until spring without a flamethrower.  I'd rather clear the entire space every time.  Sean has different ideas.  If he could get away with it, he'd just shovel two tracks for the car tires, and all else be damned.  Good  thing I don't mind shoveling.

Have a wonderful, frosty day.

Ki Tissa- Holy Mirrors Batman

In the Mikdash, in the wilderness, and in the ancient Temple, beautiful large copper lavers were placed, at which Aaron, his sons, and generations of kohanim could wash their hands and feet before ministering in the presence of God.  This command to do so is given as a chok, a statute, for all times.  A chok is a law without specific explanation, although that has never stopped our ancestors or us from searching for reasons or expanding these practices.  It has likely led to our rabbinic practice of washing before eating, not only before eating bread, but before other food, as we do before eating the karpas at the seder.  Certainly our method of pouring water from a cup duplicates the practice of the kohanim. 

Along with our search for the why, we search for the how.  The Israelites, a people recently freed from slavery, carried with them rich fabrics, gold, silver, copper, fine yarns, and gems.  All of these are given specific uses.  Scholars throughout history have speculated from where these materials were taken.  The yarns and fabrics may have been spun and woven by the Israelites.  The gold and silver are taken from their Egyptian neighbours during the final days in Egypt.  But how did they have sufficient copper to make the large lavers?  Midrash Tanchuma provides us with an answer.  In ancient times mirrors were not made of glass.  They were fashioned from highly polished metals; copper being especially popular and valuable.  Shemot 38:8 (parashat Vayakhel) explains where the copper originated, “from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance of the Ohel Moed.”  Other donations are not explained.  Why this one?  The Midrash teaches that one of the means by which Pharaoh “oppressed” the Israelite was a forced separation between husband and wife.  The men were forced to remain in the fields.  This would have two benefits to Pharaoh.  First, his labourers would not need to waste time or energy returning to their homes from the fields.  Second, the separation would forestall procreation.

The women understood that such a separation would erode the fabric of family relationships so important to our people.  They would go to the Nile with buckets to collect water.  Into these buckets, God would cause small fish to swim.  The women used the collected water to bathe and cook most of the fish.  The others they sold and bought wine.  After preparing before the aforementioned mirrors, the women would take their savory meals of fish and wine out to the fields, where they could reinvigorate their husbands with a fine meal, and seduce them, ensuring the continuation of the Israelite people.  When the women brought their mirrors to Moshe for the Mikdash, he rejected them, calling them instruments of vanity.  God, however, instructed Moshe to take the mirrors saying, “Accept them because these are dearest to me of all, for by their means the women established many generations of offspring.” Since the mirrors have been used for such a holy purpose, God instructs Moshe to accept the mirrors, and use them for the laver, a vessel of purification.

Rav Sean and I have a haggada that illustrates this Midrash.  The art is of women seducing their husbands.  It is a medieval haggada.  Its art serves as a reminder to all of the significant role of women in the exodus.  It also teaches us to look beyond the surface for deeper meanings and motives.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mr. Rogers

Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Mr. Fred McFeely Rogers.  Wikipedia describes him as "an American educator, Presbyterian minister, songwriter, author, and television host."  He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  President George Bush explained his choice stating, "Fred Rogers has proven that television can soothe the soul and nurture the spirit and teach the very young."  One of his sweaters hangs in the Smithsonian.  Most importantly he was a kind, caring, and intelligent man who sought to make the world a better place.  By the way, those famous sweaters- they were knitted by his mother.

He won four Emmys and a Lifetime Achievement Award.  When he ascended the stage to accept he simply said, "All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence."

Besides the beautiful snow (in which I know Mr. Rogers would have wanted me to play with my kids), today I will be remembering Fred McFeely Rogers, a great man and one of my heroes. 

Snow, Glorious Snow

I just spent 45 minutes shovelling my driveway, and I'm going to have to do it again later.  This is not a complaint.  I look at it as strength training.  I practice lifting with my arms and legs and not my back.  I have learned to use my upper thigh as a fulcrum to lift the shovel.

I noticed that today's snow is particularly good packing snow.  This morning I've also spent time creating a survey for work, returning emails and fielding phone calls, and planning for a reception.  But each time I look up from my computer, out the picture window in my kitchen, all I really want to be doing is building a snowman.  This is the perfect snow.  It's got body and clings.  This could be the greatest snowman ever.  I would only be limited by the size of snowballs I could lift for the body and head.

There's a lot more work to do today.  While my body will be working at home and in my office, my mind will be enjoying this perfect snow.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's My Turn #14, by Nora T. Cat

Last week was the worst week ever.  My people were out almost every night.  On Friday night they just fell asleep early without paying any attention to me.  How can they do such a thing?!  Saturday night they didn't even come home.  They arrived home after 2:00 Sunday morning.  I bet they think I can't tell time.

I showed them.  First I left a second very special present in the cold room.  When that didn't get the attention I deserve I left another on their bath mat.  Then, when they finally came home Saturday night/Sunday morning Gandalf and I staged some midnight crazies.  We jumped on the bed, knocked things over, and generally made ourselves into a nuisance.  Bwahaha.  They seem to have learned their lesson.  Today Jen's parents went home.  It's nice to have extra people around to cater to me, but it's just not worth it when my people are so busy.  Jen has been cleaning and reorganizing since she came home from the airport.  She even bought me a new set of little fur mice.  I LOVE THOSE!  I guess my strategy works.  Tonight I plan on sitting on the keyboard while Jen types.

It's so nice to have my life back to its regular cycle.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's My Turn, By Nora T. Cat, #13

Okay, I was happy my people were home, and I am glad the suitcases appear to have gone away.  However, the people are hardly ever here.  The extras (Jen's parents) are left like Gandalf and me, alone and seemingly unloved for hours each day.  Jen's dad at least feeds me tuna and chicken and other yummy stuff yum!  Oh, but I am digressing and running on.  Sorry.

The kids are at school all day, and Keren doesn't come home until very late at night.  She's rehearsing for something.  I won't even get to see it, which is probably good since it would require a ride in the car.  I hate cars.  Again I digress.

Jen seems to always be on the run.  This was today...
    Get the kids up with Sean
    Make their breakfasts and their lunches.  Give them their vitamins (which look like treats to me.  Why don't I get a daily vitamin?!  Again...  Sorry.)
     Shoo kids out the door (Sean left with them)
     Run out the door.  Gone for 9 hours.
     Come home with Gavi.
     Stay home 10 minutes.  Leave with Jesse.
     Come home with Jesse.
     Stay 20 minutes.  Eat dinner.  It was chicken and some colored crunchy things.  She didn't even share.
     Leave again.
     Gone for almost 6 more hours.
     Return with Keren.
     They both went right to bed.

What about me?  Why is no one playing with me?  Why is no one feeding me?  I hate when they do this.  I think I'll poo in the corner of the cold room just to annoy them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I Knew We Should Have Bought an American Car

I knew we should have bought an American car.  I do not mean an American brand.  I mean a car manufactured for an American audience.  I told Sean that I wanted to buy our car in the States.  It has nothing to do with Canada.  It's all about the speedometer.  In an American car the miles are on the top row of the arc of numbers, the kilometers on the bottom row.  Over the many years I have been driving I have gotten used to this set up.  Once in a while when I rented a car here it was confusing, so I knew what I wanted.

We bought a Canadian car.  At first it was no problem.  I very quickly got used to the kilometers being on the top row, and even picked on Sean the few times he looked at the odometer and thought miles instead of kilometers.

Two weeks ago I drove to New Jersey.  As we crossed into the US I found myself momentarily flustered as I glanced down at the speedometer to see my speed of 120.  Of course I wasn't driving 120 mph, but for a split second it threw me.  This happened a couple of times until I got used to the focus.  Unfortunately, unlike before when I easily went back and forth between kph and mph, when I returned to Canada I had trouble again.  It lasted over a week, even to our trip last weekend to Ottawa.

Ugh!  I knew we should have bought and American car.

Good night.

T'tzaveh- Carrying the Weight of the World

V’samta et sh’tei ha’avanim al kitfot ha’eifod avnei zikaron livnei Yisrael v’nasa Aharon et sh’motam lifnei A-donai al sh’tei chteifav l’zikaron.
And you will place the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod to be memorial stones for the children of Israel, and Aaron shall carry their names before the Lord on his two shoulders as a memorial.
Parashat T’tzaveh provides us with the elaborate preparations for Aaron as the Kohain Gadol. Within the parasha the descriptions of the clothes occupy almost as much space as the descriptions for the entire Mikdash. The ritual garb of the Kohain Gadol is as significant as the setting for the sacrificial rites.
Beyond the robes, the breastplate with representation for each of the tribes, the mantle, sash, and headgear, Moshe is instructed to create stone epaulets bearing the names of each of the tribes of Israel. Whenever he comes into the presence of God within the Mikdash, he carries the weight of his responsibility to the entire people with him. These epaulets serve multiple purposes. They are a sign for Aaron, and subsequent Kohanim G’dolim of the great responsibility they bear as the embodiment of Jewish ritual. Additionally, these epaulets, along with the full garb of the Kohain, are a visual reminder both to God of His people and to the Israelite people that they accompany the Kohain Gadol when he stands before God.
Today our ritual garments are much simpler. Our daily uniform consists of the tallit and tefillin. Each provide a sign to the wearer and to the community of our connection to God’s laws carried on our arms and on our foreheads as a reminder to act and to think as if God stands before us always. The tallit rests on our shoulders, wrapping us in a reminder of God’s law; the traditional stripes, as on the modern flag of Israel, represent our connection to the greater nation of Israel. We no longer have one individual who stands as our representative before God. Instead we each stand before God representing ourselves and our entire nation.
This is especially appropriate for Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim. There is a midrashic tradition that in the messianic age Purim will be the only holiday still observed. The reason for this stands upon the idea that Purim is the only holiday where, as Jews, we were expected to stand for ourselves rather than relying upon God for salvation. It is a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to our nation, that each of us, no matter how humble our beginnings can be the key to the Jewish future.
I wish a Hag Purim sameach; may it be one of light and happiness, joy and grandeur.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's My Turn, by Nora T. Cat #12

My people have been traveling.  First Sean was gone for four days.  Then, when he returned, Jen and the kids left.  They returned, but the suitcases seemed repacked.  Jen's parents came with them, and they'll be here with us, but still, it's very disrupting when my people leave.  It's bad enough they leave the house most mornings.  I don't mind so much when they return with food, but most days there seems to be no purpose.  The leave only to pick up odd and interesting smells, but come home with nothing.  When they've been gone for an especially long stretch of day they don't even want to play when they return.  That's the worst.  Here I am, left with only Gandalf to entertain me.  It's so unfair.  At least this time they brought me extra people to pay attention to and indulge me.

People Just Give Sean Things

I have a wonderful husband.  I know that.  He is generally a happy person.  While frequently sometimes annoying, he is kind and caring.  He is learned.  He is respectful.  He is loving.  These are all qualities everyone should want in a husband.  I know many happily married people who could say similar things about their spouses.

But Sean has something different.  People give him things- free merchandise, discounts, gifts.  Not just friends, colleagues, or congregants.  Strangers who have never met him before give him stuff.

From before we were married he has had this knack.  We were heading to Israel shortly after our wedding.  When we went for our passport pictures, Sean struck up a conversation with the store owner.  In 15 minutes she knew we were engaged, getting married shortly after, were rabbinic students, and were heading to Israel for a year of study.  It turns out her daughter was studying in Israel.  She gave us our passport pictures for free.  And before that when we were newly engaged, we were driving cross-country from LA to NY.  We stopped in Colorado for the night.  The hotel was being cleaned after the skiing season.  The carpets had just been cleaned, and the furniture was all piled on the beds.  Sean maneuvered a discount for the room agreeing that we would set up all the furniture.

In Israel people gave us newlywed discounts.  They said they knew we were newlyweds because our rings were still shiny.  We got pots and pans and a rug.

Over the years, when Sean hears someone is going on a trip he says, "Bring me a present."  Strangely, people do.  We/he has mugs, magnets, books, pictures, and matching bathrobes.  We tried to turn down the robes thinking they were too much, but were informed they can from a Thai flea market, and cost about $1.00 a piece.

When Sean enters a store he announces his presence, "HI!  I'm here!"  He semi-jokingly asks for military discounts, CAA/AAA, clergy, whatever he can think of.  Over the years he has developed this into an art.  But it's all real.  He is generally interested in talking.  He wants to share and to listen.  It's clever, but kind.  It has sparked helpful relationships it OHIP, hotels, banks, and more.  And people give him discounts, help, or freebies.

Sometimes he gets things and he's not even there.  When Jesse was born on a Friday, our friend and colleague, Rabbi Michael Beals, picked up Shabbat meals at Meal Mart.  When Michael shared who the food was for the owner packed a feast well beyond the Shabbes special Michael had ordered.  Of course, this may be that Michael seems to have the same gift of the schmooze.

I'm a nice person.  I make friends easily, and am honored by a generally good reputation, but no one gives me stuff they way they give Sean.  Good thing I have him.

Parashat Terumah- What Will You Do?

V’asu li Mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham.
And they shall make for me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them. (Shemot 25:8)

Parashat Terumah teaches us about the building of the Mishkan, the sanctuary. The children of Israel are commanded by God to bring terumah mei'eit kol ish asher yidbernu libo, gifts from every person whose heart so moves him. These gifts are to be all the materials needed for the construction- gold and silver, richly colored yarns, skins, wood, oil, spices, and gem-stones. With these we are commanded to follow a blueprint creating the place where God will dwell among us. The Mishkan becomes the centre of the Israelite camp. It is the place we gather for important decisions and from where national action is initiated. It is a parasha filled with action. Each aliyah, begins with a command to action. The root asa, meaning make or do, is used no less than 58 times in our seven aliyot. V’asu li Mikdash; make me a sanctuary. V’asita, v’asita*, v’asita, v’asita, v’asita, v’asita. Over and over we are commanded to make a place for God to dwell among us. Over and over we are commanded to take action, to be involved.

Throughout the centuries Jews have spread around the world. And, while Israel is still our centre, it may seem as if we no longer have a central place for all our voices to be heard. However, each one of us can still have our voice heard by the leadership of worldwide Jewry. In 1897 Theodore Herzl convened the first World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, which evolved into the World Jewish Congress. Ad hayom hazeh, unto this very day, every 4-5 years a new Congress is convened by the World Zionist Organization. All other years the Vaad Hapoel, the working committees of the WZO gather. At these meetings and at the Congress Jewish leadership from around the world gather, making important decisions and initiating international policy and action. At this same time the Jewish Agency for Israel holds its annual meetings. It is at these meetings where money is budgeted for institutions and programs in Israel and around the world, including the money raised by worldwide Jewish Federations.

The WZO is the place we gather for important decisions and from where national Jewish action is initiated. V’asita, v’asita*, v’asita, v’asita, v’asita, v’asita. Together we are still commanded to act, to build Israel and the worldwide Jewish community. When we act together for the sake of heaven our actions become holy, and we invite the Divine spirit to dwell among us. It is the obligation of every Jew to take part in building our world. We do this by being part of a Zionist organization. MERCAZ-Canada is part of these meetings. Through our affiliation with MERCAZ Olami, the worldwide Zionist branch of Conservative Judaism, our representatives participate in the Vaad Hapoel, Congress, and Jewish Agency meetings. The size of our delegation and our influence both depend upon the size of our membership. The greater our membership and voter turnout, the larger our delegation, and the stronger our voice at these meetings, where important decisions regarding Israel and world Jewry are made. Ensure that our voice as Conservative Jews speaking for the validity of our traditions and our rabbis, stays strong. The Masorti movement in Israel has come so far. We have challenged municipal policy and won. Our influence is strong. We no longer bring gifts of gold and silver, of skins, and gems, and yarn. Our gift, our obligation, our asita is to take an active role, by being a member of MERCAZ-Canada and supporting the Masorti Movement in Israel in the continuing sanctuary for World Jewry.

* The Ashkenazi division has the word ta’aseh at the start of the third aliyah. The Sephardi division uses v’asita. Both versions of the word mean “you will do/make”.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Time Has Come

Mi shenichnas Adar marbim b'simcha- Whoever enters Adar increases joy-
This didn't seem to be true this Adar when Jerusalem police arrested 10 women taking part in Rosh Chodesh prayers at the Kotel for "endangering public peace."  Included in this group were two of my Conservative colleagues: Rabbis Debra Cantor and Robyn Fryer Bodzin.  
Interestingly, this Rosh Chodesh Women of the Wall were joined by some of the IDF paratroopers who liberated the Kotel in 1967.  There were about 300 women with just under 10 of the paratroopers.  The paratroopers told the press they had sacrificed to make the Kotel available to all.  Interestingly, the police waited until most of the women and all the paratroopers had cleared the area before detaining ten women.  How is it that these women were endangering public peace after the t'fillot had ended?  You'd think a crowd of 300 could have a greater impact than 10.  
The time has come to settle these questions.  Each month there are more arrests.  The tactics are constantly changing.  Is the Kotel open to all or is it merely an Orthodox synagogue?  Who gets to say the proper way to pray? the proper garb for prayer? and the proper people to say the t'fillot?
Interestingly, on January 16 a group of women met at the Kotel to pray.  They were left alone to complete their service.  It seems it's only a crime for women to gather on Rosh Chodesh, a day dedicated to women.  (Read more-
The time has come.  We need our voices to be heard.  There are many ways to be Jewish here and in Israel.  MERCAZ-Canada and Masorti Foundation, along with WOW, ARZA, and others work towards freedom for all.  Which side are you on?

Mi Shenichnas Adar Marbim B'simcha.

Purim is a time for fun and silliness.  If you want a great Megillah Reading the best in Canada will be at the Pride of Israel in Toronto.  Sean reads Megillah complete with voices for the characters.  We also have a big screen on which you can follow along so you always know when to boon Haman.

The second best reading will be in Kingston, ON.  Jesse will be reading at Beth Israel.  Rabbi Shalom Plotkin is great, and Jesse has started to pick up a lot of Sean's shtick.

On Sunday afternoon or evening the place to be is Beth Tzedec.  They do a Purim shpiel like no other.  Keren has grown up in the play.  The only year she missed it (for Jesse's bar mitzvah) she made it into the video in the kiddie parade.  It's all professional- the music, the lighting, the direction- all except the talent (which ain't too bad).  
Check out some scenes from past shows at:
This year is The Ultimate Purim Musical with favourite music from past years.

Hope to see you on Purim!

Mi shenichnas Adar marbim b'simcha.  Whoever begins [the month of] Adar increases his/her joy!  Share it with others!

Kitty Blog 13, by Gandalf the Grey

I love my life.  Jen stopped putting icky stuff in my eyes.  She & the kids were gone a few days, which was very sad.  But we got to make Sean crazy at night, which was good.  Now they're back, and they brought other people!  I love other people!  One of these people always gives my lots of extra food.  He seems to eat meat a lot, and likes to share.  Whenever he comes he sleeps on Gavi's floor, so there are a lot of comfy blankets for me to stretch out on.  This is also good.

I'm not so sure about that white stuff on the ground.  It's deep and sticks to my chin.  The other day it was so deep I was almost buried.  It was up to my belly and my chin, and falling on my head.  Thankfully it's stopped falling from the sky.  Maybe I can get out again soon.

Now if only Nora would stop eating my food....

Shabbat Shekalim- Where's Your Shekel Going?

Zeh yitnu kol ha’oveir al ha’p’kudim machatzit ha’shekel b’shekel ha’kodesh esrim geirah ha’shekel machatzit ha’shekel t’rumah lA-donai.
This they will give, all that pass for the numbering, half a shekel of the holy shekel [that is the weight of a shekel used for holy things]- twenty geirah equals a shekel- half a shekel will be an offering to God.     (Shemot 30:13)
Shabbat Shekalim is the first of four special Shabbatot read in the weeks leading up to Nisan, two in the weeks before Purim and two following Purim. On each of these Shabbatot we read a special maftir [the additional reading added to the seven Shabbat aliyot, preceding the haftarah] and a special haftarah. 
On Shabbat Shekalim the special maftir aliyah tells of the extra shekalim that were collected for the building and upkeep of the Mishkan in the desert and later the Temple in Jerusalem. One half-shekel, all households equal, numbered by the heads available for military duty. This tax was used to ensure the building of the Mishkan and later for upkeep and to refill the herds and flocks of animals kept for sacrifices in the Temple.
The haftarah recounts a time in the reign of King Yehoash when the money coming into the Temple seemed not to be enough for general repairs. In a time before transparency in business and charitable organizations, he set up a new system to ensure proper use of the taxes, and care for the Temple and its grounds. Money beyond the money for sacrifices was collected. Additional funds were used for communal purposes: providing salaries for judges, additional Temple maintenance and hiddur [beautification], as well as repair and maintenance to the city walls and the roads leading to Jerusalem in preparation for the thousands of pilgrims who would come to the Temple for Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
Shabbat Shekalim is still a reminder of our communal obligations. Two of the mitzvot of Purim are to give gifts to each other and to the needy. Today there are many ways to give.  Support the synagogue. Dedicate a gift in honour of a friend to represent the half-shekel of our maftir. Look beyond our walls to the communal need. Support Israel. However, as King Yehoash did, do not give randomly. Know where your money is going and what you are supporting. Find an organization that supports the Israel you want to see?  Perhaps that is a green Israel. Look to JNF. Perhaps it is an Israel that provides dignity to its elders or its needy. Try Yad L’Kashish.  Perhaps it is an Israel where all Jews can equally practice Judaism as they see fit. Donate to Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism in Israel and join MERCAZ-Canada.
On this Shabbat we are reminded that our hearts, our thoughts, and our pocketbooks, whatever we can give, should be focused both at our local home and towards our greater one- Israel.

Yitro The Teacher

Vayichad Yitro al kol hatovah asher asah A-donai l’Yisrael asher hitzilo miyad Mitzraiyim. Vayomer Yitro baruch A-donai asher hitzil etchem miyad Mitzraiyim u’miyad Pharaoh asher hitzil et ha’am mitachat yad Mitzraiyim.
And Yitro rejoiced over all the good that God had done for Israel, in that God delivered them from the hand of Egypt. And Yitro said, ‘Blessed is A-donai who delivered you from the hand of Egypt and the hand of Pharaoh, who delivered the People from under the hand of Egypt.’     (Shemot 18:9-10)
Yitro is a fascinating figure in the history of our people. He is a game-changer. Yitro is the prophet and priest of Midian. Breishit 25:2 reports that Midian is one of the sons of Avraham and Keturah. Although given their inheritance and sent off during Avraham’s lifetime, they maintained their beliefs in A-donai as one God. Yitro is the recipient of this tradition. It is under Yitro’s tutelage that Moshe learns of A-donai. In Egypt Moshe’s education would have been very different. Although his mother reared him in his early years, after he was weaned the connection would have been broken. Even if we accept that Yocheved taught Israelite tradition to Moshe, and that he fully absorbed these teachings, they would have been tainted by the education he then received in the palace and at the knees of Pharaoh, his priests and magicians.
It is as adult that Moshe finally realizes who he truly is. Unclear in our text whether Moshe knows who he is, he flees Egypt after accidentally killing an Egyptian guard. He somehow finds his way through the desert to the well of Midian, where Tzipora and her sisters are trying to water their livestock. To all he appears as an Egyptian. But Yitro sees beyond. Yitro is the one who refines in Moshe the belief in one God. Yitro is the one who teaches Moshe the traditions of those who follow A-donai. Yitro is the one who interprets Moshe’s prophetic experience at the burning bush. And Yitro is the one to whom Moshe turns for advice upon leaving Egypt with all of Israel.
Upon hearing of the Israelite’s success in leaving Egypt, Yitro is overjoyed. He rejoices not at the power of God, but at the goodness he sees in God for saving Israel. After the last few parshiyot, which speak to us of God’s power, to hear of Yitro’s rejoicing draws us back to God’s goodness. B’shalach may be dominated by song, but it is also dominated by fear, the fear of the Egyptians or the fear of Amalek. The time for fear is over. Now that we have left the life of slavery and oppression we should think of God not with dread for what might befall us, but rather with joy at the benevolence God shows to our people.
Although our tradition teaches that we have never again had a prophet like Moshe, we must also praise his teacher, Yitro, who in our time of oppression maintained our traditions to be once again passed on to us. 

Three Degrees of Separation

My cousin's bar mitzvah was Sunday.  Avery is a great kid, my first cousin once removed.  He shares a middle name with my Gavi- Meyer/Meir.  They are named for my Grandpa Max.  Grandpa Max was a good soul, and it has passed to Avery and Gavi.

Avery draws people to him.  He's only thirteen, but already has a wingman.  That wingman is the son of Michael Douglas and Catharine Zeta-Jones, Dylan.  Dylan is a wonderful kid.  He and Avery are a great team.  Everyone should have a friend who's got your back like they do. If that friend can be someone who knows you most of your life, it is truly lucky.

This is not our only connection to the Douglas family.  Sean's first pulpit with Sons of Israel in Amsterdam, NY.  This is the home congregation of Kirk Douglas.  On the synagogue tree of life there is a leaf commemorating Kirk Douglas' bar mitzvah.  Sons of Israel is proud of that connection.

Back to Avery's bar mitzvah.  It was an Orthodox service.  The Douglas' were there.  Michael Douglas sat in front of my father.  At the end of the service my father introduced himself and told Mr. Douglas about our connection to his father, Kirk Douglas.  During the cocktail hour, my mother met Catherine Zeta-Jones, and, of course, repeated the story.  As we stood for the brunch buffet I got to meet them, saying, "Hi.  It's nice to meet you.  I believe my parents have been telling you our connection."

It's said that no one is more than six degrees of separation.  With Jewish families we seem to cut that in half.

Monday, February 11, 2013

M'Sheleg Ad Sheleg (From Snow to Snow)

I just returned home from a great weekend with family for a bar mitzvah in New York.  I even brought two extras home with me.  I was happy to go, and happy to come home.  Still, perhaps this was not the best weekend to travel.  We were scheduled to leave on Thursday night about 7:30 PM, by car.  As I watched the weather report on Wednesday, I realized our plans may need to change.  We gave Gavi and Keren a snow day, and planned to leave when Jesse came home (it was an early dismissal day, so by 3:30).

There is a wonderful Yiddish saying, "Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht; a man plans and God laughs."  

I said we'd do pick up.  I had forgotten that pick up does not just mean Jesse and one other teen.  Delay number one.

I don't know where my head was, but I could not get my act together.  On Wednesday I was so nutty, I left work an hour early only to realize that I was not 10 minutes late to pick up Gavi and Keren, but actually 50 minutes early.  On Thursday I couldn't seem to get the packing done.  It was a work day for me.  I had a meeting at 9:00.  We had a new maid coming, and Gavi & Keren were home.  I made it to the meeting, got my work done, but couldn't get the packing done.  Laundry wasn't finished.  The suitcase was the wrong size.  I packed, but needed to repack in a larger suitcase.  I packed the larger suitcase, and realized I needed to keep one night's clothes out for our stopover.  AAAAHHH!  Delay number two.

A change from 7:30 PM to 3:30 PM means a meal in the car.  I hadn't been shopping last week, so not easily made sandwich foods in the house.  Oh no, a trip to the store, but that's okay because...

As I was packing (badly) Keren realized that none of her tights of leggings fit her.  Tights or leggings are a definite need for a February bar mitzvah, so off to the store I went.  Thankfully the Superstore has both food and clothes (an odd combo), so two things only became delay number three.

When all was packed, and Jesse finally home, we tried to pack the car.  Suddenly the kids realized (after all day at home for G&K and 20 minutes for Jesse) that there were other things they needed.  Ugh!  Delay number four.

We schlep all out to the car.  Snow is falling heavier and heavier.  My parents are returning with us, and we're all going to the bar mitzvah together (with my brother too), so i need all seven seat in the van.  THe back seat will not lock into place.  After 20 minutes of futzing with the latch, we fixed it, but there it was, delay number five.

As we finally got into the car ad turned on the radio to get the traffic report I heard, "Blizzard warning for New York"  Seriously?!

Off we went anyway, into horrible weather getting worse by the minute.  Once we cleared Hamilton the weather cleared; the road opened.  God might have been laughing, but he gave me a break.  We did miss our first hotel opportunity (sort of planned), and then we missed our second hotel opportunity (NOT PLANNED).  We headed to a hotel, where God thought to laugh a little more.  The rooms had double beds only.  Jesse & Gavi opted to sleep on the floor.  I called for extra blankets.  Housekeeping had gone home.  There was only one extra blanket at the front desk.  Jesse got it.  At 2:00 AM Gavi was cold.  He got up, clogged the toilet. (Yes, clogged the toilet), and crawled into bed with me.  We woke to the blizzard starting to roll into NY.  Ate quickly, and left to still clear roads until Jersey, where wind and rain made visibility almost nil.

Finally, a couple of hours before Shabbat we made it whole, mostly unfrazzled, and ready for a relaxing weekend with family.

Today we drove home, leaving NJ in wind and rain.  After packing my parents entire fridge into my car (old peppers, a bag of tangerines, a whole chicken, 8 raw eggs and 5 hard boiled, and so much more), being minorly lost in NJ (due to conflicting directions from the GPS and my father), and a bathroom stop every hour, we arrived home to beautiful snow causing the streets and trees to shimmer.  

Next trip- Ottawa!