richardf8: (Eating)
It's the day where the Hillel at Glasgow University makes kosher Haggis. Not difficult, really, given that Haggis is basically sheep entrails and grain, but there's always lots of discussion of it over there. You kind of need to have a good relationship with the abbatoir though so you can get a kashered sheep's stomach.

One day I'll try my hand at Haggis, I suppose, but I want to talk about about something similar. Stuffed Kishke. I made stuffed Kishka today (appropriate to Robbie Burns day in its way I reckon) following a recipe I learned from my teacher Rob Portnoe. The recipe goes very much like this:

1 Package of Ritz crackers or equivalent (ideal to find something Parve (ritually neutral with respect to separation of milk and meat))
4 Tbsp of a parve fat.
5 large Carrots
3 Stalks of celery
1 large onion
Salt and Pepper to taste.

To his teaching I add

4 leaves of fresh sage.

Grind the fat, crackers, and dry spices finely in a food processor. Decant to mixing bowl. Grind the veg in the food processor quite finely. Add to cracker mixture. Knead it all together so it is well blended, form into logs (its better than bad, its good!) and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Put your foil wrapped logs on a baking sheet and bake at 375F for 75 minutes. Let cool. At this point, I rewrap and freeze so I can use it at my leisure, slicing and frying it up when I'm fixing Shabbos dinner.

Now that that's before you (and recorded here so that I won't be at sea if I lose Rob's sheet), lets have fun with language.

Kishkes is a Yiddish word meaning "guts." Literally. So stuffed Kishke should and did mean a beef intestine stuffed with stuffing. The recipe I give above is a contemporary filling. Earlier, more traditional recipes might have made use of some organ meats, would have used chicken fat (schmaltz) rather than a parve shortening or margarine, etc.

But you will note, from the recipe, that no actual kishkes are used. The thing being stuffed is aluminum foil. One might find Parchment called for instead. This recipe is parve, and can be made Vegan with little effort. And when one speaks of Kishke today this is what one means. 20 years ago, if you ordered Kishke in a deli, you got it stuffed in a beef casing. The casing was the Kishke, and the stuff you actually ate was the stuff you actually ate. Now the Kishke has been cast off, and the word "kishke" has come to refer strictly to the stuffing.

The shift is sufficiently complete that one can get from Empire Poultry a Kishke stuffed-boneless chicken breast (similar in concept to chicken Kiev, but stuffed with, well, kishke instead of fat-n-scallions).

This happens, quite simply, because beef intestine is hard for the consumer to come by, and the product wouldn't be parve if it were, and people tended to regard the stuffing as the point of the dish, so that was the thing that became what the word kishke signified in the culinary sense.
richardf8: (Default)
Learned from [ profile] level_head who learned it from [ profile] rowyn that at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, an employee was stampeded to death by a mob awaiting the store's early opening. Do read the story if it is not familiar to you.

Now, where to even begin?

Well, let's see, let's begin on Thanksgiving, when people who were working retail had to be prepared to wake up at 2 or 3AM to be at stores by 4am for 5am openings. Many would have had to have earlier Thanksgiving meals, or given up on it in order to be alert the next day. This was noted by friend Stego.

This is in service of what?

Then there are those 5:00 store openings as well, littered with loss-leaders to entice people into the stores. Heavy discounts on flat screen TV's were common, not just at Wal-Mart, but at Best Buy, and many other outlets across the nation.

This is in service of what?

Then there are the people determined to be first in line, determined to beat their neighbors to those loss-leaders. Instead of getting a good night's sleep and spending the day after Thanksgiving in quality time with family and friends, they're up at God-knows-when so they can get this stuff that no one really needs.

This is in service of what?

There's desperation all over this scenario - the retail worker desperate for a paycheck, the retailer desperate for sales, the consumer desperate for the discount. And all this desperation collided tragically on Friday in Valley Stream, and a man died.

This in service of what?

Ben Zoma would say: "Who is rich, he who is happy with his portion." (Avot 4:11)

If everyone in America followed Ben Zoma, our economy would collapse in a heartbeat. So we live in a world of manufactured need, and discontent with our portion is the engine that drives our economy. And right now, problems in banking and industry are forcing some to learn to be content with their portion, and others to look for bargains that will allow them to assuage their discontent within the constraints imposed by those problems.

Sales like the Black Friday sales are designed to capitalize on the discontent that our culture works so hard to manufacture. And that discontent is a powerful enough force that this year, it killed a man.


Apr. 22nd, 2008 02:33 pm
richardf8: (Eating)
First Night:

Friend S. Hosted. Wife M. Led. 16 People.

It's official: we've outgrown The Concise Family Seder. The term "Concision" was coined for the property of which this haggadah contained excessive amounts. The youngest, W., complained that the brief was too brief, which was very heartening. Our institutions are doing well by our youth, creating a generation that is more engaged than the parents. The maggid was considered too brief, and a factual error was observed in this haggadah's assertion that Abraham met Sarah in Canaan. It served us well for 5 years, but it's time to move on. The layered Kugel I made was a hit. It comprised a layer of yam kugel, a layer of spinach kugel, and another layer of yam kugel.

Second Night:

I hosted. I led. 8 People.

Friend J. lent us a bunch of the Baskin Haggaddah. Slightly different crowd from first night, so lots of different energy in the room. I was leading this one, and we had enough in the way of students of Hebrew and native Israelis at the table to be able to look at some of the differences between the Hebrew and the English, which was fun. Then R., the 14 year old who had not been around on Monday, raised all kinds of thorny issues around chosenness, and how can we reconcile the plagues and drowning of the Egyptians with the merciful God we Liberal Jews like to believe in. So midrash was shared, various personal theories explored, a discussion of the balance between mercy and justice and she was, of course, assured that this is one of the questions that never stops being asked. The Baskin Haggadah served us well, except for missing the handwashing. Food was my low-effort lamb-packets. There was lamb from the meaty, broiled shankbone in our Hillel sandwiches, because Reform Judaism does not long for a return to temple service. B. and A. brought a marvelous Potato thingy, L. some steamed veg, J. supplied Matza ball soup and I supplied some vegetarian borscht.

Lamb Packets, per serving:

2 Lamb Loin chops (a nice lean cut)
6 Stalks of asparagus
1/2 tsp of Astringent (Lemon juice most years, but this year it was Balsamic Vinegar)
a few aromatic sprigs (I usually use lavender, but I could see rosemary working well.

Stack it all on foil, seal it, and put it in a 250 degree oven about an hour before the Seder starts, and then don't spare it another thought until you're ready to eat. The beauty of this food prep method is that it will wait for you.

X-Posted to
richardf8: (Default)
הַרְפּוּ וּדְעוּ כִּי־אָנֹכִי אֱלֹהִים
Slack off, and know that I am God (Psalms 46:11)

וַיֹּאמֶר נִרְפִּים אַתֶּם נִרְפִּים עַל־כֵּן אַתֶּם אֹמְרִים נֵלְכָה נִזְבְּחָה לַיהוָֹה
And he said "Slacking! You've been slacking, therefore you say 'Let us go offer to Adonai.'" (Exodus 5:17)

וּמֹשֶׁה הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת־צֹאן יִתְרוֹ חֹתְנוֹ כֹּהֵן מִדְיָן וַיִּנְהַג אֶת־הַצֹּאן אַחַר הַמִּדְבָּר וַיָּבֹא אֶל־הַר הָאֱלֹהִים חֹרֵבָה: ב וַיֵּרָא מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה אֵלָיו בְּלַבַּת־אֵשׁ מִתּוֹךְ הַסְּנֶה וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה הַסְּנֶה בֹּעֵר בָּאֵשׁ וְהַסְּנֶה אֵינֶנּוּ אֻכָּל: ג וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אָסֻרָה־נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת־הַמַּרְאֶה הַגָּדֹל הַזֶּה מַדּוּעַ לֹא־יִבְעַר הַסְּנֶה

And Moses was shepherding the flock of Yitro, his father in law - the priest of Midian and he had driven the flock beyond the wilderness and he came to the mountain of God, to Horeb. And the angel of Adonai appeared to him in the heart of the fire from within the bush, and he looked and behold, the bush burned in the flame and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said "let me turn away and I will look at this great sight - why won't the bush burn up?" (Exodus 3:1-3)

Moses doesn't just notice the burning bush - anyone could notice the burning bush - he stops and turns away from his task to look at the bush. He is curious, and outside of Egypt, away from the pressures of the court and the hurry of urban life he stops just to check out something cool. And from the freedom to stop and look comes a relationship with God. Freedom is the key to this - had a Hebrew slave in an Egyptian chain-gang hauling bricks to the builders seen this, he may have indeed been every bit as curious as Moses was. But he would not have been able to relent, to turn away, to "slack off" as it were from his task. He is giving himself permission to do this, hence the combination of a jussive form with the supplicative particle נא. He can - a slave cannot.

This distinction is not lost on Pharaoh who, when the Hebrew representatives ask him why he is overworking them notes that when they had slack-time, time for reflection, time for a kind of spiritual healing (the root רפה giving us the word for healing as well as the word I here render as slacking), it occured to them to go offer to Adonai. Leave them no time for a thought other than that of work, and thoughts of the holy would be banished from their minds. This root shows up in Psalm 46:11 as well, in a phrase generally translated as "Be still and know that I am God," but which I rendered with "slack off" so as to underscore the commonality.

It is the quiet moments available for reflection, contemplation, contact with something bigger than ourselves that make any kind of mystical experience possible. Our days amuse us to death with trivia, and separate us from the reality that the world is a far larger system than we can control. The sabbath, "first among our sacred days," is a reminder of that, and the creation of a sacred space in time to allow us the opportunity to slack off, turn from our often all too narrow paths, and take the time to indulge our curiosity and in so doing open ourselves to a relationship with God.
richardf8: (Eating)
My plan for this Shabbat, after having a perfectly harried Erev Shabbat/Rosh Hashanah is to come straight home from work (No stop for Challah - I have another plan - or Kiddush Wine - secured that tonight, or dessert - I will be home baking it) and get finishing a meal I just started.

The centerpiece is a Kosher* Cajun Bean soup.

2 Medium Onions, diced
3 Stalks celery, diced
2 biggish carrots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 smallish Chipotle peppers, sliced. (This is what gives the soup its characteristic smoked flavor in lieu of ham)
2 Andouille Sausage (Neshama makes Glatt Kosher Chicken ones.)
1 can of Kidney Beans
1 can of White Beans (Great northern or Cannellini)
1 can of Black Beans
(I like the tri-color effect this yields)
4 Cans Chicken Broth**
Fresh Ground Pepper

Saute in a bit of Canola oil the onions, carrots and celery. Add the garlic and chipotles just after the onions have begun to become translucent. Continue to saute until the garlic starts to become golden. DO NOT allow the garlic to carmelize; that will not be a welcome flavor in this dish.

Dump saute into 4 quart crock pot.

Drain and rinse beans. Dump in crock pot.

Slice Andouille Sausage. Dump in crock pot.

Mix the ingredients in the crock pot carefully. A silicone spatula works well; canned beans are delicate.

Add 4 cans of Chicken Broth.

Now at this point I've put the crock-liner in the fridge. Tomorrow, before I leave for work, I will put it into its heater and set it to low. Watch this space for results regarding the edibility of my efforts.

For the rest of the meal:

Maple Biscuits to accompany the soup
Bread pudding for dessert

*In the interest of full disclosure, my practice when it comes to Kashrut is basically "don't eat forbidden animals." That said, Neshama makes a lovely, Glatt Kosher Chicken Andouille sausage that will quite well in this recipe. I use an organic Turkey Andouille sausage from Wellshire farms. All other ingredients are fleishig or parve.

**Yes, I use canned broth. It has served me well over the years for those who use fresh, this amounts to approximately 8 cups.
richardf8: (Default)
But it's going to be hard. Daniel Matt is going to be at Temple Israel this weekend as a scholar in residence. He will be speaking from the Bimah tonight, leading Torah Study tomorrow morning, speaking again after lunch tomorrow, and again on Sunday morning. To all intents and purposes, it's a Shabbaton.

Daniel Matt is a rabbi and scholar currently working on a solid, academic translaton of the Zohar, one of the texts comprising the Kabbalistic tradition in Judaism. This is no fluffy, feel-good translation for the red-string crowd, but a serious academic treatment being published by Stanford University Press. He is working from a text he edited using standard paleographic methodologies from multiple manuscript sources and some early print editions. His translator's preface details his methodology, and calls to mind many of the same textual issues I remember wrestling with in grad school. The text, as he edited it and is translating from it, is available as PDF's from Stanford's Web site, in all its unpointed Zoharic Aramaic* glory. Matt's translation is not afflicted with victorian coyness that hampered the Soncino translation published in the early 20th century, which is good because one can ill afford such coyness when working with a text that relies heavily sexual metaphor to carry its meaning forward. Another area in which Matt's translation/edition excels is in his notes. The Zohar has lots of inputs - Torah, Prophets, Writings, Talmud, Midrash, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, classical (i.e. Greek) sources, and texts that, while referenced by name, no longer appear to be extant - and is nearly incomprehensible unless you can follow what is being referenced where. Matt's notes do an excellent job of citing and summarizing these references, allowing the reader to be able to understand the text before him. Notes range in purpose from citing a source, to illuminating a bit of wordplay being made in the original, to demonstrating the relationship between vaious elements of metaphor and the nodes of the sefirotic paradigm to which they refer.

But in addition to being an amazing Scholar, he is also a great theologian.

He wrote God and the Big Bang, a magnificent work that goes beyond merely "reconciling" religion and science to viewing scientific observation and discovery as a path to belief. It probably won't convince hardcore rationalists or young-earth creationists, but I tend to regard it as an excellent work of natural theology.

So anyway, I'm excited about this weekend. I hope I don't drool on him, and I hope my expectaions are not unreasonably high. The two things one worries about when one is a hopeless fanboi I suppose.

*Zoharic Aramaic is a bit of a different animal from biblical or talmudic Aramaic. It is rife with loan words, from not only the spanish spoken in the area, but from Greek as well. As if that weren't entertaining enough, it is also full of neologisms, often combining roots from mutiple language families. This is another thing discussed at length in the translators preface.
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Morgan and I decided a couple weeks ago that the key to שלום בבית (peace in the home) was to buy a prefab Sukkah. So we ordered a canvas and Electrical Metal Tubing (EMT) edifice, that went together beautifully. You fit the pipes into sleeves to form a large box and hang the canvas around it with ty-raps. Being a Sukkah, it has no roof - one thatches it with greenery. We figured we'd throw our lilac branches on top and we'd be good to go. Well that was the plan. The reality involved constructing rafters from lath, using Ty-Raps since the lilac banches weren't quite going to work. I went through about 100 ty-raps for that alone, and have something that looks like the frame for a hung ceiling. Tomorrow, Morgan will heap it with foliage.
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On Friday, I wandered out to Temple Israel's website and noticed that there were donations of physical objects (food, supplies, etc.) being accepted for Nechama to deliver to the victims. I also learned that the donations would be getting sorted and packed at the JCC's on Sunday and volunteers would be needed.

My workplace is right next door to a Costco, which struck me as a good way to get some items for disaster relief. I tapped [ profile] grassyneal for what sorts of things he regarded as comfort foods when he encountered them in MRE's in his marine days. He said that the Chef-Boy-Ardee spaghetti and meatballs were a comfort food. So I headed up to Costco, and got a flat of water, a flat of Chef BoyArDee Ravioli, and a 100-pack of feminine pads.

My arrival at temple coincided perfectly with [ profile] morgan1's and I told her to unload. She preferred to take the 30 pound flat of water and the ravioli than to be seen publicly with the "things which must not be named." So we took the stuff to the bins. On Saturday, after Torah Study and Hebrew Study, and lunch with Bruce and Rita, Bruce headed home to study for the intermediate biblical hebrew class he's taking at the U, and Morgan, Rita, and I went to caribou to indulge in the air conditioning. While we were sitting there, it occurred to Rita that fuller sized women were probably getting short shrift in underwear donations, and that african american hair has special care requirements, so we headed over to K-Mart to get some stuff to meet those needs, and some canopeners. The can-opener choices were 4.00 swing-aways or a 2.00 Ecko with an old-style beer can piercer at one end. We went with the Swingaways because I could just see FEMA rejecting the ones with the pointy ends for their weapon-potential.

Then came Sunday. Morgan's account is here. I sopent most of the day packing Diapers into boxes. This was supremely satisfying work for me because unlike donating money, or even donating things, this was something concrete that I could do with my body to help with the effort. And unlike so many other volunteer opportunities I have available to me, this was back room work, and I was loving it. Feeding the homeless is very nice, and I'm glad we have people in our congregation who are up for that, but by the time my week is done, I am so burned out on the whole provider/client relationship that I just can't do it. So the sorting and packing of supplies was the perfect fit for what it is I have to give right now.

This whole thing, By the way, was organized by Nechama of Minnesota, a Jewish organization devoted to disater response. They offer Chainsaw training. Hmm. Might be worth doing more with.
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The first time [ profile] morgan1 and I ever set foot in Temple Israel was to see a talk by John Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword. After the presentation, which took place in the run-up to the Easter/Passover season, Morgan was buttonholed by an elderly man who had fled Poland in the wake of pogroms. Good Friday, for him, was the day the Christians would come out of the churches looking for Jews to beat up. And he had absorbed his share of beatings.

And so.

It is now 9/11.

I skim [ profile] chipuni's friends list, because it is a rich and diverse bouquet, where so many viewpoints can be found, and I notice that someone has goatsed the [ profile] muslimscommunity. There moderators act swiftly, but no sooner do they delete it than the same user posts an anti-Islamic Chick Tract rife with misinformation and fabrication regarding Islam. This is as close as you can get to mosque desecration on line. I wonder what we will see in the physical world as the day dawns.

The analogy is obvious. And it was the provincial and religious hatred that the Poles had for the Jews that built Auschwitz. A provincial and religious hatred not dissimilar than that which is growing bolder and bolder in the US.

If we allow such seeds to sprout, what vile fruit can we expect to harvest?
richardf8: (Default)
What kind of disease are you?


richardf8 is caused by bad television.

richardf8 disease turns one into a goth.
To cure richardf8, build a lemur colony in your bathroom.

I'm posting this meme because it reminded me of something.

Browsing in Brochin's last Passover I saw a book intended to acquaint Children with the Seder. It was by Shari Lewis and was called "Lamb Chop's Passover Surprise."

This amazed me and amused me. Just what IS Lamb Chop's passover surprise anyway? Guess whose blood is going on the doorpost? Guess whose foreleg is going to adorn the Seder Plate. I really should read this book and see if Lamb Chop survives.
richardf8: (Default)
[ profile] _wastrel, here is the response you sought to your post at

The difference between magic and religion is where the power lies. In magic the power lies with man, in religion it lies with God. Magic, as you are using the term, means the exertion of human will over the supernatural. This is strictly forbidden in Judaism. The denomination does not matter. I would also be extremely cautious about the source you are using, since it seems to be retrojecting its own interpretation of the bible into the biblical period. I would not view it as authoritative.

Now to deal with the issues you raise:  )
richardf8: (Default)
I am a person of faith. So are many people, Jewish and Christian, Muslim and Buddhist who read my journal. And I feel that there is a war being raised against some of the fundamental tenets of my faith, from people like the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. (I don't know who the speaker of the House is these days, so upstaged has he been by DeLay).

These people have been seeking to put into law very specific elements of the very specific splinter of Christianity in which they engaged. And every time Liberals talk about "the separation of Church and State," these wingnuts have a cow about how evil secularists and atheists are on a crusade to destroy Christianity in America. Their perception seems to be that they are being oppressed if their beliefs, and their beliefs alone are not being legislated, are not forming the basis for jurisprudence, and are not being enforced at home and on the world stage.

As many conservatives will point out, there is no "separation of Church and State" in the constitution. And they are right - this concept is the result of judicial interpretation. The Constitution gives us the "establishment clause" in its first Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . ."

Let's take a good hard look at this, leaving behind for the moment the notion of "separation of Church and State" and asking ourselves why it is there at all. First and foremost it codifies an important religious sentiment that we find in the Concessions and Agreements establishing the colony of New Jersey, written by William Penn, namely that "that no man, nor number of men upon earth, hath power or authority to rule over men's consciences in religious matters" (Joseph Story). This is an important notion to understand: the establishment clause is there not to prohibit prayer in schools, necessarily, nor to prohibit display of the Ten Commandments, necessarily, but to guarantee the the state does nothing to compromise the individual's relationship with God. Now this remains true regardless of whether that relationship is one of disavowal, a belief in an abstract "creator," or a belief in a personal God or gods.

Justice Thomas Black, writing in EVERSON v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF EWING TP., 330 U.S. 1 (1947) illuminates for us the historical milieu from which the establishment clause arose:
A large proportion of the early settlers of this country came here from Europe to escape the bondage of laws which compelled them to support and attend government favored churches. The centuries immediately before and contemporaneous with the colonization of America had been filled with turmoil, civil strife, and persecutions, generated in large part by established sects determined to [330 U.S. 1, 9] maintain their absolute political and religious supremacy. With the power of government supporting them, at various times and places, Catholics had persecuted Protestants, Protestants had persecuted Catholics, Protestant sects had persecuted other Protestant sects, Catholics of one shade of belief had persecuted Catholics of another shade of belief, and all of these had from time to time persecuted Jews. In efforts to force loyalty to whatever religious group happened to be on top and in league with the government of a particular time and place, men and women had been fined, cast in jail, cruelly tortured, and killed. Among the offenses for which these punishments had been inflicted were such things as speaking disrespectfully of the views of ministers of government-established churches, nonattendance at those churches, expressions of non-belief in their doctrines, and failure to pay taxes and tithes to support them.

What we are witnessing today is precisely this scenario: a particular flavor of Christianity is seeking to forge an alliance with the government, though which it can force loyalty to its notion of "family values" or "morals" or whatever the buzzword of the day happens to be. The first amendment is intended to safeguard the relationship between man and God, such that it cannot be hijacked by any single religious persuasion.

So this, then is the right wing War on Faith: If you are Presbyterian, Quaker, United Church of Christ, Reformed Jewish, any kind of Jewish really, Muslim, Buddhist, etc, then according to these people YOUR FAITH IS NOT VALID. And here comes the sticky part: because we are not so prideful as to say "You're wrong because God said so," we do not appear to speak with the moral authority that they do.

So what can we do? For starters, we need to invoke God. Seriously. Even in a war of prooftexting, we can win this thing if we so choose. We tend to be afraid to do this, because we can't know that God is on our side. However, I don't think that's true - I think God IS on our side, and that it can be demonstrated from any holy text we care to cite. I was once asked by a fellow learner in Torah Study "How can we know?"

It's a valid question. The answer is a matter of history and projection - if we examine the pattern that has given us Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and look at what it parallels in the past what do we see? I see a Holocaust survivor in my congregation describing how, upon being seen with a scrap of Army blanket she had found to keep herself warm, she was made to kneel with her arms over her head for five hours, during which she fainted three times. Her treatment was virtually identical to the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as described in a report by the ICRC:

The physical tactics noted by the Red Cross included placing detainees in extremely cold rooms with loud music blaring, and forcing them to kneel for long periods of time. . . .

It's not difficult to see where the policy leads. And as for the notion that it is hyperbole or hysteria to draw on the Holocaust for comparison the only thing I can say is that the notion that the Holocaust was somehow a unique or aberrant evil is the greatest assurance that it WILL happen again. All of us have within us not only a spark of divine goodness, but an evil inclination as well, and when that inclination is appealed to on a national stage, it scales up better that a Linux Beowulf cluster. We insist on believing that the holocaust was perpetrated by inhuman monsters, when in fact is was perpetrated by people JUST LIKE US, to whose worst instincts a simple megalomaniac appealed. When we see a nation being encouraged to vote against granting a right to a particular population, when we see a nation that looks the other way when it's citizens are denied justice and due process, we see a nation that has not God, but the evil inclination perched on it's shoulder.

We need to understand that as people of faith we have the RESPONSIBILITY to invoke God. Because if we do not, then we sell Him into slavery to the false prophets who invoke the divine crown for the sole purpose of increasing their power and wealth.

Works Cited

richardf8: (Default)
My Rabbi

He is the sort of man of whom you can't decide:
"Would I rather study Talmud with him,
Or Guitar?"
richardf8: (Default)
So last night Morgan and I were getting ready to do Havdalah. I was finding the service in my Siddur when Morgan made some noises: "Blah Blah Merlot Blah Blah Havdalah tonight?"

I gathered that she was stating a preference for which wine we should use. I imagined she was talking about about a bottle of Galilean Merlot that we opened a week ago and had not finished. So I said "Yes."

The next thing I hear is Morgan coughing as she runs to the kitchen. She is pouring wine down the sink and the smell of Acetic Acid fills the room. The bottle she has in her hand is from a Baron Herzog Merlot (From Languedoc) that had a little bit left in it and had been sitting, uncorked, on the bookshelf for so long that I had come to regard it as part of the furniture. To say that it had become vinegar would be an understatement. This stuff smelled like the solvent one uses to make joints in Plexiglass.

Had I been paying attention, what I would have heard was "Hey, do you want to use this rancid Herzog Merlot for Havdalah tonight?" It is really a question that should have answered itself in the negative. It should not have survived conscious attention long enough to get asked. But it did, and I spaced it.

We did Havdalah with some Ocean-Spray Cran Grape and I spent the rest of the evening making her drink Bicarb to neutralize the acid.

So guys, when noises come out of your SO's mouth, PAY ATTENTION! Otherwise you never know WHAT's gonna happen.
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Today, at our congregational "service in the round" I had an Aliyah, i.e, I read from the Torah before the congregation. I'ne spent about the past three weeks rehearsing for this, learning how to read trope markings, using a .wav file I ripped from a tape our cantor made for me. After I learned the first couple of verses from the tape the trope marks began to make sense to me and I could read them on the fly. Trope, in this case, means the little snippet of melody with which one chants a given word. By the time I got to the synagogue this morning, I knew my verses cold, and felt confident and eager. I made this aliyah in honor of what I guess must be the 15th anniversary of my father's death (yahrzeit, in yiddish).

It went well. It was not a big deal, and that was something that I appreciated. When I was done most of the people present took the time to comment on how well I had done. I was pleased by this because I spent some time working on delivery and performance. I wanted to be able to deliver my chant from my diaphragm, to fill the room with a confident voice, rather than the stage fright-induced waver that so often attends these things. I delivered, my voice only mildly restrained by having to bend over a slightly too-low table while I read. Most gratifying were the words of praise from Rabbi Glaser, the member of the clergy I hold in the highest regard, during kiddush.

This is one of the great joys of being an adult - the ability to have an Aliyah and not have it be a big, anxiety loded deal, like my bar-mitzvah was.

"Getting Bar Mitzvahed" is a bit of a strange thing. Or at least it was for me. I barely remember the event itself, but I understand it went well. But the runup itself was a trauma. No discussion of how the trope system worked (I learned more about the trope system from about 20 minutes of an overheard hebrew school class at the beginning of this year that rabbi Wildstein was teaching than I ever learned in my own Jewish training). Instead I was sent to our synagogue's Bar-Mitzvah trainer who handed me a tape, a few pages of tikkun , and had me back every week to drill me, harangue me, and give me the general impression that if I screwed the smallest vowel point up, God himself would appear before the congregation to call me a fool while the Angels wept for me. All this from a man with a perennial booger hanging half out of his left nostril - a source of disturbing distraction for a 12 year old.

In many ways, over the past four years or so, I have been reclaiming my Judaism, rehabilitating it from the small, weird traumas of growing up Jewish in a decidedly neurotic family (My mother treated the Dars of Awe almost like lent, giving up Bacon, which if she were making more than a pretense of observation, she should not have even been eating in the first place). I have been doing this within the reformed movement, whose values better reflect my own than do the conservative or orthodox. And today, I feel particularly triumphant, because I have performed that most quintessentially Jewish act, reading the Torah, because I chose to and having studied for it in a way that involved no duress, harangues, or boogers, but was rather intellectually rewarding in its own right.

So today, I feel quite happy, and very much like I have taken ownership of a faith that I, at first, and thrust upon me, and then avoided. Living that faith is going to be a worthy challenge, but one I must undertake, as the life I have right now is not filling anything I would describe as a compelling need in the world, and I need to consider how to go about answering a call that came to me 2 1/2 years ago in a northwoods lake. Things seem to be clicking in the right direction though. In a couple of weeks there is a seminar being offered by some of our local clergy on life in the rabbinate, I will go, filled with questions.

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Just fixed [ profile] morgan1's bathroom faucet which has had a costly leak for over a year. The washers needed replaced, and while I was at it, I gave the valve stems and seats some TLC with a Toothbrush and Lube.

The weekend was good, Potluck on Saturday at the Synagogue with after a fun Torah Study and a moving service. I will be making an aliyah (reading from the Torah) at the Feb 5th Service in honor of my Father's Yahrzeit (death Anniversary).

I think I've broken through the creative block that has been dogging me since Thanksgiving, and hopefully can get back on track with Cat-Tharsis, at least on a weekly basis. Twice a week is a bit much with everything else I've got going on right now, and I'd rather take the time to create a strip I'm happy with than to produce it all in a putsch the night it's due.

Well, dinner's cooking and can probably do with a cursory glance.
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Donated $25.00 by way of American Jewish World Service Not much by itself, but many drops fill an ocean.
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Leave it to [ profile] morgan1 and Me to get married on Pearl Harbor Day.

Morgan and I have been together for 13 years, the first two of which might be considered courtship, the rest a de facto marriage. Today we presented ourselves before Judge Gary Bastian and what was de facto is now de jure. Judge Bastian was a fine man, wearing jeans and a t-shirt beneath his robes. He rustled us up a pair of witnesses and we emerged from his chamber Husband and Wife in the eyes of the State of Minnesota. We followed this with Bento at Sakura in Saint Paul.

We were foolish; we told our bosses we would be in in the afternoon. The wedding itself, occuring in Judge Bastian's delightfully eccentric chambers, was more romantic than either of us had expected, and a walk over the Wabasha Street bridge seemed more suitable than returning to our respective jobs, but this we did, because promises are important.

I feel more relaxed than I have in a while. I have health coverage for the first time since August of 2002. I have the security of knowing that what Morgan and I may say to each other in the privacy of our home cannot be coaxed out of us in court. I have the comfort of knowing that whatever emergency may come up, Morgan and I can speak for each other without our authority being challenged.

I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.

Yet, I also feel a little bit . . . well not guilty exactly, but perhaps more wistful. Because I know many of you reading this cannot have those things. This is an area in which Morgan and I have been active, and we are proud to have found ourselves in the midst of a religious community that is also dedicated to making available to all Americans what is available to us. For you I offer these words from the Head Rabbi of my congregation. I look forward to the day when you can join us in these comforts.

If you are surprised or wish you had known or anything like that, know this: Morgan and I are planning something in the form of a religious ceremony sometime down the road. In many ways it is this, rather than today's civil marriage, that will carry the full weight of emotion, and of this you will receive advance warning.

And that, my friends, is why Cat-Tharsis did not appear on Tuesday.
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Well, I just ate a breakfast sandwich. Egg, Turkey, and Pepper-Jack on an English Muffin. Mmmm wonderful, yeast-leavened English Muffin.

Passover's a wonderful holiday. From the Haroseth and Maror on the Seder Plate to the dark Chocolate covered Egg Matzah, to the ritual of the Seder itself the emphasis is on the bittersweet.

Sweet that God led the Israelites to freedom, bitter that he had to unleash the plagues to do it. Sweet that he led the Israelites to safety across the red sea, bitter that he had to drown Pharoah's army.

And of course, for a week we shun leavened bread to commemorate the fact that when the Israelites fled egypt, there was no time for bread to proof. So, that means that now I have a renewed appreciation for the wonder that is leavening. The leisure to let bread rise is emblematic of safety and freedom. And so it was with renewed delight that I ordered a breakfast sandwich for the first time in just over a week this morning.

August 2017

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