Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fine Arts Friday: Lost and Found Edition

Warning: The following post may exceed the recommended daily allowance for maternal boasting. Proceed at your own risk.

A Shiputzim daughter recently had to do a project for her Mishnah class.

Yes, her Mishnah class.

Note that such a concept certainly didn’t exist in my out-of-town Bais Yaakov-wannabe school.

In fact, the word “Mishnah” never appeared anywhere near our course schedule.

I mean, sure, we did learn a bit of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers)here and there – albeit it mostly on a rather superficial level.

But it was clearly understood that this was the one exception to the hard-and-fast rule that girls. don’t. learn. Mishnah. Period.

After all, it could, um, lead to mixed dancing, which could lead to [gasp] something even worse: learning Gemara…

Winking smile

In contrast, the aforementioned Shiputzim daughter is currently studying Masechet Bava Metzia and chose to do her project on the second mishnah of the second perek, which discusses the mitzvah of hashavat aveidah (returning lost property) and includes a list of items that the finder must declare.

As always, please feel free to click on the pictures for a much better view:


Several close-ups of some of the details:


If the poster’s style looks vaguely familiar, it’s because it was produced in the same studio as last year’s Makat Dam project, which, coincidentally, is very appropriate for this week – i.e. Parshat VaEra.

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pa’am Shlishit Glidah

Warning: The following post has been flagged by the relevant authorities for ignoring local culinary conventions. Proceed at your own risk.

After all these years in Israel, I like to think of myself as a real Israeli.

But then along comes the storm of the century, and while all self-respecting sabras instinctively turn their attentions to proper winter foods like sahlab, crembos, and hot soup, I instead choose to blog about… {lowers voice and shifts eyes furtively from side to side} well, about ice cream.

However, lest you think that I’m deliberately trying to defy native cultural norms, I should explain that here in TRLEOOB*, we recently acquired a brand new ice cream maker.

<brief explanatory interjection> About 15 years ago, we switched from individual Chanukah presents to one or two larger presents for the entire family. What’s your family’s approach to Chanukah presents? </interjection>

Yet, as it so happened, OS (=Our Soldier) spent the entire Chanukah on his base.

We thus decided to wait to taste our homemade ice cream (recipes below) until he came home the week after Chanukah, and we had our “Post-Chanukah Chanukah Family Celebration and Ice Cream Party”:


Upon hearing about our delayed celebration, guest blogger Malke asked if I thought that the ice cream maker was worth it and if it’s difficult to use.

Here’s what I told her:

“In a nutshell, it’s definitely worth it. Without exaggeration, we all thought that it rated among the best ice cream we've ever had - the taste, the texture, the flavor, it's all good. And pricewise, homemade ice cream comes out significantly cheaper per liter than the bought stuff (once you factor out the cost of the machine itself, of course). It's also not very difficult to make. Obviously, it's not as easy as hopping in the car and taking a container of ice cream out of the makolet’s freezer section, but it's fairly straightforward.”

Homemade (Philadelphia Style) Ice Cream

Philadelphia style ice cream (as opposed to custard style ice cream) has no eggs. These recipes were adapted from a combination of several different sources.

Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 1¼ cups whole milk (we used 3% milk)
  • ¾ cup sugar

Chocolate Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 3/5 cup whole milk (we used 3% milk)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ TBSP cocoa
  • 140 grams bittersweet chocolate – coarsely chopped

Coffee Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups whipping cream (i.e. shamenet metukah, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 1¼ cups whole milk (we used 3% milk)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1¼ TBSP instant coffee (we used decaf)


Mix all the ingredients in a small pot over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and just beginning to form tiny bubbles. Remove from heat and refrigerate for a few hours or even overnight.

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze overnight before serving.




*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sharing the mitzvah

When several individuals were recently arrested for draft dodging, crowds of extremist chareidim took to the streets in bizarre defense of their compatriots’ (and by extension, also their own) inexplicable and inexcusable shirking of their civic, moral, ethical, legal, national, and - most of all - halachic responsibilities.

Which is why now would be an excellent time to remind those who choose to forget that serving in the IDF is a mitzvah.

In fact, as Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohein Kook zt”l explained, serving in the IDF actually involves two mitzvot - namely:

1) Pikuach Nefesh (saving a life): Note that we’re not just talking about saving a single life but rather about saving the lives of the entire Am Yisrael.
Pikuach nefesh is made up of three separate mitzvot:

  1. The positive mitzvah of saving lives. (See Vayikra 18:5.)
  2. The prohibition against “standing idly by the blood of your fellow.” (See Vayikra 19:16).
  3. The positive mitzvah of hashavat aveidah (returning lost property – see Devarim 22:2). Since we must return a person’s property, all the more so must we “restore” his body.

2) Yerushat HaAretz (establishing and maintaining Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael – see Bamidbar 33:53).

Furthermore,  as the Mishnah (Sotah 8:7) famously teaches, during a milchemet mitzvah (an obligatory war), NO ONE is exempt from serving:

“Everyone goes out [to war] – even a bridegroom from his chamber and a bride from her wedding canopy.” (See also the Rambam - Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 7.)

And according to most (all?) authorities, the current situation constitutes a milchemet mitzvah.

Sadly, however, many believe (or pretend to believe) that none of the above matters, because of their false claim that “the IDF isn’t an appropriate environment for religious or chareidi soldiers” [sic].

But as I showed in my IDF myths and facts post, such a claim is simply untrue and, IMHO, even slanderous.

So what, then, is the halachic source for widespread military exemption? In other words, is there any heter (halachic justification or license) for not serving in the IDF?

Some cite the Gemara (BT Bava Batra 7b), which states that unlike the other residents, Torah scholars don’t have to pay to build a wall to protect their city. But Rabbi Riskin explains that this source can’t be used to justify military exemptions for Torah scholars:

“This [Gemara] would seem to imply that the Torah serves as a protective shield, and from this perspective, perhaps scholars ought be freed from military service. However, the Talmudic commentaries (most notably, the Baalei Tosafot ad loc as well as the Hazon Ish) insist that the exemption is only from payment for protection against thieves; if the wall is necessary for protection from murderers, even the scholars must contribute, because ‘we dare not rely on miracles.’”

Meanwhile, others quote the Rambam (Hilchot Shmitah V’Yovel 13), who states that talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars or sages) resemble Shevet Levi (the Tribe of Levi) and are thus exempted from military service.


  1. Shevet Levi was only exempted from fighting in order to serve as teachers, and the Leviim were still required to provide logistical, spiritual, and moral support during times of war. (See here for more details.)
  2. It is highly unlikely (read: virtually impossible) that the ENTIRE chareidi community, en masse, rates as “talmidei chachamim.” After all, in today’s world, very few people (with the exception of a few leading Torah giants) can honestly look themselves in the mirror and say that they meet the Rambam’s very specific criteria for talmidei chachamim.

In other words, there is no real source or halachic justification for not serving in the IDF.

Yet, nevertheless, learning Torah is also a very important mitzvah, and as Rabbi Riskin observes:

“There is no doubt that the study of Torah is of crucial importance and the greatest guarantor of the future of the Jewish people.”

However, any discussion of learning Torah in lieu of serving in the IDF must be predicated on two things:

  • An acknowledgement that any exemption from military service is actually an exemption from doing a mitzvah.
  • A sincere and vocal hakarat hatov (literally, “recognizing the good” – i.e. gratitude and appreciation) for those who dedicate their lives to serving and defending Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, according to Torat Yisrael, and thereby enable their brothers to sit and learn Torah.


Your thoughts?
(Please keep it civil. Thanks!)


Rains of blessing

As the blessed rain continues unabated, Israelis of every stripe are glued to their favorite news outlet in hope that the predictions come to pass and that today’s gloriously wet weather does, in fact, turn to snow.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has instructed that one recite the traditional Thanksgiving Blessing for Rain.

Our community’s rabbi explained that both men and women should recite the blessing and that it can be recited either in public (i.e. as part of a congregation in shul) or in private.

Here is the Hebrew text followed by an English translation*:

ברכת הודאה על הגשמים

מוֹדִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ ה' אֱלֹקינוּ וֵאלֹקי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ עַל כּל טִפָּה וטִפָּה שֶׁהוֹרַדְתָּ לָּנוּ.

ואִלּוּ פִינוּ מָלֵא שִׁירָה כַּיָּם, וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה כַּהֲמוֹן גַּלָּיו, ושִׂפְתוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁבַח כּמֶרְחֲבֵי רָקִיעַ, ועֵינֵינוּ מאִירוֹת כַּשֶּׁמֶשׁ וכַיָּרֵחַ, ויָדֵינוּ פרוּשׂוֹת כּנִשְׁרֵי שָׁמָיִם, ורַגְלֵינוּ קַלּוֹת כָּאַיָּלוֹת, אֵין אֲנַחְנוּ מַסְפִּיקִים להוֹדוֹת לךָ, ה' אֱלֹקינוּ וֵאלֹקי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, וּלְבָרֵךְ אֶת שִׁמְךָ עַל אַחַת מֵאֶלֶף אַלְפֵי אֲלָפִים, ורֹב רִבֵּי רבָבוֹת פּעָמִים הַטּוֹבוֹת, נִסִּים ונִפְלָאוֹת שֶׁעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּנוּ ועִם אֲבוֹתֵינוּ.

מִלּפָנִים מִמִּצְרַיִם גּאַלְתָּנוּ ה' אֱלֹקינוּ, מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים פּדִיתָנוּ. בּרָעָב זַנְתָּנוּ וּבְשָׂבָע כִּלְכַּלְתָּנוּ. מֵחֶרֶב הִצַּלְתָּנוּ, מִדֶּבֶר מִלַּטְתָּנוּ, וּמֵחְלָיִם רָעִים ורַבִּים דִּלִּיתָנוּ.

עַד הֵנָּה עֲזָרוּנוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ ולֹא עֲזָבוּנוּ חֲסָדֶיךָ.

עַל כֵּן אֵבָרִים שֶׁפִּלַּגְתָּ בָּנוּ, ורוּחַ וּנְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּפַחְתָּ בּאַפֵּנוּ, ולָשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר שַׂמְתָּ בּפִינוּ, הֵן הֵם יוֹדוּ וִיבָרְכוּ וִישַׁבּחוּ וִיפָאֲרוּ אֶת שִׁמְךָ מַלְכֵּנוּ תָּמִיד. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֵ-ל רֹב הַהוֹדָאוֹת.

The Thanksgiving Blessing for Rain

We gives thanks to You, Hashem, our God and the God of our fathers, for each and every drop which You sent down for us.

And were our mouths as full of song as the sea, and our tongues as full of joy as the multitude of its waves, and our lips as full of praise as the expanse of the heavens, and our eyes as radiant as the sun and the moon, and our arms as outspread as the eagles of the sky, and our legs as swift as hinds, we still could not thank You enough, Hashem, our God and the God of our fathers, or bless Your Name for even one of the thousands of thousands and the myriads of myriad favors, miracles, and wonders which You performed for us and for our fathers.

From Egypt, You redeemed us, Hashem, our God; from the house of slaves, You liberated us. In famine, You nourished us, and in plenty, You sustained us. From the sword, You saved us; from the plague, You rescued us; and from malignant and numerous diseases, You spared us.

Until this point, Your mercies have helped us, and Your kindnesses have not forsaken us.

Therefore, the organs which You fixed in us, and the spirit and the soul which You blew into our nostrils, and the tongue which You placed in our mouth – they will thank and bless and praise and exalt Your Name, our King, forever. Blessed are You, Hashem, God of bountiful thanksgivings.


* The Hebrew-to-English translator who provided the above translation has asked me to announce that she’s available for translation work. For more information, please contact me at OurShiputzim at gmail dot com, and I’ll gladly forward all serious inquiries to her.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chanukah 5774 wrap-up

IMG_3344Zot Chanukah

As Chanukah 5774 comes to a gloriously wet and wintery end, and as the younger Shiputzim kids prepare to return to school tomorrow morning IY”H (“Oof, why can’t there be a gesher*?!” a certain annoyed Shiputzim child wondered), here are several items of interest or note:

1) I updated my post from last year about my Zaidy z”l and his extraordinary letter.

2) Rabbi Wein shows how satire can be used to help change the mindset of those who are disconnected from reality.

3) Rafi G. shares a beautiful story about a bus ride.

4) And finally, in a shocking break with tradition, we weren’t able to visit any national parks over Chanukah. In our defense, however, we DID drive all the way to the Yarkon and Tel Afek National Park earlier this week – only to discover that it was closed due to strong winds.

Actual exchange:

Park official: It’s really too bad that you schlepped all this way for nothing.

Us: Was there any way that we could have known in advance that the park was closed?

Park official: {surprised at such a ridiculous question} Why, of course! We posted it on our website.

Us: Um, we looked at your website this morning to get directions. We didn’t notice anything about the park being closed.

Park official: {clicks on computer} Oh. {shrugs} Well, apparently we forgot to post…

Open-mouthed smile

But the good news is that we WERE able to snap the requisite shot of the price list, to show how much money we [would have] saved as a result of our National Parks Authority membership and to prove that we were actually there:


!שבת שלום ומבורך


*Gesher – Literally, a bridge. Refers to an extra vacation day or two.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Zaidy z”l (Updated)

Note: I am reposting the following from last year (with a few updates), because I think that the amazing letter at the end should not be missed.

Tonight – the eighth night of Chanukah - marks the yahrzeit of my beloved maternal grandfather z”l, a Holocaust survivor originally from what is now the Ukraine.

Zaidy z”l was the oldest of four sons. His father – who died when Zaidy was only nine years old - was the Rav of their shtetl and the author of several well-regarded seforim. (Sadly, only one of these works – a fascinating treatise on bringing korbanot in our time – survived the Nazi onslaught.) Zaidy’s mother and two youngest brothers Hy”d were murdered by the Nazis and their willing local accomplices in 1941.

A gifted talmid of both Rav Elchanan Wasserman zt”l in the Ohel Torah Yeshiva in Baranovitch and then Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l in the Kletzk Yeshiva (Zaidy z”l was only 17 when he received smichah – rabbinic ordination – from Rav Kotler) before the war, Zaidy z”l later earned an engineering degree from the University of Moscow.

SurvivorsZaidy z”l (standing, in the hat) teaches other survivors in the DP camp in Frankfurt in 1946.

Throughout his life, learning Torah was Zaidy’s greatest joy, and after a long, hard day working to support his family, he would “unwind” with a sefer.

ChanukahA family member watches as Zaidy a”h and I light the candles – Chanukah 5731 (December 1970).

Nine years after the above picture was taken, my family was living in Israel on a sabbatical, when Zaidy z”l suddenly passed away - on Shabbat Zot Chanukah 5740 (December 1979).

Some two weeks later, we received an extraordinary letter (written on an aerogram - remember those??) from him. Apparently, he had dropped it into the mailbox on his way to shul on Erev Shabbat – i.e. just a few hours before he died.

What follows is an incredibly moving excerpt (edited slightly for clarity) from that remarkable letter:

“…With Hashem’s help, our letter will find you all in good health and high spirits. Amen.

“We are, thank Hashem, fine. It is already the 6th day of Chanukah, and usually you are all here. Mommy prepares the pancakes; [REDACTED] takes them sledding in the snow; and we pass out the Chanukah presents to the kids.

“This year, there is no snow yet. The kids and you all are far away in far away places; and the presents for the kids are somewhere; and a mailman will do chores instead of our pleasure.

“But as they say, count your blessings. Thank Hashem for [having] been blessed with children who have chosen to follow in the שביל הזהב (the Golden Path), who are שומרי תורה ומצוות (observe the Torah and the mitzvot) and [are] bringing up their own children to do the same.

“This is the real meaning of מסורה (Jewish tradition) – to transfer the Torah and her commandments as it was given to our forefathers on הר סיני (Mount Sinai), not to add or deduct.

“Our parents planted the seeds in us. We did the same to our children, and you are doing the same to your children.

“Let us pray [that] the seeds you are planting will bear fruit. Amen…”


May Zaidy’s memory be blessed, and may Zaidy and Bobi’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren be privileged to continue along the path set out by our special parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents z”l.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Heblish: Chanukah Edition

What does Chanukah have to do with Heblish?

Well, on a simple level, most of the Shiputzim kids (except for those who are currently serving and protecting Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael according to Torat Yisrael) are home all week on vacation – which naturally means that the Heblishisms have been flying fast and furious around TRLEOOB*.

But there’s also a deeper connection between Chanukah and Heblish.

You see, Chanukah famously commemorates the fact that the Maccabees thought they only had enough oil for one day, but miraculously, it ended up lasting for eight days.

Similarly, I thought that I only had enough Heblishisms for one post, but miraculously, it ended up lasting for over five years…

Open-mouthed smile

And now, without further ado, here’s the 23rd (!!) batch of entries (ken yirbu…) from the Official Our Shiputzim Heblish-English Dictionary:

Didn’t do nothing: Hebrew source - לא עשה כלום. English definition – Didn’t do anything. Sample usage – “We passed some cows on our tiyul. They were just lying there, and they didn’t do nothing.”

That what: Hebrew source – זה מה. English definition – That’s what. Sample usage – “That what I meant.”

Girl/boy: Hebrew source – בת\בן. English definition – Daughter/son. Sample usage – “Today my teacher brought her girl with her to school.”

Borrow for me: Hebrew source – להשאיל לי. English definition – Lend me. Sample usage – “Does anyone have a pencil to borrow for me?”

Low/high: Hebrew source – נמוך\גבוה. English definition – Short/tall. Sample usage – “All the low girls stood in front, and all the high girls stood in the back.”

Open-mouthed smile

!חג אורים שמח

Please submit your family’s favorite Heblishisms, and I’ll be glad to include them in a future post. You can leave a comment at the bottom of this post or send an email to OurShiputzim at gmail dot com.


Previous Heblish editions are available here: Heblish I, Heblish II, Heblish III, Heblish IV, Heblish V, Heblish VI, Heblish VII, Heblish VIII, Heblish IX, Heblish X, Heblish XI, Heblish XII, Heblish XIII, Heblish XIV, Heblish XV, Heblish XVI, Heblish XVII, Heblish XVIII, Heblish XIX, Heblish XX, Heblish XXI, and Heblish XXII.


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Euphonic Friday: Burn Edition

At the request of the Resident Ulpanistit (a title that was recently passed down to its next holder), here is the Maccabeats’ latest release, their fourth Chanukah video:

!שבת שלום ומבורך

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I do not think it means what you think it means

Warning: The following post exceeds the recommended daily allowance for pedantic nitpickiness (even by the notoriously lax standards of this blog). Proceed at your own risk.

If you’re like the denizens of TRLEOOB (=the real life equivalent of our blog), you probably spent a significant portion of last week – i.e. the week of Parshat Vayishlach – listening to Yonatan Razel’s hauntingly beautiful “Katonti”:

And who could blame you (or the aforementioned denizens)?

After all, not only is it a gorgeous song, but most of the words come straight from last week’s parsha. (The rest of the lyrics come from Sefer Tehillim.)

But – and here’s where the threatened nitpickiness comes in – a closer look at the words reveals that there’s something very funny about this song.

I mean, at first glance, the song seems to be about Yaakov thanking Hashem for His benevolence:

”קָטֹנְתִי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת עַבְדֶךָ כִּי בְמַקְלִי עָבַרְתִי אֶת הַיַרְדֵן הַזֶה וְעַתָה הָיִיתִי לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת. הַצִילֵנִי נָא…
”כִּי חַסְדְךָ גָדוֹל עָלָי וְהִצַלְתָ נַפְשִׁי מִשְׁאוֹל תַחְתִיָה.

“I have been diminished by all the kindnesses and by all the truth which You have rendered Your servant; for with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Deliver me, please…” (Breishit 32:11-12)
“For Your kindness is great toward me; and You saved my soul from the lowermost depths of the grave.”
(Tehilim 86:13)

But as Rashi - citing Chazal – explains, Yaakov is actually concerned that he has “used up” all his zechuyot (protective merits) and that he is no longer worthy of being saved:

”נתמעטו זכיותי על ידי החסדים והאמת שעשית עמי. לכך אני ירא, שמא משהבטחתני, נתלכלכתי בחטא, ויגרום לי להמסר ביד עשו.“

“My merits have been diminished by the kindnesses and the truth that You have done for me. Therefore, I fear that since the time You promised me, I may have became sullied with sin, and it will cause me to be delivered into Esav’s hand.”

In other words, as lovely as it is, “Katonti” is a so-called “Lo Ra’av” song.

A Lo Ra’av song has nice-sounding lyrics that turn out to mean something else entirely, when one checks the words’ original source and context.

The name comes from a pasuk (verse) in Amos:

הִנֵה יָמִים בָּאִים… וְהִשְׁלַחְתִי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ לֹא רָעָב לַלֶחֶם וְלֹא צָמָא לַמַיִם כִּי אִם לִשְׁמֹעַ אֵת דִבְרֵי ה’.“

“Behold, days are coming… and I will send a famine into the land; not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of Hashem.” (Amos 8:11)

Over the years, this pasuk has been set to music several times, and there are now many different versions of this song, including:

The Dveykus version

The R’ Shlomo Carlebach version

Apparently, those behind these songs felt that a situation that involves thirsting for Hashem’s words is a wonderful, praiseworthy, and song-worthy thing.

But in actuality, the pasuk means that there will be hastarat Panim (literally, that Hashem will “hide His face”) – i.e. a terrible punishment, and thus not exactly something that most people would choose to sing about!

Which is why “Hinei Yamim” always makes me laugh…


Please share your own amusing examples of “Lo Ra’av” songs in the comment section below.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A beautiful election story

Although it’s been two weeks since the municipal elections, the excitement has yet to die down.

In a handful of cities, run-offs are being held today, because no single candidate garnered a clear majority. Meanwhile, serious allegations of widespread fraud and vote tampering have prompted residents of another city to demand an investigation and, if necessary, a revote.

Would it be totally inappropriate for me to take advantage of their situation to plug my post on Torani communities? ;-) </shameless self-promotion>

And outside the cities – i.e. in the villages, kibbutzim, moshavim, and other smaller communities that make up the rest of the country – the process is only just beginning. Elections for the regional and local councils are not scheduled to take place until December.

Yet, contrary to what some of the above would lead you to believe, elections don’t necessarily have to be about infighting and controversies.

I mean, consider the following story:

With the permission of the administration, the Shminist and the other 12th graders at his yeshiva high school were hired to work for a certain political party on Election Day. (The money they earned will go toward the Hachtarah, their graduation, and other end-of-the-year activities.)

Each senior was given a different job, and the Shminist was assigned to a particular voting station as an observer (i.e. a mashkif, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you).

The people at the station – both the election officials and the voters - represented a wide array of parties, but nevertheless, a wonderful sense of camaraderie pervaded the room. For instance, they joked about which party brought its employee the best food. (All agreed that the Shminist and his party won, hands down. Apparently his pizza trumped everyone else’s egg sandwiches and tired pastries. :-))

In any event, at about 2-3 in the afternoon, things quieted down, during the lull between the lunch break crowd and the post-work rush. Someone suggested that it would be a good time to daven minchah, but a quick count revealed that there were only 8 kippah-wearing men in the immediate vicinity.

But before anyone could go outside to round up a few extra men, a woman – who represented a decidedly secular party and whose outward appearance indicated that she wasn’t especially religiously observant – piped up.

You don’t have enough for a minyan? How about those two guys over there?” she asked, and then called out to a couple of bareheaded young men in the corner. “Hey! They’re a little short over here. Would you be willing to make up the minyan?

Happily!” they replied, and they sounded like they meant it.

The Shminist later reported that he assumed that the two men’s sole contribution to the cause would be to stand off on the side in order to be technically counted for the minyan, but he misjudged them.

Not only did they wrap t-shirts around their heads as makeshift kippot, but they actually davened with everyone else.

And several hours later, when it was time for maariv, the minyan was again comprised of a beautiful mix of religious and secular Jews.

It was a moving lesson in achdut (unity) for the Shminist and his friends, and it proved that far away from the blaring headlines, Israelis think of themselves as one big, boisterous but loving family:

 ”כאיש אחד בלב אחד.

“As one man, with one heart.”
(Rashi – Shmot 19:2)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

HaAdom, HaAdom HaZeh

Shavua tov!

”הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶה…

“Pour into me now some of this red, red…”
(Breishit 25:30)

Like what seems to be a significant portion of the Jewish world (if Facebook and the J-Blogosphere are any indication), here in TRLEOOB*, we had red lentil soup today in honor of Parshat Toldot.

IMG_3171 (3)

IMG_3184 (3)Sorry, no pictures of the cooked soup.

Parshat Toldot Crock Pot Red Lentil Soup

Inspired by at least half a dozen different recipes – including my mother-in-law’s recipe

Note: It turns out that if you take your crock pot out of the kitchen to clean for Pesach, but then leave it sitting right in the middle of the living room floor instead of carrying it upstairs and putting it away immediately, someone WILL trip over it. And when THAT happens, the crock pot insert WILL crack and break. In other words, I made the soup in our relatively new 8-quart crock pot…


  • 1 large onion - chopped
  • 3 large carrots - sliced
  • 2 celery stalks - chopped
  • 2 chicken necks
  • 4 cups red lentils - checked and soaked (I used split lentils, but I think next year, I’ll IY”H try it with whole lentils)
  • 800-gram can of crushed tomatoes (about 28 oz. for my American readers)
  • 5 turkey/chicken hot dogs – sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • Dried parsley
  • Dried oregano
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Water


Put all the ingredients in the crock pot and fill it up with water. Cook on high for a few hours, and then turn the crock pot down to low before Shabbat.


P.S. Laura shares a different red lentil soup recipe here.


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Monday, October 28, 2013

In support of Chodesh Irgun?

Like just about every other parent in the entire country, I’ve never exactly been a big fan of Chodesh Irgun*.

* Chodesh Irgun in a nutshell: Chodesh means "month”, and irgun literally means "organization". Most youth movements (or at least the religious-Zionist ones) dedicate one month a year - usually around MarCheshvan - to what is essentially a month-long color war or competition between the different shvatim (age groups). Chodesh Irgun culminates with Shabbat Irgun, and on Motzai Shabbat Irgun, the oldest shevet (i.e. ninth grade) receives a permanent name. Feel free to check out my older Chodesh Irgun posts for more information. </nutshell>

In fact, over the years, I think I’ve pretty much mocked everything there is to mock about Chodesh Irgun… and then some.

So it’s probably only fair (i.e. l’maan haseder hatov, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) to give Chodesh Irgun’s supporters a chance to defend its honor.

Thus, I turned to the experts and asked each of them the following question:

What is the point of Chodesh Irgun? In other words, what purpose  - if any - does it serve? 

Here are their responses:

(I’ll let you decide if their answers help clear things up. Bonus points: See how many Heblishisms you can pick up…)

Chanich/ah #1:

“To have fun!”

Chanich/ah #2:

“To practice for the dance, which is the most important part of Chodesh Irgun. Also, instead of all the time having stam pe’ulot [Ed. - loosely: regular activities], you have Chodesh Irgun to make things a little more interesting.”

A member of what will soon be the new shevet:

“To organize and arrange the snif [Ed. – the local youth group chapter], and to open and start the new year.”

A former madrich/ah:

“To legabesh [Ed. – very, very, VERY loosely: to unite and to promote team spirit], and to give the kids a chance to do something that they don’t get to do everyday. It’s also supposed to be educational. The kids learn about the theme and leyaseim [Ed. – to implement] it.”

A dedicated member of “Iyov” (an acronym for “אשרי יושבי ביתך” – i.e. someone who doesn’t belong to any youth group):

“I never thought there WAS a point to Chodesh Irgun…”

Open-mouthed smile

What do your favorite chanichim and madrichim have to say on the subject?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Baruch Dayan Emet

Am Yisrael suffered a devastating loss today.

Police reported that a staggering 800,000 mourners accompanied the Rishon L’Tzion, Maran HaRav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l on his final journey through the streets of Yerushalayim, and countless others watched the proceedings on television or online.

An unsurpassed Torah giant, Rav Ovadiah zt”l was renowned for his incredible memory, his encyclopedic knowledge, his love and concern for his fellow Jews, and most of all, his willingness to rule on complex issues that many others were afraid to address.

At one point, a TV anchor asked who would replace him, and one of the commentators responded that Rav Ovadiah zt”l cannot be replaced. After all, the commentator continued, the only previous “Maran” was Rav Yosef Karo zt”l, the compiler of the groundbreaking halachic code, the Shulchan Aruch.

The following video clip – of Rav Ovadiah’s hachtarah (coronation or investiture ceremony) as Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel in 1973 – aired this evening on Israel Television:

.יהי זכרו ברוך

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

“I will return the captivity of My people Israel”

Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations today:

He concluded his speech with a beautiful quote from Sefer Amos:

”וְשַׁבְתִּי אֶת שְׁבוּת עַמִּי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבָנוּ עָרִים נְשַׁמּוֹת וְיָשָׁבוּ וְנָטְעוּ כְרָמִים וְשָׁתוּ אֶת יֵינָם וְעָשׂוּ גַנּוֹת וְאָכְלוּ אֶת פְּרִיהֶם.  וּנְטַעְתִּים עַל אַדְמָתָם וְלֹא יִנָּתְשׁוּ עוֹד מֵעַל אַדְמָתָם אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לָהֶם אָמַר ה’ אֱלֹקיךָ.

“And I will return the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild desolate cities, and they will inhabit them, and they will plant vineyards, and they will drink their wine; and they will cultivate gardens, and they will eat their fruits. And I will plant them on their land; and they will no longer be uprooted from upon their land which I have given them, said Hashem, your God.”
(Amos 9:14-15)

May we soon be privileged to witness the fulfillment of this prophecy, speedily and in our days. Amen.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Beep, beep

It seems that I owe you an apology.

I mean, here you are, waiting on tenterhooks for nearly a week to find out what time we finished putting up our succah on Motzai Yom Kippur, and yet I STILL haven’t said a word on the subject.

The thing is that I’ve been embarrassed.

After all, most years – thanks to the combined efforts of the amazing Shiputzim kids as well as various and sundry honorary members of the family, who graciously stick around after Yom Kippur and lend a hand – the work is done by 9:00 PM.

This year, however, our succah wasn’t up until… well, until 10:00 PM. {hangs head in shame}

But the truth is that it’s not our fault.

No, in this case, the blame goes to the country’s legislative and executive powers-that-be.

You see, not content with making both of last week’s fasts that much more difficult, these illustrious politicians also felt the need to mess with the annual “Who Can Get Their Succah Up First” competition.

Apparently, they hoped that by waiting to change the clocks until October, they would somehow burnish their cosmopolitan, citizens-of-the-world reputations.

One can easily picture the scene.

Channeling their inner Wile E. Coyote, they gleefully rub their collective hands and then gingerly open a large crate labeled:

“Acme Kit for Enacting Insufficiently-Thought-Out Laws.
Guaranteed to have unintended consequences, or your money back!”

Because not ones to let past experience get in the way of future expectations, they’re certain that THIS time they’ve finally figured out a way to nab the Road Runner and “prove” that we’re just like any other country on the planet.

Now the world will finally love us!” they exult as they give each other high-fives. “After all, we’re going to put our clocks back on the very. same. day. AS GREECE…

Open-mouthed smile

!שבת שלום ומועדים לשמחה

May you and your families have a wonderful and joyous Succot!

P.S. Have you seen our succah on wheels? If you missed it, here are some exterior and interior views.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Erev Yom Kippur 5774

Yonatan Razel’s beautiful rendition of “Adon HaSlichot”:

!גמר חתימה טובה

May we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a wonderful, sweet, happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful new year!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A modest proposal

Shanah tovah!

By a show of hands, who is in favor of the following proposal:

Every one of our illustrious politicians who voted to extend daylight savings time into October – and thereby added a very unwelcome extra hour to today’s fast – should be forced to fast for an additional TWO hours this evening…

Winking smile

And in the meantime, in keeping with a long-standing Our Shiputzim tradition, here’s the requisite fast day food post:

As I’ve noted several times, the dessert situation tends to improve dramatically here in TRLEOOB (=the real life equivalent of our blog) during the summer months, when the talented Shiputzim bakers have some extra time on their hands.

This past summer, one of the aforementioned bakers whipped up these yummy treats:





Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Adapted from here.


  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups oats
  • 1¼ cups rice krispies
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1½ cups chocolate chips


Combine the oil and the sugars. Mix in honey, vanilla, and the egg. Add flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Add oats, rice krispies, almonds, and chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into a baking-paper-lined 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the bars are lightly browned.

Cut into bars and let cool in pan.

!צום קל ומועיל

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5774

.תכלה שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה
Let the [old] year and its curses come to an end; let the [new] year and its blessings begin.

As you may recall, every year my mother prepares a very special family calendar. Here are the Shiputzim kids’ beautiful contributions to the 5774 edition:

October2013October 2013 (roughly corresponding to Cheshvan 5774)

August2014August 2014 (roughly corresponding to Av 5774)

As always, please be sure to click on the pictures for a much better view.

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום!

May you have a wonderful, happy, healthy, prosperous, and sweet new year!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Ever since the dawn of time, come the first week of the brand new school year, teachers – for reasons best known to themselves – inevitably feel that what the world DESPERATELY needs is yet another batch of literary masterpieces entitled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

Unfortunately, however, their students never seem quite up to the admittedly daunting  challenge of condensing two glorious months of fun and freedom into a couple of dull and boring sentences.

<brief interjection> I strongly suspect that when my parents read this post, they’ll ask me, “Why didn’t you write about the tuna?And so, before they do – and with your permission – I’ll recount this ancient tale of woe.

According to family legend*, back when I was about 7-8 years old, I [allegedly] reduced a vacation packed with trips, outings, and countless activities to the following:

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

We went to visit my grandparents. We bought tuna fish there, because it was cheap.

The End

*At the advice of counsel, I will neither confirm nor deny this story…


Yet, oddly enough, no one ever asks the parents to describe what THEY did during the vacation.

Which is a shame, really, because most parents would undoubtedly enjoy sharing their valuable tips for making it through the annual endurance test that is summer vacation spending wonderful quality time with their delightful offspring.

For instance, Gila has an ingenious solution (i.e. a pahTENT, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) she likes to call  “Next Safety”.

Meanwhile, here in TRLEOOB (=the real life equivalent of our blog), we prefer a more low-tech approach and instead rely on a tried-and-tested system* of automatic parental responses to frequently asked questions.

Here’s how it works:

Question Automatic Response
What’s for supper? Probably food, but I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
When are we going to do [a long-awaited but costly activity]? Not today.
Why won’t you let me go?! Everyone else’s parents said they could! Ah, but no one else’s parents ever won the prestigious “Meanest Mother in the World” contest!
Why do I always have to set/clear the table? Because we like your siblings better.

Laughing out loud

How did YOU make it through YOUR summer vacation?

(On a related noted, be sure to check out this JPost essay about the end of summer vacation.)

!שבוע טוב ומבורך


*Satisfaction is not guaranteed. Void where prohibited.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Kotel through [some of] the ages

Warning: The following post exceeds the recommended daily allowance for controversial topics. However, if you make it through the boring opinion stuff at the beginning, there are some cool pictures at the end…

It’s like a game of Mad Libs gone terribly wrong.

Women _______(preposition) the Wall.

Women around the Wall. Women under the Wall. Women behind the Wall. Women in the Wall. Women off the Wall. Women driving the rest of us up the Wall.

Each of these fictional organizations their real-life counterparts insists that it represents the Ultimate TruthTM; that the other guy started it; and that its members are the poor, misunderstood victims of the story.

But speaking in the name of the sane, silent majority*, I say that we don’t care.

*<explanation>Speaking in the name of the sane, silent majority” is a social media term, which can be loosely translated as: “I feel a certain way, and therefore, that gives me the right to ascribe my views to the rest of the world and to condemn those who dare to disagree with me.” </explanation>

We don’t care which group instigated and which one retaliated. We don’t care which one provoked and which one perpetuated.

Nevertheless, we very much DO care that thanks to their combined efforts, going to the Kotel has become an unpleasant experience for countless women (your humble blogger included).

Of course, to be fair, these groups are not the only ones at fault.

Much of the blame goes to the ever-shrinking size of the women’s section at the Kotel; the Kotel’s ever-rising mechitzah; and the ever-growing barrier separating the Kotel itself from the plaza behind it.

All of these are unfortunate yet very recent developments. Indeed, up until about a decade or so ago, the Kotel plaza looked very different.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, check out the following Shiputzim family photos from over the years, and be sure to click on the pictures for a much better view.

First, an historic picture from the summer of 1967, when there was no barrier at all:

Kotel 1967 (1)See my Kotel 1967 post for more incredible pictures from this period.

Next, the summer of 1970:

BOX69_A06-15As you can see, the front of the plaza is now separated from the back with two metal chains strung from a series of short posts.

We now move on to the summer of 1979:

BIGBOX_A27-10There now appears to be a row of low, movable barriers behind the chains.

Our next stop is early 1983:

IMG_0004The chains have been replaced by a series of short walls, with spaces in between.

And finally, circa 1986-1987:

IMG_0044It’s hard to make out either the barrier or the mechitzah, but clearly they’re both low enough that people can look over them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any recent pictures of the Kotel plaza (or at least, none that would pass muster with this blog’s Director of Security), but a whole bunch of photos are available over at a Mother in Israel’s blog, here and here.

In conclusion, I should stress that this post is meant neither to bash anyone nor to generate negativity. My point is simply that not very long ago, the Kotel experience was much more positive and uplifting for women, and there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t be recreated.

Your thoughts?
Please keep it civil. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Still here…

All evidence to the contrary, I haven’t abandoned this blog.

It’s just that we’ve been busy here in TRLEOOB* with assorted summertime activities.

So, in the meantime, here’s the Maccabeats’ newest video to tide you over until I get back to posting:

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog hiatus…


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Around the J-Blogosphere

The first load of laundry is in. The relevant people have gone off to shave. And the kids are getting ready to go swimming.

All in all, a typical 10th of Av after chatzot…

Laughing out loud

Meanwhile, several items of interest or note:

1) A hauntingly beautiful recording of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l singing “Eli Tzion” on Tisha B’Av 1978 with his students:

2) The latest Haveil Havalim is available here. Special thanks to Batya for including my post about exemptions from IDF service.

3) The latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here. Special thanks to Yosefa for including my chocolate chip oatmeal bars.

נחמו נחמו עמי.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Counteracting the Meraglim V

As we head into Tisha B’Av, here’s yet another “antidote to the meraglim (the Spies)” post – i.e. a discussion of that which makes life in our beautiful Land so incredibly special.

Previous antidote to the meraglim posts include:

  1. The annual Yemei Iyun B’Tanach in Gush Etzion

Our Sages taught that the Second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed due to sinat chinam (generally translated as “gratuitous hatred”).

Thus, what better way to counteract this terrible tendency (which, sadly, continues to rear its ugly head) than by showing how tightly intertwined we all are here in Israel.

After all, Israel is such a tiny country that not only is it nearly impossible to go anywhere without bumping into at least one acquaintance, but as every well-played round of Jewish geography (a favorite national pastime) inevitably reveals, Israelis of every stripe are - at most – separated by a couple of degrees of separation.

But what’s most amazing to me – even after all these years – is how closely connected the average, run-of-the-mill Israeli (as if such a person actually exists…) is to the country’s biggest names in politics, the IDF, academia, business, law, medicine, the rabbinate, high tech, journalism, entertainment, and any other field you could possibly imagine.

I mean, between the Shiputzim family and our immediate relatives, we’re personally acquainted with at least half a dozen past and present MKs and governmental ministers.

In addition, we’re on a first name basis with any number of noted judges, CEOs of major corporations, presidents of prestigious institutions of higher learning, top military brass, famous writers, internationally-renowned doctors, important rabbis, leading scientists, etc.

The world may think of them as the country’s movers and shakers, but as far as most Israelis are concerned, they are “regular” people, who live in our communities, daven in our shuls, send their kids to the same schools as our kids, serve in the same army units as our husbands and sons, shop in the same stores as we do, and wait in the same lines at the kupat cholim (medical clinic).

The list goes on and on, but here are two quick examples:

1) Not long after the CTO started basic training, we discovered that one of the senior commanders of his entire branch of the military lives just around the corner from us, and his children go to school with some of the Shiputzim kids.

2) A few years ago, both a Shiputzim daughter and a friend got sick while at the machaneh. Fortunately, another girl from their snif (chapter) arrived that day, and her father, who brought her to the machaneh, kindly offered to drive the two sick girls home. Which wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, of course, except that the father in question happens to be the highly-respected rosh yeshiva of one of the country’s top hesder yeshivot…

May we be privileged to remember and strengthen the ties that bind us, and may our eyes behold Hashem’s return to Tzion with mercy, speedily and in our days. Amen.

יה”ר שיבנה בית המקדש במהרה בימינו, אמן.

Have an easy and meaningful fast.