Thursday, April 28, 2005

Amazing Pesach Chocolate chip cookies

Attention Dov and Godol hador and all others with poor food habits: These are also really bad for you, but taste awesome:

1 1/3 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup regular sugar

cream it all together


2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla(the artificial stuff, since the real is not pesachdic)

mix the following dry stuff together

1 1/2 cups cake meal

1/2 cup potato starch

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

add to the wet stuff and mix(with your fingers, this is like toll house cookies)

add 1 12 oz bag of chips(minus a few that you feed to the kids who are helping)

make into logs the shape of gefilte fish loaves. refrigerate for an hour or two

cut slices about 1/3 inch thick(or just make a little mound)(it doesnt really cut well because of the chips, but make an approximation)

and put on cookie sheets.

bake for 10 min or so(less for smaller cookies, more for larger ones, keep an eye on them) at 375.

let them cool completely before taking them off, they are fragile when hot.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What made the Rasha(wicked son) a Rasha?

When we read about the 4 sons in the Haggadah, three are somewhat self explanatory: the wise son, the simple, the one who doesn't know how to ask. But labelling one of the sons as wicked begs the question: Why is he wicked? what did he do or say or believe to deserve the title?

One start at the answer is in the response "l'fi sh'hotze et azmo min ha clal kafar ba'ekar" because he removed himself from the community he violated a basic belief. What was that basic belief? one of the Rambam's 13? Go on to the next part "ilu haya sham lo haya nigal" If he had been in Eygpt, he would not have been redeemed. Who didn't get redeemed? The midrash tells us that many Jews perished during the plague of darkness, those that were not worthy of being redeemed. It seems that they were in the catagory of Rasha as well. What was their misdeed? The children of Israel had been commanded to take a lamb in preparation of the korban pesach(pascal sacrifice). My father in law quoting a 10th century midrash says that those who did not do so died during the plague of darkness. Those who were not redeemed did not perform an act which would have symbolized their belief that redemption was around the corner. They didn't actually have to believe that the redemption was near, only do an act. Those that believed, but didn't do an act, also died. As is common, it is the action that is important, belief is good, but not essential. A similar use of the word Rasha is when Moshe sees two Jews fighting and says "Rasha, lama ta'ke rayecha" bad man(rasha), why are you hitting your neighbor. Again, rasha refers to someone who is doing an act, rather than a belief(or lack or belief).

We see that Rasha is someone whose ACTIONS take him away from the community, and who does not join with the community in actions that reflect belief. However, the Rasha does not earn the name simply with beliefs.

(thanks to Irina for asking the question and making me think about it, and thanks to my f and fil who always have answers to such questions)

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Comments are geshluben

I know that my comments are not working. I have no idea how to fix them. If you have any suggestions please email me. Maybe my comments are very frum and will start to work after yomtov.

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Dizban, or disaben?

The Scholar's Haggadah by Guggenheim is an excellent compilation of Haggadah material, as well as commentary. It also held the answer to the question my kids asked, now that they are old enough to read Hebrew well, and have the chutzpah to ask these sorts of questions, " in Chad Gadya, why do we say disaben, when it says disban, right there in the Haggadah?"

Dizban means bought, and is the correct pronounciation. Disaben actually means sold, but has become the traditional/accepted way of saying it, and is the minhag in most places, including minhag sepharad. However, in the arabic and yiddish translations(you mean you didn't say them at your seder?) it is translated correctly as bought. Apparently zuzim didn't translate so well, but my kids weren't asking about it.

There was a post somewhere(sorry, I forgot where, but will be happy to give credit where it is due) crowing about how the poster thinks there is only one version of the Haggadah, and the early Shacharit part is consistant with minhag ashkenaz. The Scholar's Haggadah has the ashkenaz, sepharad, and edat hamizrach texts next to each other on the same page, so comparisons are easy. Needless to say that each minhag has a silghtly different Yishtabach/shacharit and it aint all ashkenaz. Sorry. (by the way, I am a galitzianer, not biased against ashkenaz, just reporting the truth)

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Random Pesach thoughts

My three year old stood up on a chair, sang Ma Nishtana with no help, and took a bow at the end. My mother had tears in her eyes. Of course, as I was putting the little tzaddik to bed last night, he told me he wants Pesach to be over ASAP. I think his specific words were "No more Pesach". He refused to believe that it was Shabbat because there was no challah.

My in-laws told me the story of a friend who hadbeen a nun and converted to Judaism in the 1930's. During the war, she threw out her conversion papers, put on a habit, and saved thousands of Jews. After the war, she had to convert again because she had no papers. She described to them the scene in shul, when, for the first time after the Holocaust, in 1945, Yizkor had to be said, and the unending crying and screaming that accompanied it. Even third hand and 60 years later, it sends a shiver up my spine and tears to my eyes.

After last year being away for the Chag, it was very nice to be home.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Happy Pesach

Since I probably will not be posting anymore before Friday, I would like to wish everyone a Chag Kasher v'sameach. I have been concentrating on conveying the simchat chag, happiness of the holiday to my kids, rather than complaining about the amount of work, expense, and general tirchah of switching the dishes, cooking, shopping, and having 5 relatives staying in the house for 10 days. In fact, Pesach is one of my favorites, and I am genuinely looking fowards to it. On the other hand, my experiments with quinoa flour as a substitute for matzo meal or real flour have failed miserably, so once again desserts will consist of maneshevitz cakes, fruit sorbet, and compote, the anti-matza(ha'mavin yavin- I have always wanted to put that in a post, but never had a chance).

For those with time, check out yashar books open access, as R. Gil has posted another free book, this one dealing with Pesach. I printed it out, all 77 pages, and hope to read it in shul on shabbat during haftorah and chazarat ha-shatz(just kidding, dont send me flaming emails about appropriate times to read), and look really educated and smart at the seder.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Conference at YU

I received the following announcement in my inbox and a quick check on YU's website seemed to confirm its accuracy. So I am reposting it for the blog-o-sphere:


Building American Jewish Communities in Our Time: Real Conversations on New Directions

Thursday-Friday, May 12-13th, 2005, 3-4 Iyar,5765
At Yeshiva University, Wilf Campus, Weissberg Commons, Belfer Hall ( 2495 Amsterdam Avenue ( at 184th Street).

Thursday, May 12 / 3 Iyar
[8 30 AM]: Registration, light refreshments
[9:30 AM]: Opening
"Greetings" Pres. Richard M. Joel, Yeshiva University
Prof. Harvey E. Goldberg, The Hebrew University
"New Challenges and New Directions in Jewish Community-Building" Prof. Steven M. Cohen, The Hebrew University
Moderator - Shifra Bronznick, AWP

[10:15 AM]: Changing Practice of Religious Leadership
Prof. Isa Aron, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles
Prof. Lawrence Hoffman, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion,
New York Prof. Jack Wertheimer, Jewish Theological Seminary
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Yeshiva University

[12:30 PM]: Lunch
Israel at 57 and Our Imagined Community
Dr. Leonard Fein, Boston

[1:45 PM]: New and Emerging Forms of Jewish

Rabbi Andy Bachman, Brooklyn Jews
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, The Nathan Cummings Foundation
Rabbi Jen Krause, Center for Learning and Leadership
Roger Bennett, ACBP
Response: Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, New York University

[4:15]: "American Jewish Communities in Perspective: A History of Challenge and Adaptation" Prof. Jeffrey Gurock, Yeshiva University

[4:45 PM]: Strategic Intervention for Major Social Change - Session 1
Prof. Paula Hyman, Yale University
Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Institute for Jewish Spirituality
Barry Shrage, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston

[6:30 PM]: Dinner

[8 PM]: Strategic Intervention for Major Social Change - Session 2 Pres.
Richard Joel, Yeshiva University
Shifra Bronznick, AWP
Dr. John Ruskay, UJA-Federation of New York

Friday morning - May 13 / 4 Iyar
[8: 45 AM]: Alternative Modes of Creating Jewish Connections
Sharna Goldsecker, ACBP
Dr. Shaul Kelner, Brandeis University
Laurie Blitzer, McKinsey and Company
Response: Prof. David J. Schnall, Yeshiva University

[11:00 AM]: Implications for Policy and Practice -
Reflecting on The Conference
Dr. Jeffrey Solomon, ACBP
Dr. Jack Ukeles, Ukeles Associates, Inc.
Marion Blumenthal, New York & Jerusalem

[1 PM]: Lunch
Conclusion - and where we go from here

Conference Organizing Committee :
Marion Blumenthal, Shifra Bronznick, Steven M. Cohen, Jeffrey Gurock

Yeshiva University
Institute for Advanced Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
With acknowledgments to: Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community[AWP], Andrea & Charles Bronfman Philanthropies[ACBP], Florence G. Heller/Jewish Community Center Association Research Center

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005


for some reason, comments are not active on the previous post. Hopefully they will work here. I am all ears if you have technical advice on this problem

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Terry Schiavo, the pope, and the definition of a "good death"

(Dovbear touched on this topic briefly, but I beat him to it, only this is the third time I am writing it, and hopefully it will not be eaten again by the blog monster)

No one protested the pope's dying. Why? he chose not to have intensive treatment for his illnesses, treatments that had a good chance of prolonging his life, and of getting rid of the life threatening infections. Lets review the facts as we know them. The pope had parkinson's disease, which affects the movements of the body, and in his case, he could barely move well, and had trouble swallowing and talking.(the tracheostomy tube was so he his saliva would not get into his lungs, and it also made cleaning out the lungs with suction easier). Really bad Parkinsons can have an associated dementia(called parkinson's dementia, appropriately enough) but from all reports the pope was mentally with it. In essence, he had lost a lot of control over his body, but his brain was sharp. Unfortunately, he also was unable to talk or swallow because of the disease.

Infections are usually treatable with antibiotics. They get to be a problem when they are untreated(or undiagnosed) for a while, and then the infection causes organ failure. It would be quite unusual for the infections to reach that stage without doctors noticing. Even at the impending organ failure stage, the organs can be supported, the infection treated, and sometimes people and organs recover. However, it usually takes being on a respirator, maybe going on dialysis(for kidney failure) and having lots of stuff done. At some point along the line, we dont know how bad the situation was, the pope made a decision(or it was made for him???- if the organ failure is bad enough, the brain can be affected as well) not to aggressively support the organs, not to go on a respirator, not to go on dialysis. I have not seen any criticism of this decision. What is the difference between the pope and Ms. Schiavo? lets make a graph

problem. ................................ pope ................... Ms. Schiavo

conscious and brain working.......... assume yes ............... no

has life threatening illness.......... yes ................... no

potential for recovery from. .......... yes ............. n/a
above illnes.

arms and legs working well........... no .......... theoretically yes

awake to be aware of infirmity.......... yes ........... no

making own decision on care. ......... yes ............. no

Has potential for further............ yes ............ no
conscious enjoyment of life.

needs active intervention. ................ yes .......... no
for life to go on.

probable limited life span................ yes ........... no
even with treatment

Summary: the pope had a life threatening illness that needed active treatment, was conscious and aware of how badly his body was not working(potential or actual suffering), and made his own decisions. Ms. Schiavo had no potential for conscious enjoyment of life, did not specifically make her own decision, and did not require active intervention to continue living. In fact, required active intervention to make her die. Are these distinctions enough to account for the vast difference in reactions?

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Monday, April 04, 2005


As my wife and I put together menus for the upcoming Passover holiday, being very careful and mindful that we can eat no kitniyot, I see that after the pope died they very carefully destroyed his ring and sealed his chambers, to prevent forgery and looting respectively. It pleases my heart to see that we do not have a monopoly on customs that have lost their significance.

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