granola bar dilemma and other rebbitzin tales

Some of my biggest challenges happen in the supermarket. Will they have the fish that I want? Will the lines be unending? Will I have to see people I really don’t want to see? Will people who don’t want to see me have to endure the sight of me?


Yesterday, I was trying to get through the store aqap, but I was stymied in the granola bar aisle. I usually purchase some bars of some kind for travel. But I end up feeling all Goldilocksy–some are too soft, some are too hard, and, to be honest, I haven’t come across the just right ones, but I was looking to see if there were any new options.

I noticed someone who I know in the next aisle over on the phone and we waved. I figured that would be safe enough and I wouldn’t have to talk to him. But of course, a few minutes later (while I’m still Buridan-assing over the granola bars) he comes over. He says to me, “I’m sure you hear this a lot, but your husband is amazing.”

Actually I don’t really remember what he said exactly, because I don’t want him thinking I really know why he’s saying it, so I’m trying to feign ignorance. That’s not really hard for me. I don’t really know why he thinks that, but I also probably know enough, only because of the amount of phone calls back and forth between them. So I play along.

“Thanks. I just stand back and let him do his magic.”

Which is true. But yes, we all know that magicians need their assistants, so I guess sometimes I do assist behind the scenes. I’m so happy to let him be in the spotlight.

And then I shared my dilemma of the granola bars and he wished me good luck with my search.

A few minutes later, we caught up again in the next aisle.

“What did you decide?”

“To make my own.”

And so I did.

Banana Oat Bars from

Makes one 9×9-inch pan

2 large, very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped nuts — such as walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9×9-inch square baking dish with olive oil or butter.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid. Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the salt, dates, and nuts.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.

Shall I tell you now what I changed or do you want to guess?



My sister told me that someone came over to visit her yesterday. She really wasn’t up for visitors, but they met them in the street while they were doing a little walk around the trees outside, just to get out a bit.

So this family came up and so they came into the house once the walk around was done. They couldn’t tell them not to.

They’re going to have to learn how.

Their teenager accompanied them. And something else accompanied said teenager.

My sister asked if they were tired. “No. I have a cold.”

So here’s another entry for the clueless.

Which, of course, is problematic, because they’re usually too clueless to figure out that these kinds of things are talking about them.

I was going to put in a GIF of Robert De Niro doing his “You talkin’ to me?” routine, but it’s not quite appropriate for a rabbi’s wife…you get the picture, I know.

Instead, I googled “etiquette for visiting the sick”.

I’ll wait while you do it.

Was that so very interesting?

Who knew that etiquette was so particularly other-cultured!

So now I started thinking like a Jew and wrote instead: “laws of visiting the sick.”

Go ahead and google that one, too.

I’ll wait.

A whole ‘nother ball of wax, right???

All good ideas, all around, for sure. And it’s clear that we have to be taught to have compassion.

I didn’t look on youtube yet and I’m not planning on it. That would be too depressing.

None of the sites covered there mentioned DON’T BE SICK when you go visit someone! I guess there’s no law about it.

Where is the common sense?

Well, here‘s one that does!

2. Do not visit if you are hacking, coughing or sniffling.

I’m sick enough already.

But since I did title this culture, and I don’t want to disappoint my fans, here are a few photos I snapped with my phone today at the museum. It was a great day for culture all around.

IMG_20131110_150955_007 IMG_20131110_150959_869 IMG_20131110_152310_257 IMG_20131110_152327_951 IMG_20131110_152331_742 IMG_20131110_152349_445 IMG_20131110_152423_473



Torah, rabbis, and outfits

A humorous note because it looks like we’ll need to find the humor this week.

Today, after ISHI’s first dvar Torah (sermon) of the day, given in honor of an upcoming wedding tomorrow (which we will miss due to the funeral of our SIL’s grandmother), the mother of the groom asked how he came up with such great speeches that really fit every occasion. I told her first thanks, and then proceeded to reveal that it was really like getting dressed for an occasion. You look at what you already have, figure out what’s the best fit for that day, and then accessorize to make it special. Because really, most rabbis have a handful of basic ideas that they re-clothe to suit the event.

Oh! Suit. I see that works, too!

Sometimes, you treat yourself to a new outfit for really special occasions. But as you get older, you realize that’s not really necessary at all.

After all, there’s nothing new under the sun.



Repairing the World in a different real kind of way

Why did the repair man check on his repairs?

That’s pretty unusual, in my experience. He came back to see if everything was in working order, which, thank G-d, it was. But then he asked:

“Can I ask you a question, or should I ask the rabbi?”

Okay, shoot.

“Of course. If I don’t know, I’ll be very happy to tell you that.” I’d be happy to tell him that the rabbi might not know, either, but I didn’t.

“You see, my sister just had a baby, and they had the bris (circumcision) just last week. They named him [I really didn’t hear him correctly, but let’s say] Pete after our mother.”

Last week, when he was fixing the fridge, he told me how his parents were married in our shul when it was a brand-new reform temple. And also how his mother died last year and it’s been a hard year.

“The problem is that it wasn’t the exact name. She gave a beautiful explanation how the name is to remember our mother, but…”

“Let me guess–your father isn’t happy that you didn’t use the exact name.”

Except I’m thinking it’s a boy, so really, was he thinking they would?

“Exactly. And my sister wanted to know where exactly in Scriptures does it say that you have to name someone after someone else?”

“Oh, it doesn’t say it anywhere. I don’t know how late of a custom it is. And you know, the Sephardic Jews name after their living relatives, with a pretty specific order.”

Blank face.

“It’s a good question, how late of a custom is it. But it’s a very nice custom, to remember the departed.”

(Well, that was easy enough to look at:

Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe had a strong tradition that mandated that a baby be named after a deceased relative. It is important to understand that this is a tradition, and is not codified in Jewish law.

No evidence of such a tradition appears in the Bible, in which most names are unique. The custom seems to have started in the first and second century CE, and to have become entrenched by the 12th century. By the 12th century in Europe, we find given names repeating every other generation within families, as a baby was typically named for a grandfather or grandmother. Generally, the child was named for the closest deceased relative for whom no one else in that immediate family was already named. Highest priority goes to the child’s mother, if she had died in childbirth, or the father, if he had died before the baby was born.

If any of the four grandparents were deceased, a baby would be named after one of them; otherwise the great-grandparents or, perhaps, a sibling of one of the parents. During the 19th century in Eastern Europe, a girl was typically named after a female relative, a boy after a male relative. Usually, a baby was not given the same name as a sibling who had previously died, although some cases of this have been seen.

Ashkenazim (Jews from Eastern Europe) do not name babies after living relatives. Sephardim (Jews from Iberia and the Middle East), on the other hand, name their children in honor of living grandparents, usually in a fixed order. The first son is named for the father’s father, the first daughter for the father’s mother. The next son is named in honor of his mother’s father and the second girl for her maternal grandmother.)

“And my mother, G-d rest her soul (I don’t remember if he said that, but it feels that that would have been an appropriate place for someone to say such a thing.), had been sick with cancer for over 20 years. She always said that all she wanted was to see her baby grow up and graduate from college. But she even got to see her get married, so that was more than we could ever expect.”

No, we can always expect more. We just have to realize that we aren’t going to get it most of the time.

“So what was the name again?”

“Zachary. Because our mother was so kind and considerate and so full of love.”

“Actually, Zachary comes from the root “remember”, so it’s a wonderful name to remember your mother with.”

Whatever her name really was; whatever they actually are calling the baby.

“Tell your sister to print up what she said at the bris and give it to your father. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled and come to love the name.”

“I think I will.”

“So can you fix the oven doors now?”

“Oh, no, I’m too busy fixing air conditioners. What a crazy season it’s been.”

unhounding from the media

We are planning a little getaway this weekend. ISHi is speaking at another synagogue  a few hours drive, so we’ll go there for Shabbat and stay on for  a few more days nearby. It’s been an intense couple of months since we’ve been back from our big trip down under. The holidays are enough stress (in all the ways stress is good and sometimes not so good, if you’re not careful about how you handle it) without the extras of the last couple of weeks living in New England.

So going away is good.

But as we made the plans of the place to stay and the people to see, we both, without saying it, realized that we are already away.

We live in a beautiful town. No one else is here in the house. We can choose whether or not to answer the phone,

the email,

the cellphone,

the door.

We can choose our outfits and our shoes at last minute

and change them afterwards, if we choose. And we don’t have to worry about luggage limits or security or lines or worrying about how much to tip the bellhop, the chambermaid, the waiter.

And we don’t have to worry about what to eat or where to eat or what to bring. And we can change our minds about that, too.

We can walk 15 minutes from our doorstep to this.



And when we go away, we’re still hounded by the media.

Many years ago, when we were in Israel up north at the Banias waterfall, ISHI’s phone went off. The roar of the waterfall made it hard to hear, but the call was quite clear. A congregant had died and we couldn’t do anything about it. Well, he could arrange for someone else to officiate at the funeral, but he felt awful.

That wasn’t the last time we were away when someone died. It happens.

That can’t be what holds you back from going away, the what-if.

But really, why go away?

Because you go away from yourself.

Your patterns, your habits, your same ol’ same ol’.

You take a different perspective.

Shabbat should do that. And it does, to a point. But not so much for a working stiff like ISHI.

So we will be grateful we can leave a beautiful place to go to somewhere differently beautiful

and be a bit refreshed.

But if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish packing. Now where are my brown heels and where are my hiking boots?

tied to expectations

Just yesterday, one of our younger members of our congregation asked if she could ask me a question.

Of course.

“Does your husband only wear white shirts?”

After I stopped laughing, I said how I had just told him (at home) I was really tired of his white shirts. I had just washed and hung up the five million from the previous week, and it had just gotten to me.

I didn’t add that second part.

But I did add that our spouse is not a reflection of us.

I had also just commented how amazing it was that her dress matched her husband’s tie. Perfectly. But I had absolutely no recall of what tie ISHI was wearing.

I did tell her that second part.

I also told her that his response to me was that he was thinking about getting some other colors, but couldn’t find one that he liked. He wasn’t going to go with the purple or the pink.

What about blue, both of us asked at the separate times.

He hemmed and hawed when I asked.

Oh what can I do?

After 37 years of marriage, you think I’d have given up by now, trying to dress him in my image.

She also said “What about black?”  Yeah, so he’s not going to go for this. He likes the Lands’ End shirts, but in black?

Men's Long Sleeve Straight Collar Broadcloth Shirt

There’s only so much you can do.

I do know many women who dress their husbands. I complimented one man a few weeks ago on his put-together look and he was pleased to admit that his wife put him together. It’s a fascinating process. I can suggest things that I think will be more fitting (in all senses of the word) and he’ll do something of the sort, but then he’ll end up with what’s comfortable.  For him. When we’re on vacation, he will “please” me by wearing a non-button down shirt. But I can see that he’s not really himself.

At least he runs in running wear and not in his shirt and tie.

My father on his last visit got on his peeved face (that he does so well) and told me that he was not going to give ISHI any more ties for his birthday. He noticed that ISHI does not wear any of the ties that he has given him, so even though he thinks it’s very important for rabbis to look sharp, he basically was announcing that he’s giving up. He then went on about how much he thinks well of certain rabbis with their French cuffs, neat handkerchiefs, and well-executed Windsor knotted ties. At least ISHI is thin, or I think he would not be stomach  him as his SIL.

The day before, I had asked D#1 if she thought her husband would wear the tie that ISHI was ready to give away, since it was not “him.” She replied that he was not choosy and would be very happy to accept it. He had never been given any tie. And he’s a grateful kind of guy. Even if he didn’t like it, he’d still wear it happily.

My father had not mentioned that he saw him wearing it; after all, he could have bought or been given the same one.

Our other SIL also receives ties from my father. He is also a rabbi.

My father is out to make sure these rabbis look according to his image.

Clothes make the man.

Of course, we could go back to the Talmud for an idea of how a rabbi should dress:

The personal appearance of the rabbi should command respect. R. Johanan said, “The rabbi should appear as clean and pure as an angel.” He quoted, “They shall seek the law at his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord Sebaoth” (Mal. ii. 6, Hebr.; Mak. 17a). The Rabbis generally dressed in long, flowing white robes, and sometimes wore gold-trimmed official cloaks (Giṭ. 73a).

Okay, white shirts it is.

more chocolate. oh joy.

What’s wrong, you might ask? Usually chocolate from my favorite local chocolatiers would have me swooning. But after all the holidays, that’s just not the case. And, as I previously mentioned, I still have a lovely bunch of chocolates hanging around.

But really, it’s just a case of (what would be a best-seller among the Jewish Orthodox, dear sister, if you would write it–or maybe your lovely daughter?) The fill-in-the -blank Bears and too much Yuntif. 

A while ago, eons at least, someone asked me if I would be able to house guests for their son’s upcoming bar mitzvah celebration.

“Sure! I can house up to 6 people, no problem!”

So we’re housing 7.

Including a baby.

They brought chocolate as a housegift, so what’s the problem?

I had washed the tons of sheets and towels from our family. Thank G-d for my large capacity washer! I re-made the beds. We took out the air conditioners. I vacuumed and dusted. I even put away all the toys upstairs. We even found more gifts–this time, one box of earrings from a still-to-be-determined young lady. Takers, anyone?

I had put the pack n’play away.


I took it back out.

Now don’t get me wrong.

I love babies.

But I want them to be mine visiting, not someone else’s.

Stiff upper lip.

I’ll get through this.

Anybody want some chocolate?

mini-rant, for lack of time


I get it. I’m a rule-follower. I like rules. I have no problem with rules.

I realize that the world existed before me and will continue after me, and I play some part, still to be determined.

But the world does not exist because of me.

There are toooooo many other people who have not learned this.

So they think that if there is a rule, it is for every



If you tell them about something going wrong, they will no doubt sign up to help you, if they can.

But if you say, “These people need help.”

Or “I will be there at this and this time only for you to pick up your lulav and etrog. Please come at these times only.”

They will not.

It’s like my cousin who was beside himself that he didn’t get a hand-written invitation to his niece’s wedding, so he didn’t bother coming.


We didn’t miss you.

Okay, time’s up.

Rant’s over.

Back to my carrot mousse-making.

חג שמח!

i was told change is good

So I should be the one to change.

This is the season of thinking about changing, before Rosh Hashanah, through until, well, when is it not appropriate? Leaves changing and all, very thought-provoking. I’m too lazy to go upstairs to search for my John Hollander book, so I found enough of a quote here online from Steve Rubin, Celebrating the Jewish Holidays:

[John] Hollander expresses similar thoughts of remembrance and attachment in his poem “At the New Year.” For him, teshuvah is a continuous, existential process (“every single instance begins another year”), one that is essential to his humanity. And like Stern, Rich, Chess, and the medieval poet Gabirol, Hollander concludes his poem with an expression of gratitude for the gift of life and the ability to begin anew: “. . . as we go / Quietly on with what we shall be doing, and sing / Thanks for being enabled, again, to begin this instant.”

Yes, beautiful. I really should go find it.

I got here with thoughts about today and memories of the past. Today, I’m thinking of people who are so eager to follow trends that they impose permanent inking over their bodies. Ironic, isn’t it? I’ll say it again. They want to be trendy, so they get something permanent. They’ll throw away clothing from last season, but they’ll put tattoos on forever.

I really don’t get it.

Plus I can’t help associate tattoos with Nazi death camps. And for anyone who’s gone through or accompanied anyone who’s gone through radiation, with radiation.

So I have more than a little cognitive dissonance with it.

And I just don’t get it, even without all that. I wrote a little bit about my distaste for branding here already 3 years ago. Wow.

And to contrast with the flightiness of all these trendy people (and isn’t it more than ironic that all the news people note what’s trending these days?), there’s a definite need to change. We must keep moving or we

well, what?

We don’t.

So that reminds me of a story that happened at least 15 years ago or so. There was tension between a number of people in our community and there didn’t seem to be an easy way out. As it happened, there was some simcha ( I think it was a bat mitzvah celebration) and one of the women who was on “the other side” was part of a circle of women dancing. I took her hand to dance and didn’t think twice about it. It wasn’t about me. Or her. It was about celebrating the milestone.

A few days later, I got a call from her. She said how happy she was that I did that and that she would love to talk some time soon. So, swallowing pride, I went over there. She had baked fresh chocolate chip muffins for the occasion. We sat down at her kitchen table and she pulled out a pile of file cards.

With notes on them.

“Change is good.”

“If change is good, don’t you think you should change?”

“What’s holding you up from changing?”

“You should move.”

“Your husband should get a different job.”

Oh she elaborated a little bit after each card, but that was the gist of it.

I stopped eating.

I don’t think I’ve eaten chocolate chip muffins since then.

Bottom line–I think I have changed, but I didn’t change the way she wanted. And as it turned out, it wasn’t her idea, anyway. It was her husband who wrote the cards for her and told her what to do.

She’s no longer married.

Yes, sometimes change is very very good.

i have a camera, i have a face, and i even have a letter

from my rabbi stating that I cover my hair for religious purposes, and I even have

the Department of State’s free photo tool!

So what’s the problem?

I don’t have a blank wall.

I need a photo to renew my passport that expires in December.

As you can see in this handydandy illustration, there cannot be any pattern on the background wall.

Camera Position

I have doors that are white, but they are patterned. I have one room with white walls, but we have guests staying there for the summer and I really can’t go in there.

Well, I could, but I don’t want to.

We tried taking one in front of the door. My, how shiny and patterny my doors are!

And then they also tell you this:

Proper Lighting Arrangement and Background Illumination

If you are setting up a proper area to take photos, then consider:

  • Positioning light sources on both sides of the person to avoid shadows on the face
  • Using a light source to illuminate the background behind the person to avoid shadows on the background

The lighting arrangement should consist of a minimum of three (3) points of illumination; two (2) points of illumination should be placed at approximately 45 degrees on either side of the subject’s face, the third point should be placed so as to illuminate the background uniformly. The background should be uniformly illuminated to remove any shadows or other lighting effects that would otherwise interfere with clearly discerning the facial outline on the background.

Lighting Arrangement

I thought about going somewhere else and looking for a blank wall to allow for the proper points of light and I realized this is just too much work.

And then I got a coupon from CVS! So, I can go up the street, stand there in front of their plain background, let them take the photo, print it out (which I would have to have them do, anyway), and be done with it!

Yup, that works for me!

Last time I did it I think it was at an old camera store. I don’t even know if that store is in business anymore. I had to get a rush job to renew my passport, since it would have expired while we would have been abroad. Now you need a 6 month lead time. So since we hope to go to Australia in January, I definitely need to get hopping on this.


couldn’t avoid pun…