Archive for April, 2010

Oh my… G-d?

In Leviticus 22:32 we read: “You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people—I Adonai who sanctify you.”

Is saying, “oh my G-d” in casual conversation really a way of profaning G-d’s name? If profane is the opposite of sacred, then isn’t anything casual, by definition, profane?

On the other hand, G-d isn’t really G-d’s name. What do you think? Should we try to remove this common idiom from our speech?

Creativity on the run…

Yesterday I had a flight. It was about 3 hours, so I figured I would cast on with stash yarn for a sweater for my soon-to-be baby nephew. I cast on for an Elizabeth Zimmerman “Baby Surprise jacket,” but before I finished casting on, I decided I would make a cardigan instead. Same number of stitches cast on, so why not? I did a 2 by 2 rib and then decided that I wanted to do a cable sweater. I did some math in my head to figure out the cables. This is where I went horribly wrong. I spent the entire rest of the flight ripping and reknitting because I couldn’t get the math to work out. Now that I am done travelling, I have nothing to show for my work except for a few rows of ribbing. The moral of the story – an inch of planning would have been worth a yard of beautiful knitting.

A good life lesson, too…

Crafting Spiritually

Good news!  TBT will be holding a fabulous cabaret night with music and food this Saturday night.  More good news: I will be leading Havdallah to lead us into the festivities.  Even more good news: We don’t have enough spice boxes for every table to have one.  If we pass around a single spice box, it will never reach every table before we finish the ceremony.  So it occurs to me that this is yet another perfect opportunity for some creative spiritual crafting.

The tradition is that on the Sabbath we gain an extra soul.  As we say farewell to the Sabbath and our extra soul, we smell spices in order to give us a measure of comfort, to bring some of the spice of Shabbat into our week, and to wake us gently into our weekly responsibilities.

There are a lot of beautiful Havdallah sets that one can purchase to beautify the mitzvah of separating the Sabbath from the rest of the week, but I think that crafting this one piece of the Havdallah set and putting one on each table for our guests to use will help others think of ways to bring their own creativity into ritual.

May your Shabbat be filled with spice and may you carry that spice into a beautiful week to come!

To Kitniyot or not To Kitniyot…

When I grew up in Queens, NY, I loved Passover. This was a holiday for seeing family. (I loved seeing my cousins so much that when I was 5 years old and we were moving to a new house around the block, I cried because I thought we would have to get different cousins too.) Passover also meant that I could eat matzah, matzah ball soup, and all of the wonderful Passover foods. Matzah was always coated with margarine… corn-based margarine. So, even though I am Ashkenazic, it would not be correct to say that I come from a tradition of abstention from kitniyot (peas, corn, rice, beans, legumes) during Passover.

Rather than explain the controversy in detail, I will point you to this very good article that lays out the issues.

When I was in college, I learned about the kitniyot problem, and resolved to avoid eating these foods on Passover. Later in graduate school, I learned why so many reject that custom (again, see the article above) and was torn. Do I avoid kitniyot in order to feel kinship with other Ashkenazic Jews and to ensure that the foods that I am eating do not have even microscopic amounts of chameitz? Or, do I recognize that this prohibition is not from Torah, is not widely practiced in Israel, and is probably not necessary.

I go back and forth. Last year, for the first time, I decided that I would eat kitniyot on Passover. I had one of the most enjoyable holidays since my childhood. I no longer had to struggle with what I could eat. Since I am almost completely vegetarian (I eat meat, but only rarely), giving up corn, rice, peas, and beans was a big hassle and made my meals stressful. With the ban on kitniyot lifted for a year, I found that I really enjoyed Passover. “Ah,” I thought, “so that’s what it means to rejoice in the festival and be glad in it.”

Still, it doesn’t somehow feel right to me to eat those forbidden items. This year, even though it is now the 3rd day of Passover, I still haven’t completely decided what to do! I haven’t eaten kitniyot yet (as far as I know – I do not ask others what is in things that they tell me are kosher for Passover because I do not want to embarrass them or make them uncomfortable).

This conundrum is one of the things that I treasure about Reform Judaism. Because I have to struggle with these decisions of observance, I find that my choices mean so much more to me than they would if they were simply mandated to me from on high. I choose those things that give meaning, and it is my responsibility to struggle with the where, the why, and the how.

A sweet and kosher Pesach to you all, whatever that means to each of you!