The Torah of the Bread Machine

December 26, 2014
bread machine

The Terrifying Bread Machine at work.

I studied a bit of practical Torah today with a woman who has been my friend for years. She was my conversion mentor (not my rabbi, just a friend who showed me the ropes) and since then we have become friends and partners in teaching. I still look to her when a bit of practical home-based Judaism is tricky for me.

A year ago (a year ago!) she gave me a bread machine as a housewarming gift. I have always made bread by hand, and was suspicious of machines. I am also very busy, especially on Fridays, and so I bought my challah at the store, because I was afraid of the bread machine. I decided “Enough of that nonsense!” and asked Dawn to teach me how to use the terrifying bread machine.

Yes, I am making fun of myself. It is ridiculous for a grown woman of nearly sixty years to be afraid of using a bread machine. I am pretty sure – almost certain – that it will not blow up. Dawn assures me that it won’t. And it is not a crime to use a machine to allow me to do other things.

I know for sure the challah that comes out will be good – Dawn uses the same machine! I love her challah!

How do you get your challah? Do you bake it? Make it with a machine’s help? Buy it from a particular store? Make it with your children or friends?

Has there ever been a mitzvah you were afraid to try because you might mess up?

Anyway, I wish you a Shabbat Shalom, and tasty challah however you obtain it!

 


Most Read Posts of 2014

December 25, 2014

This has been a very active year for this blog. Activity here as more than doubled since last year, and I thank you for your readership.

These are the ten most frequently read posts on this blog among the posts I wrote this year:

How to Succeed at Congregational Life: Ten Tips

What to Wear to a Jewish Funeral

What to Wear to Synagogue?

Blogging While Black: Yeah, It’s a Thing

Conversion Manifesto

Prayer for the Opening of Baseball Season

“Blood Moons” and the Meaning of Prophecy

A More Meaningful Chanukah

Never Say This when You Welcome a Visitor!

Thinking of Conversion to Judaism? 5 Things to Do

The five most read posts of all time (well, the five calendar years this blog has been online):

Bar and Bat Mitzvah Etiquette for Beginners

10 Tips for Attending a Jewish Funeral

What’s “Yasher Koach?”

Choosing Synagogue Membership

How to Succeed at Congregational Life: Ten Tips

Rabbi and Dog

The Blogger and her Helper

The goal of this blog has been basic information for newcomers and others who may feel awkward in Jewish community. There’s a tremendous amount of information available in books and on the internet, but sometimes it’s too much all at once. I hope that by offering topics in small bites they have been more manageable.

Mixed in with those “basic info” articles are posts about growing Jewish identity and about living a meaningful Jewish life. I am not interested in Judaism as an exercise in historical reinactment. The prospect of Judaism that gives meaning and purpose to real 21st century lives is much more exciting to me.

So here are my questions for you: Which posts have been most helpful or interesting to you? What would you like to read about in 2015? Is there a topic about which you’ve heard “enough already!?”

I wish you a happy secular New Year of growth and bloom!


Hospitality For Growth

December 24, 2014
Lighting chanukiot at our Chanukah party.

Lighting the candles at our Chanukah party.

Long-time readers may remember my Hospitality Challenge: 16 months ago I challenged myself to grow in the mitzvah of hospitality. Yes, it is an actual mitzvah: Abraham and Sarah are famous for their hospitality. The Torah commands us to follow their example. After all, this is how all of us learn to “do Jewish:” not from a class or a book, but from observing the mitzvot with other Jews.

What I didn’t expect was that hospitality could also be an avenue for personal and spiritual growth.

Here’s where we started: I’m an introvert married to an introvert’s introvert. We are not great housekeepers, nor are we good cooks. We were both intimidated by the idea of opening our home to people who might (eep!) judge us on our housekeeping and cooking.

We’ve had fewer Shabbat guests than I originally hoped, but we have hosted more people in the past year than ever before.  We have celebrated almost every Jewish holiday with friends and family and some new friends (aka “strangers.”) Sukkot and Chanukah each saw a large gathering at the house. During the summer, I hosted regular Torah study gatherings here, and we’ve had countless folks over for an afternoon or an evening.

We’ve had great dinners, and burned dinners, gatherings where we were overrun with guests (who thought they’d all say yes?) and gatherings we canceled for lack of guests. There have been some wonderful people here, and a few who’ve been a challenge. And yet one thing has been constant: after the guests left, there was a glow that remained, a sense that home was indeed a holy place of warmth and friendship.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. Nobody cares that the rabbi’s desk looks like a tag sale.
  2. If the main dish is a bust, the pizza place down the hill delivers.
  3. To carry out this mitzvah, I had to learn to ask for and accept help.
  4. People will bring food if you ask them to ahead of time.
  5. A plan for the evening is nice but not necessary.
  6. All guests go home eventually.
  7. Jewish warmth and Jewish blessings make everything glow.
  8. Jewish hospitality grows our Jewish souls.

Taking on this mitzvah has made me grow into a happier person and a better Jew. Here’s to 16 more months (and more!) of sharing the joy.


Welcome to Tevet!

December 22, 2014

Tevet 5775 began last night at sundown, on the evening of December 21, 2014.

6chanukahWelcome to Tevet! It’s the month that begins in the middle of a holiday. We are celebrating Chanukah, and last night, when we lit six candles, the month of Tevet arrived to join us.

Despite its fancy beginning, Tevet is a quiet little month for Jews. The biggest things to happen in it are not Jewish days at all: Christmas and the Gregorian New Year (January 1) usually fall in the month of Tevet.

The only other official Jewish day of observance in this month is Asara b’Tevet [10th of Tevet] on which some Jews fast to remember the day in 588 BCE when the army of Nebuchadnezzar, emperor of Babylon, laid seige to Jerusalem. In the month of Av, a year and a half later, they would enter the city and destroy Solomon’s Temple, which we refer to as the First Temple.

One of the quirks of the Jewish calendar as we know it today is that it is in some ways a hand-me-down from ancient Babylon. Before the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians and the subsequent exile, we know that Jews followed a lunar calendar that began its months on the new moon and that had adjustments to keep the agricultural holidays in their proper seasons. We have a few month names from that calendar in the Torah, but most of the months seem to have been like modern Hebrew days. They went by number, “In the First Month” etc.

But the names of the months we use today came back from Babylon with our ancestors. Tevet in Babylon was Tebetu or something similar. If you are curious about the Babylonian calendar there are a few Internet sites that explore it, including this one.

Enjoy the last remaining nights of Chanukah and don’t forget to add the greeting, Chodesh Tov!  Happy New Month!

 


Exodus: Gods and Kings

December 21, 2014

Originally posted on Rabbi at the Movies:

ExodusRidley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings is yet another Hollywood take on the Exodus story. Previous movie tellings include The Ten Commandments (1923), Moses the Lawgiver (1974), The Prince of Egypt (1998), The Ten Commandments (2007), and the most famous movie by that name, The Ten Commandments (1956) with Charlton Heston. Exodus: Gods and Kings has received mixed and negative reviews from critics.

It’s a boring movie with spectacular special effects. I am not sure what more to say than that – if you don’t know the story, go read the Book of Exodus.

Commentary

If you have read Exodus, you know that this film departs from the Torah in some significant ways.  Unlike The Prince of Egypt or the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments, the writers did not seek their extra material in Jewish midrashic literature. This film focuses on an imagining of the relationship of Moses and Ramses II…

View original 337 more words


Israel & Texts: Online Learning!

December 19, 2014

LehrhausLogoHave you ever wished you could take a class to sort out what words like Torah, Tanakh, Gemara, Mishnah, and Talmud really mean? Wondered how “Jewish law” is related to the Torah text? Ever wished you could learn more about the history of Israel and the Jews?

Registration is open for the Winter session of Intro to the Jewish Experience, “Israel and Texts” and it includes an online option! Class meetings will take place at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, CA on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 – 9pm (PST) beginning January 14. For those who cannot attend in Berkeley, we offer the option of attending via Adobe Connect, a cloud-based classroom. All meetings are recorded, so that students also have the option of watching the class recordings.

All classes are taught by me except for Jan 21 and 28. I’m honored to welcome Dr. Jehon Grist as our guest lecturer on Israel.

Class schedule:

Jan 14 – Welcome & Introductions:  Jews, Texts, and Shabbat
Jan 21 –Ancient Israel – Guest: Dr. Jehon Grist
Jan 28 –Modern Israel & Zionism  – Guest: Dr. Jehon Grist
Feb 4 – Torah, Tanakh & Midrash
Feb 11 – Beginnings of Rabbinic Judaism
Feb 18 – What is the Talmud?
Feb 25 – Codes, Responsa and Jewish Law
March 11 – Jewish Values, Jewish Ethics

For registration, go to the class page in the Lehrhaus Catalog. Class tuition is $105.

Check out Lehrhaus’ other online course offerings this winter and spring.

Lehrhaus Judaica is a unique non-denominational Jewish studies adult school. Every course is open to the general public, and all interested adults are welcome, regardless of age, religion, or ethnicity.

 

 


Hanukah – A Major Battleground for the Heart and Soul of the Jewish People

December 18, 2014

rabbiadar:

Hanukkah is a high stakes holiday: not minor at all.

Originally posted on Rabbi John Rosove's Blog:

Last week I was invited to speak at Campbell Hall, a large private school in Studio City, Los Angeles, before two hundred and fifty 7th and 8th grade students about the story of Hanukah.

I began by saying that without the success of the Maccabean Revolt in 165 BCE, there would be no Judaism, no Christianity and no Islam today. I then reviewed the traditional story of Hanukah as it comes down to us through Jewish tradition, telling about the heroic battle of the Maccabean family against the Greeks, the Greek desecration of the Temple Mount, the miracle of the oil lasting eight days instead of one, the lighting of the Hanukiah, latkes, and dreidls, and then I said, “Truth to tell, this isn’t the history of this holiday at all. Most of that is story-telling. The real history is far more interesting and important for us today, Jews and…

View original 700 more words


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,262 other followers

%d bloggers like this: