Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thursday is a Good Day for a Rant

Let's cut through all the high flown rhetoric about "today's" sheitles and put things to a test.

First, all rabbonim will get together and agree that sheitles are to be banned. Foreseeing some problems here? Point out to me when, in our times, ALL rabbonim have ever agreed on anything. But hey, it's my daydream so somehow they are all going to agree.

Beware of what you wish for.

Set the ban into place beginning next Sunday. I'll go on record as stating that the ban might last as long as next Thursday, maybe. And who will be up in arms about the ban? Some women might publically flaunt the ban. But it's going to be men who will defeat it. Men, who hate tichlach, snoods and hats. Men who are going to wonder where their beloved wives disappeared to, replaced by the hairless wonders wandering the streets. Men who will suddenly remember that one definition that the Gemorah gives for "miyus"--ugliness--is a bald woman, and a shmate is as close to bald for men as to make no difference.

And then there will be the men who find themselves having lascivious thoughts about long pieces of shmates, who just might have to admit that the problem lies within them, not with what a woman has on her head. And when yeshiva bochrim have improper thoughts about a picture of a woman wearing a cholent-pot hat, then what? Shall we go after hat store owners?
Of course, there will be those few men who will point out that it is not sheitles that are the problem--it is women! And they will say the ban did not go far enough--it is women who need to be banned. By all means, let's make a reality of the "Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars" statement--let's segregate the sexes so completely that they never have to see each other. And no worries either about the continuation of the species. We live in such a wonderful technological society that even for this purpose men and women will never have to see each other.

And rabbonim and roshei hayeshiva are going to be up there with all the other men protesting. Tell me something, have you ever seen a shlumpy, frumpy rosh yeshiva's wife? Or a shlumpy shule rebbetzin? I was priveleged for many years to know the wife of the RY of CB. She was always beautifully turned out, and stylishly so. And she wore beautifully styled blond sheitlach. Nor was she the only rebbetzin who was and is like this.

Most normal men are going to look at the whole ban as a piece of social engineering gone bad. And there will be a revolt. And by next Shabbos a man's eyshis chayil will be back at the table with a full head of hair, and men will find that it is safe for them to be back out on the streets again. And maybe, just maybe, men will learn that mixing into "veiberishe zachen" can only bring chaos.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What Kind of a Shopper Are You?

Shopping and shidduchim have a lot more in common than just both beginning with the diphthong "sh." Doing a complete shopper profile can actually tell us how you are going to do in shidduchim. What follows are some typical shopper profiles. Where do you fall?

Shopper #1: This shopper loves shopping; in fact, he/she loves shopping so much that they never actually buy anything. They are always worried that a better buy will be in the next store. They can't settle on anything today because who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Shopper #2: This shopper is decision-hindered. He/she will find 3 or 4 items to buy, will bring them all home, will ponder for days, will finally choose one to keep, and will always wonder if they made the right decision.

Shopper #3: This shopper is a label groupie. He/she doesn't care about the item as much as the label that is on the item. Fit, style, color and price are all secondary to the "status" conferred by owning the right label. They are particularly enamored of items where the label/logo is visible on the item rather than tucked away out of sight.

Shopper #4: This shopper is a store snob. He/she doesn't care about the item as much as being able to say they bought something from Store X. Like shopper #3, this shopper is not so much concerned with fit, style, color or price, as long as the item fits into the bag clearly marked "Store X."

Shopper #5: This is a variation on shopper #3, but for this shopper price is a problem. They solve the problem by buying a knock-off of the original label they covet. Some of these knock-offs are fairly well made and will fool much of the public who will see the item--much but not all. Unfortunately, most of the knock-offs do not stand up to the test of time. In short order the 14K gold leaf plating wears off exposing the aluminum beneath. The problem for these shoppers is that just because it says "Cartier" on the label that doesn't make it a "Cartier" on the inside, where it counts.

Shopper #6: This shopper hates the whole process of shopping. They go shopping only when forced to and with a bad attitude. Once in a store they will grab at any item just to say that they bought something and be done with it. They will use as evidence that shopping is an evil activity the fact that what they bought was never quite what was going to fit them exactly right.

Shopper #7: This shopper is highly organized. He/she goes shopping with a detailed list. They know exactly what they want in an item and they aren't going to settle for anything but what they have on their list. The fact that no items match their shopping criteria is shrugged off as being a manufacturer's problem or a store stock problem. They know if they keep on shopping they are sure to find exactly what they are looking for.

Shopper #8: This shopper has neither the time nor the inclination to go shopping on their own. Instead they utilize the services of a personal shopper. It's a love/hate relationship that develops. In a very real sense a personal shopper expects a client to "get naked" so she can assess precisely who she is shopping for. Few people are really honest with their personal shopper. She brings home merchandise for the client to look at, the merchandise doesn't fit well, and the client is angry with the personal shopper. It's not really the shopper's fault if that 15-1/2" collar on the shirt you requested doesn't fit your 18-1/2" neck, nor if the size 6 shoe you ordered doesn't fit on your size 10 tootsies.

Shopper #9: This is a variation of shopper #8, but instead of a personal shopper, a friend or family member is pressed into service. Sometimes this works out well and many times it doesn't for the same reasons as in shopper #8 above.

Shopper#10: This shopper has no real idea of what they are looking for when they go shopping. They start out in the evening wear department, segue over to the swimwear department, turn sharply into the sportswear department and then suddenly find themselves in the lounge wear department. By the time they get to this last department they have finally figured out what they are looking for, and happily walk out with a comfy pair of flannel pajamas, a far cry from the tuxedos/evening gowns they first looked at.

Shopper #11: This shopper is the reverse of shopper #4, the store snob. They know that great brands are frequently to be had at discount and off-price warehouse centers. They are looking for great merchandise at a bargain price. They recognize that they may have to shop for a while to find what they want, but they have the patience and the determination not to overpay just because a store has a recognizable name with cachet. They don't need Fifth Avenue; Route 9 Secaucus is just fine.

Shopper #12: This is the reverse of shopper #3 above, the label junkie. This shopper wants a white shirt but is not willing to pay extra for a snob label. Sears Best suits them just fine; it doesn't have to be Pierre Cardin. They've got the idea that a label is no guarantee of quality or of durability. They're looking for the convenience of wash-and-wear rather than the high maintenance of dry clean only.

There are, of course, many other variations of shoppers; the ones above are the fairly common ones. Some people are blends of two or more shoppers. What's your shopping profile? And how close does your shopping profile come to your shidduch seeking profile?

Monday, January 28, 2008

The You-have-to-be-Kidding Awards

Every newspaper brings with it the news of another award program for the best or worst "something" of the year. I think it would be "fun" for Klal to have its own yearly awards. There are surely enough categories. I'm thinking along the lines of an award "for a food that has the most hechsherim on it and still is not eaten by everyone." Or maybe one to the store that sells "the highest priced denim skirt in New York City, and therefore the world." Or perhaps the "Speaking While Brain is Not Engaged Award" to the Rosh Yeshiva who a good few years back "ossured" wearing any sheitlach with red in them since "red hair is the color of "pritzus," and Klal should have no redheads. On behalf of my mom, who had red hair pre-sheitle, and on behalf of my husband's family, which abounds in redheads, thank you for making us wonder why genetics and Hashem put this mark on us.

So, do you have an award you would like to see given? Please write and nominate your favorite absurdity.

Changing Shidduch Making--Black is Beautiful and Other Myths

What do you suppose would be the result if, when you walked into Macy's and went to the coat department, all the coats were the same exact style and available in only one color: black? If you really, really liked the style and loved black as a color you would probably be quite happy. If, however, you didn't like the style and/or the color, you would probably be quite unhappy. You would have a limited number of options to follow: 1)you have the time so you could leave the store and hope that another store or stores had a better selection or 2)you could be pressed for time and you would realize that it was cold outside, you needed a coat and you would buy the coat despite the fact that you didn't really like it. If you chose option #2 you might grudgingly admit that the coat did what a coat was supposed to do--keep you warm--but it was never going to "look" the way you want a coat to look. Unhappiness would fester inside every time you wore the coat. But wear it you would.

Now change the scenario a bit. In that great sea of black you suddenly spy one coat in green. Do you grab it? Now, now, honesty here. You might think about buying the coat, you might even lust after that coat, you might dream of that coat, but if you are like the vast majority of people, you'd leave the coat on the rack. If Macy's, with its long history of selling coats, is selling virtually only black coats in one style, there must be something the store knows that we need to take heed of. And if Macy's and Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor are all selling the same style coat only in black,then that settles it: we are sure that only that coat can be worn.

Of course, there is always going to be the person who sees the green coat and buys it despite what the stores are pushing. And she may or may not be happy with all the attention she gets when she wears it. And that attention may or may not all be positive. And she may or may not finally cave in and get that black coat anyway. And in the privacy of her own mind she may still think of herself as a "green coat" person, despite what she is actually wearing. Unfortunately, she will still look like a "black coat" person.

Fortunately, Macy's sells coats in a variety of styles and colors, although not too large a variety; if they gave you too many choices for this year what could they peddle to you next year? Unfortunately, in many ways some people in Klal Yisroel act as if a multitude of styles and colors is an unfortunate thing. This part of Klal acts like the one coat--one style Macy's described above. Whoa betide the person who opts for the green coat, whether male or female.

I am NOT talking about the dictates of actual halacha here. Where halacha says "you must" then we must--this is not black coat-ism. I am talking about trying to standardize personality and actions (those not covered by actual halacha) and thoughts. Either we fit the mold or we are relegated to the green coat fringes of society. Even though inside we may chafe at the restrictions, who among us wants to be the first to say "I've had enough!"?

Yeshivot and seminaries pride themselves on having a "recognizable product." "You can always tell a ____________girl/boy" they say, and with some justification. And this is a good thing just why?

Beyond our all being human beings and followers of halacha, we are all individuals with unique combinations of thoughts and actions that make us who we are. Even siblings raised in the same home are not clones of each other. For a community or a group to try and squelch this uniqueness, to try and shove us all into the same mold, is unnatural. Where commonality is a rationally proven benefit to survival, then go for it. Where it is not, banish it, refuse to buckle down to it, expose it for the sham it is.

When it comes to shidduch making, what possible, real, definable benefit is there to Klal Yisroel in "standardizing" our children, so that one is pretty much interchangeable for another, in action and in thought? Again, I am not talking about halachic dictates but societal dictates.

The shidduchim I have made have mostly been of the "green coat" variety, or at least the black coat had obvious green buttons with green embroidery on the pockets, or the coat was accessorized with a green scarf and green gloves. Maybe it is a matter of "like calling to like." I admit freely that I am not a "black coat" person, except where actual physical danger dictates I have to be. And yes, sometimes I am not a "green coat" person either--sometimes I wear blue, or red, or purple or yellow or any of the shades in between. My husband certainly could never confuse who I was with any other girl that he dated. And 35+ years later he still can't.

If we want shidduch redding to be saner and more effective, then we need to get out of the black coat mentality and encourage the individualism that is unique to each one of us. Read Chumash if you don't believe me. Read the instructions that were given to Eliezer by Avraham. Clearly Avraham, in choosing a shidduch for Yitzchak, was looking for a "green coat" in a sea of black.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Conversations that go Nowhere

I set up a couple which I thought was a shayich shidduch. They went out a few times and then both said "nice person, just not for me. We didn't "click.""

I then had this conversation with the girl.

Me: If he's really a nice guy and it's just a not clicking thing, do you have a friend that he might be good for?

Her: A friend?

Me: Yes, you know, another girl he might suit better.

Her: I don't know about that.

Me: Why not?

Her: Because she's going to ask me how I know the boy and then I would have to say I went out with him, and then she's going to ask me what's wrong with him if I won't take him.

Me: But you told me that nothing is wrong with him. It just didn't click.

She: Look, she's my friend and we share a lot in common. It's possible that she won't click with him either.

Me: But it is also possible that she might. Are you clones of each other?

She: I don't think she would be comfortable dating someone that I dated and then said no to. If it becomes a shidduch it's always going to be very awkward to be around them.

Me: So you will only date someone who didn't date one of your friends?

She: Basically, yes.

What's wrong with this picture? Everything. For one thing, it cuts down the number of available boys/girls. For another, it says what's not good for me is not good for anyone else I know either. What's talking here is a bit of snootiness--sort of a "how dare he/she like my friend better than me." You don't want him/her therefore no one you know should want them either.

Back in the bad old days we passed dates around. It was considered a plus if someone you knew had dated the person before. At least you could guarantee that an axe murderer was not coming through the door. Making a shidduch was not a question of national security, with its attendant secrecy.

Just what has all the secrecy gotten anyone? More dates? Not likely. This is a case where going backward in time would actually be going forward in shidduchim.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest of Them All

They are there in every married person's house; the ubiquitous wedding portraits. The bride and groom looking farpitzed and positioned just so. The photographer has killed himself to capture "the look" in all the proofs. And finally one is chosen to be "the" mirror of what the bride and groom looked like.

Initially the picture may hang in the living room or dining room in pride of place. And then it gets moved, perhaps to a hallway, perhaps to a den, perhaps to a bedroom. And no one is looking at that portrait anymore, because the people in that portrait don't exist any longer. Whoever they might have been is long over.

Young children, when shown their parents' wedding portrait, are often hard put to recognize their parents. They look at the present in-the-flesh parents and shake their heads. Who were those strangers?

People dating today seem to have this idea that once they have found their intended partner in life everything is going to remain just the same for the rest of their lives together. Not going to happen, and thanks go to Hashem for making it so.

My husband and I are so not those people in the wedding portrait, and we are so happy that we aren't. We have grown, changed, changed again and learned the fine art of compromise. We have coming up 36 years of shared work and experiences. Sure, some of the things that were important to us then are still important--and some are not important at all.

Go ahead, stare at your parents' wedding pictures and maybe at your own. Look at the portraits of the rest of the family. Those were other people in a different lifetime. But those people allowed today's people to come into being.

What kind of a husband or wife will a new kallah or choson be? Only way to know is to get married and live. That wedding portrait is neither a promise nor a guarantee. I remember the girl in my wedding portrait; thankfully she isn't around any longer. Oh sure, that girl was skinnier and had long, shiny hair. And that guy had loads of curly blond hair. I'm going to take a new portrait for this anniversary. And if we are zocheh to see our 50th anniversary, I would imagine that we aren't really going to know who those people are in the one from the 36th.

Marriage is a free-form adventure, not a set game with inflexible rules. So yes, I wish you that wedding portrait, and then I wish you the other portraits that will be far more realistic of who you are as a couple.

It's Just Perfect!--Does It Come In Another Color?

As my last act before vacation I had to run out to go shopping at Boys'R'Us--yes, you read that correctly and it's not a typo--Boys'R'Us. It's a special wholesaler open only to the trade. And oh what wonders there are to behold there.

If G-d made it, you can find it there. The variety is astounding. And it's well organized too. Today I'm looking for a not-so-short tall boy who is yeshivish, from a frum family, preferably a Torah VoDaas background, although if not available today a Chaim Berlin background will do. He must be from the Brooklyn factory. The client I'm shopping for is not fussy although blonds are her "look" and she doesn't care about eye color but if the model comes with blue eyes that would be nice. A normal build will do fine, although the BMI should not be above 28. "Dressing presentably" is a requirement although that sort of is not in style right now. But that doesn't matter as much as she can always buy a different outfit to dress him in later.

No, she is not looking for the stripped down, basic model; she wants all the extras built in. She wants one of those ever popular "mentches." He needs to be kind, considerate, like her mother, get along with her siblings, impress her father with his erudition, make her friends turn green with envy and make her swoon in anticipation of the next date. His smile should be 5000 megawatt in intensity and it should be ever present. But he needs to be serious. He should be the best boy in Lakewood while not actually being from Lakewood. His rebbes should be struck dumbfounded by his chochma. He should, however, not be a baal gaivoh and his wisdom should only peep out rather than shout its existence.

He needs to come with a full assortment of friends, all of whom are just like him. The friends should not, however, be permanently attached to him so that she can discard any that don't make her happy.

He should like what interests her and be ready to accommodate any activities that she is in the mood for. Ditto with conversation. Wit is a given, as is a sense of humor, as long as it isn't that awful thing that men think is so funny. He needs to be able to talk, preferably in erudite English and with no dangling participles. She's eclectic in her interests; he needs to share all of them.

He needs to be perceptive and be able to intuit what she wants without her having to go through the whole rigmarole of verbalizing it. Mind reading is a given.

His family needs to be expendable or at the very least unobtrusive. They can pay for things but should not assume to offer any advice. Any sisters in law should be shorter than she is and much chubbier as well. Under no circumstances should they be brighter than she is. They should also live far enough away so that regular shabbos visits will be difficult, but not so far away that they can't babysit when she requires it.

There's more, much more, but the clerk who has been helping me is already shaking his head. "Sorry, but they haven't made a model like that yet." He suggests I try Unique Boytique. Sometimes they carry the one-off piece of merchandise.

I head out from the store just a little despondent. I have another client to shop for, only this time I head for Galmart. I scan the shopping list he gave me and I shake my head. "Her neshomoh should be beautiful" tops the list, followed by size 4, light eyes, pretty, well-off parents...etc.

I hate shopping, especially when I know that I'm not going to find exactly and precisely what I'm looking for, and the clients will accept no substitutions. I turn the car towards Starbucks and reward myself with a triple-foamed mocha latte. Now here is something that can be ordered just as you want it. Sure wish shidduch shopping was that easy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gone Fishing

We're heading west so there won't be any new posts for a week. Feel free to read, comment or what have you in my absence. I've left the comments unmoderated.

Enjoy the week.

Prof K

Not Just Another Microsoft Tchatchke

Why read? One answer is below.

- R. J. Heathorn

A new aid to rapid - almost magical - learning has made its appearance.
Indications are that if it catches on all the electronic gadgets will be
so much junk.

The new device is known as Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge. The
makers generally call it by its initials, BOOK.

Many advantages are claimed over the old-style learning and teaching
aids on which most people are brought up nowadays. It has no wires, no
electric circuit to break down, No connection is needed to an
electricity power point. It is made entirely without mechanical parts to
go wrong or need replacement.

Anyone can use BOOK, even children, and it fits comfortably into the
hands. It can be conveniently used sitting in an armchair by the fire.

How does this revolutionary, unbelievably easy invention work? Basically
BOOK consists only of a large number of paper sheets. These may run to
hundreds where BOOK covers a lengthy programme of information. Each
sheet bears a number in sequence so that the sheets cannot be used in
the wrong order.

To make it even easier for the user to keep the sheets in the proper
order they are held firmly in place by a special locking device called a

Each sheet of paper presents the user with an information sequence in
the form of symbols, which he absorbs optically for automatic
registration on the brain. When one sheet has been assimilated a flick
of the finger turns it over and further information is found on the
other side.

By using both sides of each sheet in this way a great economy is
effected, thus reducing both the size and cost of BOOK. No buttons need
to be pressed to move from one sheet to another, to open or close BOOK,
or to start it working.

BOOK may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it.
Instantly it it ready for use. Nothing has to be connected or switched
on. The user may turn at will to any sheet, going backwards or forwards
as he pleases. A sheet is provided near the beginning as a location
finder for any required information sequence.

A small accessory, available at trifling extra cost, is the BOOKmark.
This enables the user to pick up his programme where he left off on the
previous learning session. BOOKmark is versatile and may be used in any

The initial cost varies with the size and subject matter. Already a vast
range of BOOKs is available, covering every conceivable subject and
adjusted to different levels of aptitude. One BOOK, small enough to be
held in the hands, may contain an entire learning schedule.

Once purchased, BOOK requires no further upkeep cost; no batteries or
wires are needed, since the motive power, thanks to an ingenious device
patented by the makers, is supplied by the brain of the user.

BOOKs may be stored on handy shelves and for ease of reference the
programme schedule is normally indicated on the back of the binding.

Altogether the Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge seems to have great
advantages with no drawbacks. We predict a big future for it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Long and Short of It

We live in a sound-bite world. Package a message to be short and never-you-mind about the content--just make it sound good. And short. Short is the key.

Somehow natural evolution of communication has turned into de-volution. Once it was "Me Tarzan, you Jane" and what a breakthrough that was. Now it's "Me Yankle, you Rivka" and what a sad picture of modern life.

We live in an era with more knowledge available to us then at any other time, and we know less and less about even less and less. Because we are not any longer a nation of readers.

Reading, once the hallmark of the educated person, has become seriously skewed. We have gone from reading and contemplating and discussing books to "Have you read__________?" "Nah, I read the review and that's all I really need to know" to "Nah, the headline on the review said it all."

Nor is it only books we don't read as we once did. Newspapers, journals, and magazines have also fallen prey to the sound-bite scourge.

Nor is reading alone effected. The aphorism that "Great writers must be great readers" still holds true. The quality of writing has deteriorated because people aren't reading.

So no, I don't do short for the most part. No, I won't give you just the "headlines." No, I'm not going to package you a tidbit Madison Avenue-style to gobble down as you head out, no taste and no substance. No, I'm not going to give you the condensed version. If that's what you are looking for in a blog, there are plenty of other sites available.

And for the reader--self-identified as a college student--who sent in the comment, not published, that contained this sentence, thank you for making my point--"Just cause you use alot of big words dosn't mean really that you could be saying some thing."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

"Tis Wednesday and a reader emailed me if I'm ever going to give her a break so she can catch up with her reading here.

The answer is YES. Starting Sunday for 6 days, I won't be posting anything new. We are taking a vacation, and for us a vacation means no electronic anythings. Imagine that, a world that will exist without email, without blogs, without computers and, hopefully, without phone calls. And no work!!! Just lots and lots of that togetherness time I once posted about that seems in such short supply when we are at home. And fun--I wonder if I still can recognize it when it presents itself.

There are two ways to talk about vacations: Vacations to and Vacations from. True, we are going to someplace, but this is really a vacation from.

If you visit and read and want to leave a comment, I'm going to leave the comments unmoderated. But please, best behavior.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What the Yeshivas Owe the Army

Vietnam and yeshivas. It would seem to be an "unholy" alliance. And yet, the yeshiva world we know today owes a great deal to Vietnam. Some would argue that yeshivas owe everything to Vietnam.

Young men coming of age today do not have the same worries that young men did in the 60s. There is no compulsory draft for the armed forces today as there was back then. While all young men have to register with their draft boards when they turn 18, they are not able to be called to active duty.

Things were far different in the Vietnam era. There was a draft lottery every year. All the days of the year were drawn randomly, the first pick assigning the number one to all those whose birthday it was going on through all the days. Men were called into service beginning with the number one.

As you can see from the information taken from the Selective Services System below, there were very few ways of avoiding being drafted. Being in college did not get you a deferment. Neither did graduate school. Marriage did not get you a deferment either. Neither did being a parent, although those with 2 or more children could apply for a deferment and it was sometimes granted.

Now let's look at the frum Jewish world at that time. Girls were not routinely getting married at 18 and boys were not getting married at 21 routinely either. While some boys learned in yeshivas during the day and went to college at night, far more frum boys went to college during the day, or worked during the day and went to college at night. The imposing buildings that line Ocean Parkway and the interior of Brooklyn did not exist. Yeshivas were fairly sleepy little places, not huge factories churning out graduates like canned goods. Boys did not for the most part sit down to learn after they got married--any who were going to learn did so before they got married. Kollel couples were the minority in the frum world. Certainly the "5 years learning after marriage" had not yet been heard of.

Were roshei hayeshiva unhappy about this? I don't doubt they were, but they really didn't have the sway to change the entire population.

Enter Vietnam. The country as a whole was sorely divided about our participation in the war. Protests were unending. Some US citizens "escaped" to Canada to avoid serving. Jewish parents, the same as non Jewish parents, were worried about their sons serving in the military. Those Jews of European descent certainly had a basis for their worries; in Europe, Jewish boys who were drafted were frequently never heard from again. What to do?

You will note below that among the few deferment classes, clergy qualified for deferment. Not only clergy, but students who were studying to become clergymen. Suddenly you had the answer to a rosh yeshiva's dreams. Jewish boys weren't going to get compulsory military service--they were going to get compulsory yeshiva service.

There arose littering the surface of every nook and cranny in Brooklyn the ubiquitous "draft dodger yeshivas." Anyone with smicha, and quite a few without, was opening up a yeshiva to handle the sudden "assault" of boys who needed a yeshiva to register in. Suddenly thousands of boys developed a burning desire to become clergymen. And it wasn't just the little storefront yeshivas who were garnering the benefit of these new students. Hundreds flocked to the already established yeshivas as well. And oh did they pay well for the privilege of being kept safe at home. And perhaps not so strangely, those boys who were in college while studying in yeshiva still remained in college. But they were registered in yeshiva and that's what counted.

People like to sneer about our President's father buying his son's way out of active duty. And he was different from the Jewish fathers with money just how? Smicha was for sale for the right price. Some boys--a lot of boys--were never seen in their yeshivas after their fathers paid the tuition fee. Some few others would drop in occasionally. Everyone alive then knew exactly what was going on. If some were upset they rationalized things to themselves by saying the war would be over and things would go back to normal.

"Back to normal" never arrived. After the Vietnam War there was still the draft and still the fear. Yeshivas capitalized on this for their own benefit. Did you really expect them to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs? As long as the draft was there parents still were worried. And then the compulsory draft ended. Yeshivas, however, were not going to go back to how things were before without a fight. And the government gave them the perfect tool.

Even though there is no compulsory draft right now, boys between the age of 18 and 26 are the first ones who would be called up if Congress authorized a draft due to a war emergency. Go ahead, figure out the general ages of those who are sitting and learning in yeshiva today--between 18 and 26. That learning after marriage rule? Do the math and you get them in yeshiva until they are 26.

The younger boys who are in yeshiva right now may not know quite how learning until 26 came about but the older people, and certainly the roshei hayeshiva, know. Of course, no one will admit to it. And there are an awful lot of young men out there who are not happy being in yeshiva for that long--they do not have a "calling" for becoming a rabbi, and they just might do better by learning something that they could make a living at and attending shiurim or learning koveah itim. Parents have become indentured servants as young married couples settle into the "learning" life and are supported by others. Divorces are on the rise, as are shalom bayis problems. That lifestyle that we are being told is so right and so natural "for everyone" is a modern day response to a practical issue of war. As one commenter said, our life today is not the life that everyone in Europe lived, the Europe we always claim to be reestablishing here.

And just for the record, yes, I can say what I have said because my husband was not one of the draft dodger yeshiva boys. His draft number was #4 and he was inducted before the draft dodger yeshivas could hammer up their signs. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and he was not the only Borough Park or frum boy there. And yes, I know some of the men whose smicha is bogus. And yes I know some of the men who were in yeshiva in registered name only. And I'll bet that your parents do too. Or maybe you, yourself do. My husband didn't molder in yeshiva when he came back either. He went to college at night and worked full time during the day and got married and had children. And yes, he picked up seforim to learn and still does and he's a polished baal kriah and baal tefila.

So thank you Vietnam. Without you the yeshivas would not have seen their tremendous growth. Without you young men who get married today might be forced to grow up and take responsibility for themselves and their wives and children. And they say that war is hell. Can't prove it by the yeshiva world.

The following information is intended as background about the draft and about deferments.

Men are not classified now. Classification is the process of determining who is available for military service and who is deferred or exempted. Classifications are based on each individual registrant's circumstances and beliefs. A classification program would go into effect when Congress and the President decide to resume a draft. Then, men who are qualified for induction would have the opportunity to file a claim for exemptions, deferments, and postponements from military service. Here is a list of some, though not all, classifications and what they mean:

1-A - available immediately for military service.

1-O Conscientious Objector- conscientiously opposed to both types (combatant and non-combatant) of military training and service - fulfills his service obligation as a civilian alternative service worker.

1-A-O Conscientious Objector - conscientiously opposed to training and military service requiring the use of arms - fulfills his service obligation in a noncombatant position within the military.

2-D Ministerial Students - deferred from military service until they complete their studies..

3-A Hardship Deferment - deferred from military service because service would cause hardship upon his family.

4-C Alien or Dual National - sometimes exempt from military service.

4-D Ministers of Religion - exempted from military service.

Student Postponements - a college student may have his induction postponed until he finishes the current semester or, if a senior, the end of the academic year. A high school student may have his induction postponed until he graduates or until he reaches age 20. Appealing a Classification - A man may appeal his classification to a Selective Service Appeal Board.

If a draft were held today, it would be dramatically different from the one held during the Vietnam War. A series of reforms during the latter part of the Vietnam conflict changed the way the draft operated to make it more fair and equitable. If a draft were held today, there would be fewer reasons to excuse a man from service.

Assigning different priorities of call for men within Class I-A on the basis of their being single or married ended with an amendment to Selective Service System regulations (38 Federal Register 13485) on May 23, 1973. Marital status alone no longer affected priority of draft call. Unless revised by Congress or a change in Selective Service System regulations, these rules would apply in a future draft.

Eligibility for the III-A classification on the basis of paternity ended in 1970. President Nixon issued Executive Order 11527 on April 23, 1970, which terminated the availability of the Class III-A paternity deferment for new fathers if the child was conceived on or after that date. Class III-A remained available for fathers of children conceived prior to that date, and for men who could prove hardship to dependents.

Speaking of Chumras

Judaism is replete with some strange laws and prohibitions; however, we are hardly unique. If you think we have it bad, read on. Our chumras are in good company it would seem.

The world's strangest laws
Did you know it's illegal in France to name a pig Napoleon? Or that in Ohio you're not allowed to get a fish drunk? Alex Wade celebrates the spirit of the silly season with a list of the world's most ridiculous laws. (London Times Online, August 2007)

25. It is illegal for a cab in the City of London to carry rabid dogs or corpses.
24. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
23. It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside down.
22. In France, it is forbidden to call a pig Napoleon.
21. Under the UK’s Tax Avoidance Schemes Regulations 2006, it is illegal not to tell the taxman anything you don’t want him to know, though you don’t have to tell him anything you don’t mind him knowing.
20. In Alabama, it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle.
19. In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk.
18. Royal Navy ships that enter the Port of London must provide a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London.
17. In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants – even, if she so requests, in a policeman’s helmet.
16. In Lancashire, no person is permitted after being asked to stop by a constable on the seashore to incite a dog to bark.
15. In Miami, Florida, it is illegal to skateboard in a police station.
14. In Indonesia, the penalty for masturbation is decapitation.
13. In England, all men over the age of 14 must carry out two hours of longbow practice a day.
12. In London, Freemen are allowed to take a flock of sheep across London Bridge without being charged a toll; they are also allowed to drive geese down Cheapside.
11. In San Salvador, drunk drivers can be punished by death before a firing squad.
10. In the UK, a man who feels compelled to urinate in public can do so only if he aims for his rear wheel and keeps his right hand on his vehicle.
9. In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be jailed.
8. In Kentucky, it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon more than six-feet long.
7. In Chester, Welshmen are banned from entering the city before sunrise and from staying after sunset.
6. In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow.
5. In Boulder, Colorado, it is illegal to kill a bird within the city limits and also to “own” a pet – the town’s citizens, legally speaking, are merely “pet minders”.
4. In Vermont, women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth.
3. In London, it is illegal to flag down a taxi if you have the plague.
2. In Bahrain, a male doctor may legally examine a woman’s genitals but is forbidden from looking directly at them during the examination; he may only see their reflection in a mirror.
1. The head of any dead whale found on the British coast is legally the property of the King; the tail, on the other hand, belongs to the Queen - in case she needs the bones for her corset.

The following laws are still on the books. Most are no longer enforced and many contemporary lawmakers are not even aware of the laws' existence or history. Some are state laws, some are local within the states. Check to see if you have broken any laws.
**It is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a

**Community leaders passed an ordinance that makes it illegal
for anyone to try to stop a child from playfully jumping over
puddles of water.
**It is illegal to peel an orange in a hotel room in Los Angeles.

**You can be stopped by the police for biking over 65 miles
per hour.
**You are not allowed to walk across a street on your hands.

**Women may be fined for falling asleep under a hair dryer, as
can the salon owner.
**A special law prohibits unmarried women from parachuting
on Sunday or they risk arrest, fine, and/or jailing.
**If an elephant is left tied to a parking meter, the parking fee
has to be paid just as it would for a vehicle.
**It is illegal to sing in a public place while attired in a
**Men may not be seen publicly in any kind of strapless gown.

**It is illegal for anyone to give lighted cigars to dogs, cats, and
other domesticated animals kept as pets.
**It is illegal to fish in your pajamas in Chicago.

**Bathing is prohibited during the winter.
**Citizens are not allowed to attend a movie house or theater
nor ride in a public streetcar within four hours after eating

**Kisses may last for as much as, but no more than, five

**By law, anyone who has been drinking is "sober" until he or
she "cannot hold onto the ground."
**It is illegal to transport an ice cream cone in your pocket.

**It is illegal to rob a bank and then shoot at the bank teller
with a water pistol.
**Biting someone with your natural teeth is "simple assault,"
while biting someone with your false teeth is "aggravated

**Mourners at a wake may not eat more than three sandwiches.
**Snoring is prohibited unless all bedroom windows are closed
and securely locked.
**An old ordinance declares goatees illegal unless you first pay
a special license fee for the privilege of wearing one in public.
**Taxi drivers are prohibited from making love in the front seat
of their taxi during their shifts.

**A parent can be arrested if her/his child cannot hold back a
burp during a church service.

New Mexico
**Females are strictly forbidden to appear unshaven in public.

New York
**A fine of $25 can be levied for flirting. This old law
specifically prohibits men from turning around on any city street
and looking "at a woman in that way." A second conviction for
a crime of this magnitude calls for the violating male to be
forced to wear a "pair of horse-blinders" wherever and
whenever he goes outside for a stroll.
**A very strict law in New York makes death the penalty for jumping off a building.

North Dakota
**Beer and pretzels can't be served at the same time in any bar
or restaurant.

**Women are prohibited from wearing patent leather shoes in

**Violators can be fined, arrested, or jailed for making ugly
faces at a dog.
**Females are forbidden from doing their own hair without
being licensed by the state.
**Dogs must have a permit signed by the mayor in order to
congregate in groups of three or more on private property.

**A special cleaning ordinance bans homemakers from hiding
dirt and dust under a rug in a dwelling.
**No man may purchase alcohol without written consent from
his wife.
**Sleeping on top of a refrigerator is illegal in Pittsburgh

South Dakota
**It is forbidden to fall asleep in a cheese factory.

**In Memphis, it is illegal to give any pie to fellow diners. It is also illegal to take unfinished pie home. All pie must be eaten on the premises.

**A city ordinance states that a person cannot go barefoot
without first obtaining a special five-dollar permit.
**It is illegal to take more than three sips of beer at a time
while standing.
**you can be arrested if you shoot a buffalo from the second story of your hotel.
**Texas recently enacted a new anticrime law requiring criminals to give their victims 24 hours notice, either orally or in writing, and to explain the nature of the crime to be committed.

**It is unlawful to hunt whales within the state boundaries

**Lawmakers made it obligatory for everybody to take at least
one bath each week- - on Saturday night.

**it is illegal to tickle women
**In Culpeper, VA you may not wash your mule on the sidewalk.
**In Norfolk, VA spitting on a sea gull is not tolerated
**Until recently, in Waynesboro, VA it was illegal for a woman to drive a car up Main Street unless her husband is walking in front of the car waving a red flag.

**All lollipops are banned.
**A law to reduce crime states: "It is mandatory for a motorist
with criminal intentions to stop at the city limits and telephone
the chief of police as he is entering the town.

West Virginia
**No children may attend school with their breath smelling of
"wild onions."

Every state in the U.S. has goofy laws such as these that have not been brought to court. They are still around for the American people to ponder.

I Do Therefore I Am

The following article, written by me, was first published in the Touro College newspaper last year. I was reminded of it after reading the article on Rachal Sharansky that I provided a link for. It was entitled "Activism: Aerobics for the Soul."

Activism. That is what other people do. You know, the other people who do not lead your busy life. It’s not that you wouldn’t like to be an activist, but when could you possibly fit it in? You work, you go to school, you have obligations to family and friends. Besides, activism was around in your parents’ and grandparents’ days: what real relevance does it have today? And what is there possibly left to protest about? What good does protesting do anyway?

I could tell you all the reasons why activism is still necessary and still important, but instead, I would like you to take a trip down memory lane with me, to college campuses of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Those were heady years, filled with idealism, with a sense of purpose, with a heightened sense of being a part of a community.

Imagine that Israel is at war with its Arab neighbors—not so hard to do. Imagine that it is June 1967. Imagine that Jewish voices are raised in protest. Imagine that Jewish bodies pack the UN Plaza for a rally in defense of Israel. Now imagine that even when the main rally is over, large groups of volunteers man tents up the block from the UN to show that the rally is not just a one-time show of support.

Imagine that while you are in the tents you are learning how to roll bandages for shipment to Israel. Imagine that news arrives at midnight that Abba Eban will be coming to address the UN that day. Imagine that a dozen volunteers staff the tents, write up lists, plan strategies, and at 7:00 am the next morning, begin calling every Jewish school, synagogue, and organization in the New York City metropolitan area, along with every news media outlet, all without cell phones. Imagine having to persuade people that they need to come out to show support the day after they have already done so.

Imagine that when Abba Eban arrives at the UN on June 20, 1967, he is greeted by thousands upon thousands of people waving Israeli flags and banners of support and singing “Hatikvah.” Imagine that you have been honored to be flag bearer and to hold aloft the Israeli flag, and that Abba Eban alights from his car to salute his flag before going in to address the delegates. Imagine that you have gone 37 hours without sleep and without too much by the way of food. Imagine that you haven't changed clothes nor had a chance to wash up. And then try to imagine the joy of purpose that was felt by all of us there, the sense of rightness.

“Stand up and be counted” was not just a slogan but a way of life. “There is strength in numbers” was our rallying cry. We were encouraged to become strong individuals We were encouraged to use that individualism in pursuit of a greater societal good: selflessness, not selfishness, was admired. It does not matter what you choose to protest about, what you choose as your method of activism; there is plenty to choose from. What does matter is that you find something to care about with a passion, something that will take you out of the mundane and into the sublime. It is not which purse to buy or which designer outfit to wear that lends beauty and purpose to our lives. Filling our closets and our dresser drawers is not the same thing as fulfilling our lives.

My generation is getting older, not younger. Who will safeguard your rights when the activists are all in Florida? I have a baton that I would like to pass on. You are all capable of taking that baton from me—all you need is the will to do so.

Waxing and Weeping Nostalgic

So many years ago activism wasn't just a word; it was a way of life. I ran across this article on another blog. For those who were around in the days of the SSSJ and who were a part of the struggle, you've got to read this. And for those of you who wonder just what kind of a car an SSSJ is, perhaps you need to read this.

A History Quiz

Here's a history question for you to ponder. What is the relationship between the Vietnam War and the boys who sit and learn today? Anyone who thinks they know the answer please leave a comment.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Recommended Read

Read this today and I heartily recommend it for everyone. A beautifully written moshul.

"Tea cup- an old favorite"

Pinning Down the Unpinnable

For what seems like forever I have been trying to develop a questionnaire to be used in making shidduchim that would satisfy me. I am not and have never been the type of shadchan that asks a million questions of the people who come to me looking for shidduchim. All I wanted was to identify the questions that should be asked of everyone.

So basically I now have the same questionnaire that I've used for years with only a few additions. I ask for name, age and birth date, height, parents' names, high school and post high school schools attended, name of college attended, occupation, shul where single davens and "other." It's the "other" that gets me into trouble all the time.

You see, other ought to depend on each person, as an individual. "Other" ought to refer to the things the singles tell me about themselves that differentiate them from all the other "others" out there. "Other" depends on what I hear during a phone conversation. If a single volunteers that sports are an interest, then "other" is going to be "What kind of sports?" or maybe "How did you get interested in sports?" "Other" should give me the pieces of the puzzle so that when I'm finished I have a complete picture.

Unfortunately, included with the "other" questions today are some answers that seem to be answers but tell me nothing. Mostly I don't even have to ask those "other" questions; singles volunteer the answers to the unasked questions. "I'm modern orthodox machmir" they tell me. "I'm litvish" I hear. "I'm a BY girl" is another answer. Inside I'm thinking, "Sure you are. Like there was any one of those." Yup, modern orthodox machmir doesn't exist; neither does litvish, or yeshivish or black hat or heimish or out of town mentality or BY girl or typical Brooklyn boy or any of the hundreds of labels that people throw out at shadchanim--and others--that they think actually mean something.

Go ahead, try and pin down an exact definition for any of those terms, one that will apply the same to every member of the group so constituted, and that will be understood in exactly the same way by every listener. It can't be done. What constitutes "yeshivish" isn't the same even within the four walls of any given yeshiva, never mind as a general term that can correctly and consistently be applied to people across many yeshivot. Aha! Did you catch that? I clearly am not yeshivish--I used the word yeshivot. If I were truly yeshivish I would have said yeshivas. Yeah, right. All that usage goes to show is that I might be fluent in Ivrit--note the non-use of the word Hebrew or ivris or loshon kodesh. Definitely not yeshivish. Sigh.

How one male and one female are going to fit together from a frumkeit perspective is going to take hours and hours of conversation on their part to determine. It sure is not going to happen because someone tells me they are yeshivish.

And what about the ubiquitous "learner/earner" classification? One girl who called me was getting rather testy with me. She wasn't sure if I really understand all the subtleties involved in this classification and was growing more and more muddled as she tried to pin down a definition. I responded this way.

"Okay, you want a boy will be working during the day so that he will be doing the supporting for your family. That means that you want someone who will get up at 6:00 to make the Daf Yomi and davening before running in to the house to eat breakfast and then running out again to get to work. This is New York, so figure he has an hour's commute home and at the earliest he will arrive home around 6:00. He will grab supper so that he can get to his night seder. He should be back around 10:30-11:00 just in time to grab some sleep. Friday night right after supper he will either have a set shiur or he will be learning b'chavrusa. Shabbos morning is davening, followed by lunch, followed by shiur, followed by davening, followed by havdalah, followed by a quickly grabbed supper before heading out to learn. Sunday gives him a chance to learn a whole day uninterrupted. Did I miss anything?"

There was silence on the other end of the line. "Maybe," she began tentatively, " he might be just a little less married to his learning and a lit more married to me." "Oh," I said. "So you don't actually want a learner/earner." "Well yes I do," she answered, "just one who is a little better balanced in the learning area." Uh huh, as I said, terms that are really impossible to pin down.

Why do we even bother to ask those "other" questions that can't possibly have a set answer? Go ahead, I challenge you to go into your memories and take out at least one memory of someone that was red to you with a label attached and who didn't seem to "fulfill" that label very well. I bet you have more than one memory like that. Ever buy something that was labeled "One size fits all?" I'd sure like to meet that person "all" someday, because I have a lot of her clothing here and her clothing sure doesn't fit me. It's tight in some places, and loose in others. It's too short on bottom and too long on top. But that's how labels are--they are an attempt to designate us as "one size fits all."

I've come up with a new label for myself that I'm hoping will forever end anyone's asking me "what" I am. I now refer to myself as left of right. I used it on someone the other day. She looked a bit puzzled and then said "Oh, I see." No she didn't, any more than anyone else can "see" when you throw on the other labels. Aw hell, even I don't know how to define "left of right"--how could you possibly know?!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Life You Save May Be Your Own

I present the following as a public service announcement, and maybe a wakeup call to all those who think their digestive problems after eating are just a case of pigging out. Maybe, most likely not. Please, I KNOW IT'S A LONG POST--READ IT ANYWAY. Quite possibly the life you save may be your own.

The frum lifestyle is sometimes one that could, c"v, cause great sakonos nefoshos. Fire, particularly candles, is a part of every Shabbos and every yom tov and has lead to frum Jews being more likely to be treated in the regional burn centers than non frum or non jewish people. Add in blechs and hot water urns and you have a possible recipe for disaster. Certainly safety precautions must be taken.

There is another area that we are also somewhat lax in. This is food safety. Leisurely meals taking a long time are quite normal. Weddings, with a smorgasbord called for only one hour frequently go for close to two hours. Tables are set ready with condiments and side dishes awaiting the guests. Sometimes those dishes sit out for hours. Hostesses don't want to get busy in the kitchen so they bring out the platters of food to the kitchen counters and leave them there until the guests go home. Shabbos meals frequently start getting cooked in the morning and are first eaten Friday night, with no refrigeration of what was cooked.

School children and working adults frequently take lunch from home. Said lunch is made, packed and out the door with the future eater by about 7:30 in the morning. Lunch is frequently not until 12:00. School lunches have no place to be refrigerated. Mostly working people's lunches also have no place to be refrigerated.

Women go out shopping for groceries. Frequently they have many stops to make. Raw food that is purchased sits in car trunks, sometimes for hours. Raw food and ready prepared food mingle in the bags.

Picnics and barbeques are a fun thing to have. And the food sits out for hours while everyone has a good time. Hot foods are left out to cool at room temperature before being refrigerated.

A time bomb, all of it.

"Food borne illness is an ever-present threat that can be prevented with proper care and handling of food products. It is estimated that between 24 and 81 million cases of food borne diarrhea disease occur each year in the United States, costing between $5 billion and $17 billion in medical care and lost productivity" (Texas Agricultural Extension Service).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 76 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses each year in the United States, accounting for 325,000 hospitalizations and more than 5,000 deaths.

"Food poisoning tends to occur at picnics, school cafeterias, and large social functions. These are situations where food may be left unrefrigerated too long or food preparation techniques are not clean. Food poisoning often occurs from eating undercooked meats, dairy products, or food containing mayonaise (like coleslaw or potato salad) that have sat out too long.

Food poisoning can be caused by:
Staph aureus
E. coli enteritis
Mushroom poisoning
Bacillus cereus
Fish poisoning

Infants and elderly people have the greatest risk for food poisoning. You are also at higher risk if you have a serious medical condition, like kidney disease or diabetes, a weakened immune system, or you travel outside of the U.S. to areas where there is more exposure to organisms that cause food poisoning. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have to be especially careful.

The symptoms from the most common types of food poisoning generally start within 2 to 6 hours of eating the food responsible. That time may be longer (even a number of days) or shorter, depending on the toxin or organism responsible for the food poisoning. The possible symptoms include:
Nausea and vomiting
Abdominal cramps
Diarrhea (may be bloody)
Fever and chills
Weakness (may be serious and lead to respiratory arrest, as in the case of botulism)
Headache Botulism is a very serious form of food poisoning that can be fatal. It can come from improper home canning

When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor if:
You have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting.
You are on diuretics and have diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
Diarrhea lasts for more than 2 to 3 days.
There is blood in your stools.
You have a fever over 101°F.

Call 911 if:
You have signs of dehydration (thirsty, dizzy, lightheaded, faint).
Bleeding is excessive or your stools are maroon or black.
You are short of breath or having trouble breathing.
Your heart is racing, pounding, or skipping.
You may have poisoning from mushrooms, fish, or botulism.
You have any nervous system symptoms like weakness, double vision, difficulty speaking, or paralysis.
You have trouble swallowing.

To prevent food poisoning, take the following steps when preparing food:
Carefully wash your hands and clean dishes and utensils.
Use a thermometer when cooking. Cook beef to at least 160°F, poultry to at least 180°F, and fish to at least 140°F.
DO NOT place cooked meat or fish back onto the same plate or container that held the raw meat, unless the container has been thoroughly washed.
Promptly refrigerate any food you will not be eating right away. Keep the refrigerator set to around 40°F and your freezer at or below 0°F.
DO NOT eat meat, poultry, or fish that has been refrigerated uncooked for longer than 1 to 2 days.
DO NOT use outdated foods, packaged food with a broken seal, or cans that are bulging or have a dent.
DO NOT use foods that have an unusual odor or a spoiled taste.

Other steps to take:
If you take care of young children, wash your hands often and dispose of diapers carefully so that bacteria can't spread to other surfaces or people.
If you make canned food at home, be sure to follow proper canning techniques to prevent botulism.
DO NOT feed honey to children under 1 year of age.
DO NOT eat wild mushrooms.
When traveling where contamination is more likely, eat only hot, freshly cooked food. Drink water only if it's been boiled. DO NOT eat raw vegetables or unpeeled fruit.
DO NOT eat shellfish exposed to red tides.
If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, DO NOT eat soft cheeses, especially imported from countries outside the U.S.
If other people may have eaten the food that made you sick, let them know. If you think the food was contaminated when you bought it from a store or restaurant, tell the store and your local health department.
Source: MedLine Plus, NIH

How can food poisoning be prevented?Following these rules can prevent most food poisoning cases:
Wash your hands! Wash them before, during and after food preparation. Use soap and warm water and wash for 20 seconds. Wash after touching raw meat, fish or poultry. Wash your hands after every trip to the bathroom. Washing is the most important thing you can do to prevent food poisoning.
Use hot, soapy water to wash cutting boards, utensils and anything else that was used to prepare food.
Use a diluted bleach solution to clean cutting boards and countertops after food preparation.
To clean kitchen sponges and dishcloths, rinse them in water, squeeze out the excess water and microwave at full power for 60 seconds. Be careful in removing hot items from microwave so you don't burn yourself.
After handling raw meat, fish or poultry, do not reuse the same utensil or plate. Bacteria from the raw juices will contaminate other food.
Do not use a sponge or dishcloth to clean surfaces that have touched raw meat, fish or poultry. Use soap, water and a disposable paper towel.
Wash all fruits and vegetables well before eating.
Cook all food thoroughly.
Taste food only when it is thoroughly cooked. Use a clean spoon each time.
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If food is allowed to remain at room temperature for two hours or longer, bacteria can multiply and cause food poisoning.
Refrigerate all leftovers soon after meals.
Hot food does not have to be cooled before placing it in the refrigerator.
After shopping, refrigerate frozen food as soon as possible. If thawed, use immediately. Do not refreeze.
Defrost meats and poultry in the refrigerator or the microwave.
When camping, don't drink stream water. No matter how clear the water looks, it can still contain dangerous bacteria and other organisms.
Don't buy or use food from dented, bulging or rusted cans. If you have a can with a dent on the seam, throw it away. Don't even open it. Contaminated food may or may not smell, taste or look bad. Don't taste suspicious foods. Don't ask anyone else to taste it either.

Throw out any leftovers that have been at room temperature for more than two hours or in hot weather for more than an hour.

Even a tiny amount of contaminated food can cause severe illness. If you have any doubt about the safety of the food, throw it out! Don't give possibly spoiled food to pets: They can get sick from bad food, too. Not even the most expensive food is worth a case of food poisoning, human or animal. Dispose of potentially tainted food by placing it down the garbage disposal or wrapping tightly and placing in the trash.

How long can foods be stored?
Refrigerated steaks and roasts should be used within three to four days after purchase.
Ground meats, fresh poultry and raw fish should be used within one to two days after purchase.
Milk, cream, cottage cheese and cream cheese are good for a week after opening.
Hard cheeses that are tightly wrapped are good for two to three months.
Eggs are good for three to four weeks. Keep them refrigerated.
Cooked or uncooked vegetables are good in the refrigerator for three to five days.
Berries are only good for about three to five days in the refrigerator before they mold or rot.
Bread, cake and cookies (or anything made from a batter with yeast or wheat) should be used within a week to avoid mold.
Baked goods will last longer (two weeks) if refrigerated.
Deli meats should be used within four days after opening the package.
Leftover meats are good for three to five days.
Leftover chicken, gravy, sauce, chicken or tuna salads and turkey pies are only good for one to two days.
Mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and other condiments should be used within a year of opening the container.
Mayonnaise, once opened, is good for two months.
Open bottles of salad dressing are good for three months.
Ketchup, jams, jelly and peanut butter are good for six months.
Opened jars of salsa should be discarded after a month.
Frozen food is good for a year if tightly wrapped and stored consistently at 0½ F.
If you cannot remember when a food was placed in the refrigerator, throw it out. Many people do keep their food longer than the above guidelines. If you keep your food longer, make sure you check it each time to see that it has not turned moldy, slimy, stinky, rancid or otherwise rotten. Always check the food BEFORE you taste it.

How can I keep food stored safely?

Keep refrigerator temperature between 35-40½ F and freezer temperatures at 0½ F or lower.
Space food items in your refrigerator and freezer so cold air can freely circulate.
Wrap raw meat, fish or poultry in separate plastic bags. Place them on a plate or tray on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator to keep leaking juices from dripping on other foods.
Freeze fresh meat, fish or poultry if they are not going to be used in the next couple days. Rewrap meat packages in aluminum foil or freezer paper to keep the meat airtight.
Pack perishable foods in coolers with ice or ice packs when cleaning or defrosting your refrigerator or freezer.
Use plenty of ice in the picnic chest to keep foods such as egg salad, potato salad, macaroni salad or any dishes made with mayonnaise or cream cold. Don't leave these foods in the sun.
After holiday meals, remember to place the leftover turkey in the refrigerator. Do not leave the turkey on the counter or in the oven overnight.
Do not leave stuffing in the turkey when you refrigerate it.
Source: California Poison Control System

The Frog's Story

She's nowhere near the keyboard, but I'll have to make it quick. You would think that a princess would sleep in more often, but since the kids came she wanders in to the computer at strange hours.

So you think that happily ever after worked for everyone huh? Well maybe for Ethelred and HindaElla, but I'm still waiting for my happily ever after. Don't think it's coming so fast. And do they care? Not likely!

Oh they make the funny public noises still, you know, where they treat me like some honored guest. But when the Prince screws up some anniversary he is supposed to have remembered, like the first time they ate quail eggs together, then it's never his fault--it's always mine. And when she washes his suit that is clearly marked dry clean only, is it her fault? Nope, mine yet again.

The Princie gets his favorite breakfast all the time. For me? Freeze dried flies, on sale at Shoprite. "Make our home your home" they promised. Yeah, right. You ever have to sleep on a guest room bed? Maybe one night you could make it, but 1000? Fuhgetaboutit.

Yesterday I heard her complaining to him that they never seem to have any privacy any more and perhaps there are too many residents in residence. Sure, blame it on me. I told them and told them that a small palace was just not going to make for the long haul, but did they listen?

And the babysitting! Just how many legs do they think I have?! And how much strength? I'm not a tadpole any longer you know!

I can read the signs and I'm not waiting to be uninvited. There's a great new pond development that just opened a day's ride from here. Individual lily pads with all the amenities. Fresh gourmet meals to gladden an insectivore's heart. Organized activities and trips. And humans can only visit but are forbidden to crash at your pad. And who knows, maybe I'll find my own happily ever after. It sure won't happen when the only people I meet are humans.

Oh darn, the baby is crying. And the school cart will be here in 5 minutes and who knows where those parents are off to, and no, Antoine you cannot wear the purple pants with the red shirt, and Belinda, princesses don't dress in outfits like that, and Hermione stop trying to climb up into the fireplace; it's what got your mother in trouble. Robilard, put down that knife!

Sorry, but it's time to log off. Apparently all the things I don't do need doing. Maybe next week I can dream about lily pads and trips to the South of France--frog heaven. Or maybe not. I think I heard her say that the painters are coming in next week and how is she going to pack up everything and get ready. A frog's work is never done.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

G-d Has a Sense of Humor

We were away for dinner Friday night and the conversation among the women turned to, what else, shidduchim. All the women at the table have been involved, in one way or another, in trying to red shidduchim. Two of the women mentioned that they were going to be making sheva brochos before Pesach and mentioned the name of the choson. I immediately said mazel tov as this was someone I had tried to fix up on many occasions. I casually asked who the kallah was and then my mouth fell open at the answer. The other women at the table laughed. Every one of us had attempted at some point to fix up the new choson with the girl who was now his kallah. He had never been interested enough to let "strangers" fix him up to even ask who the girl we had in mind was.

So how did they meet? His mother, who had obviously known the girl's name from all of us, somehow found out that one of her friends was a cousin to the girl. She and the cousin conspired to have the girl come for shabbos to visit her cousin. And the cousin invited the boy's family for a meal on shabbos. Boy saw girl and boy decided there was something to look at further. And then the boy couldn't get anyone to red the shidduch. The cousin decided that she "didn't see the shidduch" and his mother decided that she couldn't possibly red a shidduch directly. In desperation the boy called one of the women, his mother's friend, from the local shidduch circle and asked if she could do him a favor. By the time the shidduch was finally red the young man was in a sweat of desperation that he would never get to go out with the girl and the more things were delayed, the more he was sure that this shidduch was it.

Obviously all is well that ends well, and this couple that so many of us thought should get together have indeed gotten together. At the l'chaim, the two women who are giving the sheva brochas gave the choson mazel tov and also casually dropped into the conversation that the kallah was the girl they had wanted to fix him up with. As they described it, "his eyes bugged out" as he realized that those "strangers" who had wanted to fix him up just might have known what they were talking about.

No, not every shidduch a stranger presents to you will work out like this shidduch did. But then, you don't need every shidduch red to work out--you only need one to do so. Even if your mother or your cousin reds you a shidduch, just where do you think they got the person from? In all likelihood from a stranger.

You might want to remind yourself, the next time you are about to turn down a shidduch red by someone who "doesn't know you," that their knowing you is not all that important, since
G-d does, and G-d clearly has a sense of humor when it comes to shidduchim.