Sunday, September 12, 2010

Raw, Burnt and Spoiled, or Three Havayot

Raw, Burnt and Spoiled, or Three Havayot

I am really getting close to using the blog. Ross said it's really easy, and I just need to ask him when I'm ready. I just feel like right now there isn't even a drop of room left in my brain for any new information. even something like "press B." (which probably isn't actually all you have to do anyway...), so I have a new tentative plan. Let me know if you actually prefer getting emails this way, or if you prefer to check it out on the blog. I will make a new short list of just those people. I'll leave Ross on the list. Then he can keep updating the blog with the letters. Of course, I haven't updated ross on this plan (easier to ask forgiveness than permission, and all that), but I think it just may work.

In the meantime, here is my latest update of "havayot" (experiences):
Let's start with preparations for Rosh Hashana. Fortunately, we were invited out for 4 out of the 6 meals. As many of you know, this was a 3-day holiday (counting Shabbat), which happens fairly often in America, where holidays are celebrated for 2 days instead of 1, but not so much here, where RH is the only holiday that can be 3 days. People talk about it here the way they talked about Y2K-- like AHHHHHH-- what are we gonna do?! I went to a class about Eruv Tavshilin (a special voodoo ceremony that allows us to cook on a holiday for the next day when the next day will be Shabbat), where the rabbi spent the first half of the class talking about how we don't know the laws about it so well because it is such an unusual occurance. In America we did eruv tavshilins as often as we watered our plants (which also says a lot about our plants...).

Anyway, so we were eating 2 meals here, for one of which we invited some yeshiva guys (including our own Nachum Shapiro of Baltimore, whose house we were at and whose pool we swam in just over a month ago in Baltimore). In fact, Nachum's mom had called us to tell us that she was so happy that we invited him and that he would be getting a fresh home-cooked vegetarian meal, with real fresh fruits and veggies. Yeah, well....
So up until then, we had dome ALL of our grocery shopping at the little store on the kibbutz, which has all your basic staples. But we thought for RH, we should brave our way out to a real supermarket. In Israel, the supermarkets are a riot-- they are all competing to show that they are the biggest and cheapest. We happened to be in Afula, where our choices were MEGA, Supersol DEAL, Big Zol (Big Cheap), and finally, at the end of the block, Machsanei kimat Hinam ("The Almost Free Warehouse"), which we have taken to calling "We pay you to take our food." And on the eve of Rosh Hashana, we discovered why. Upon entering, the guy in the produce section announced to us that all produce is 30% off. Which was nice, except for the fact that THERE WAS NO PRODUCE!!! Literally, 3/4 of the shelves were completely bare, and what was there was mostly rotting or completely wilted (except the tomatoes, which were rock solid green and tasted like apples). The apples were all bruised, and there were 2 remaining pomegranites, with worms crawling in and out of them. There was not a pepper of any kind in sight. So most of the produce with which we fed our guests was actually canned or frozen.

Back at the kibbutz, someone explained to us that the problem was not entirely the supermarket (though many suggested we not shop there again), but the issue was that it was the day before a 3 day holiday for them too, and they didn't want to be left with any rotting produce over the long weekend, when they would be closed. It had totally not occured to me to anticipate this! I don't know if there is even ONE day when supermarkets are closed in North America anymore, and I don't imagine there ever were for 3!! So that was,as we say, a "havaya." So Liz, i you're reading this, we did the best we could....

And as long as we are talking about our momentous first crack at hosting guests (not counting the 4 year old who stayed when her mom brought us dinner), I must talk about the meal for which this entry is named. It involves our new oven, and its handy dandy attached Shabbat warming platter. We have very little experience with Shabbat warming platters, and anyway, they are apparently all very different. So trying it out for the first time with guests was an unfortunate choice. I had prepared and eggplant parmesan, Matza ball soup, and a huge pot of creamy mushroom pasta. Guests were coming on the second day for lunch.

Regarding the soup, my kids decided when I was napping the day before that they would like to eat it cold for a snack. They depleted more than half the soup, and left a bunch of matza ball mush at the bottom. I decided this was not a big deal, and cut up some onions and carrots and threw them in with some soup powder, and put them on the warming platter first thing in the morning, giving them a good 6 hours to cook.

I added the pasta and the eggplant right before I left for synagogue. I had no idea how strongly this thing would heat the food.

So after shul, I joked to Ross, "do you think lunch is raw, burnt, or spoiled?" Well I'll be darned if it wasn't all 3!!!!! The onions and carrots were as hard as when I had put them in the soup (for an experiment, I left the soup on there the whole rest of the holiday through Shabbat, and while the liquid mostly cooked out and everything was shrivelled up, the carrots and onions remained raw and hard). The eggplant was actually fine -- delicious, even-- but it did have that blackened layer on the bottom. And the heat was just the right temperature to cause the creamy pasta to turn completely rancid. Fortunately we had all kinds of nice salads (store bought, except a canned bean salad and a carrot salad, as our downstairs neighbors somehow has some sort of carrot barrage and begged me to take as many as we could eat), and more importantly we had a cheesecake someone had baked for us, AND ice cream, which was perfect, as it was Nachum's birthday (in fact it was the alignment of his Hebrew and English birthdays on the same day, which is guaranteed to happen every 19 years-- did you knwo that? and it was his 19th birthday).

So in the end it was great, but definitely a havaya!

The final havaya of this update is about shul. As Ross explained in his entry, we had reserved seating for the holiday. I hadn't been aware of this, but we actually had reserved seats in both the kibbutz and the yeshiva. So the first day of RH we went to the kibbutz, which was very nice. Not quite as spirited as the yeshiva, but hey-- it's an intergenerational mix of people, and it was actually pretty moving and spirited. And everyone is so nice. And so many people have so much kavanna (focus and concentration on their prayers). No one is sitting in the shul and shmoozing (unless it is with a kid who comes in needing something).

The second day, when we were hosting the yeshiva guys for lunch, we figured we would pray there (it gets out at least an hour later). The whole davening was very very beautiful, but I wanted to share this one particular bitter sweet experience.

So these young guys are just full of amazing energy. There are not many women there, but this is mostly due to the fact that it is a guys' school, the vast majority of students of which are single. Considering that, the spouses and families that there are do come pretty frequently, and also seem to really enjoy the services. I have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of the mechitza there, but again the reality is that there are only a tiny handful of women coming, so I can't expect it to be one of these down the center jobs, right? So anyway, they get to this one song (V'yitnu lecha keter melucha), I had never seen anything like this on RH. the guys were howling out the song, and they joined together in a huge circle, hugging each other and flying around the room dancing at the chorus, and they passed around the verses between the choruses so everyone would have a chance to sing one. Just like how in Simchat Torah everyone gets an aliyah, it seems like they must have been giving everyone a chance to sing a verse, as they kept repeating the song over and over). I was standing in my spot among the women, behind the thick white curtain, and singing and kind of swaying back and forth in my place. One woman, the wife of one of the founding rabbis, was passionately dancing in her place, thoguh there wasn't really any space to make it a communal thing. It was so exciting and moving, I peeked around the curtain to see if perchance any of our boys were dancing with Ross (they weren't there-- they were outside playing). at first I was disappointed, and then I remembered that hey-- we live here! So if they don't dance this year, they an always dance next year! Then I took note of the fact that Rivital wasn't with me either. She had also gone to play. And I thought what a shame. and then I had a differen't thought-- what would it be like for her to be stuck back here behind the mechitza listening to all those guys having all that fun. and finally (it really went on and on), I started to tire of standing in my place singing the same thing over and over, and I felt suddenly very left out. I know that this is the situation for women in many Orthodox synagogues (though they often don't seem to mind), but here of all places, where the rabbis are so inclusive and creative and always thinking outside the box, it just doesn't make sense for them to have it set up in this way.

I tried to speak to some people about it afterwards. I started with that dancing rabbi's wife (well, she asked how things were going...), but it's like Israelis just don't get it. She was very open to listening to me, and she said she could see my point, but that it really didn't bother her, and that this place is so much better than most (which I suppose is true, though it's not as good in this area as the shuls Ross and I have been a part of in Vancouver, Baltimore and Jerusalem). The only woman so far I have spoken with who also feels this is an issue is an American wife of one of the yeshiva rabbis, and it bothers her lots. What we need is a good fundraiser who can collect money for the progressive feminist mechtza! I wish I knew a good one of those.... : )

So I am left wondering is it better to have the spirit and the excitement of Torah and have my kids surrounded by all that tremendous enthusiasm, or were we better off with the less ecstatic but more "fair" and feminist institutions where we had to beg and drag people to dance with us. I'll keep you posted on that. At least we live in a place that is open to growth and change, and where peolpe can talk about anything. I mean really, we just got here.

So that's a wrap for today, Unless you are interested in the fact that our new fridge comes this week, and we have to take off the front door to get it in, whcih we discovered just involves lifting it up off it's hinges. but if that's nit interesting to you, just don't read that last part....

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

שנה טובה


Love,
Em
PS That last hebrew bit was copiedfrom Mike Stern, who is more proficient at emailing in Hebrew than I am! but i can handle the ole cut-and-paste

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