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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘mikvah’

An American Odyssey (Part 6)

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Were the “Hamish” Indians Jewish? On our way to Santa Fe, we stopped to visit the Jemez Pueblo and learn about the local Indian tribes. We mentioned to the squaw at the museum entrance that “Hamish” is a Yiddish word and that it had a meaning similar to the Indian word. She had never heard of that before (and she really did not look Jewish). As we left the Pueblo we viewed the magnificent red rocks and the nearby mountains and drove through an immense forest more than 8,000 feet above sea level.

We entered the town of Los Alamos. Forest fires in the area we had just left had threatened to cause the evacuation of the town, and we wanted to visit the Bradbury Science Museum before they closed the town. I, as an avid science fiction reader, had thought that the museum was named for the famous science fiction author, Ray Bradbury, and was a bit disappointed to learn that it was named for Morris E. Bradbury, the scientist head of the Manhattan Project. The disappointment dissipated when we saw the very interesting exhibits depicting the period of the development of the bomb during World War II. We enjoyed the many exhibits and the film about the super-secret town, “The Town that Never Was,” and the secret lives of the scientists, including Albert Einstein. It told of the cooperation between Roosevelt and Churchill to beat the Germans in developing an atomic weapon. The museum had replicas of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war in August of 1945.

Barbara and Dov Gilor with Rabbi Levertov in front of the Santa Fe mikvah.

After leaving the museum, we visited the beautiful Capitol Building in Santa Fe and enjoyed a guided tour of the chambers and the lovely artwork displayed outside many of the offices. As Shabbat was approaching, we drove to the home of Rabbi Levertov, the local Chabad rabbi. When we arrived, we learned that his wife and children had left for Crown Heights for the Lubavitcher Rebbi’s yahrzeit commemoration and that Rabbi Levertov was scheduled to leave on Sunday. He told us not to worry, however, because one of the local women was in charge of cooking Shabbat meals at the Chabad Center and that we were eating all of our meals with the community.

On Friday night, more than 50 people came for tefillah, the Shabbat meal and the special Chabad Jewish companionship. Similar to what we experienced in many other Chabad locations, almost all of those attending were not (yet) personally religious, but they craved, at least once a week, to be in a Jewish surrounding. At the first Shabbat meal, I spoke about Israeli scientific and industrial innovations and enjoyed the questions of the many college-age participants. On Shabbat, I spoke about life in our settlement community and fielded many questions about the importance and legality of our community.

Words are never enough to portray the fantastic kiddush Hashem of the work done by the Chabad emissaries. Each time we visit a Chabad community, we are again impressed by the warm and wonderful Chabad families who willingly suffer their personal isolation from the centers of religious Jews in order to bring a little Yiddishkeit into the lives of their fellow Jews. We have travelled all over the United States and to many other countries, including China, Russia, Canada, Scotland, Australia, and Alaska, where we have enjoyed Chabad hospitality from the Rebbi’s shluchim and we are continually impressed by their mesirat nefesh.

By Minchah time, only one fellow religious traveler and a young man studying Hebrew with the rabbi showed up, yet we concluded the Shabbat in a warm and peaceful atmosphere. On Sunday morning, before Rabbi Levertov left for Crown Heights, he took us on a tour of the beautiful adobe-style mikvah that he had built adjacent to his home, with beautiful mosaic tiles and piped in music.

We had traveled more than 3,370 miles in the first two weeks of our trip, and were on our way to the Grand Canyon.

Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com.

A Sense Of Belonging

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

“I just know you are going to love it here…” the sugary voice of the real estate agent broke through my daydream in which our future house featured prominently. “This yishuv is known for its warm and friendly atmosphere; there are several shuls to choose from; you’ll never find a house at this price so close to Yerushalayim; and the schools are some of the best in the country.”

My husband had known from the start that this was where he wanted to live: he had gone to yeshiva right nearby. Besides, his Australian country spirit had never been fully at peace in the city. Now it was up to me. I, on the other hand, had always lived in the city. I liked strolling down the busy boulevards, catching buses home after late-night events, and having the world within walking distance.

I stood silently, gazing out at the glinting sunset reflected in the surrounding mountains’ embrace. I visualized the mikvah the olei regel years ago immersed in that stood just outside the town’s borders, imagined walking up the hill to a morning Tanach shiur at eight and then down at nine. I admired the array of head coverings on the women – bandanas, hats, scarves, sheitels – and the little boys – kipot of blue, white, black, intricately embroidered Yemenite designs. It was a sea of color – past, present and future – nestled within the stark green and brown peaks of Midbar Yehuda. I liked what I saw. “It’s perfect,” I said. “It’ll be home.”

We moved in just before Pesach. I instantly loved my new house. And like any good relationship, it improved consistently with the time and efforts I put in, hanging pictures in the living room, planting impatiens and a real cherry tree in the front garden! My husband was welcomed in shul and soon had his makom kavua. The grocery lady quickly learned my name. And just as the real estate agent had promised, it was indeed the perfect place for raising children. There was just one problem: We didn’t have any.

It wasn’t that we hadn’t noticed until then. The fact that we were already married for five years and had yet to be blessed with children was rather hard to ignore. But the city had been…well… the city. I never knew whether the couple across the hall had two kids or five, or whether the noise over our heads came from a dozen kids under the age of ten or teenage boarders who liked to party. On the yishuv, by contrast, I knew for a fact that of the 278 families living there, we were the only ones without a child. And just in case I wanted to forget, the reminders were constant: In response to my friendly greetings, my new neighbors would immediately inquire “ages and grades,” wanting to know at the outset which of their own children could play with mine. My warm “good mornings” stopped cold.

I set out to shul on our second week. The grandmother in the next chair complimented me on my apparent diligence. “How impressive to see a young mother at shul. What a good example you must set for your children.” The following week I davened at home. The local playground loomed teasingly just a few houses down – at once so near and yet so far away. I started taking the long way up to the bus stop.

Two months after we arrived, the English-speakers’ email list announced the first-ever “women’s get-to-know-you” evening, designed to give all of us newcomers a chance to make friends. Finally, here was an opportunity to meet people that didn’t depend on one’s kids. I literally counted down the days until the big night arrived. I took my place and expectantly looked around at all the other people who would shortly become my friends. The organizer announced that we would go around and give each person a chance to introduce herself. I immediately began mentally planning my introductory speech; after all, I wanted to make a good first impression.

“My name is Esther,” the first woman began, “I moved from Monsey three months ago with my husband and four children, aged 2, 4, 6, and 8.” Linda was the next to speak: she was from Baltimore, had just had a baby, her third child, and celebrated her eldest’s fifth birthday. And she was an accountant.

I was starting to sense a pattern. Apparently, “introducing yourself” meant listing your offspring. With growing uneasiness, I calculated how much longer it would be until my turn. The woman two seats away had just finished holding up a picture of her happy family of seven. I mumbled something about a burner left on – and ran. My poor husband was at a loss as to why his wife had returned from the much-anticipated party weeping. I, in turn, had to force myself to go to the next get-together. I was determined not to let my self-consciousness imprison me inside my very lovely home. Instead, I would go out and mingle − and feel part of everyone around me. In this I rarely succeeded.

Would the Real (And Kosher) Sukkah Installation Please Stand Up?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

About half a year ago, my friend Miriam asked if I knew of any artists or architects whose repertoires included sukkahs. My thoughts immediately turned to the gorgeous sukkah my grandfather designed and built every year and to the retractable roof in the dining room at the Bostoner Rebbe’s synagogue, Congregation Beth Pinchas. But for the life of me, I couldn’t think of any artist who had developed an interesting aesthetic approach to the sukkah, which is the only Jewish experience (save mikvah perhaps) that completely surrounds us.

 

Although I remembered potentially playful fodder for aesthetic sukkahs from the Mishnah and the Talmud – with the pillars from a bed holding up the sch’ach, on the deck of a boat, on a wagon or on the back of a camel – I couldn’t think of a single artist, Jewish or otherwise, who had taken the legal questions of the Mishnah as a design challenge.

 

Log

 

I asked myself if artists had decided the sukkah, which commemorates the clouds of glory that protected the Israelites in the wilderness and thus symbolizes impermanence and vulnerability, was an object that one couldn’t beautify without making it too permanent – even though noi sukkah, decorating the sukkah, is one of the rabbinic commandments of the day.

 

Then I read about Sukkah City. The international contest, sponsored by the non-profit Reboot and author Joshua Foer, called upon contestants to “re-imagine” the “ancient phenomenon” of the sukkah and to “develop new methods of material practice and parametric design, and propose radical possibilities for traditional design constraints in a contemporary urban site.” The 12 finalists exhibited their designs Sept. 19 and 20 in Union Square Park.

 

The Sukkah City website has a rotating header that reveals that the sukkah: must admit more shade than sunshine, must have a roof that doesn’t obscure views of the stars, needs at least an incomplete third wall, must be 10 handbreadths tall, must not be made of utensils or “anything conventionally functional” when it’s not part of the sukkah and must have a roof made of something that grew in the ground but is currently detached from the earth.

 

In Tension

 

 

But however halachic the Sukkah City website’s conditions are, many of the finalists opted to take artistic liberties, to say the least.

 

“Repetition Meets Difference,” by German artist Matthias Karch, is not the sort of sukkah one could ever actually use, and it is not immediately clear that it would satisfy the Mishnaic requirements for walls. Karch modeled the structure on an invention by German-Jewish architect Konrad Wachsmann and the structure is made of a mixture of wood from American walnut and maple trees and olive trees from Israel.

 

Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan’s “Fractured Bubble” looks a bit like a cross between a haystack and Carrot Top’s hairdo. Though the marsh grass is affixed to plywood and bound in twine in a manner that evokes the lulav, the structure itself, which contains sch’ach which comes from marsh grass harvested from Corona Park in Queens, might require a creative interpretation of the notion of the diagonal wall – dofen akumah­ – to actually validate it as a kosher sukkah.

 

Fractured Bubble

 

 

SO-IL’s design, “In Tension,” could double as a sukkah and a screened-in tent to repel mosquitoes. The structure gets extra points for its portability – one person can carry it – which would certainly be useful for a desert wanderer, but the minimal foliage on the roof precludes the requirement to have more shade than sun.

 

“LOG,” by Kyle May and Scott Abrahams, takes the exact opposite approach. Lugging this sukkah through the desert would be like traveling with a suitcase full of rocks. As the name suggests, the sch’ach covering “LOG” is a large log from a cedar tree. The walls of the structure are glass – no stone throwing from this sukkah.

 

Repetition Meets Difference

 

Other finalists interpreted the sukkah in even more theoretical ways. Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello’s “Sukkah of the Signs” responds to the artists’ interpretation of the commandment to eat and sleep in the sukkah for a week as a political statement. Rael and Fratello built their submission out of cardboard signs they purchased from homeless people and they see it as a project that relates to homelessness. (Interestingly, there is no specific requirement on Sukkot, as there is on Passover, to invite the needy to a holiday meal.)

 

“P.YGROS.C” (Passive Hygroscopic Curls), by THEVERYMANY, is sort of the Shabbat-clock of sukkahs. As it gets more humid outside, parts of the wooden structure move and create curly shapes. It’s hard to imagine that such a natural process would be a violation of the spirit of the holiday, but a sukkah that is perpetually in motion could either be an ingenious response to the nomadic experience in the Sinai desert or dangerously close to a violation of the laws of the holiday.

 

It will always be an uncomfortable aspect of Jewish art criticism to require functionality – that is adherence to halakhic requirements – of ritual objects, particularly because many artistic projects are intentionally resistant to being practically usable. But many of the Sukkah City submissions try to align themselves with halacha.

 

Sukkah of the Signs

 

Volkan Alkanoglu’s egg-shaped “Star Cocoon” purports to exhibit the Talmudic minimal requirement of two-and-a-half walls. But the requirement – which can be seen in the typography of the Hebrew word sukkah – is classically formulated with respect to a rectangular sukkah. If the structure is rounded, as “Star Cocoon,” who is to say that it actually has two-and-a-half walls?

 

Looking through the submissions that didn’t make it to the final round one is struck that most of the artists focused their attention on architecture and only considered halacha as an afterthought – “Adam’s House on Union Square” by Alexander Gorlin and Daniel Schuetz is one of several exceptions. That artists are so publically engaging a holiday like Sukkot is undoubtedly great for Jewish art and for Judaism.

 

But one wonders if artists who also take the halachic side of their projects seriously couldn’t be impressed upon to tackle this Jewish aesthetic design challenge.

 

Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Would the Real (And Kosher) Sukkah Installation Please Stand Up?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

About half a year ago, my friend Miriam asked if I knew of any artists or architects whose repertoires included sukkahs. My thoughts immediately turned to the gorgeous sukkah my grandfather designed and built every year and to the retractable roof in the dining room at the Bostoner Rebbe’s synagogue, Congregation Beth Pinchas. But for the life of me, I couldn’t think of any artist who had developed an interesting aesthetic approach to the sukkah, which is the only Jewish experience (save mikvah perhaps) that completely surrounds us.

 

Although I remembered potentially playful fodder for aesthetic sukkahs from the Mishnah and the Talmud – with the pillars from a bed holding up the sch’ach, on the deck of a boat, on a wagon or on the back of a camel – I couldn’t think of a single artist, Jewish or otherwise, who had taken the legal questions of the Mishnah as a design challenge.

 


Log

 

I asked myself if artists had decided the sukkah, which commemorates the clouds of glory that protected the Israelites in the wilderness and thus symbolizes impermanence and vulnerability, was an object that one couldn’t beautify without making it too permanent – even though noi sukkah, decorating the sukkah, is one of the rabbinic commandments of the day.

 

Then I read about Sukkah City. The international contest, sponsored by the non-profit Reboot and author Joshua Foer, called upon contestants to “re-imagine” the “ancient phenomenon” of the sukkah and to “develop new methods of material practice and parametric design, and propose radical possibilities for traditional design constraints in a contemporary urban site.” The 12 finalists exhibited their designs Sept. 19 and 20 in Union Square Park.

 

The Sukkah City website has a rotating header that reveals that the sukkah: must admit more shade than sunshine, must have a roof that doesn’t obscure views of the stars, needs at least an incomplete third wall, must be 10 handbreadths tall, must not be made of utensils or “anything conventionally functional” when it’s not part of the sukkah and must have a roof made of something that grew in the ground but is currently detached from the earth.

 


In Tension

 

 

But however halachic the Sukkah City website’s conditions are, many of the finalists opted to take artistic liberties, to say the least.

 

“Repetition Meets Difference,” by German artist Matthias Karch, is not the sort of sukkah one could ever actually use, and it is not immediately clear that it would satisfy the Mishnaic requirements for walls. Karch modeled the structure on an invention by German-Jewish architect Konrad Wachsmann and the structure is made of a mixture of wood from American walnut and maple trees and olive trees from Israel.

 

Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan’s “Fractured Bubble” looks a bit like a cross between a haystack and Carrot Top’s hairdo. Though the marsh grass is affixed to plywood and bound in twine in a manner that evokes the lulav, the structure itself, which contains sch’ach which comes from marsh grass harvested from Corona Park in Queens, might require a creative interpretation of the notion of the diagonal wall – dofen akumah­ - to actually validate it as a kosher sukkah.

 


Fractured Bubble

 

 

SO-IL’s design, “In Tension,” could double as a sukkah and a screened-in tent to repel mosquitoes. The structure gets extra points for its portability – one person can carry it – which would certainly be useful for a desert wanderer, but the minimal foliage on the roof precludes the requirement to have more shade than sun.

 

“LOG,” by Kyle May and Scott Abrahams, takes the exact opposite approach. Lugging this sukkah through the desert would be like traveling with a suitcase full of rocks. As the name suggests, the sch’ach covering “LOG” is a large log from a cedar tree. The walls of the structure are glass – no stone throwing from this sukkah.

 


Repetition Meets Difference

 

Other finalists interpreted the sukkah in even more theoretical ways. Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello’s “Sukkah of the Signs” responds to the artists’ interpretation of the commandment to eat and sleep in the sukkah for a week as a political statement. Rael and Fratello built their submission out of cardboard signs they purchased from homeless people and they see it as a project that relates to homelessness. (Interestingly, there is no specific requirement on Sukkot, as there is on Passover, to invite the needy to a holiday meal.)

 

“P.YGROS.C” (Passive Hygroscopic Curls), by THEVERYMANY, is sort of the Shabbat-clock of sukkahs. As it gets more humid outside, parts of the wooden structure move and create curly shapes. It’s hard to imagine that such a natural process would be a violation of the spirit of the holiday, but a sukkah that is perpetually in motion could either be an ingenious response to the nomadic experience in the Sinai desert or dangerously close to a violation of the laws of the holiday.

 

It will always be an uncomfortable aspect of Jewish art criticism to require functionality – that is adherence to halakhic requirements – of ritual objects, particularly because many artistic projects are intentionally resistant to being practically usable. But many of the Sukkah City submissions try to align themselves with halacha.

 


Sukkah of the Signs

 

Volkan Alkanoglu’s egg-shaped “Star Cocoon” purports to exhibit the Talmudic minimal requirement of two-and-a-half walls. But the requirement – which can be seen in the typography of the Hebrew word sukkah – is classically formulated with respect to a rectangular sukkah. If the structure is rounded, as “Star Cocoon,” who is to say that it actually has two-and-a-half walls?

 

Looking through the submissions that didn’t make it to the final round one is struck that most of the artists focused their attention on architecture and only considered halacha as an afterthought – “Adam’s House on Union Square” by Alexander Gorlin and Daniel Schuetz is one of several exceptions. That artists are so publically engaging a holiday like Sukkot is undoubtedly great for Jewish art and for Judaism.

 

But one wonders if artists who also take the halachic side of their projects seriously couldn’t be impressed upon to tackle this Jewish aesthetic design challenge.


 


Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 5/05/06

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

To One Sided Love,

Do you really think that you can buy your wife’s love and affection? Weekly manicures and pedicures are a real treat, but they do not and cannot replace a thoughtful, sensitive, and genuinely loving spouse. In the beginning of your marriage, did you call her from work to ask her how her day was going? Did you bring home her favorite treats just because? Did you make her a glass of hot tea when she was under the weather and send her to bed for a nap?

Did you tell you that you loved her every day? Did you hold her close when she needed a shoulder to cry on? Did you help with supper and bath time while she relaxed and unwound from a hectic day with the little ones?

When a man who loves you does these things without expecting anything in return, that is appealing. That makes a woman feel good about herself as a wife and a mother.

When I read that you threatened to go outside the marriage and she said to go ahead, I realized that this woman has lost all faith in you as a husband. What you need to do first is to APOLOGIZE. Never use that as a threat, even if it is an empty threat. That alone shows that you need professional counseling.

When you say that she thinks kissing is dirty, I do not think it has anything to do with the school she went to. If she felt completely loved and accepted by you, it wouldn’t be dirty and disgusting to her. When you seek professional help, be sure to listen to what your wife has to say, and do not be defensive. Listen and take it to heart – and then you might be able to have a fresh start with a new powerful love.

It is never too late

Dear One-Sided Love,

I only know your story based on what you wrote and so cannot assume that my story is the same or similar to yours. But I would like to tell a woman’s version. I am a woman who goes to the mikvah as a job.

You state in your letter that you don’t know if your wife likes you. I can tell you unequivocally that I do not like my husband. He is lazy and irresponsible. He has almost never been there for me or for my children when we needed him. He has worked it out in such a way that we know not to bother even asking him, so he doesn’t ever even have to say ‘no’ anymore. (Don’t think we haven’t tried).

In addition, he has a strong personality and a temper, so we generally acquiesce to his demands for fear of setting him off. So you see, I don’t like him. Yes, I go to the mikvah because this is a Jewish woman’s duty. He has me, but he doesn’t have ME.

When you wrote that you don’t know if your wife likes you, it immediately made me think of my situation. How can you not know if your wife likes you? Do you spend time with each other? Do you have fun together? Or, do you just go to weddings together, but otherwise lead separate lives – which is the case in my marriage. This is something very important that you omitted in your letter.

I know that my husband thinks he can yell and let me carry the responsibility of the house and children – then hug me in the bedroom and think all is fine. It just doesn’t work that way. Again, I don’t know if this is representative of your situation – but if it is, just know that if a woman loves her husband, she will be there for him – even if she does not enjoy intimate relations.

Your other half (?)

Dear Other Halves,

Life can be so incredibly (and unnecessarily) sad, especially when individuals each live in his/her own world – completely oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of their life-partners.

One would be inclined to believe that the act of going to the mikvah as a “job” would be a transparent one. Any caring, feeling and sensitive male shouldn’t have a hard time picking up on the charade. And if misgivings on both sides continue to fester without being brought out into the open, this can lead to a build-up of resentment and anger that is likely to erupt with the slightest provocation.

A wife’s aloofness can in itself cause her man to be an ill-natured unhappy camper. Perhaps a high-spirited moment can be used advantageously, to gently cajole your man into recognizing how his behavior/action/mood can have a detrimental affect on your feelings and the level of respect you have for him.

Is it not a shame to live life in such unfulfilled fashion? Professional guidance may open up new vistas for you as husband and wife, to give you both a chance at happiness. Granted, there are instances when one or both spouses’ personalities do not lend themselves to modification and compromise is unachievable. In cases of severe incompatibility, unalterable by any amount of counseling – divorce may be the only solution.

The Torah makes it clear that the role of a wife is to be her spouse’s eizer kenegdo. Couples often stay together despite hardships, for various reasons. Sometimes it’s for the sake of their children; some simply rationalize that they are better off with – rather than without – one another. Ultimately, only the parties involved can decide what course of action to take.

We must constantly pray to Hashem for shalom bayis and implore Him to guide us in the right path. Every successful marriage has two full-time participants who live to give to one another. It’s the only way

Thank you both for your valuable and insightful input.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-4/2006/05/03/

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