Sunday, December 31, 2006

Into the New Year

When I commemorate the Jewish New Year I'm usually in a place of looking inward, seeing how I have conducted my life in this world, working on aspects of my person and how I affect others. Celebrating the secular New Year brings me to a place of looking outward, seeing how what happens in this world affects my life--in my past, present, and wondering about the future.

So many aspects of the world around me are in a holding pattern right now. There is so much unrest on the planet--Iraq, Somalia, much of the Middle East--with seemingly no end to the violence. In the US we are waiting to see what the shift in political power will bring while preparing for the big change in the presidency coming in two years. With the housing market what it is, I don't know what San Francisco will look like a couple of years from now. And as I mentioned when I restarted this blog in August, Beth Sholom--a community that is a center of my spiritual practice--is rebuilding its facility, so we are a community without a home for this coming year.

I am also in a holding pattern in my life. I have career decisions to make this year--not necessarily final decisions, but choices of paths to follow. This coming year also represents a certain aspect of survival for me. It is 5 years since my experience with cancer treatment--a good milestone to reach. But I can no longer wear the cloak of immortality that is part of youth. At 52 I am beginning to feel the effects of the aging process, and need to come to peace with that. Rabbi Irwin Wiener, a friend of my parents, sent me a piece he wrote on aging. In it he said, "The maturing years seem to contain the entire past but with a new understanding of our fallibility." In the years ahead, I hope to find a good relationship with that understanding.

To all who come by to read this, I wish you a Happy New Year filled with whatever understanding you need to continue on your path in life. And a hearty Yasher Koach* for making it this far!

*a Hebrew congratulatory phrase meaning, almost literally, May the force be with you.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Take me out to the Israel??

I'm somewhat uncomfortable with this story about of the scouting of players for the newly formed Israeli Baseball League. The new league "is welcoming Jews and gentiles alike in hopes of exporting America's pastime to Israel and turning the violence-torn Jewish state - a country with only one full-size diamond - into the next great baseball power."

Why? The operations director, Martin Berger-a Miami lawyer-has an answer "Baseball, to us, is the great American game and there's so many Americans in Israel and there's so many great supporters of Israel in America. It's just a logical thing to do."

Logical to Mr. Berger and who else? This just seems nonsensical to me. Let's break down his reasoning. Baseball is a great American game. There are Americans in Israel. There are Americans who support Israel. How does that add up to starting a professional baseball league in Israel?

I'm a huge baseball fan. The existence and survival of Israel is very important to me. But in no way do the two connect. And then there's the bit about their hopes to compete in the 2009 World Baseball Classic using Jewish major and minor league players. Now, if those players are Israeli or their parents are Israeli or they choose to be Israeli, that's fine. But just to allow the players on the team because they are Jewish does not sit well with me. Should the Vatican field a team made up of Catholic players?

I just don't get it. If someone reading this can bring a different perspective, please comment. If you're interested in following the league, the season will open June 24 with six teams--the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Netanya Tigers, Petach Tikva Pioneers, Jerusalem/Gezer Lions, Haifa/Nahariva Stingrays, and Tel Aviv Lightening.

I'm wondering how they are going to share that one field.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lost in the Shuffle

There are three stories out of the barrage of holiday "news" the media assulted us with this past week that I think deserve our attention. All three are sports related with ties to life in our times.

The first illuminates the horror of the war in Iraq. The Iraqi Olympic cycling coach was kidnapped from his home and killed. I read about this in a small blurb in my local paper, you can read the AP dispatch on There you will find a list of other victims from the Iraqi sports community. "We lost another one," says Hussain al-Amidi, "He is not a politician and has no link with any party. It looks like no one is excluded from the violence."

I heard the next story on NPR last Wednesday, December 20. It was then that I first learned of the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. This Hall of Fame, located on the campus of Boise State University in Idaho, inducts "individuals who are world-class in athletic ability, role models in their community, and have a strong record of humanitarian efforts." We need more stories about athletes "who represent all that is good in sport." I've written before about how players can suffer detrimental effects of their sport to both body and soul (see "The Hard Reality of Sports" and "It's not just steroids. . ."). But how can we teach kids the positive attributes of sports when players like San Diego Chargers' Shawne Merriman get caught using steroids and still get rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl?

Then there is the full spectrum of fan behavior. You might remember the 2002 disputes over ownership of two Barry Bonds' record-setting home run balls--one his 73rd homer of the year, the other the 600th of his career. Both cases were all about greed. But on Monday--Christmas Day--my friend Peter sent me a link to an LA Times story that renewed my faith in sports' fans.

Jim Governale found a recording of Vince Scully's on-air call of the final inning of the Dodger's 5-0 victory over the Mets on June 30, 1962--the only known surviving account of the first Sandy Koufax's four no-hitters. The recording was made by Governale's uncle Dave Fantz when he was 14 years old. So what did Jim Governale do with his precious find? He cleaned up the audio as much as he could, burned it to CD, and, ignoring the advice of his friends, gave it to the Dodger organization. "I just wanted to do what was right by the Dodgers and Vin Scully and Sandy Koufax," he said. "It would mean more to me to honor the two of them by just doing the right thing, rather than just to sell out. To me, it seemed like a way of cheapening the recording and cheapening the find if I were to sell it." Now that's a lesson for our time. Thank you, Mr. Governale.

Monday, December 25, 2006

It's a Holy Day . . .

. . . it's just not my holy day.

There is something different in the air on Christmas eve into Christmas morning. The hustle and bustle of the universe comes to a stop. It's the one time of the year when the majority of the world experiences Shabbat.

We complain-and rightly so-about the commercialization of the season, yet we also have to recognize that in these hours of night into morning alot of people are gathering to pray for peace.

I will not treat this day as if it was nothing special. Although it is not in my tradition, this is a sacred day to so many in the world. Homage is paid not just to one person or one religion, but to the promise of a world of peace.

כן יהי רצון Ken y'hi ratzon - May it be so.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Final Lighting

Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. We've followed the ancient tradition of bringing light into the darkest time. The Solstice is behind us and we will now have more light in our days.

For many years I've seen this commemoration as a celebration of liberation. There's the joke about Jewish holidays that sums them all up as "they tried to destroy us, we're still here, let's eat." But this year it was the "light into darkness" theme that resonated with me. I felt the light in the visual sense both through my own eyes and the wide eyes of children as they lit their candles with great care. I felt the light in the spiritual sense, bringing comfort to a soul in grief. I felt the light in a traditional sense, knowing that the ritual of the candles linked me with all those of my tribe--past, present, and future.

As the light of all the candles burn brightly for the last time this Hanukkah 5767, I send you a greeting that is more associated with another practice--yoga--but is appropriate for this moment.

NAMASTE - I honor the light within you

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter arrives

In the Jewish calendar, a solilunar calendar, Chanukah always begins on the 25th of Kislev. The celebration stays in the fall/winter season but it travels around the days a bit. Last year, Chanukah started the night of Christmas and ran into January. Some years Chanukah starts during Thanksgiving weekend. Contained in the 8 days this year is the Winter Solstice.

Chanukah this year also marked the start of winter weather in San Francisco. While today's rain wasn't the first of the season, it was the first in conjunction with the colder temperatures which arrived on the weekend. Yes, twenty years in San Francisco has made me a "weather wimp." Snow is no longer the harbinger of winter--having to wear socks all the time now marks the season. I guess you could say our climate here is more in keeping with the holiday--of all the things the Maccabees had to deal with, snow and sleet was not among them.

But for many of you it is that time when the chill is in the air, so warm yourself with the laughter that I know will accompany your viewing of this video. Yes, it's silly, but you've got to give them credit, it is fun to watch. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reading the Text

As I mentioned on the first night, I decided to read the Books of the Maccabees this year. I'm someone who likes text study, and was curious to really see the basis for the story of Hannukkah.

At this point, I've made it through 12 of the 16 chapters of Book One and I'm about done. The part of the story that pertains to the holiday is told in the first 4 chapters. The rest is just bloody warfare. I think I'll skip to Book Two, which is a second retelling of the story. The introduction to the book in my translation calls the second version "more emotional, more rhetorical, more stilted, and more obviously propagandistic." I'll see.....

There are a couple of things I read in Book One that caught my mind. Mattathias, patriarch of the Maccabee clan, slaughtered a Jew who was offering false sacrifice as well as an official who was forcing his people to make the sacrifices. "Thus he showed his zeal for the Law, just as Phineas did to Zimri." (Book One 2:36) The Phineas (which I transliterate as Pinchas) story of bloodletting in the Torah is one of those I struggle with each year.

When Judah Maccabeus was gathering his troops, "he ordered those who were building houses or planting vineyards or betrothed to women or were afraid, every one of them to return home, as the Law provided." (3:56) That put a smile on my face because I knew what he was doing and why. (See Deut 20:5-9)

When the Temple was reclaimed, the altar was so desecrated that Judah and his clan didn't just clean it up they rebuilt it and all the utensils involved with that area. I've always had this image of the inner sections of the Temple being cleaned up, scrubbed--not totally rebuilt. For some reason, this makes a difference to me. It gives the story different symbolism, different meaning. It makes room for a different message. It's good drash material.

For all the stuff that's there that I didn't care to read, at least there is something I expected to find. There was an eight day celebration of the rededication of the altar. "And Judah and his brothers and all the congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the rededication of the altar should be observed at their season, every year, for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth of the moth of Chislev, with gladness and joy."(4:59) No candles, no light, but a yearly celebration was in place. There's the celebration that was merged with the ancient rituals to create Hannukkah.

The dreidel game was a European addition to the Hannukkah rituals--a popular 16th century Christmas game that infultrated into Jewish culture. But no matter, it's here to stay, so today's offering is a virtual dreidel game. Enjoy!!

Get your own Dreidel at ChaiSpace!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Light in a Time of Darkness

I won't say that the whole "Miracle of Lights" story of Chanukkah is a total myth, but it's origins are dubious. The First Book of the Maccabees mentions an eight day celebration, but no mention of one day's worth of oil lasting for eight days. It's the Rabbis of the Talmud who give us the candle lighting ritual. Many believe, as I do, that the roots of the ritual lay in the ancient times of our tribe--our light festival in the darkest time of the year.

This week I've experienced not just the visual light reaching out into the dark night, but how a community can shine a light of caring, breaking through darkness that envelopes a soul in grief.

Last Thursday I got a message from Jen'sList, a Yahoo! Group serving the Mission Minyan community, with a subject line "Minyan Needed." It was sent by a UCSF Medical Center chaplain who wrote, "one of my Jewish hospice patients died late last week. It was his wish and that of his family that there be a minyan present to say kaddish at his burial." I responded, saying that I would be able to attend.

The graveside service for Frank Isaac Strick took place yesterday-Monday, Dec 18-at 1:30 p.m. His sister Liz Eisenberg and her husband Roger--a cantor who performed the service--traveled from Baltimore, MD to be there. We just made 10, the minimum number needed in order for Liz to say Kaddish, a Jewish prayer recited in memory of the dead. She spoke movingly about her older brother, both with love and with pain. There were long periods of estrangement from each other. She described a brilliant but troubled soul, always seeking, questioning.

Our presence supported Liz in her grief. There were three of us there from Beth Sholom-each of us getting there through different paths of outreach. None of us had ever met the Eisenbergs before, yet they are a part of our greater Jewish community. There was more support for her at our morning minyan today. A couple of us stayed afterwards sharing some time with them over cups of coffee. Although they came to San Francisco knowing no one, they were not alone.

We also received a gift. Roger led the davening this morning, which included Hallel and a Torah service all in celebration of Chanukkah. He not only has a rich, full voice but you can tell the prayers come from his soul. More light coming from within.

This time of Chanukkah is a commemoration of the rededication of the Great Temple, a rekindling of the light in our sacred center. Our community is the vessel that holds the light. As long as we can hold each other, that light is secure.

For more tales of light, click here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wiki Hanukkah

One advantage of writing this Hanukkah series of posts is taking the time to search the web for all things Hannukah. And as I see what's there I need to decide which ones I would like to share and, in essence, promote.

For the most easily accessed and thorough information on Hanukkah with no frills, go to this Wikipedia page. Yes, you always have to realize that it's Wikipedia so you shouldn't take for granted that everything is correct. I didn't read it all, but what I saw looked good. There's something for everyone--history, ritual, customs, culture. In the great transliterated spelling debate they fall in the Hanukkah camp, but any spelling you put in the Wikipedia search engine will get you to the right page.

The last category in the table of contents is "External Links." Clicking on the "Hanukkah videos" link brought me to the Chanukah videos page of, what else, the Chabad site I wrote about on the second night.

For this fourth night's offering, I give you a link to "An Astronaut's Chanukah Adventure," one of the videos you will find on that page. (I don't have the technological knowledge to embed that on the blog so you'll have to follow the link.) When you watch the video, note the fancy "" opening graphic. Not surprisingly they have some of the best looking video I've seen on the web.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lots of Light

It's fitting that on the third night of Hannukah I was part of three candle lighting ceremonies.

First, I was there as we lit Hannukiahs at the Beth Sholom Hannukah celebration. We also had latkes and sofgoniyot. The Beth Sholom All Star Band played, there were games and crafts for the kids, and lots of dancing. A good time was had by all.

I then traveled downtown to the San Francisco Comedy College where my friend Kenny Altman was holding his birthday celebration. By day Kenny is an administrator at Parents Place, a support organization for parents run by the San Francisco Jewish Family and Children's Services. By night you can find him at various open mikes around the area, honing his skills as a stand-up comedian. For his birthday he MC'd an evening of comedy by some of his fellow students and, of course, treated us to his routines as well. The perfomances were bookended by candle lightings--first the Hannukah candles, then birthday candles on a wonderful pineapple upsidedown cake. Another happy event.

I then came home and lit my candles--a much more quiet ceremony that the preceding two, but no less meaningful. The more light we can bring in this dark time of year, the better.

For those of you who don't have a hannukiah handy, I offer this virtual one, courtesy of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education. I know, it's not really the same as lighting the candles, but with the right intention it could work.

Tonight's main offering is this comic by Ben Baruch. You can find more of his work on his website, Shabot 6000. (If the print is too small to read, click here) Enjoy!!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Chabad Chanukah

There are just those times you've got to love Chabad. Anyone reading this who is at all interested in Chanukah needs to head over to That link will take you the Chabad Chanukah website. (For this post I'm using the הנוכה transliteration that is used by Chabad). It's got it all--history, ritual, teachings, games, recipes, video--anything you could want. Looking for a Chanukah event in your city? Go here. Did you know that there's a Chabad of Vietnam?

Here is one of the videos you will find there. I found it on Google Video, where it is described as "A documentary featuring puppets sharing their feelings about chanukah" It's smile-on-your-face, deep chuckle kind of funny. Enjoy.....

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happy Hanukkah, Chanukkah - however you spell it!

Tonight starts the holiday of Hanukkah--or Channukah or Hannukah or Chanuka--it's spelled so many different ways and everyone is convinced their spelling is the correct one. Of course, it's all a transliteration of the Hebrew הנוכה . For more of the hows and whys of the different spellings, go here to the post in the Balashon-Hebrew Language Detective blog or here to Andy Carvin's blogpost "Chanukah vs. Hanukkah Death Match: The Great Spelling Shift"

Because of it's proximity to Christmas, Hanukkah now occupies a more important place on the Jewish calendar than is really warranted. The ancient writings that tell the story of Hanukkah are not included in the final version Jewish bible. The First and Second Books of the Maccabees are part of the Apocrypha, the books that are found in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Jewish Bible. I have never read the books of the Maccabees, but I plan to read them as part of my Hanukkah ritual this year.

Another part of my Hanukkah ritual this year involves this blog. Each night I will share with you some Hanukkah related item I find on the web. I am going to try to get something visual for each post--a video or cartoon--but at the least there will be some interesting and hopefully fun offering.

For the first night I've selected an animated piece, "My Menorah." For authenticity sake, I wish it was "My Hanukkiah" but then the song wouldn't work.

Enjoy, and Happy Hanukkah!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Searching for a Rabbi

The process to find a new rabbi for my congregation, Beth Sholom, has just begun. Two years ago Rabbi Alan Lew, who had been there for 15 years, retired. (He is still a part of our community, serving as Rabbi Emeritus.) We did hire another rabbi, but the fit was not right so we are on the hunt again. I was on the sidelines during the last search but will be in the thick of it this time as a member of the search committee.

I will not be blogging much about the search, although I will be keeping a private journal. While we will be keeping our members as informed as we can, keeping many details of the search confidential is part of the role of it's members. It is a diverse group representing the different parts of our community--young families, long-time members, singles, the inter-married, the empty-nesters, young adults, gays, etc. I know most of the committee members and like them all.

This is a crucial time for Beth Sholom. The Jewish scene in San Francisco is in flux, with unaffiliated Jews as the majority of the demographic and many families leaving the city due to the high cost of housing. It is a hard time for the Conservative movement of Judaism, once a majority of Jews in America now struggling to hold it's own (for some obvious reasons, one of which I hit on here). And in the midst of all of this, we're homeless at the moment, with the construction of our new building underway but not due to be finished for another year.

I need to have faith in the Beth Sholom community, a group I consider my family. We will survive all of this but not without change. We're in transition right now and it's hard and at times, painful. Which makes the work of the committee all the more important. We need a strong spiritual leader who will help us keep our community vibrant. I hope we can find that person.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Missing my Makom Kavuah

Beth Sholom has been "in the wilderness" for almost six months. (Those of you who don't know what that means can click here). I don't want to get into the particulars of how it's going--it's not pretty--but I do want to note a realization I came to this past Shabbat.

I have not found a makom kavuoh at either Shabbat services at Ner Tamid or at daily minyan at the JCCSF. I am someone who embraces the concept of makom kavuoh, having a fixed place for prayer. In June 2005 I wrote about trial and tribulation of losing my minyan makom kavuah and staking out a new one. In that post, I acknowledge the realization that I will have to find a new makom kavuah when we are in the new building. I didn't take into account having to be in temporary spaces during the transition from old building to new.

I don't want to find a fixed space in a temporary place. Because it's not my home, I think it's good to remain flexible. But I need to be aware that not having that fixed space, even for a limited time, may be contributing to the difficulty I'm having adjusting to this time in synagogue limbo.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Golden Moment

This morning was like most other mornings--up early, got dressed and drove to the JCC for minyan. But when I got out of my car, the world was bathed in gold--it was truly amazing. The sky, the buildings, the ground--it was like a brush washed color over everything. Walking down the street, turning my head around in wonder, I saw a man in front of me in the same state--head circling, eyes wide, gazing at the scene around him. I walked past him, smiling, "Amazing, isn't it" He smiled back, "Yes, isn't it wonderful."

A blast of golden light in the sunrise of this dark time of year. The layer above that reflects the light towards the earth are the clouds of the coming storm. Reminders that there are blessings to be found in the shadows and the rain.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Big Tent????? Please, it's insulting......

So the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly has finally passed down their decision on the ordination of gays and lesbians in the Conservative movement. Going with the "two Jews, three opinions" theory, they adopted three different views. Quoting from the AP story on
"One upholds the prohibition against gay rabbis. Another, billed as a compromise, permits gay ordination while continuing to ban male sodomy. The third upholds the ban on gay sexual relationships in Jewish law and mentions the option for gays to undergo therapy aimed at changing their sexual orientation."
None of these work for me. The first, in my opinion, is just wrong. The second is fine up until "continuing to ban male sodomy." So, is male/female sodomy no longer banned? If male/female sodomy is also still banned, are you going to question heterosexual rabbinical candidates on their sex lives to insure this? And anyone who thinks that the third is an option should definitely read this letter from last week's Jewish Press.

Once again, the Conservative movement wimps out. I'm working on a post "My love/hate relationship with the Conservative movement" but right now, it's hard to feel the "love" part. The AP article on the decision mentions the Conservative movement's leaders mantra, the big tent theory, "allowing diverse practices by the movement's more than 1,000 rabbis and 750 North American synagogues." I have had that same theory thrown in my face during discussions on egalitarianism in the Conservative movement. There are still Conservative affiliated synagogues in this country that would not count me--a minyan going, tefillin wearing, Torah reading woman--as one of the 10 needed for a minyan, where they would count a Jewish man who took on none of those practices.

The big tent theory only works for the men who are making the decisions in the Conservative movement--they can go everywhere in the tent. But it is insulting to the gay, lesbian, and female members of the movement.

I belong to a Conservative affiliated synagogue that is completely egalitarian and supports the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy. I will remain with my synagogue. But as of today, I no longer identify as a member of the Conservative movement. I need no labels or approvals from anyone to continue my strong Jewish practice--and think I'm better off without them.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Prayer for Rain

One of the things I love about Jewish practice is how it attunes us to the seasons and through that, the flow of life. Of course you have to realize that the seasons of record are those of the Middle East, but that works well for us Californians.....

Sukkot is the fall harvest festival and one of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals--the other two being Pesach and Shavuot. At these times, all who could traveled to Jerusalem for the celebrations. On the eighth day of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret--the last day of the festival, the service includes the Prayer for Rain, T'fillat Geshem. From that time until Pesach we add the line "Mashiv Haruah Umorid HaGashem" in the Amidah. It's a time we acknowledge that Adonai, the Transcendent, is the one who "causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall." It is, after all, the rainy season and if there is no rain then there will likely be no rain that year and the crops will be lost.

However, we don't add the request for rain that appears in the Amidah within the blessing for abundance until December 4th (December 5th in a Hebrew year divisible by four--for reasons too complicated for me to explain, you can read about it here).

After Shemini Azteret, it was time for the pilgrims to travel home. Although the rain is needed to start the growing cycle once again, it would be nice if it held off until most travelers were off the road. In the Mishna, it was Rabbi Gamliel's opinion that you wait "fifteen days after the festival [of Sukkot] so that the last Jew [returning home from the festival] could reach the River Euphrates". Outside of Israel, the request for rain is added to the Amidah 60 days after the fall holiday season, not 15. This is from the Talmud, where Rabbi Chananiah said, "In the Diaspora [we do not begin to pray] until the sixtieth day after the [Tishrei] cycle." His reason was that the need for rain is not yet urgent enough to officially request it. (I got the Mishna and Talmud info here at - open for your questions 24/6 :)

Whether it's to symbolize the safe return of the pilgrims or the waiting for urgent need, the time separation between the addition of the two very similar prayers reminds me that seasons are about process, not quick change. Our lives are a series of seasons. We don't change from one day to the next. But as we walk on a path, as we arrive at different points where needs are greater than before, we need to make the room to add the blessings that will give us the strengths that we need.

Friday, December 01, 2006

There's a reason for Google's success

We now take a brief blog time out to present this testimonial......

Little things in life make me happy. In this computer age, systems that work well--give me what I need and more--put a smile on my face.

I wanted to confirm the name of a specific type of beet for a recipe I'm sending out. I had no idea how the name was spelled, I only knew what I remembered of the name. I entered "chigia beets," my best transliteration of what I remembered, into Google search. The page I get asks, "Did you mean Chioggia Beets." And of course that's exactly what I meant. But I never would have gotten to that spelling without the help.

That's the kind of thing that was promised by the computer age and I have to say, those Google guys know how to deliver it.

We now return to our irregularly scheduled blog........

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

They've Just Now Realized This???

I first heard this on NPR this morning and then read it in the Chronicle. A judge has ruled that US money needs to be made to be more recognizable for the blind. "[U.S. District Judge James] Robertson said U.S. paper money violates the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in government programs. The opinion came after a four-year legal fight."

This put a smile on my face. Although I didn't cite a reason, I wrote about the need for this change over a year ago--you can read it here. And for some reason I can't figure out I keep getting hits on the photos in that post. Maybe the judge was doing some internet research???

Tis the Season . . .

. . . to sit back and check out of the madness.

Each year, right after Thanksgiving, I become especially glad to be Jewish. My big deal, lots to do holiday season is now a couple of months past. I stay out of the malls and let the Christmas specials just pass me by. I can easily opt out of the material feeding frenzy. With everyone else running around being a bit crazy, there's plenty of space left in which to relax.

I do love Christmas Day--it has the quietest morning of the year. I realize that inside houses there's probably lots of present opening hoopla, but the outside world is very calm. The change in the outside ambiance starts the night before. Funny, Christmas Day--Jesus' birthday--actually begins at Christmas Eve, the night before. Perhaps an homage to the fact that Jesus was a Jew?

There's one more reason for me to enjoy this season--it's the one time of year I can get Silk's "Soy Nog." It's tasty and rich; I heat it and drink it in coffee and tea. I have been known to add some rum--it's good for what ails you ;) And maybe best of all, it's pareve, so you can use it in desserts for any meal. Locally in San Francisco you can get it in some Safeways, Mollie Stones, Rainbow and Whole Foods. I assume it's available nationally wherever Silk products are sold. So if you like egg nog, check it out--it's a definite treat of the season.

Friday, November 24, 2006

American religions?

In today's SF Chronicle there was a profile of Ingrid Mattson, elected in August to the presidency of the Islamic Society of North America. Not only is this a first in regard to her gender, but she is also the first convert and the first non-immigrant to head the Society, ". . . the largest Muslim umbrella organization on the continent." The article goes on to state, "Her rise to prominence comes as more women and native-born Muslims are defining the faith, making Islam more of an American religion."

Although I understand what the writer is trying to convey, the phrase "American religion" seems to be an oxymoron. Whatever the reality is--and that's a whole different discussion--this country was founded on the principle of religious freedom, exemplified in the governmental division of church and state. I say that even as we have just embarked on this holiday season where Christmas is seen as universal and secular.

On the other hand, religion--in the spiritual sense of the word--needs be universal, transcending political and geographic borders.

I am glad that Ms. Mattson has risen to a position of such high regard in the Islamic religion. I think that this first step could have only been accomplished in a North American environment. I understand the important change that Ms. Mattson represents. I don't think that change should be to make Islam "more of an American religion".

The change is the breaking down of gender discrimination in religious practices. To recognize the value in the hearts, minds, and souls of all who seek that path.

Giving Thanks

It's not often that my prayer practice and my daily reading of the comics practice collide. In fact, I don't know if that has ever happened--until now.

Each day this week Patrick McDonnell, creator of the comic strip Mutts, drew only one frame. The scene changed each day, but the written message was the same.

"If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice."
---Meister Eckhart

A reminder that prayer has a meaning outside of any religious beliefs. The power of prayer is in its simplicity and its ability to unite us all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't Show Me the Money

I just finished reading the AP article on Minnesota's Justin Morneau receiving the Baseball American League's MVP Award. It's not long and had all the pertinent information and statistics. One for the trivia books--Morneau is the second Canadian born player to win the MVP (Larry Walker is the first).

Another aspect of "the story" is that Morneau is not one of the high paid, superstar players in baseball--although he might be on the road there now. Ryan Howard, winner of the National League MVP award, is in that same category. To prove the point, the article mentions Morneau's salary this year, a mere $385,000 -- that is low using major league baseball standards.

But when the article mentions the runner ups for the award, do I need to know how much they each received as a bonus? I'm not naive, I know that major league sports is all about the money. I just don't always need to see the price tag.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Editing and Music

There are musical genes passed along in my family. My grandfather was a musician by profession--first in Eastern Europe and then in the US. He played bass for Paul Whiteman and Emil Colman among others. My dad had a scholarship to the NY Philharmonic for timpani before World War II came around and disrupted things. He played drums professionally as a second job for many years.

I've always felt that those genes are evident in my makeup when I edit.I have an innate sense of pacing and timing for a piece--whatever that pacing and timing need to be.

Someone on one of my editing user group listserves feels the same link between music and editing. As an example, he pointed us to this video on YouTube, which I now share with you.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Religion and the state of the world

As I continue to delve into and discuss with others the meaning of "organized religion" (see this previous post) there is one theme that continually surfaces. Often someone will say, "religion is responsible for most of the war and suffering in the world, both now and through the ages." I have argued against this, realizing that chances are I will not sway those who do believe that.

Jon Carroll, a favorite SF Chronicle columnist of mine, wrote a column to that issue in today's paper, which I encourage you to read. Carroll believes that the war and suffering are not religion's fault, "human nature is responsible for war and torture and intolerance . . . every institution we set up reflects our bestial nature." But there is more to our human nature, "there are good works, plenty of them--selfless behavior, charity, devotion . . .religion can serve as an organizing principle to make these virtues manifest on Earth." Carroll also points out that religion provides rituals that give comfort and solace to many people. So while you don't need to subscribe to any set of religious beliefs, there should be room to understand the good those beliefs bring to others.

In my previous post I started this discussion by trying to define religion, and Jon Carroll's column helps in this endeavor. I realize that this still doesn't address the problems with the organizational aspect of religion. Which gives us more to talk about through the year . . .

A Family's Loss

I've written before about my practice of reading the obituaries each morning. In part it is a way to honor those people, to hear the stories of their lives written by loved ones. There are the times when the information given is sparce and the story needs to be read between the lines. And then there are the stories, both in and between the lines, that touch my heart.

In this morning's paper, at the bottom of one column I read of the passing of Michael Shouliakovsky - "Born Sept 27, 1957 in S.F. and died tragically at home November 13, 2006." The only family connection mentioned is in the phrase "Devoted and loving son of Elizabeth and the late Walter Shouliakovsky."

At the top of the next column was a notice of the passing of Walter M. Shouliakovsky - "Passed away peacefully at home November 14, 2006 at the age of 84 years." The only family connection mentioned for him is "Devoted and loving husband to Elizabeth and loved father to the late Michael Shuouliakovsky."

My heart goes out to Elizabeth Shouliaskovsky, wife and mother, who must be grief stricken with her losses. May she find healing, and may their memories be a blessing to her.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Corporate Propaganda Masquerading as News

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story today about an FCC investigation into the use of corporate propaganda in local news stories. The concern is that stations use material from Video News Releases (VNRs) in news stories without letting the viewers know about the source of that footage.

Now, as one who has edited more than a few VNRs in her day, I know they are created exactly for that purpose. As the article states, a VNR is ". . . a prepackaged segment that looks and sounds like journalistically reported information but is produced by either a public relations firm or a government body with a vested interest in the product or service being described." Many of the VNRs I edited consisted of a complete cut story; a second version of the story with the "correspondent" voice over on a separate audio track so that it could be replaced with the local reporter's voice; and a selection of material that could be used in a piece created independently by the station.

If the stations use the latter and put in either an audio or video ID of the footage--no problem. I know I would want to know that some company has developed a new drug to combat breast cancer. But I would also want to know any downside of the new product, or that its release in general use is years away--information I'm not going to get in a corporate promotional piece. Unfortunately, I would venture to say that many times the piece gets aired as is--down to the script provided by the company. That is the danger.

The disturbing part of the article to me is that the FCC is just now getting to an investigation of this issue. VNRs masquerading as hard news have been around for at least 20 years. And while it still is an important issue to face, the opportunity for this disguised propaganda to be spread over the internet through various kinds outlets is more serious as the next generation gets most of their news from the web. I wonder how long it will take the government to address that aspect of this issue.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Baruch Dayan HaEmet - Sylvie Braitman 1956 - 2006

It is fitting that the post that will be dropped off the front page of this blog to make room for this post is this one asking for healing prayers to be said for my friend Sylvie Braitman. Please now say healing prayers for her family - Sylvie took her last breath this past Friday, November 10.

I just returned from her funeral. While there was lots of time to prepare for this moment, you're never really prepared. So, there was lots of sadness, and there was, like Sylvie, lots of strength as well. Her family - her husband, Phillipe Chouraki, and children, Reuben and Maissa, had a sense of peace about them. Sylvie knew her time here was dwindling and I'm sure she left each of them with her spirit to carry them through.

The rain had let up a bit as we joined together at the gravesite after the ceremony at the chapel. The grey drizzle was appropriate for the occasion, the world shedding tears for our loss. The casket was lowered into the ground as Rabbi Lew recited prayers. We then lined up to fulfill the mitzvah of tossing dirt into the grave to cover the coffin. Rabbi Lew explained that this was symbolic of a parent covering a child with a blanket for comfort. It gives each one of us there a chance for one last goodbye. The sun came out as the casket was covered--maybe Sylvie's way of saying goodbye to us.

Of all the friends and family at the funeral, the presence that touched us all was that of Reuben's football team from Redwood High School in Larkspur, California. It was amazing to see these boys all wearing their football jerseys there to support their friend and teammate.

The family will spend this week surrounded by friends and loved ones. That is part of what the Jewish tradition of shiva is about. An evening service will be held at their house, supporting the family as they begin a year of reciting the mourner's kaddish, starting that process of healing.

Zichrona l'vracha - may her memory be a blessing.......

Friday, November 10, 2006

Healing on Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day is one of those national holidays whose meaning often falls through the cracks for me. I'm not part of the World War II generation, where everyone served in one way or another. I'm part of the Vietnam War generation where service largely depended on class. No one I grew up with served in that war. For the most part, they got student deferments and by the time those were up, the war was over.

Listening to the StoryCorps segment this morning on NPR, I felt that I really "got" Veteran's Day for the first time. Veteran's Day and Memorial Day fall six months apart--equidistant in the year, the flip side of each other. On Memorial Day, we remember those we have lost in war; on Veteran's Day, we honor those who survived.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but the difference didn't sink in until I heard Tom Geerdes, a Vietnam War veteran, a medic who returned home from his tour of duty in 1971 recall his healing moment ten years after his return.

The trigger was seeing a Vietnam War movie on television. Geerdes recounted that as the memories of his friends and the devastation came back to him, "Something just broke. I cried, I just sobbed like a baby for a couple hours. . .I really didn't plan on coming back."

The healing continues to the present, as Geerdes' daughter tells him "I'm glad you came back" and he replies quietly, "Me too."

Tomorow, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, let's commemorate the day by sending healing thoughts to all veterans, saying to them, "we're glad you came back."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Note to Performers with Websites

As a visual editor, I know that when you make a demo reel to feature your work, you keep the samples as short as you can and get to the juicy stuff as soon as possible. This way you keep the interest of the viewers and hope that if they like what they see they will keep looking--even check out some other pieces you provide.

Today I've been doing some internet research, searching for some scholar-in-residence possibilities for Beth Sholom. One route I'm investigating is music, in the realms of scholarship, leadership and performance. As I look at the performer's websites, I certainly listen to the tracks provided to get a feel for the artist. And that's where I've run into a bit of frustration.

So to any vocal performers with websites reading this post--GET RID OF THE 30 SECOND INSTRUMENTAL INTRO ON YOUR 2 MINUTE (OR UNDER) SAMPLE TRACK!!!! I want to hear your voice as well as your song. I don't want to hear your instrumentation--I want to hear you and as much of your song as I can. One sample went so far as to end just as the singing began. THIS DOES NOT HELP ME GET A FEEL FOR WHO YOU ARE!!. And it certainly doesn't help you get a booking. If you don't want to rerecord the track, make a version that fades up before the voice starts. Please, coming from an editor and a possible client--take this advice to heart.

Okay, I feel better now.......back to our irregularly scheduled blog.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Uniquely San Francisco

This is an accident that could only happen in San Francisco.

A SFMUNI bus - the 24 Divisidero - was heading North up Noe Street from 29th Street. It's an incline, although far from the steepest street in the area. It appears that while trying to pass a garbage truck, the bus lost power. These are electric buses that run on power from overhead lines. Bus poles separating from their power lines are a regular occurrence, as any SF rider knows. But I've never had it happen on a hill. Anyway, the driver got out to reattach the poles to the overhead lines. A man I spoke to said that the driver did empty the bus and put blocks behind the wheels to prevent the bus from moving backward. Obviously, they didn't hold. The bus careened down the slope hitting 8 parked vehicles before crashing into an apartment house at the bottom of the hill. Not far to go, but pit a big bus against small cars and trucks--well, you do the math.

The good news is no one was hurt--you can read the story here.

I took these photos two hours after the incident and can tell you that on my way home two hours later the bus was just being towed away.

A reminder why on my block, which is much steeper, there is not only no bus lines but no street cleaning. The garbage trucks do manage to make it up and down. I hope they never go out of control.

UPDATE: Here's a photo taken in the late afternoon. As you can see, everything has been cleared. Notice that no one wants to park there :) I'm sure the spots will fill this evening, but it will be interesting to see what the local news footage will be and if that will have any impact on the parking situation.....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What is Religion?

Because of my known investment in my Jewish practice people tend to engage me in discussions about religion. One phrase I hear alot is "I don't believe in organized religion." I hear it from all age groups, from teenagers to adults in their 60s. Now, a look at my synagogue and the Conservative Jewish denomination it's affiliated with and one could say that if anything, it's Dis-organized religion--but that's a topic for other posts.

I've been pondering this concept of "organized religion" for the better part of this past year. On the one hand, I know what most people mean when they use those words--but what do they really mean? And why do so many people find the concept so unacceptable?

Today I realized I needed to first define religion--something that is a touchstone for some and a repulsive concept to others.

My definition of religion is a set of beliefs accompanied by the practice of rituals that are supported with a community.

Anyone care to add their thoughts? Comments are welcome.

This will be continued.........

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Barbie's Dilemma?

As much as I love the Tefillin Barbie photos from my last post, I wonder if she has the same dilemma I face as a Jewish woman who follows the positive time bound mitzvot (TBM), such as wearing tallit and tefillin.

Traditionally, women are exempt from TBM. In many Orthodox and even some Conservative communities that women are basically forbidden to perform the TBM, along with davening and chanting Torah. For a great scholarly explanation on why this is not halachically correct, check out Danya Ruttenberg's post "I am postive that my time is bound by mitzvot"

But for me the dilemma is about feeling at times that I am an outcast in my own religion. Yes, I'm lucky to live in this day and age when there are many places where women who follow TBM are welcome. I belong to a very traditional Conservative synagogue which is completely egalitarian. I wouldn't have returned to the practice of Judaism without this community. And there are many such communities of varying denominations in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live.

Yet there are times I hear of different learning or davening opportunities that sound wonderful, but I know that I will not be welcomed. If it's a morning minyan, I will be an outcast as I start to put on my tefillin. If it's a Shabbat service, I will be an outcast as I put on my tallit. If it's a class, I will be placed in a separate section not close to the action, just because I am a woman.

Sometimes, I can just say "screw it," I have my community and I can concentrate on all the places I can go. Other times, this discrimination makes me sad.

One good piece of news is that there is now a listserve for women who follow TBM. If you're interested, you can click here to join.

Friday, October 27, 2006

My kind of Barbie

Once again, the wonderful Danya Ruttenberg points me to the wonderful Jen Taylor Friedman, the soferot, who also is creating these Barbie role models.

Hagbah Barbie

Kriyat Torah Barbie

Daf Yomi Shiur Barbie

Thanks, Jen and Danya, we need these images.....

The Road Taken

The quickest route driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles is to take Highway 5. It's also the ugliest route. For my trip today I decided to leave early and take 101 down--probably adding about an hour to my trip but spending the time amidst better scenery.

It was a good decision. When I take 5, I usually arrive in LA a bit beat, having completed a boring drive. I don't feel that way now. I think it's a combination of the mountain and ocean views and the less crowded roadways. I got creative with the route and think that I took an even longer way than I needed to--going off on Highway 1 when I should have stuck to 101. But that part of the drive proved to be the most empty of cars. So even though the speed limit was lower--anywhere from 40 to 55 depending on the section--I usually had the road to myself. And some of the ride was lined with eucalypltus trees, giving off great fragrance.

It was also nice to stop in Santa Barbara for lunch and not some highway rest stop. I walked along the beach for a bit, then down the pier before heading back to my car to finish the trip.

So if you're driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I would highly recommend leaving early and taking the time to take 101. It will make the trip more enjoyable and put you in a better mood when you arrive.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mystery solved

More than 70 years after the fact, research scientists have confirmed what was always suspected -- the great New Zealand/Australian racehorse, Phar Lap, was indeed murdered, killed by the injections of a lethal dose of arsenic. The scientists used a bit of Phar Lap's preserved skin to do the anylysis.

From the article:
"Previous theories speculated the champion died of a stomach condition but many suspected foul play by US gangsters trying to avoid losses from Phar Lap's continued success."
I knew I was justified in not wanting to go to the Tanfaran Shopping Center, the site of the racetrack just south of San Francisco where they did the evil deed (click here for a previous post explaining some of that).

I'm not sure why I'm so fascinated by Phar Lap. It probably comes from the same place as my admiration for Captain Cook (you might ask "what's that about," but I'll save it for another post). These are stories I was unaware of growing up in New York, but have entered my conciousness after being with Ken for all these years.

The Phar Lap story is one of spirit. This one-of-a-kind horse with, literally, a huge heart gave a small piece of joy to so many people hit hard by the Depression of the 1930s. How hard it must of been when this symbol of hope was murdered.

For the whole story with great photos, check out "A Tribute to Phar Lap."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Baruch Dayan HaEmet - Miriam Engelberg 1958 - 2006

Baruch Dayan HaEmet is a phrase many Jews say upon hearing bad news, oftimes on the loss of a life. I say that today upon hearing of the death of Miriam Engelberg--a bright spirit--who lost her battle with breast cancer this week.

Miriam was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, just months before my diagnosis. I met her in the Kaiser support group. She was the one who most often put smiles on our faces in a time that was filled with lots of tears. She was a talented cartoonist who chronicled her cancer experiences in a book called "Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person."

Her observations on the process were so right on. You might say, "well duh, she was going through it." Yes, but that doesn't mean that we don't go through our own fantasies and denials, pushing away the realities of the situation. Miriam was able to express what so many of us felt from a place of humor. It helped to laugh through the darkness. One favorite of mine dealt with trying to figure out what she did to get the disease--"it must have been all the cheese," she concluded.

To see more of her comics, and/or order her book, click on the cartoon.
Zichrona L'vracha
May her memory be a blessing

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Persimmon Season!

I went to Parkside Market today to pick up some fruit and veg. There, to my great delight, I saw the first persimmons of the season. For me, that's when I really know fall has arrived!

I've come to persimmons late in life. It's one of those produce items, such as avocados and artichokes, that I never saw growing up. Maybe it's a east coast/west coast thing; maybe it just wasn't in my parent's food sphere so they never bought them. Whatever, I am now a west coast gal and I love them all.

For the uninitiated, you can find two kinds of persimmons in the stores. The fuyus, pictured above, are small, squat, and firm. They can be easily sliced or just bite into one and eat it like you would an apple. The fuyus are the sweeter of the two varieties.

The hachiyas are bigger, oval-shaped, and should be eaten when soft. They are more tart than the fuyus, but still really good. They're a bit messy to eat when really ripe, but work really well as a sauce, eaten alone or over some ice cream--yummm.

Nutrition-wise, they are high in Vitamin A, with a nice amount of Vitamin C and fiber. For more information and some recipes, check out this page on our government's "5ADay" website. They've named persimmons "Fruit of the Month" I'm not sure whether they mean October or November, but as long as the seasons last--go for it.

Telecommunication made easy

I'm old enough to remember a kitchen without a microwave oven, but I've always been able to reach anyone by phone. Granted, the first phone numbers I learned had letters in them--the phone number from most of my childhood was PY1-3567, which did become more commonly referred to as 791-3567. And yes, I had an area code--516. But this format remained the same as the years went by and my numbers changed.

Then numbers got longer. When you dialed out of your area code, you had to add a 1 before dialing the number. Of course, by then you weren't dialing you were pushing buttons. But all in all, not so radical a change.

Living with Ken means we make international calls more often--New Zealand, Australia, and the occasional England call. To make those calls, you have to add lots of numbers--country codes and city codes. Plus the Australians now have 8 digits in their numbers, not 7. Having to add all those numbers makes sense to me--after all, you'll connecting to a system half a world away. But yesterday, my phone world shrunk.

Ken is in New Zealand staying his parents while his sister takes some time off to go to a friend's wedding. He's alerted his clients that he will be away, but they still can get in touch with him by cell phone. The last time we were both in New Zealand using our respective phones and I needed to call him, I had to dial--actually, enter, we don't dial anymore-- lots of numbers from my cell to connect to his. Somehow I thought that's what his clients had to do. But last night when I wanted to see how his plane trip went, I just entered his normal 7-digit cell number. First I heard the normal US ring sound, then it switched to the more staccato New Zealand ring sound, and then Ken picked up. I made the call wondering if it would work, and was surprised when it did.

It's times like this I begin to realize the many years I've been around . . .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Healing Prayers

Yesterday I saw my friend Sylvie Braitman, a wonderfully talented singer and performer. Sylvie has been fighting breast cancer for the past 81/2 years, surviving against all odds. But modern medicine has run out of conventional treatments for her and as she says, " I am now on my own for a final confrontation, and it feels much calmer inside."

It was hard to see her, yet amazing to feel her quiet strength. She believes in the power of prayer, so anyone reading this, please put her in your prayers. Prayers of any flavor are appreciated, but if you follow Jewish healing practices, her name is Tziporah bat Hannah.

On Friday, November 10, 2006, Sylvie took her last breath. To read my post written after her funeral, click here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hoshana Raba

If there is any doubt about the ancient tribal connections of the rituals of Sukkot, the celebration of Hoshana Raba, the last day of Sukkot, should dispell those doubts. If you google Hoshana Raba, you'll find lots of explanations and justifications for the rituals that fall within the sphere of Jewish teachings and practice. For example, look here and here. And I'm glad the rituals from different times have found meanings in different generations--it enhances the spirit of the day.

Hoshana Raba encorporates the rituals of Sukkot week--see the post below for those details--but it's so much more. The service is one of the most, if not the most, complicated of the year. It's kind of a festival morning service, but has some weekday prayers, such as the prayers for thanks, something not said on Shabbat or festivals. The leader really needs to prepare and stay on top of things as we traverse here and there through the prayer book--"page 3...." We chant a full Hallel, complete with appropriate shakes and read the Torah--the description of the sacrifices performed at the Temple that week. (see Num 29:12 - 32)

The leader then dons a kittle--the white robe traditionally worn on Yom Kippur--to lead the next part of the service, the Musaf service, using the High Holiday melodies. (One woman remarked this morning--"wow--ceremony complete with costume changes!") Hoshana Raba marks the end of this series of Days of Judgement, one last reminder the keep that teshuvah, that turning and returning of the soul that was felt so deeply, with you as you continue through the year.

And then there's the processionals--not just once around, but 7 times. Each round having it's own theme - our relation to God, our relation to ourselves, our relation to others, our relation to the earth, and so on. This all culminates with the act of taking the willows from the lulav and beating them against the seats until all the leaves are gone. Why? No one really knows, although there are many explanations. Maybe it was a ritual to bring on rain; maybe because though we can make the leaves fall, the branch still exists; maybe it symbolizes the casting off of our sins. All these reasons and more are given. The fact is, no one really knows, and that's the beauty of it. We can connect deeply to our roots and bring our own feelings and interpretation to this powerful moment. For the moment is powerful, you can feel it in the room. We' all let collectively let loose in that moment of frenzy. We are are ready to fill for the next year.

I thank the ancient ones who brought this to us. I once again am able to tap into the stream of past, present, and future generations. As Rabbi Lew taught me, ritual makes the invisible visible. Whatever my doubts about my practice, my questions about my spiritual center--these rituals bring me home.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tribal Rituals

I have a deep connection to my Jewish roots. It's not just one tie, but appears in many levels. Although I am thoroughly American, I feel close to the Jewish Eastern European world of my grandparents. I look at the old photos and can place myself there--I see my face in theirs. As a student of Torah, I read the stories of the beginnings of my people, hear the teachings of our sages, and feel the link to them as I take their stories and interpretations as a base to find my own.

During this holiday season, the connection reaches further back into very ancient times, before Abraham and Sarah--before even Abram and Sarai--back to the first tribal wonderings of my people. For while there are many rituals that I believe have their roots in that time, none are more obvious that the rituals surrounding the holiday of Sukkot.

Each morning I take my lulav made up of a palm branch, 2 willow branches, and 3 myrtle branches; and my etrog, a citron, and join with others in the morning minyan shaking them in six directions - east, south, west, north, up, down. (For a good nuts and bolts explanation of the ritual, click here.) Before the end of the service, we all join in a processional, marching around the room chanting "Hoshana - Save Us" while the ark is opened and a Torah is taken out and held at the front.

The shaking of the lulav and etrog while reaching out to a direction and then bringing in towards my body evokes the same sort of viseral reaction I have when I wear my tefillin, but stronger. I literally feel the connection with my ancient ancestors--it vibrates within me. And marching with others reminds me of the need for community and the support that community brings. Our ancestors used these rituals to bind the community--a community they quite literally needed for survival. And for all our modernity--we need our community for survival as well.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Turning and Returning

Shana Tova.....I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

I have more to say about my Rosh Hashanah experience, but need to go to other things at the moment. For now I'd like to give you some things that are good to mull over anytime, but are especially appropriate for these days of Teshuvah, of turning, returning, looking at our lives. So with thanks to my friend Danya Ruttenberg, check out her blog and read her "Learning for the Ten Days" post.

Her commentary on the Unetane Tokef prayer directly under the Ten Days post is more good food for thought.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Best of Today's News

Here are two stories from today's news that put a smile on my face, so I'd thought I'd share......

Fawlty Towers lives again! See this story from the BBC about the reopening of the hotel that inspired John Cleese to create the TV show.

And then there's this news about Willie Nelson and his fellow roadies....
It doesn't say anything about DUI or erratic driving, just that the bus was stopped for "a commercial vehicle inspection." The AP quotes a news release that says ""When the door was opened and the trooper began to speak to the driver, he smelled the strong odor of marijuana . . . A search of the bus produced 11/2 pounds of marijuana and 0.2 pounds of narcotic mushrooms, according to state police."

Was this really necessary? Was it surprising? Is this news??

Whatever, they were issued misdemeanor citations and released.

Friday, September 15, 2006

On the Road with the Pod

I really love my new car but it does have one drawback--there's no input for my iPod on the sound system. I read somewhere that Mazda will be adding that option in the 2007 models, but that doesn't help me now. In my Saab I used the cassette adapter, which worked great. The Mazda doesn't have cassette player, so I use the device that tunes the iPod into a blank FM station. In the Bay Area, with so many FM radio stations, I often have to deal with static. I didn't know how it would do on the road.

I am happy to report that it worked just fine, thank you very much. I first tried it when we hit Highway 5, and the station I found worked all the way up through California and over to the Oregon coast. I had to adjust the station at the coast, and once again as we circled Seattle. But that was about it. One nice added feature is that it charges while it plays, so there's no danger of running down the battery.

We didn't keep it on during the entire trip. We like to check out the radio stations in different regions, both AM and FM. We didn't travel that far, but you still get different perspectives in news and sports. That's especially true if you can find the independent stations. Everywhere you go you get the views of the right, the left, and the Christian evangelists. But it's hard to beat the Pod for music selection. I've downloaded enough of our CD collection to keep both Ken and me happy. Since Ken did most of the driving, I was able to do some discrete editing of the shuffle selections--skipping through some songs that I knew he wouldn't like or I didn't feel like hearing.

My next long road trip will be to LA at the end of October. I'll be by myself, so I'm glad to know that the Pod will be with me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

"All the World is a Narrow Bridge . . .

. . . and the main thing is not to be afraid"

Those are the words of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslov describing the power of hope over fear. Appropriate words for this coming week.

These words have been going through my head lately, albeit in a different context. On our trip to and from Vancouver we went over a lot of bridges--narrow bridges, wide bridges; little bridges, big bridges; steel bridges, concrete bridges; old bridges, new bridges. To see some of these bridges, click here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Weed like to welcome you

Get it? It took me a little, too. Just say it out loud--"Weed like to welcome you." Yes, it's corny, but hey--it's Weed.....
So what does this have to with our road trip to Vancouver?

The town of Weed, California, was our first stopping point. It was just the right distance for our first day of driving. We left San Francisco at 10a.m. and got to Weed at 4p.m. Enough time to walk around a bit--we even made it to the Weed Museum, a building that once served as the courthouse and the jail. It now houses all sorts of relics and photographs--some have historical significance, some serve as a snapshot of times past. We got there at 4:45p.m., fifteen minutes before closing time. But Harold, the keeper of the museum, gave us the full tour anyway. Here's Ken checking out the big old movie projector. In the background you'll see a late 19th century stagecoach.

Weed is a small town, with not many dining options. We asked Harold where to eat dinner, and he suggested that we drive 9 miles south to Mt. Shasta for dinner--a good call. But I still would recommend Weed to anyone needing a good stopping place for a California road trip. The air is crisp and clean, and the beauty of Mt Shasta is visible everywhere. For Ken and myself, it was a place we could start to leave San Francisco behind, take a deep breath, and really begin our vacation.

Monday, August 28, 2006

On the road again.....

You won't see a post from me for awhile, but don't worry, I'm not dropping the ball. Ken and I are going on a road trip to Vancouver. I'm looking forward to the trip. Ken likes to drive, so the time we spend together is relaxing for both of us. Plus we get to take the new car for a nice run. I'm sure it will appreciate getting a break from running up and down the San Francisco hills.

I might post from Vancouver--we're staying with Ken's brother and sister-in-law, Brent & Sharon, and I know they'll be connected. Sharon called last night to give us an update on some plans they've made and at least one will be well worth blogging. If I don't get to it there, I'll make sure to post on my return.

But for now--have a good week..........

KPIG - AM, FM, Webcast

I know, it's a bit strange to see a pig reference on my blog, but this has nothing to do with food. It's a radio station I've just found, and it's different enough in these days of all corporate all the time that I'd like to write about it.

I was drawn to the station by a bus ad--you see, advertising does work--that had, on the list of artists they played, John Prine, a favorite of mine. There were other artists I liked, so I took note of the station ID - 1510AM, and started listening this weekend.

The first music I heard was a bluegrass, country mix--something I usually only hear on KALW during their Saturday afternoon folk block. This morning's offering was just a nice mix of folk, blues, even a bit of reggae. That's what happens when real people are doing the programming they want instead of relying on a playlist.

Another plus is there seem to be few, if any, commercials. Maybe this is because this station is new to the San Francisco Bay Area radio zone. I find that new stations start out mostly commercial-free, and then pick up advertisers as they pick up listeners. But from what I can get from the info page on their website the station, run out of Freedom, California, near Santa Cruz, has been broadcasting since 2003. They have an FM outlet there, 107.5. But they seem to be picking up steam and areas--their on-the-hour station ids mention AM stations in San Luis Obispo and Petaluma. You can also listen to a webcast of the station, just go their website - (what else?!)

So, either on the radio or on the web, check out "The PIG". It may be traif for the stomach, but not for the ears.