Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On the subject of weddings

Last night, I went to the wedding of my niece's daughter.  (Did I mention that I have a "May-December" marriage?)  What made this wedding sort of unique was that it was at the same hall Builder and I used for our wedding, Ateres Gashmius (again, all names have been changed to protect the guilty.)  The wedding was...a wedding.  No big surprise.  Take standard wedding formula, plug in bride and groom, and there you are.  Same halls, same snowbeast dress, tiara from Claire's Accessories and pancake makeup, same flowers, same food, same music.  Same circle dancing to "Od Yeshama" played about 100 decibels over the tolerance of the human ear.
However, since the wedding was at Ateres Gashmius, it got me thinking about my own wedding.
Builder and I got engaged Erev Rosh Hashanah.  The vort was Motzai Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos.  The event itself was the fourth night of Chanukah.  That means I had ten weeks to prepare.  Normally, a bride given only ten weeks would be in panic mode.  How do I deal with all the details?  However, when it became clear that my input was not required nor even particularly wanted, I ceased caring about the details.  Moreover, it became clear that this wedding was more for Builder's benefit than mine (it didn't help that only five people showed up from my side.)  So, my job was literally put on the dress and show up.  And, even the dress was "something borrowed."  As a result, I remember very little about my own wedding, except the sea of faces, most of them I didn't know and would never see again.
Had I been able to work my will, several things would have been different.  For one, the wedding would have been much smaller--I would have only invited family and a few close friends.  It would have been outdoors--say Prospect Park or maybe even Central Park.  Set up a nicely decorated chuppah, maybe made with appliques or painted fabric in a clearing, and let the trees act as a natural mechitza.  My gown would have been my own creation--maybe an Empire waist with an overskirt of lace, Regency puffed sleeves ending in a wide flare.  And it certainly would not have been in December--both the dead of winter and the height of tourist season in NYC.  As for the music, I would have gone more romantic and less raucous--say "Strangers In The Night," "The Way You Look Tonight," or some other romantic standard (Although, since no bandleader sings anything remotely secular, it was kind of a blessing that I didn't get those.  Sinatra standards as instrumentals sound too much like elevator music.  Besides, what makes the song is that famous Sinatra voice.  Le sigh.)  Even something classical would have been nicer.
However, I did have some say in some matters.  I got to order purple yarmulkes for those guests who didn't have any.  I did get to make my own veil (flower wreath, not glitzy tiara).  I walked down the aisle to Pachelbel's Canon.  And I did get to order the flowers--although the florist looked at me as though I was speaking ancient Sanskrit when I said I wanted something between Court of King Arthur and Lord of the Rings.
Well, one down, two more to go this winter.  Now to order some fabric so my girls have something to wear besides their fundie jumpers to the next one.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mapping and dissections and art, oh my!

Now that Queen Mom has returned, we're trying to get some semblance of order back.  It didn't help that Queen Mom's visit coincided with both Thanksgiving and a pre-Thanksgiving Gone With The Wind marathon, so we ended up behind in our studies.  Very behind.
So, today, we played catch-up.  And, catching up included not only reading missed history and literature chapters from last week, it also included an art project (line drawing for Thing 1, and a direct observation drawing of a panda for Thing 2) and a page in the Sefer Ha-Mitzvos (this ongoing scrapbook with projects about various mitzvot that we've been doing as a year-long project.  Usually I try to squeeze in about one project a week.)
We started our grand adventure in catching-up with a chapter on the Near Eastern nations in Mesopotamia, which included a map.  Thing 1 actually remembered that Mesopotamia is the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, and that Mt. Ararat is the spot where Noah's Ark rested.  Then we read the second half of Chapter 6 and the first half of Chapter 7 in Winnie-the-Pooh.  After lunch, I learned that almonds should not be dissected with the scalpel (and have the cuts on my fingers to prove it.)  Thing 1 learned why Mommy does not let her use the scalpel (again, cut fingers).  After labeling the parts of an almond, I helped Thing 1 map out Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Chaldea, and Assyria.  Then we switched to art--a favorite subject for both kids.  While Thing 2 drew a stuffed panda bear with crayons (an exercise in observation), Thing 1 learned about the role of lines in art.
And, we continue our quest to catch-up.  Thing 1 still needs to label Princeton on her US map, and we're still a chapter behind in Jewish history.  But, as Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler said, " another day!"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Toldos--I thought G-d liked BT's

Well, here we are in Parshas Toldos.  This is where we meet our third "father," Yaakov (who, despite our tradition that his greatest trait was "emes" seemed to spend the better part of his life trying to pull something on someone.)  But, we'll get to him another time.  I'd like to talk about Rivka.  In this week's parsha, we see Rivka and Yitzhak praying for children.  The question is, why did Yitzhak pray for his wife to have a child?  It's not precedented.  Avraham impregnated the help, and Yaakov got mad when Rachel brought it up.  Yitzhak was the only one to pray.   A loving act by a loving husband.  After all, Yitzhak was the only one of our avos not to take multiple wives.
But was love the only motive?
According to one midrash, Yitzhak had to do the praying.  As we've established, Rivka's family was EEEEVIIIILLLL.  Therefore, Hashem would not listen to her tefillos.
Glad they missed this midrash when they handed me my kosher Kool-Aid.
Seriously, Hashem ignored her tefillos because of--her family?  Because we have so much control over our families?  Talk about a mean Midrash!  The G-d of this story gives a righteous girl to an EEEEVIIIILLLL family, then holds her family against her?  That's just wrong!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

He seemed like such a nice guy...

Yes, I know that we are past Chaye Sara and into Toldos, but since we will be seeing Rivka's relatives again in Vayetze, I thought this would be a good time to talk about Besuel.
Besuel was Rivka's father and Avraham's cousin.  When Eliezer was sent to look for a wife, he met Rivka who not only gave him a drink, but quenched the thirst of his ten camels (no eay task even for ONE camel.)  Since she seemed like a nice girl, and was related to Avraham's family, Eliezer went to her house to finalize the marraige.
And here's where the Midrash gets in the way.
According to the p'shat, Besuel's family gives Rivka up without a fight, simply saying, "OK, if that's what G-d wants, we have no argument.  But let's get Rivka's permission, since, it is, after all, her life."  (Pretty enlightened for Mesopotamia circa 3,000 years BCE).  However, they do want a few days to say goodbye, which, again, does not seem unreasonable since she's going to be moving from Mesopotamia to Israel and the invention of Skype is still several millenia off.  However, according to Rav Becahye and the Baal HaTurim, Besuel is not the kindly father who permits  his daughter's marriage to his cousin's only legitimate son.  He's EEEEVIIIILLLL!  We're talking murderer-evil!  We're talking trying to poison Eliezer so Besuel could rob him evil.  However, the good fairies angels turned the tables on Besuel--literally.  They turned the tray so that Besuel was poisoned by his own tainted meal.  Why?  Because Besuel doesn't say anything after giving permission for the marriage to proceed.  Therefore, he must be dead!  Why was he dead?  Poisoning comes to mind.  And, since no servant of Avraham would carry a poison ring, he must have been poisoned by his own family.  Guess Yishmael wasn't the only rotten apple on the family tree.  But if they're so EEEEVIIIILLLL, why would any man, in this right mind, want the daughter of a murderous family to marry his son?
Wow.  Here we have a family that has a daughter nice enough to water ten thirsty camels--without being asked--and she's the spawn of murderers!  And they seemed like such nice people!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Post-election wrap-up--immigration, moderates, and rape babies

With the exception of Floridum (and since I used to live there, I can call it that), all the votes are counted.  Barack Obama is president.  The Senate is majority-Democrat.  Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are not Senators.  Gay marriage and medical marijuana are now the law in several states.  And the MSM just got caught up with the rest of the world in discovering that the GOP--particularly the Tea Party--is very out of touch.
Mitt Romney was very popular--with older, white males.  However, with younger voters, women, and minorities, he had little support.  And there are now more of us than the older Americans.  (It didn't help that he teamed up with Paul Ryan, who wanted to gut Medicare for everyone under 55.)  Our family was proof of that divide.  Builder voted for Romney, but I voted for Obama.
Herein lies the problem.  The GOP has ostensibly been taken over by a bat-guano crazy group known as the Tea Party.  Ostensibly started as a revolt against higher taxes and a "spread of socialism," the agenda has been co-opted by religious fundamentalists, Quiverfull X-tians, and the John Birch Society.  Now, their platform is as follows--Abortion: Bad, under all circumstances, including rape and incest.  Contraception: Bad--too similar to abortion.  Immigration: Bad--they steal jobs.  Separation of church and state: Bad--must fight for "Jaee-sus!"  Gay marriage: Bad--"cause the Bible tells me so!"  Social safety net: Bad--everyone must be self-sufficient, and I'll be DAMNED if you raise MY taxes to pay for these parasites!
Herein lies the problem--thanks to the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments, women and minorities have the vote.  Women don't like having the government cutting social programs while worrying about what's in their uterus--whether it be a baby or an IUD (and don't kid yourself--most of the women using contraceptives are married).  People whose skin isn't lily-white (particularly Hispanics) worry about discrimination and false arrest from those who can't be bothered to differentiate between illegals (who can be as white as Romney) and people of Hispanic origin (who may have lived here longer than Washington).
And then there's the pro-life crowd.
As divided as the rest of the GOP, the pro-life crowd has gone from "abortion is wrong" to "anything that MIGHT prevent a fertilized zygote from growing into a baby is wrong under all circumstances."  In other words, they went into what was once sacred territory--rape babies and contraception.  There are those who are personally opposed to abortion but they are pro-birth-control (can't have an abortion if you're not pregnant).  And as for rape babies, there is a certain level of sociopathy in demanding that a rape victim carry a reminder of the assault to term.  However, both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock (as well as Paul Ryan) wanted to outlaw abortion in cases of rape.  And we don't need to look that far back in this campaign to remember Rush Limbaugh's attack on Sandra Fluke for lobbying to have her insurance cover her contraceptives.
Meanwhile, GOP candidates have another problem--campaign positions have a longer life span.  Remember John Kerry?  Within the span of 2004, he went from Vietnam War Hero to "Flip-Flop Kerry."  His inconsistencies lost him the election.  Similarly, Mitt Romney decided to be as pro-self-sufficiency, pro-rich-people, and pro-life as possible to get the Tea Party nutcase Republican nomination.  Then, he had to backpedal to appeal to the nation, which is far more moderate.  However, since soundbytes live forever as social network memes (and travel faster than the speed of sound), he came off as meaning nothing he said.  His choice of running mate did not help.  Thus was the Massachusetts Moderate turned into the Tea Party Talking Head.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hail to the Chief!

Well, looks like we're in for four more years!

Congratulations Mr. President Barack Obama!
We knew the general breakdown, but when states like Wisconsin (Paul Ryan's home state) and Nevada were projected for Obama, I knew it might happen.  California and New York went blue, the South went red.  No big surprise.  Florida might go blue--which would mean that every single state I lived in (California, Nevada, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York) went blue.  Also, it speaks volumes that Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin (Romney and Ryan's home states) went blue.
Watched the returns with AriSparkles.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Parshas Vayera--Pesach before Pesach

In this week's parsha, we see a group of three angels being treated to two different feasts.  At one, Sara baked cakes, but they might not have been set out.  At another, the guests were given matza.  Why, one might ask?  Because it was Pesach.
Really.  According to Rav Bechaye, the commemoration of the Exodus accounts for both the unserved cakes (Sara let the dough sit too long and it became chametz) and Lot's matzas.  Never mind that the specific incident that would trigger the celebration of Pesach, and the commandment to avoid all things chametz during that time were A COUPLE OF CENTURIES AWAY!
And here we come to the biggest problem I have with Midrash--the Torah existed before it was written.
Really, if we had enough foresight to know that we would have to eat matza for a week in the spring to commemorate our freedom from Egyptian slavery, then why didn't we have the foresight to get out of Dodge before it became an issue?  Why did we stay after Joseph died?  Why go to Egypt in the first place?  Why not stay in Canaan and keep our freedom, thus avoiding the need to commemorate a Biblical feast hundreds of years before it was necessary?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Slow recovery--but what else is new?

I'm going to take a break from the hurricane to focus on a criticism labeled at our President--that the recovery is our slowest ever.
And then I will assume that the person making this assertion means "since the 1950s."
One of the advantages of attending high schools based in three different states is that one never studies US history the same way.  When I was homeschooling through a program based out of Nebraska, I learned about the other side of FDR and the New Deal.  Now, the version of history most people learn is, "Stock market crashed in 1929, FDR became President in 1932, instituted the New Deal, and 'Happy Days Are Here Again'..."
Not quite.
If you look at Roosevelt's legacy at the end of his first term, you'll find that by 1936, he hadn't been that effective.  Most of his New Deal programs had been ruled unconstitutional by a reactionary and pro-business Supreme Court.  Roosevelt was so disgusted that he began referring to the Court as the "nine Old men," and vowed to add six Supreme Court justices that would be more sympathetic to his Keynesian ideals.  This almost cost him the election.
The fact is, we cannot get out of a deep economic hole overnight.  This has been the product of decades--not years, but decades--of bad decisions.  Even before the 2007 crash, the economy wasn't doing that well.  A housing bubble and concomitant job shortage meant that people in their twenties were shut out of the housing market--and this was in 2003.  Easy credit in the 90s and early 2000s meant that the baby boomlet--the people now in their thirties, who should be the backbone of the economy--are in debt over their heads.  When I finished college, there were people with BA degrees working at Target and Starbucks--and that was over a decade ago.  Cuts in education funding mean that a high school diploma is no guarantee of functional literacy.
What has Obama done?
His stimulus programs in 2009 floated money to the middle classes--which stimulated some growth in an economy that was flatlining.  His GM bailout was structured so that the funds would go to reopening plants rather than CEO bonuses--unlike the 2008 TARP bailouts, which he had nothing to do with (he had not taken the office of President when it was signed, and he had already resigned his Senate seat).  His policies on helping former students get out from under their student loans have helped lower the amount of personal debt that many now carry.
Are we back to normal?  No.  Is it a start?  Yes.  Could we have expected more?  Possibly.  Can Romney do better?  I doubt it.
Tifrosh Min Hatzibur endorses Obama for President in 2012.