Friday, September 29, 2006

back in the blog gang

gorgeous girl in her crib
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
home for the holydays, i am able to scan my mother's latest shots of our darling o. expect to be inundated :-)

meanwhile, all the best for a happy and healthy new year, and well over the fast!

Thursday, September 14, 2006


o you are so lucky. i was just about to start another of my "what books do you have in your bathroom list?" when i saw this! 50 ways to irritate everyone!!

here are my 5 favourites:

i. "Being welcomed to places one has no wish to be in and thanked for things one has no wish to do. "Welcome to the Grottville Multi-Storey Car Park"; "Thank you for paying the Congestion Charge.""

ii. "Restaurant staff who now seem almost entirely recruited from Planet Youguy ("Are you guys ready to order some dessert?")"

iii. "Checking the overnight e-mails to find only 10 identical messages from "Demetrius Fitzcarraldo" offering to cure erectile dysfunction."

iv. "''Celebrity" chefs who invent perversely inedible dishes such as snail trifle and haddock-flavoured ice cream – and then charge gullible customers an additional fortune for having their plates dotted with spots of foam."

v. "Colourless, unexpressive, witless contemporary slang – "bling", "chav", "minger", "a bit rubbish" – disgracing a language that inspired the vernacular of Shakespeare and Dickens"

ann richards r.i.p.

former texas governor ann richards has died of cancer. here is an early yahoo obituary.

alongside geraldine ferraro, ann richards was one of the first american women politicians of whom i became aware in the late 1980's as i reached voting age and began to pay attention to u.s. politics.

the report notes some of her pithier statements:

"She grabbed the national spotlight with her keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention when she was the Texas state treasurer. Richards won cheers from delegates when she reminded them that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, "only backwards and in high heels.""
"Richards sealed her partisan reputation with a blast at George H. Bush, a fellow Texan who was vice president at the time: "Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.""
"Richards rose to the governorship with a come-from-behind victory over millionaire cowboy Clayton Williams in 1990. She cracked a half-century male grip on the governor's mansion and celebrated by holding up a T-shirt that showed the state Capitol and read: "A woman's place is in the dome.""

sic transit gloria mundi, eh?

first rabbis ordained in germany since ww2

our friend ruth gledhill writes in the times this week about the ordination of new rabbis by the abraham geiger college.

i know very little about this seminary, and thus can make no comment about it. the article is headed by a fine picture of my godmother, and ends with quotes from an advance copy of the speech she was to make. what jumped off the screen at me was this paragraph:

“Perhaps we will once again see that extraordinary German Jewish symbiosis. Perhaps once again, with these new rabbis, this rebirth, we will see talent spring forth and a capacity for cultural and intellectual endeavour to find a modus vivendi with a religious life that is not orthodox but is demanding.”

o i could cry at that. that is what we grew up with (julia and i). those were the rabbis and the teachers and the relatives and friends that we knew and loved. they are the reason we do what we do today, or try to.

there was a comparable stratum in the american reform movement, but most of them also now are dusty hardbacks sitting on low shelves in synagogue libraries used as dumping grounds for books that don't fit in the house but cannot be thrown away.

o yeah? how many of these guys have you heard of, and what do you know about them?

(randomly picked as first that come to mind) kaufmann kohler? isaac mayer wise? ok, a bit more recently ... abraham cronbach? jacob petuchowski? steven schwarzschild? alex schindler? arnold jacob wolf? eugene borowitz? a. stanley dreyfus?

actually, the first that came to mind for me was my father, but i didn't want to show off *blush*

this is rather depressing, actually. julia gave up the congregational rabbinate many years ago. i can hardly wait to see her next month and talk about the choices i need to be making.

in any case, good luck to the newly-minted ones.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

here and there

another hebrew sesame street spot on youtube. not terribly good quality, and you have to last through the first few seconds that look like the videotape is being mangled by the machine. however, after that you may watch a sketch that could be the answer to life the universe and everything :-)

if your hebrew is still a bit wobbly, here is the basic premise: the kid wants to be over there, but every time he gets there, it turns out that he is here.

the face of god

i seem to remember a passage in the torah where moses begs to see the face of god, who tells him he cannot for it would be too much and kill him. god's compromise is to let moses sit in the cleft of the rock and see god's back after god has passed by. (exodus 32:18-23)

in any case, while i understand that all our visions and understanding of god are limited by our human experience; and my tradition tells us we were made in the image of god ... i still worry that we tend to reverse this and make god to be in our image.

what do i mean by this? it has something to do with the difficulty of accepting there are some things we cannot get our heads round. for example, why do bad things happen to good people? if god lets that happen, why should one have anything to do with such a god? we assume that this entity we have defined as a supreme deity works within the rules that we understand. of course we can only understand within our own dimension. yet there seems little space for a god that does not fit our needs.

perhaps we need to start reading the book of job again. god tells it like it is to job:

god speaks out of the whirlwind and says, "who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?"

god continues, "where wast thou when i laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast the understanding. who determined the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who stretched the line upon it? whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof ...?" (job 38)

you go god!

meanwhile, today's times runs the following story:

America is revealed as one nation under four faces of God
By Tim Reid
A survey shows that the way Americans see the Almighty is closely linked to their political beliefs

NINE in ten Americans believe in God but how they vote, or regard the Iraq war, depends on the very different views they have about His personality, according to a detailed survey of religion in the US.

It found that Americans hold four different images of God — Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant — and these views are far more powerful indicators about their political, social and moral attitudes than any of the traditional categories such as Protestant, Catholic or Evangelical.

The study also suggests that America is more religious than previously thought, with only 5.2 per cent of respondents calling themselves atheist and 91.8 per cent saying that they believed in God.

In Britain, by contrast, 20 per cent say that they hold no belief in a higher power and only 38 per cent claim to believe in a traditional God, according to a 2005 survey.

The American survey, conducted by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion in Texas, broke new ground in asking respondents how they viewed God’s personality.

Researchers found that Americans hold four distinct views, and these “Four Gods” are remarkably accurate diviners of how an American thinks about everything from politics, abortion, taxation and marriage. “You learn more about people’s moral and political behaviour if you know their image of God than almost any other measure,” said Christopher Bader, one of the researchers."

you can read the rest of the article here.

what i have gleaned from it is basically the more authoritarian god is, the more conservative one is; and the more distant god is, the less connected one is to one's tradition of origin.

what worries me most, is this quote:

"“This is a very powerful tool to understand core differences in the United States,” said Paul Froese, a professor at Baylor. “If I know your image of God, I can tell all kind of things about you. It’s a central part of your world view.”"

sounds like a bit of a marketing tool if you ask me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

thank you, danya!

qpr lost tonight, and are at the bottom of the table. their defence has more holes than my memory. was feeling a bit blue and then found the hebrew version of ernie singing "rubber ducky" on youtube via danya's blog. definitely cheered me up!

here it is in english if your ivrit is a bit rusty :-)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

go dexter!

go dexter!
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
dexter is congratulated by cooky, birch & nick ward. the commentator on qpr world has to have been one of the worst ever. he spent half the time advertising another programme, he rarely described what was actually going on, and he said the 3 guys not dexter in this pic were hard to tell apart because they all had the same hair!

who cares ... a happy picture, of celebration, joy & success!

btw, today while wandering round the mall, there seemed to be myriad babies. many of them got tired of wandering round the mall and started wailing. i said to d - wouldn't it be nice if we could just wail like that when we felt like it? so we did. briefly :-)

plymouth argyle 1-1 qpr

we still didn't win but we still didn't lose. honours even between olly (our old manager) & waddo (the new guy). in this pic dexter blackstock nutmegs the argyle keeper for the opening goal.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


thinking about the ways that people interpret the torah after reading about the possibility that the conservative movement in the us might actually start to accept g/b/l/t rabbis, i then came across the following bbc world service broadcast written by my dear father:

"More than thirty years ago, I shared a bed with a Catholic priest and a Methodist minister. It was a small bed-and a long night. Just the same, I would not have forgone that experience for all the tea in China. And we didn't even have tea in that small cottage in Selma, Alabama. We had spent the night in the black ghetto of that town in order to join in the Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery. The next morning, I would walk alongside Martin Luther King, the Nobel Prize Laureate Ralph Bunche, and my own teacher and friend Professor Abraham Heschel. It was all part of a statement of support for the persecuted black community in the United States which would be heard and seen throughout the world. But, the night before, we discovered solidarity and religious faith in the family bed of our hosts who insisted that they would sleep on the floor. It meant so much to them to have us as their guests. And it was important to us as well.

What can a rabbi, priest, and minister discuss together on a night like that, when sleep is almost impossible? We should have talked about the shared dream, the hopes to achieve full civil rights for dispossessed and persecuted minorities. Or we could have talked about dangers: during the afternoon, some rifle shots had been sent in my direction. The rednecks roaring by in their car had only intended to scare me; and I could have assured them that they had succeeded in this. But what DID the three of us talk about that night? We talked shop, of course-about the Bible, and how to interpret the sacred texts.

Oddly enough, one text we did discuss was read in our synagogues this week: Leviticus 19. The first words in it define all of that text: kiddoshim t'h'yu 'You shall be holy, because I the Lord your God am holy'. The three of us, clergymen in different traditions, strive after holiness. As a rabbi, I had less problems than the others. Rabbis are not really holy. When I am not in town, any lay-person in my congregation can take the service, read from the Torah, give the sermon and pronounce the blessings. Rabbi means 'teacher', not a holy man. In any event, the three of us, interpreters of that shared sacred text, knew that we could find a definition of holiness in these lines. The text is very clear here. It turns to the Ten Commandments, and lists them with new interpretations which make us aware that to be 'holy as God is holy' means to be compassionate and merciful and to spend our lives in ethical actions. That is the only way to acquire holiness, although my colleagues on that night could disagree with me to a certain extent. 'A hermit in the desert, a monk or a nun in an enclosed order can be very holy', was their argument. In the end I suggested that this training might make them holy-but only if they then served the community and the world.

But there were subtleties in the Biblical text which all of us enjoyed. 'You shall not curse the deaf, or put a stumbling block before the blind' is an absolutely marvellous text. We could argue that a deaf person is not damaged by a curse he or she will never hear; and that a blind person will stumble over an obstacle on an unfamiliar road without realising that it was not bad luck but malice which caused a fall. But the key to the passage is the final sentence: "v'ahavta rea-cha kamocha, ani adonai", 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself; I am the Lord.' God reaches out to every human being; and we are taught to see others as ourself, to recognise each human being as an aspect of God. Then, ethical actions unite us, and we become like God: HOLY.

In the morning we went out to march with Martin Luther King towards freedom."

why, she cried in a fit of naivety, why is it so hard not to do to each other what is hateful to us? gut shabbes

Friday, September 08, 2006

conservative judaism to lift ban on gay rabbis?

a report i just read on yahoo. a snippet to whet your interest:

"Rabbi Joel Roth, a leading religious scholar and a member of the Conservative Law Committee, questioned whether people with traditional Jewish views on sexuality will stay, even if the panel allows synagogues leeway to accept or reject gay relationships. Roth said he has been "demonized" for saying that he interprets religious law as barring same-gender sex.

"I know the law as it stands causes pain," he said. "But pain is not to be equated with immorality."

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, vice chairman of the Law Committee and also a respected scholar, supports ordaining gays, saying "it is simply not natural" to demand that they remain celibate.

"We have to interpret God's will in our time," Dorff said."

english from arabic

sorting through mounds of paper in the masses of boxes that travel with me from job to job, i came upon an informational handout from the council on islamic education. some arabic words that are the origin of familiar english ones:

amir al-rahl

o, of course, excuse me:


who was grace hopper?

i cannot for the life of me remember how i ended up on an internet page about grace hopper, but i did. what's the big deal about her? well, first of all, she's an unsung woman who achieved a lot in her field. secondly, she's the person who invented the term computer "bug". in 1951 she was working on the UNIVAC computer, and found a moth in its workings that was causing a problem. she removed it and placed it in the logbook! if you are interested, here are some links to learn a little more about her:

the wit and wisdom of grace hopper

pioneer computer scientist

brief biography

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

modern english

the telegraph reports on some of the new words that are entering the chambers dictionary.

these include "bingo wings" (flaps of skin that hang down from the upper arm) and "muffin top" (the roll of fat that spills over a pair of low-cut trousers). also in there are "sudoku", "i-pod" & "islamophobe".

my pet peeves these days include "to impact", rather than to have an impact on something; "to resonate" as an alternative to empathy and "to piggyback" on something someone else has said. yccccccccchhhhhhhhh!

one of my favourite words at the moment is 'palaver'. mind you, 'muffin top' is a good one!

the eyes don't have it

one of the things that i find really hard to accept about the work of lawyers is that it has less to do with right/wrong and more to do with how to argue one's way around the legal system. an interesting example today - here is an excerpt from the telegraph regarding a man who was arrested for dangerous driving while blind:

"Pc Austin's colleague, Pc Stuart Edge, told the court that he asked Aziz whether he could see him. He said: "He removed the dark-coloured sunglasses he was wearing and I could clearly see he was blind as he had no eyes."

Timothy Gascoyne, defending, said Aziz, who did not give evidence, should be cleared because "the question is not whether his driving was dangerous, but whether being blind makes it dangerous".

He said: "If my client hadn't been blind he wouldn't have been arrested for dangerous driving, so it doesn't fall far below what is expected from a careful and competent driver.""

mr. gascoyne, i salute your chutzpah. meanwhile, mr. aziz was convicted.

Monday, September 04, 2006

steve irwin r.i.p.

the crocodile hunter is dead, speared in the heart by a stingray barb. i'm not particularly fond of any kind of reality show, including going mano a mano with lions and tigers and bears (o my). thus, of all the obituaries i have so far read, i'd like you to see these comments in the telegraph by virginia mckenna:

"The Crocodile Hunter who got too close

One of television's most charismatic characters has gone. Whether you agreed with Steve Irwin's approach to wildlife or not, his undeniable passion for his subject will be missed by millions.

At yesterday morning's meeting at the offices of my charity, Born Free, we contemplated the loss that his family is now coming to terms with. But the question remains; did Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter", pay the ultimate price for getting up close and personal with wild animals?

The natural world is under increasing pressure and urban populations are now largely divorced from nature. Yet somehow that dissociation sparks a desire to get back in touch with wild places and wildlife. More people now travel the world in search of wilderness than ever before.

Steve Irwin took "up close and personal" to the limit and, with all due respect to him, I think it was a mistake. In America, there are now thousands of people who keep dangerous wild animals – alligators, snakes, lions and more than 5,000 tigers – as pets. Thousands more people regularly drop off the side of a boat to swim with sharks. Yet others pay handsomely to ride African elephants through the bush. It's not how it was meant to be.

The fundamental truth of the relationship between wild animals and people is one based on mutual respect and, to an extent, fear.

In my experience, the stand-off between a wild animal such as a lion and a human being logically ends with both in retreat. Humans, lions and many other animals are risk-averse. The last thing they want to do is to suffer an injury that will reduce their survival chances. As a result, wild animals rarely attack unless they are threatened or intimidated, or unless they perceive that there is more to gain than there is to be lost.

I have had my own intimate experiences with dangerous wild animals. For nearly a year, my husband, Bill Travers, and I worked with a number of lions in making the film Born Free. But the fundamental message of that film was not about getting close; it was about letting go.

Steve's television performances, without doubt, set the adrenaline rushing. He put himself where few others would dare to tread and I can understand how that kind of television had global mass appeal. Yet I fear that there will be some out there seeking to emulate Steve Irwin's bravura who will not survive such close encounters.

I suspect that it's a little like participating in extreme sports of one kind or another. Each successful high-speed race, each free-fall leap from a plane, each mountain scaled or remote cave explored begins to convince the participant of their invincibility. He is, at least for the moment, immortal.

I know that my son, who has helped move adult African elephants from areas in Kenya where they are under threat to relative safety, will attest to the fact that when a five-ton male is down, matters of personal safety – and common sense – seem insignificant and risks are taken that would otherwise seem foolhardy.

Wild animals are exactly that. Their nature cannot be changed by a few generations in captivity, or because the human being confronting them is a "friend". Natural instincts that have evolved over millions of years are, at best, just below the surface.

Witness the almost lethal attack on Roy Horn, part of the Siegfried & Roy Las Vegas tiger show a couple of years ago, or the continuing, regular and tragic demise of keepers and handlers in circuses and zoos across the world.

My heart goes out to Steve Irwin's family. They will be inconsolable. I just wish that Steve's talent, passion and commitment had been directed more towards the conservation and protection of wild animals in the wild.

In a way, I wish he had been able to keep his distance; if he had, he might still be here."

pussycat funnies

poor d. i showed her youtube and we could not stop watching amusing cat videos. the one that left her with tears pouring down her face was this:

and i was also quite taken with this:

all that bravado and then just BAM.

o gosh but laughter can be so healing.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

happy b-day part deux

piglet waits for lindsey davenport
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
the good news was that the rain held off for the outdoor wedding i performed on thursday afternoon.

the bad news was that the rain arrived about twenty minutes after i did.

i sat under my brolly in the arthur ashe stadium, my best british bravado on display; and was rewarded with the brief sight of the players knocking up. lindsey davenport's outfit was scarlet on the jumbo screen above me, and rather more orange waaaaay down below. but the rain returned, and the women went back indoors. d. arrived a few minutes later, and we sat for a few minutes at the top of the bleachers before coming to our senses and, with one last look back (seen here), going back to the car and off for some dinner.

happy birthday to me

piglet sharapova
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
so i gave up a second night in a great room in quoge to come back for the u.s. open. we'd bought the tickets at the temple auction months ago, and it just happened that they ended up being on my b-day.

d. has never seen a live tennis match before (a profi one that is) and we were rather excited to be there. ms. sharapova, however, seemes even more excited to be in the presence of our friend piglet.

a new meaning for footprints

had a delicious and almost healthy dinner at the cheesecake factory - d. got me with a slice of cake with a candle in it and the waitress singing. fresh banana cream cheesecake. it may shorten my life by a day or two, but it tasted worth it. afterwards we went shoe shopping. in the shoe shop i learned two things. first of all, there is a make of shoe, licenced by birkenstock, called betula. strangely enough, this is also a biblical hebrew word for virgin. interesting choice ...

secondly, i began to look at the patterns on the soles of the women's shoes on sale. i noticed that the clarks shoes had their trademark daisy on the bottom of some pairs. the thing that got me going, however, was a pair of naturalizer shoes. on the soles were two circles the diameter of a large pill box lid. it took a while to figure out the pattern within - turns out it was the word 'naturalizer' backwards. mmmmmwohaha! (evil laugh) so you hand over your money for these lovely shoes and not only does the company make a profit but every time you leave a footprint somewhere you also leave a little ad printed on the ground. i cannot decide whether to be furious at this kind of manipulation, or in utter awe of the genius who came up with the idea.