A Tiny Plea

For those of you celebrating the civil New Year tonight, please don’t drink and drive. I take this very personally, because 12 years ago, my sister, then 18, was hit almost head-on while driving, by a drunk driver with a list of priors as thick as an old NYNEX telephone book. He’d been in a bar, and the bartender had taken his keys away, but he had a spare set. I’m given to understand he got a nice taxpayer-funded vacation in a stone hotel somewhere out of the deal.

Her defensive driving probably saved her life, as she was able to swerve and avoid a full head-on collision. As it was, the crash put the engine block of my parents’ Chevy SUV on her feet.

She had serious injuries, went into hypermetabolism, and is still suffering the aftereffects today. She lost her last year of high school and had to do extensive adult ed to catch back up, due to a curriculum change. I’m very grateful our family didn’t have to bury her that year, but by the same token, she has never been the same since.

Please don’t drink and drive. The life you save may not even be your own. Thank you.

Note: And for the dati folks out there, the minor fast of the Tenth of Tevet, which commemorates the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, begins at 6:33AM tomorrow and ends at 5:26PM. Drink lots of water!

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New Books! (Again)

I bought a Tanakh (my first one!) — I only had the JPS Five Books of Moses before, which is just the Torah, and I bought Blu Greenberg’s book To Be a Jewish Woman.

I like her approach, because she can really integrate feminism with traditionalism (no, they’re not necessarily oppositional). One of these months I really must get around to elucidating some thoughts on how an old accidental feminist like me can wind up wanting to be a traditional Jew. It actually makes sense if you look at it the right way, and some of it is really quite radical, in a rejectionist sort of way.

I also bought the Hyperbole and a Half book. I can’t be serious all the time.

Shabbat Recap — On the Clock, Finally!

The local rabbi likes to say there are no such things as coincidences. After Saturday, I’m inclined to agree.

I did get to shul, only to find that someone has moved the service time ahead a half an hour, meaning I was even later than usual (note for the Orthodox-unaware: it’s really not uncommon, at least in Orthodox synagogues, for people to come in late, and/or kind of drift in and out during the service, so I wasn’t exactly disrupting anything), and kind of slunk in, only to find that basically nobody was there anyway.

Rabbi: Well, we have a minyan on one side of the mechitza, but not on the other. So I’m going to give the sermon now, and when we get a minyan on the men’s side, we’ll continue with the service.

Apparently this is the time of year when a lot of the Orthodox community here goes on vacation, which totally makes sense, since nothing’s ticking but the clock outside the kehila, either.

After the service, I was walking back to my bus stop from shul (still coasting on goy privilege so I can keep living here for the time being), the rabbi and rebbetzin caught up to me (I walk slowly) and asked me if I wanted to come back to their house for lunch. I accepted, even though it made me very nervous; I get nervous in unfamiliar social environments to start with, and I always feel like interacting with the rabbi is a real pressure situation. I’m still not comfortable around him yet, really, for some senses of the word “comfortable.”

Lunch was kind of surreal, and the rabbi was doing his best to model behaviour, since in attendance were one guy who comes to shul occasionally but normally goes to the Chabad house near the university; a convert, and his ba’alat teshuva wife whose Jewish education was minimal and curtailed by a mixed marriage (she’s Jewish through the matrilineal line), and who almost became an Anglican minister, at her Anglican father’s urging.

I also got to dine under the fancifully artistically-rendered watchful eyes of five Lubavitcher rebbes. (Apparently no one knows what the other two looked like — there were seven all told.) My friend RH joked in Facebook chat: “A meal with rabbinical supervision of the highest order!” You got that right…

We actually wound up talking until motzei, at which point, the rabbi introduced us to some short videos made by Chabad primarily about R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, called The Living Torah. I mostly found this interesting because I could actually more or less understand the Hebrew in Schneerson’s Yiddish. (I speak not a word of Yiddish.) The rabbi’s toddler son is a big fan, but I don’t know if the family speaks Yiddish at home, although I suspect the rabbi himself is not a native English-speaker, even though he doesn’t have a Yiddish-speaker’s accent. (His actual accent is downright weird, though; it’s not quite New York, and not quite Chicago, and not quite California, and not quite southwestern Ontario, although he does have a bunch of New Yorkisms in his speech. He won’t tell me where he’s from.)

After that, he gave me and one of the other guests a ride home. So now I have the odd distinction of having been given a lift home by a Chabad rabbi.

During the conversation in the car, he also told me that the couple he was mentoring through the conversion process dropped out because they said it was too hard (a fate I devoutly wish to avoid), so he’s available to start teaching me now…

I start my studies in a week!! In the meantime, I’m rereading the three books that will form the first lesson block. I’m on my way, finally!

Christmanniversakkah…pant pant pant…

Thank G-d that’s over.

I’m still nominally doing Christmas things because I’m still furtive for the moment (that’s about to change soon, B”H, more later) and it’s a matter of shalom habayit right now. I don’t need to be brogez with the folks any sooner than I have to be. (It won’t be the first, or last, time.)

Christmas Eve (“Erev Xmas”) I went to a friend’s house for a very subdued party, which was nice, even if one of the attendees was recovering from food poisoning and another one was just feeling out of sorts and the rest of us were exhausted. (I did almost all my Christmas shopping — except for wrapping, the only part I truly enjoy — in two days, Monday and Tuesday. Lots of running around.)

It was also my parents’ 48th wedding anniversary on the 24th. They claim that it was the only time they could both get off work and they could get a hall; I think at least part of it is that my mother thought a Christmas wedding would be romantic, since she is about the World’s Biggest Christmas Freak. (This is where I see some friction coming in.) I didn’t do anything with them because they don’t really do anything with family outside of the big milestone anniversaries anymore. Which reminds me, I’d better become employed soon and start putting away a pot of money, because Guess Who is probably going to have to organise the 50th anniversary party. If you said, “You are, Sara-Elisheva!”, you’d be right!

I also observed Hanukkah as best as I was able, given that I once again couldn’t find the skinny candles that fit in my hanukiyah and I don’t have oil pots for it, so I had to improvise. I will either replace the thing or get oil pots for it for next year. Doubtless I’ll be in Toronto between now and then, and I can make it to a Judaica store. I love Hanukkah and what it represents, although less the miracle aspect of it than the “let Jews be Jews” aspect. (Apparently, given some of my hate mail, that’s a controversial position in some quarters.)

And on Boxing Day, I spent most of the day either sleeping or frantically prepping for Shabbat. And then it was Shabbat.

Shabbat Recap to come, but that’s quite enough for now.

Shabbats Recap — Urfh

Nothing much to say about these two Shabbats, except that I didn’t make it to shul either this week or last week. Bleah. I have wanted to go, too, because I want to nail down the rav about starting to study, since I now have all this free time (*mutter grump*).

I am enjoying Hanukkah, though. I always do. I’ve been ecumenical about holidays since about forever, and while I do agree that if you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, and/or you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t celebrate Hanukkah (personally, I’d like to decommision the Great Commission), given that it’s specifically about the freedom of Jews to be Jews, I mostly do it for shalom habayit anyway, and have for years. (Can you really call someone who thinks there was no such person as the historical Jesus a “Christian,” no matter where or how they grew up?) Back when I was living in T.O., I always made a point of going down to the now-sadly-almost-defunct Little India (Coxwell and Gerard Sts.) for the annual Diwali party, although I never have been any religion that celebrates it. But hey, it’s dark, it’s cold, let’s light some candles and eat some sweet things and call it a party.

That brings up an important point: Do I buy more Christmas wrapping paper this year (I kind of need it, although I could likely make do with what I’ve got), and risk not needing it next year and having leftovers I don’t know what to do with, or do I wrap everything in two kinds of paper and hope for the best? (And deprive myself of some of the only fun I get out of the whole endeavour.)