Shabbat Recap — Leafy Green Problems

When I left for shul, the weather was clear and cold. By midway through the service, it was snowing hard. By the end, it was freezing rain mixed with sleet. I think the weather people quaintly call that “wintry mix,” which sounds like some kind of candy you buy at the Bulk Barn.

The rebbetzin invited me to come to lunch again, which was nice. Vegan food — I’m not sure they eat much meat, although I’ve seen them eat fish. I skipped the pareve chulent, as I’ve discovered that chulent really isn’t my thing.

In conversation I discovered something that might cause me some problems down the road. A lot of these people apparently just avoid most green leafy vegetables for fear that there might be insects in them. The rabbi says they’re hard to check properly. (I have eaten parsley and spring mix in Israel, so they can’t be that difficult.) This is an issue for me, because I really like a lot of those things, with the exception of many of the brassicas, which are often bitter. LZ related that her mother used to soak romaine lettuce in salt water for three days before she’d eat it. I’m really wondering how romaine lettuce soaked for three days in salt water is edible at all…

I guess I’m just going to have to ask him to give me a really thorough tutorial on how to check vegetables, although I have never seen an insect on those kinds of vegetables. Found one in a cauliflower once, though — I removed it and a section of the cauliflower it was in. And when I see spitbugs on my mint plants in the garden, I remove them with extreme prejudice. I actually worry more about cupboard weevils than thrips or aphids in my green veg. (And, speak of the devil, see his horns, I found some in some pasta last night. Time to KILL THE PANTRY CUPBOARD WITH FIRE.)

And yes, I look. News for Jews — goys aren’t too fond of eating bugs generally, either, the existence of chocolate-covered ants notwithstanding. (Ew.)

Anyway, I think this could be a problem, but we’ll burn that village when we come to it.

Recap of my first lesson coming up!


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!

Shabbat Recap — Urgh

Well, you can pretty much guess what happened this week.  I did pretty well with observance generally, although I didn’t make it to shul again.  I <i>hate</i> being off my schedule (unemployment sucks), but my sleep cycle has gone to the bad place tenuously-grasped sleep cycles go when they die of brain trauma, and I’m having trouble with motivation generally.

I do have some more articles to post, soonishly, so stay tuned.

My condolences to the folks at my ex-work who lost their jobs in the Jerusalem layoffs on Sunday; behatzlacha in the future!

Shabbat Recap — A Miserable, Guilty Shabbat

I really meant to go to shul this morning; honest I did.  I even heard my alarm go off.  And then I fell back to sleep as though I’d been drugged, or poleaxed.  I went to bed at 8PM yesterday, exhausted from short sleep, fibromyalgia, and a long trip via the back roads to the-town-formerly-known-as-Berlin for a job interview.

I managed to keep up with observance as usual pretty well, except for making it to shul, mostly because I slept for 16 hours straight.  It’s pretty easy to do a whole lot of nothing when you’re sleeping under a pile of cats.
I feel really badly about not going to shul today; I even actually had a dream that I had gone to some service somewhere, although I’ve never seen a synagogue as large and crowded as that was.  (That was sometime after I had the dream about going to the weird hipster club — I am so not a hipster — with a friend, dressed only in jeans and a sweatshirt, and someone stole my beat-up old shoes from by the front door.  I don’t wear jeans anymore, either, for what it’s worth.  And I still have those shoes.)
I have to say that getting up on time was much easier when I was still working and still keeping some kind of schedule.  I’m not much good at getting up in the morning to start with (I am what chronobiologists call “an extreme owl.), but having to get up for work makes a difference.  Perhaps once I get another job (B”H soon) things will go back to normal.
In the meantime, there’s always next week.

Shabbat Recap — Special Occasions and Introspection

I did make it back to shul today.  Two special occasions in shul today — the rabbi’s eldest son (who looks to be in his mid to late teens — scary, as the rabbi is only four years older than I am!) is leaving to go to a yeshiva near Paris. 

Aside:  Le Juif et la France

I hope he stays safe, given how much antisemitism has been flaring up in France of late.  (Not that antisemitism ever really went away in France.  My friend RW was in France in the early 1970s and said there was still Vichy coinage in circulation!!  Unbelievable.)  A great number of French Jews have been moving to Israel of late; in fact, when I was in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv, there were a great number of services (including an entire real estate agency on the ground floor of the complex housing my hotel) disponible en Francais.  (This was comforting to me, because my French is much, much better than my Hebrew.  I actually had to transact some business in French while there, because the woman minding the counter spoke only Russian, French, and Hebrew, and my Hebrew wasn’t good enough to cover it.  I speak no Russian.)


The second special occasion was the first real service participation of a new Bar Mitzvah.  He did very well, and has a reasonably good singing voice, despite being in that precarious mid-pubertal phase characterised by voice breakages and other vocal problems.


Elul — Getting Right With G-d and Humanity

The rabbi also gave the blessing for the new month of Elul, which starts on Tuesday and is the last month of the Hebrew year, leading up to the High Holidays.  It’s a time for introspection, prayer, study, and cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul, in which you take stock of all the bad and good things you did in the past (Jewish) year, and try to find areas where you could improve.  I know I’ll be looking at improving my obervance of mitzvot, minding my temper and my tendency toward foul language, and improving my conscientiousness generally, and improving my relationships with certain people. On the other hand, in the “profits” column I think I can count beginning to observe many mitzvot, doing a lot of studying toward my conversion, improving my attendance at shul, and improving my relationship with my parents.  I actually recommend doing this at least once a year, whether you are Jewish or not.  I’ve been doing this informally around this time of year (because the end of summer always feels like the end of the year to me) for years now, and I think it’s a good and healthy practice.

Elul and the High Holidays are also a time to pay off debts, ask for and give forgiveness to people, and do personal “housecleaning,” that is, getting your life and your relationships with others beseder (lit: in order).  Although this time of year is solemn, it shouldn’t be entirely about self-recrimination, guilt, or shame, although teshuva is part of it (but can mean correcting one’s actions as well as feeling badly about them).

I’m actually vaguely sad about the coming of the High Holidays again, as it was just about a year ago that I made my first appearance at Beit Meshugge, and I’m still not even formally taking classes yet.  I wish I had my friend DA’s boundless faith that everything that happens, happens for a reason, but I’m still working on that one.  It’s very hard.  Also, I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to fully participate in the synagogue High Holidays services, so I’ll be sitting out.  (On the other hand, I likely will not be fasting on Yom Kippur — which falls on Thursday-Friday this year — but I also won’t be getting to do any of the fun stuff, either.)  *sigh*


Funny thing — there’s a woman who comes to Beit Meshugge periodically, and I’m sort of friends with her.  I think she’s a new baalat teshuva, so sort of engaged in the same process as I am, only from the perspective of a Jew who wants to become observant.  As we were walking back to where people usually break off and go their own individual ways coming from shul today, my friend M was explaining some things to her, and…I was actually helping to fill in the details!  I’ve done a lot of studying.  For some reason it came up in conversation, so one of the things I explained to her was how (in the Torah) G-d tells Avram and Sarai to take the ה from His Name into their names, to become Avraham and Sarah.  (My name is spelled the same way in Hebrew as the with-H Sarahs are in English.  Tangentially, I believe Elisheva and Elizabeth are probably the same name, which just makes me like the name more, as I also have a soft spot for the Queen.)  A, the BT, also thought I was a born Jew and not a conversion candidate.  (This keeps happening.  I’m not sure whether it’s because gerot are rare, or whether it’s because I look the part or something.)

I managed to do pretty well with my observances this Shabbat, aside from the usual things and using the phone a couple of times.  I just can’t seem to get past that “witching hour” without some sort of distraction, after I’ve napped as much as I care to, played with the cats as much as I can, and read everything I care to read right at that moment.  I really don’t know what to do about that, but it’s on my list of things to ask the rabbi.  If and when I can actually start studying.  Which, HaShem willing, should be in three months or so.  In the meantime, cheshbon hanefesh, surviving the depressing fall, and (b”H) keeping my job in the upcoming rounds of layoffs (which should be happening right around Rosh Hashana, nice).


I’m marginally insane.  I went from being completely irreligious to wanting to convert to Orthodox Judaism, and I’m trying to do it in a medium-sized city in southern Canada with a tiny Orthodox community, no kosher butcher, no kosher restaurant (at all), and a very busy Chabadnik rabbi.  Converting to Judaism isn’t easy to begin with, which is why I’m sort of extra-crazy.

Even the people at the shul think so.

Along the way, you’ll get to “meet” them, and I’ll write about some of my (mis)adventures as I continue along the process.