Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Succot at the Kotel

Yesterday, as I wrote last night, A Promise is a Promise!, I went to the Kotel. Here are a few of the photos I took. One thing I must say is that the atmosphere in the large ladies section was very nice and peaceful and polite. I'm not a "fan" of the Kotel. I feel much more connected to Gd when at Tel Shiloh, and I plan on going up to Har HaBayit again, Gd willing in the future. But due to the outrageous ban on Jewish Prayer there, it isn't all that fulfilling to go up. 

On Succot I always get sentimental when I see the Kotel's succah, because we used to take the kids for a succah "picnic" every year when they were young. I was sorry to see that there is no longer one giant succah. There are now two in a different location.

I walked my usual route down to the Kotel from Jaffa Gate. It's the way I've been walking since I was a student at Machon Greenberg in 1969.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Promise is a Promise!

The last time I was at the kotel, Western Wall, quite a few months ago, I found myself speaking to the woman manning the booth that lends scarves to women so they'll cover up for modesty's sake at the holy site. She said that they can always use more scarves. So I offered to bring some. And today I actually did.

She quickly added mine to the pile and graciously thanked me.

After I finished praying and saying Tihillim, Psalms, I walked out, and when I did I looked around to see if someone was wearing one of them.

Yes, I found one! It's the reddish brown. I'm relieved to have finally taken care of it. According to Jewish Law, promised, oaths are very important to keep. I tried to find someone going to the Kotel before Yom Kippur and didn't, so I'm really glad to know that it was done.

Breaking Rules for 52Frames!

This week's theme for 52Frames, that photography group I've been in for about two years, was "Breaking Rules." In art, it's quite often the unconventional, unexpected and superficially unacceptable according to the "rules" that ends up the most gorgeous and riveting. So this time they told us to throw all of the conventional wisdom away and just shoot something that breaks the rules.

At first I took a nice series of shots of the nighttime sky and view of Migron from Sha'ar Binyamin, purposely moving the camera to get swirls. Here are the two best after cropping:

I do like them, but I was convinced that "everyone" would take this easy way out. That's why I chose this shot of the pre-Succot  Arba Minim, Four Species Market, also taken in Sha'ar Binyamin. I shot the picture into the strong, pre-dusk sunlight, because I was attracted to the way that the sun lit up those green flags making them look like precious stones.

52Frames Week 39: Break the Rules
What do you think? Did I chose correctly?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Confession: I Did Not Decorate The Succah!

This year, I had even less to do with the succah, that traditional Jewish "hut" of sorts that is supposed to become our "home," or at least the dining room during the Jewish Holiday of Succot, which is exactly two weeks after Rosh Hashanah begins and half a week after Yom Kippur. It's a holiday that ends with a "whimper" in a way, because although there is close to a week of Chol Hamoed, which is a quasi-holiday time, there's no end of Holiday HolyDay, like for Passover. A week after Succot begins is Simchat Torah, which is a different holiday and does not require a succah. I hope I didn't confuse you too much.

When we had our house built we planned it with a nice merpeset, balcony/terrace for the succah, so it's not all that complicated to assemble. It was always my husband's job, and when the boys got older, they helped a lot. But now they aren't home. They have lives of their own, so my husband is back being completely responsible for it, but I am supposed to decorate it. But I did not have time. I was at work yesterday and barely had time to finish the cooking when I got home, and I also scrubbed the succah floor which was dirtier than ever before, since we had suffered from that dust storm that had lasted for a couple of weeks.

As you can see, we have lots of succah decorations we've collected over the years. It's just a matter of taking thumbtacks and tacking them up, but I couldn't. We were expecting guests who needed to eat.

The succah did get decorated. Guess who did it!

Yes, that's my husband!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Getting Ready for Succot!

The custom is to start getting the succah built after Yom Kippur, but many people start earlier, and some do it all at the last minute. There have been signs of Succot approaching for weeks in Jerusalem, Shiloh and Sha'ar Binyamin. Those are the only places I've been to of late.

I must admit that I'm very glad that building a succah is not my responsibility. I'm happy being responsible for all other aspects of the holiday preparations, cooking, even cleaning etc. At most I may decorate the succah, but even that isn't all that hard. It's just a matter of time. We have a big box of decorations that go up pretty quickly. Either I'll get it done, or I won't. And if you're curious, the best and cheapest (free!) decorations are old Jewish Calendars, which various organizations send out for free. Just use the pretty pictures. Here are a few photos of Succot preparations I've taken. Enjoy!

Like a "doll house," this is a child-sized succah!

reflected succah decorations

Chag Succot Sameach!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Late Summer Sky

Generally I think that the sky gets prettier in the winter, but I did take some absolutely gorgeous sky shots recently of sunsets.

What do you think?

Friday, September 25, 2015

PHOTO of THE DAY: Gevalt: Public Transportation

OK, I must admit that if you're not familiar with Hebrew writing you won't get this. You won't know why there's a problem.

Here's how the sign should look:

Yes, it's upside down. And PS it says עצור, atzur, STOP. I took the photo on the 463 bus from Shiloh to Sha'ar Binyamin yesterday when I was on my way to work. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jewish Book Review Carnival at The ProsenPeople

This month's edition of the Jewish Book Carnival is at The ProsenPeople, a Jewish Book Council blog. Take a look at the carnival of Jewish book reviews and find some great new Jewish books to read, buy for yourself or give as gifts to others.

It seems like this Jewish blog carnival is the strongest still going on. There are many participants and volunteers to host.

I still plan on posting a new joint format of Havel Havelim and the Kosher Cooking Carnival after Simchat Torah. If you have written or read some interesting posts about the Holidays, Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur and Succot/Simchat Torah, then please send me the links, thanks. For more information and updates, you can join the facebook pages, Havel Havelim and Kosher Cooking Carnival.
It will be based on celebrating the Jewish Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot and Simchat Torah. It's about the prayers, customs, halacha, the food, nostalgia, Torah, etc.Please send links plus a one line blurb from your blogs or blogs you've read and liked. This year only, please. Deadline: before Shabbat Bereishit. subject: holiday HH
You don't have to be a blogger to read, comment and share 
Jewish Blog Carnivals!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yom Kippur: Pre and Post-Fast Menu a Success, B"H!

Yesterday before Yom Kippur I posted about my meal plans for before and after the twenty-five 25 hour Yom Kippur fast. Planning ahead is extremely important, because it's forbidden to cook or day any food preparation on Yom Kippur. It's an otherworldly holiday when we are supposed to pray to Gd begging that He forgive us and grant us life in the new year.

Simply described, I cooked double, so that there would be enough to eat before and after the fast. I made a fairly traditional chicken meal.

  • chicken soup with (brown) rice
  • re-cooked the chicken with vegetables
  • kasha and mushrooms
  • baked vegetables
Chicken Soup

  • Boil cleaned chicken in water about half an hour a few hours (or day) before you plan on serving the soup.
  • remove chicken from soup
  • Cool liquid in fridge, best in different container.
  • An hour or more before serving, skim off any fat or whatever from top of cool soup.
  • Add (checked) rice and vegetables-onion, carrot and others to soup pot; add soup liquid and cook until seems ready, about 40 minutes. Season with a bit of salt and pepper just before turning off heat. (Do not serve immediately.)
Chicken with Veggies

  • Place cooked chicken and cut vegetables in a pot, cover. 
  • I used onion, zucchini, sweet potato and carrots.
  • Add a bit of oil.
  • Cook on low flame until vegetables are soft.
  • Serve half before the fast and half after.
Kasha and Mushrooms

  • Saute onions and mushrooms in pot. 
  • Add checked kasha/buckwheat.
  • Add water* and cover.
  • Turn off heat when there is almost no water. And leave covered for 20 minutes.

  • I just layer a variety of vegetables, such as onion, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and more. 
  • Add a bit of oil on top
  • And bake until it looks ready.
I also made a big salad, which was finished after the Yom Kippur fast. Yes, cooking was easy, and heating it up was easy too. The soup and chicken were heated on the stove, and the kasha and vegetables were in the oven. 
*The ratio of water to buckwheat is 1 cup buckwheat, to 1.5 cups of water. You can try a 1 to 2 cup ratio, but the buckwheat may be more mushy, or have a longer cooking time. How to Cook Buckwheat (Kasha)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Yom Kippur: Pre and Post-Fast Meals

We're only human, so when it comes to fasting, being without food, it seems like all we do is think of food, what to eat. Even before and after the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar, Yom Kippur, which is not only a fast, but it has the restrictions of Shabbat, meaning on cooking along with others, what we eat (and drink) before and after can be crucial to a healthy and comfortable fast.

There are those who cut out caffeine for days before fasting, but to be honest, here I am less than ten hours before the fast will begin, sipping my usual second giant mug of coffee. But, like most days, all my coffee is drunk in the morning, after my two giant mugs of water. I don't continue drinking coffee throughout the day.

That's the toughest thing on all fast days, starting the day dry. The liquids clear my systems for action and alertness. Yom Kippur and Tisha b'Av are really hard, because not only can't I drink first thing in the morning, but I forbidden from having my two giant mugs of water before going to sleep. That means that during the day of the night the fast begins I must make sure I've had enough water to drink. Yes, water, and not tea, coffee or juice. Juices can be almost as bad as tea and coffee because the truth is that juice is no more than sugar and food coloring. Coffee and most teas have caffeine which push out the liquids; that's the meaning of diuretics. And I disagree with those who say cut out all salt. Cut down if you use a lot, but everyone needs some to keep the liquid in.

Last night at work in Yafiz, Sha'ar Binyamin, even total strangers asked me what I'm serving to break the fast. I guess they figured that if I know how to fit shoes, I should know what to serve after fasting twenty-five 25 hours.

Before the fast I've always served a typical Jewish chicken plus soup and vegetable meal, with a salad and starch. When the kids were little and lived at home, I'd prepare easy to heat kugels and vegetables with cheese for the breaking the fast meal. I remember one year about twenty-five 25 years ago when the electricity went out on Yom Kippur and I couldn't easily heat up the post-fast meal, since my ovens have always been electric. Luckily I was able to send the food to a neighbor who had a gas oven.

Now that it's just me and my husband home, I'm just going to serve the same basic meal for both.

I'll cook up the chicken in the soup and then remove it for the meal. I should do that soon, because I like to give the soup a chance to let the fats move to the top, so I can skim it and then cook in the vegetables.

Easy to make and impressive looking vegetables
For the starch, I plan on making kasha, and as you may know I make lots of vegetables. And there will be a fresh salad, too. I'll have everything before the fast, but after the fast I'll pass on the kasha and salad.

The reason I won't eat the kasha is because I've been keeping my carbohydrates minimal for the past years. That diet change helped me lose a lot of weight and keep it off.

For some reason I find raw food painful in my mouth after fasting. That started many years ago during a trip to New York when I broke the fast on American orange juice. Suddenly I felt like my mouth was painfully burning. And that pain returns if I have raw food too soon after a fast.
That's one of the reasons I prefer a good vegetable soup. On all the other fast days, I spend the last couple of fasting hours making a soup. But we can't do that on Yom Kippur.

What are your favorite pre and post-fast menus and foods?

May you all have a wonderful year.

Gmar Chatima Tova!

Monday, September 21, 2015

"The Unexpected" Me and "Run," 52Frames

This week's 52Frames theme was the hardest for me yet. That's for two reasons. One was that last week was the two day Rosh Hashanah holiday, when I was very limited in the time I could photograph. And the second problem was the theme, "My Personality."

I just couldn't figure out how to visualise myself at all. I had images of piles of junk, anarchy, balagan = a big mess as it's said in Hebrew. I also thought of a nice sunrise or sunset for "transition." Isn't life one big transition? But there was a horrendous sandstorm in Israel that went on forever and made those usual times of beauty into a grey indistinguishable mess. I also thought of using a photo of my Rosh Hashana fruit head, but then realized that I had taken it before the permitted time.

After Shabbat, in a panic I went through the few photos I had taken during that hectic week and just found some from my late summer, dried out garden.

Even in a dried out grape vine, you can sometimes find some delicious grapes.

the original photo

I cropped the grapes from the picture, and above is the result after changing colors and visual texture. I used the free IrfanView which comes with my rather old computer.

The well-cropped photo-edited grapes:
Unconventional, non-conformist, unique. Well, I must admit that this week was tough. I just couldn't find the right photo, nor much time with a major Jewish Holiday when I couldn't take pictures at all for two days. When I took the photos of the overripe grapes on my vines, I was going to call the photo, "past its prime," or "over-ripe" or something like that to refer my age. But then I decided to play with the colors, and only a grape grower expert would guess that these grapes are from the very end of the season. 
I did the best I could, which in sense makes it the perfect photo to visualize "My Personality!" I did not give up, nor give in. 

The previous week's theme was "Run." As you can see in the background sky, the sandstorm had already begun, and running was not something anyone in their right mind would be doing. And I certainly wouldn't ask anyone to run for me. Many people barely walked out of air-conditioned homes and offices. I was planning on using a timer or clock to visualize "running out of time." But those girls saved me at the Tefilat Chana.

"Running to the Site of the Tabernacle"
After praying at the site of the Biblical Tabernacle in Shiloh, I noticed these girls running and managed to capture them for this week's photo. I have no idea who they are, but from that gorgeous grin you can see here, it didn't seem to bother them that I was taking their picture.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Exciting Changes in Matan

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a lecture in Matan, where I study the Bible, Tanach. Dr. Brachi Elitzur spoke at the  siyyum, event that commemorated the end of the fifth year of the Al Haperek Program, in which the Na"Ch, Prophets and Writings have been divided into a six year learning program. We had just finished our studies of Divrei Hayamim, Chronicles, and that was the topic. Besides enjoying the lecture, I was happy to see lots of changes and renovations in Matan. I hadn't been there since the regular classes had ended in June.

The offices, Teachers Room and Beit Midrash, Study Hall have all been changed. There is now a large Bnai Akiva group studying full-time in Matan, and the students each have desk space all their own. There's still room for others to sit, but the desktop computers that used to be available for anyone to use are no longer there. Today, so many students have either laptops or tablets for what they can't do on their phones, making it unnecessary for Matan to provide computers.

Gd willing, pretty soon I'll be back for classes in Matan. And my friends and I will continue with Al Haperek, which is very exciting. We'll be in the sixth and final year of the program. It has given us all an opportunity to learn the Bible in a more thorough way than we had ever thought possible. Most of us did not have any Jewish education growing up, and even those who did insist that there is never enough time in school curricula for a fraction of what we have been learning. Also, learning the Bible as an adult is totally different from learning as a child for exams. And once this first round of Al Haperek is complete, I'm planning on starting it all over again! Believe me; once isn't enough!!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Summer is Ending

It's the end of a very dry summer. Yes, I can see it in my garden. Everything is so dry.

The dryness is normal here in Israel, since rain is rare from May-September. This year I must get a gardener and start fixing up the garden. Years ago, my sons and I did the gardening. And then after the boys left home and I lost interest, we didn't have the money. But now, thank Gd things have improved, and I really want to make it look cultivated rather than the "forest primeval."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Family Resemblences

My mother was a great beauty, and no matter what you think about my looks, I've never looked anything like my mother. I resemble my father without a doubt, and they weren't one of those couples who looked alike or grew to look alike.

Though, over the years I've noticed that from a certain angle, when I'm "thin" I do resemble her in a way. Look at these two pictures and tell me what you think:

There's something in the bone structure, chin and cheekbones, though our features and actual shape of face are totally different. Or am I just dreaming...?