hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Oct. 17th, 2011 07:21 am)
Well, I'm back in the States. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

JFK was full of chasidim going to the big Sukkot parties in Boro Park. Many of them have shiny black coats. Just like my dog. Maybe the dog frummed out when I wasn't looking?
hatam_soferet: Fractal zayins (zayin)
( Sep. 26th, 2009 07:41 pm)

Sukkah-building. Ink in foreground.
P5030012



The Soferet likes a bit of human interaction now and again, and so on Thursday I was working in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary here in New York.

There's a bit of the library which is set up as a beit midrash, with Talmud volumes instead of the usual academic books. It's got great big windows, and most of the time it's very quiet. (The real beit midrash is elsewhere, you see. Underground, so the light isn't as good. But with free tea. I might work there next week.)

A young woman passed by and did a double-take: quill and ink? what is that happening there? crikey, it looks like Torah... and we ended up having a nice conversation, in which she mentioned that she'd never before seen a Torah in the process of being written, and indeed had never really thought about how the Torah gets to be the way it is.

A soferet's job is like that. You work in the background, doing your job, and when it's done, all attention is on your product, the shiny new Torah, and perhaps you deliver it and interact with the community and perhaps not, but in any case afterwards you fade back out and the Torah takes over.

Personally, I don't mind this - I also enjoyed stage-managing in college - but what grabbed me particularly was that outside the lovely big windows, the JTS ground staff were building a sukkah, ready for the Sem to use next week. Next week perhaps the students will have sukkah-decorating and perhaps they won't, but the actual building of the sukkah took place, like much Torah-writing, in the background, so that next week the sukkah will be ready for use and the ground staff will have faded into the background.

So, that was a nice parallel, last Thursday. Me inside, writing Torah more or less unseen, and them outside, building a sukkah more or less unseen, setting the stage for the pageantry of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, upon which the curtains will open next week.


(Edited to add: bother, while I was working I evidently missed this pathetic protest - check out the link, the picture is fantastic! That crush barrier!)
hatam_soferet: (tea)
( Oct. 15th, 2008 09:46 pm)
And a note on global warming: this is New York City in the middle of October. A meal in a succah should feature warm clothes, scarves, and grumbling about how this is a festival designed to be celebrated in Israel. But these past two evenings - evenings! Long after dark! In October! - I've been comfortable in the succah in a t-shirt and shorts, and I only wore trousers and socks the second night because I didn't want more mosquito bites.

I find this extremely scary, honestly.
hatam_soferet: (toothpaste)
( Oct. 15th, 2008 09:24 pm)
I left my honey jar in the succah.

This was a really really stupid thing to do, because of ANTS.

Next time I saw the honey jar it was seething with ants and you couldn't see the honey because of the drowned ants clogging it. Gross.

The most efficient way of sorting this out is to pour boiling water over the whole lot (ants in my honey do not count as Animals Jen Has Ethical Concerns About).

But in general Ants=Problematically Not Kosher and Boiling Water=Potential For Kashrut Problems so Ants+Boiling Water = Potentially A Very Bad Idea If I Ever Want To Use That Jar Again. And I do because it's cute and it was a present.

Well, hooray for geeky rabbis who are online pretty much right after havdalah and jolly well know their stuff.

Yoreh Deah 81:8, is conveniently most of the answer. Rough translation: Honey from bees is permitted, even if the bees' bodies are mixed up with it, and when we separate the honey from them you can heat it and boil it and that is fine because they are FREAKING GROSS.

So I can pour boiling water on the horrible ants to get my honey jar clean, and that doesn't make the honey jar treif because honey full of ants is not even remotely like food, and "treif" is a food concept.

You hear that, ants? You are so in trouble.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Oct. 11th, 2006 12:24 pm)
On holiness of objects vs holiness of time )

There's a point to all this, but I'm having trouble getting at it. Help, people! (at least, if you're bored and don't have much else to do)


* no washing, cooking, travelling, shopping, harvesting, cleaning, etc.
** /scrolls
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hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Oct. 9th, 2006 04:55 pm)
I tend to find waving the lulav to be rather embarrassing, to be honest. But this year, W and I were at Shaarei K'shishim, our assisted living community, being the Rabbinical Presence for the first two days of Succot. We've never been there for Succot before; we've been doing Shabbats for two years, but this is our first Succot with them.

And it was a total, total riot. I had the best time. When it came round to lulav-waving time, there were three sets - mine, W's, and Shaarei K'shishim's one. There were perhaps twenty people in attendance, and everybody needs to shake, so we did it in rounds. Well, the guys all got up and came to the front and got moving - W walking them through it charmingly - and I took mine over to the women, who were sat in their seats watching the men. One of the men, the one who knows English, asked, amazed, "Is this something women can do?" and then said "Good!" when I said oh yes it jolly well is.

So anyway, there's all these women, a few of them have fluent English, but the rest of them have Russian or Yiddish or hearing aids, all lining up for me to put the lulav and the etrog in their hands. They don't really read Hebrew, most of them, so I said the blessings word by word and they repeated them, and then I mimed the actions and they did them for real along with me. I'm so used to being able to do things like go buy a lulav that I forget that some people just don't have the chance, and even when the shul provides one, they don't have the chance to use it because they don't have the skills to do it from the siddur, and there's no-one to show them how, assuming that women won't be interested.

There were two specially moving ones. One Russian lady, who kissed the lulav and the etrog when I gave them to her, and reverentially shook them, and then cuddled them when she was done - that was beautiful. Plain, simple, beautiful piety. And the other, my friend the tallit lady, who has started wearing a tallit at ninety-nine years old - she was thrilled. So, so thrilled, by something as simple as a lemon and some branches. Definitely a humbling experience. So this morning, when it came to lulav-shaking time, I wasn't doing it in a half-assed "omg look at us waving vegetables" kind of way, no, I was thinking about my ladies at Shaarei K'shishim, for whom waving the vegetables was a brush with the sacred.

And the bit where we all made a procession around the sifrei Torah, taking it in turns to wave the lulav and trying not to fall over anyone's walker? Fantastic.
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hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Oct. 6th, 2006 01:54 am)
Darn ethics.

Our building has many tenants. Some of them own their apartments. Some rent. The yard is common ground.

It's pretty cool to have a yard around Succot time, and we want to build a succah in it. We wrote to the management asking permission; they said that the grounds aren't their responsibility and we'd have to contact the owner. However, they couldn't give us any contact information for the owner (?). Working from the premise that it's easier to gain forgiveness than permission, we went ahead and built it anyway.

Now. If you do mitzvot through naughty means, they tend not to work. That is, for instance, if you steal a lulav and wave it, you didn't do the mitzvah. You still have an obligation in lulav. Land - if you put up a succah without permission of the landowner, does that count as stealing the land?

The Beur Halakha seems to think that it's okay because, essentially, a) a succah is totally transient b) a succah doesn't do any damage c) we do have partial rights to the land, given that it's space for tenants. However, I think I shall be giving the super a Succot Gift of a nice bottle of something, since I don't suppose he cares for the opinion of the Beur Halakha.
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