lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
My, it has been a long time since I have updated. I'm still reading my reading page every day or so, but life has been just the right combination of busy, happy and uneventful to keep me from writing posts with any regularity.

I thought I'd give you an update on my spiritual PDE efforts.

I have now read my way through the whole Tanach in translation. I think it has given me an appreciation of how the bits that pop up as haftarahs fit in with the whole. I commented to a friend that it was a bit like actually sitting down to watch the box set of a show you've previously just caught the odd repeat of when flicking through TV channels. I've found the reading on my commute method every week quite useful, so I've bought The Observant Life on Kindle and have just started reading that. In terms of Talmud, I'm continuing going to Talmud study at my rabbi's house about once a fortnight and I've also started doing chavrutah with [personal profile] kerrypolka on the alternative weeks. We're doing about one daf (page) a go in English, which means that it will take over a 100 years for us to get through the Babylonian Talmud at this rate. I don't think we're going to make it.

I have done less well with the Hebrew. I've only attempted any translation about three times in the last more than three months. I just can't seem to bring myself to get into the habit of studying it regularly. Grammar exercises are boring but translation at my current standard is a massive slog, looking up the majority of the vocabulary and trying to remind myself of the verb and noun forms. I think another obstacle is that I need a grammar book and a big dictionary to have a hope at translating anything, which means that Hebrew practice can't be done on my commute, which is a shame because I find that the easiest time to slot in learning (the Tanach was read almost exclusively on the Northern Line). I'd welcome suggestions for ways to brush up my Biblical Hebrew other than just sucking it up and getting on with doing it on a regular basis.

I'm starting to think more about children. Don't jump the gun with the 'mazel tov's, but as a happily married non-childfree woman in her thirtieth year, they're beginning to become less of a far off hypothetical. I've been thinking about the kind of Jewish upbringing and eduction I'd like to provide for my children. Now, I hate the 'Judaism as a giant intergenerational ponzi scheme' but I think that, just as 'what would you do if you had a million pounds?' can be a useful thought experiment, 'what kind of religious example do you want to give to your children?' can be a useful thought experiment to work out what you'd like your religious life to be. This has motivated me more to improve my Hebrew. It's also made me want to explore prayer. Aside from shul, I almost never engage in set prayer. I think when (G@d willing) I have children, I'd like to encourage them to start and end the day with prayer. Many times in the past I've had a go at praying regularly, but I've never kept it up. This time I'm having a go at starting small. Really small. I'm trying to get into the habit of saying Modah Ani when I wake up in the morning. I'll see how I go at that.


Mar. 31st, 2010 12:54 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
This year I tried not to get too stressed about Pesach prep but failed and still ended up having a couple of sleepless nights. Despite that, by the time it got to the time for the seder I was feeling happy and relaxed and energised by the arrival of my guests (particularly Alice who arrived early to help and made the ratatouille). This year we expanded from last year and had four guests. As well as Alice, who came last year, there was: Xose, a Spanish Roman Catholic and Alice's boyfriend; Beccy, an Israeli leftist, who, due to her upbringing on a Socialist kibbutz had minimal experience of religion prior to meeting some members of the Cambridge Egal Min crowd; and Anthony, an Australian PhD student who is trying very hard not to overrun and was a great help with the singing.

The menu was vegetarian and almost vegan. We had a roasted beetroot instead of a lamb bone and lentils instead of an egg. I also tried to make as much as possible from raw ingredients so that I didn't have to spend too much on kosher l'Pesach certified food.* The menu was:
boiled eggs in salt water (and a boiled potato for me)
carrot and coriander soup
Nut loaf** with rosemary roast potatoes, broccoli, curly kale and ratatouille
Tea pouched pears with chocolate sauce

The seder went well, particularly with the addition of Anthony for the singing. Alec was against fiendish in his hiding of the afikomen. Xose did appear at one point that he might die due to not realising what horseradish was until he had a big chunk of it in his mouth. We had Kedem rather Palwin this year and I prefer it's super sugery goodness although the rest of the guests (apart from Beccy) found it a bit much. I made the mistake again of forgetting that, despite all of the jokes and moaning, the seder actually isn't that long and that I need to put the roasties in earlier. Next year I shall try putting the over on when we begin and putting the potatoes in about 20 minutes after that. At the end of the seder we sang The Land which Alice was unamused by as she is still in denial about the Lib Dems being better than the Labour party.

*I still somehow managed to spend over £70 at Kosher Kingdom for one basket of groceries.
** I used this recipe but I used kosher l'Pesach falafel mix rather than stuffing mix because I couldn't find any. I also used smashed nuts rather than sliced nuts because shoving them in a bag and whacking them with a sturdy bottle is easier than slicing.

New filter

Jan. 21st, 2010 11:37 am
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I'd like to set up a filter on here to discuss *cough*taharat hamishpacha*cough*. I'm quite an open person but I know that Alec gets embarrassed with me broadcasting this sort of stuff across t'internets, but I think it would be OK on a select filter. I'm probably not going to use it very much, but tell me if you'd like in.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I'm a liberal, right?

I'm pretty sure that I'm on solid ground saying that politically I'm very much a liberal. I manage to shock liberals by coming out with statements like "I really can't see the justification for keeping illegal consensual incest/bestiality/heroine. Where I feel less certain is in the non-governmental sphere. Increasingly I find myself thinking "well I could agree with that, but that's not a conservative position" about quite a few things. I'll go through a few.

Sex. I didn't have sex with my husband until we got married. That was due to his wishes more than mine, but I can definitely see the merits in having done this. It's nice to only have sex with someone you trust and are committed to. Someone you know will still be around if the sex results in a pregnancy. Someone whose sexual history you know. I know sex doesn't have to be a sacred transcendent expression of a spiritual bond and commitment, but why not have it as that? I can understand why other people want to engage in different life styles, but I'm not sure why a lot of people are so hostile about the idea of celibacy until marriage. I suppose it's because historically standards of virginity have been different for men and women, and they've been used to shame and hurt people, and been associated with homophobia. Still, I think maybe more people should take sex more seriously. I get the impression that more people are having regrettable sex than regretting not having sex.

So on to another topic, responsibility. I think that people should try, as much as possible, to look contribute more than they take, because some people need more than they can contribute. Put that way it sounds quite Bolshevik. It's probably a caricature of liberal individualism to characterise it as take take take.

I'm going to confess, walking through Cambridge on a Friday night makes me think that maybe the Iranians are onto something. This may be terrible hypocrisy as last Friday I got very drunk at a dinner and then had to host a pro-life event the next morning with a hang over. Having said that, I have never been so drunk as to vomit or urinate in the street. I have never been so drunk that I engaged in sexual behaviour with some random stranger. The whole idea of getting drunk without sober trusted friends to look after you nearby seems reckless. That's not victim blaming. People have fallen into the Cam and died because they were walking alone past it drunk.

Porn. I used to find burlesque and pole dancing cool. Now, not so much. I admire the aesthetics of burlesque and the abilities of some of it's performers, but it's just not my thing any more. I suppose I have increasing sympathy for a view expressed that sex like food is a good part of life. However, if people started paying to watch a a roast dinner being slowly revealed and eaten, you'd think something had gone wrong somewhere along the line. I guess a bit part of it is the way that sex has now taken on a meaning for me very much tied up to marriage which isn't conducive to watching it as a performance.

So, have I gone all the way through liberal and out the other side?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I've been thinking about this for a while. To be honest, I don't know if it's a serious suggestion or a bizarre satire.

I think I took things a bit too much to heart as a child when they taught us about sharing. I'm so lucky to have everything I have and I get the urge to share it with people who weren't so lucky. An example of this is that I get the urge to share my husband. I'm so lucky to have him and he's so wonderful that whenever I hear of female friends having difficulty finding a nice male partner I get the urge to say "Look, I found a great one. We could share." Now this is a non-starter because Alec has a say in things and he is deeply monogamous by nature and took the message from Big Love that three wives means three times the nagging and more than three times the arguments. He also claims that if I talk about this to much with female friends they'll start avoiding me.

From a less personal point of view, I notice that there seem to be more good single women than good single men. When I think of my friends, there are lots of women who I can't understand still being single because they seem like such perfect girlfriend/wife material but not so much so with my male friends. I'm starting to think that there just aren't enough good men to go around.

From a more political perspective, I think polygamy could be like political lesbianism lite. I can see the logic of feminist separatism on statistical level. Women with male partners are more likely to be abused by their partners and their children are more likely to be abused by their partners because men are much more likely statistically to be abusive toward their family than women. Sometimes I get infuriated by the way feminism is always having to make itself palatable to men and sometimes I think that logically we should just up and off and set things up without them. On the other hand, I like some men and I don't want men who act kingly and righteously to be excluded from this utopia. I'm also aware that for some women, all the feminist theory in the world isn't going to stop them liking cock.

I think political polygamy could bring some of the advantages of political lesbianism. Women might be safer in polygamous marriages because they are sharing their partners and their living spaces with other women who could be more likely to see and act to protect each other and their children from abuse. They could also help to screen potential husbands for each other. Women could see how a man acted with his current partners to see whether he had abusive tendencies which only came out when he was living with a partner. So one side of the benefit can be summarised as women who share husbands would be able to protect each other.

The other side of it is that if you practise polygamy you don't have to have as many married men as in polygamous society. You can skim off the least sexist/abusive x% of men to have relationships with women and not have to expose women to the rest of them. Furthermore, the very real risk that if they don't sort themselves out they'll not be able to get a female partner, could force men to stop thinking that they're G@d's gift just because they have a Y chromosome. If a man doesn't want to do his share of the housework, he knows that his girlfriend could leave him for a man whose wives will confirm that he does. I suppose it's a similar argument to those saying that popular schools should be able to expand their intake. Good husbands will have more wives and all men will have to be better husbands if they want to have a wife.

Like I said, I'm not sure if this is a serious suggestion or a parody. Just some thinking out of the box.

Alec wisdom

Aug. 5th, 2009 03:56 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I was watching Sex: My Big Decision and, during a bit in which the mums recounted their awkward/traumatic first sexual experiences, Alec commented "I should go on a show like this and say 'I didn't have sex until I was 25 when I got married and it was brilliant. Ha!'"
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Reply to this meme by yelling "Words!" and I will give you five words that remind me of you. Then post them in your LJ and explain what they mean to you.

The words I got from [ profile] atriec were: religion, marriage, clothing, Queens', food

religion )

marriage )

clothing )

Queens' )

food )
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
On the radio I was listening to a discussion about whether supermarkets should label food from the West Bank to make clear whether it was grown by Israelis or Palestinians so consumers could choose not to buy food grown in Israeli settlements but still buy food from West Bank Palestinians. I was reminded that this sort of labelling could go both ways. My mother proudly told me that she bought herbs from Israel rather than the West Bank and was rather put out when I told her that the West Bank herbs she was boycotting were probably grown by settlers. I'm not sure where my mum gets her hardline Zionism from. It's certainly not me, she far more jingoistic about Israel than I am and I think she was very supportive of Israel before I became Jewish. I suspect that it's because she doesn't have much time for sore losers. In her opinion Israel won all of it's territory fair and square and if it's neighbours didn't want to lose territory to Israel, they should have made peace with it when they had the chance. I also wonder whether it's a generational thing, she remembers when Israel was seen in the UK as the plucky underdog.

I think Alec's also more supportive of Israeli military actions than me. I think part of this is that, not being Jewish, he tends to have different sorts of conversations about Israel than I do. I'm more likely to get to discuss Israel in situations where everyone is relatively well informed and Israel's right to exist is a given we can get down to the rights and wrongs of specific policies and actions, whereas conversations with non-Jews are more likely to be big splodges of accusations sometimes rolled together with how this supports their pet theories of Imperialism. I'm getting better at dealing with these people. The key is to just ask them to expand their views and correct any factual or logical errors. If I've had a few drinks I still sometimes end up yelling at them. Still, unlike Alec I've never had to deal with people saying that Christian book shops should stop stocking Rosh HaShannah cards or that churches shouldn't hold Holocaust memorial services because of Israeli military actions at the time.

I think another side of it is his protectiveness. Alec really wants there to be a country where I and our children and grandchildren could go if things turned nasty. I think he fears antisemitism more than I do. I don't want to be melodramatic, but "don't you realise people are going to want to screw you over because you're Jewish" has been part of the formula with converts going back to Talmudic times. I think would have been a bit naive for it not to have crossed my mind at some point that my decision to convert might lead to the deaths of some of my descendants. I'm sort of more at peace with it. I while ago I told him that I found it very sweet that he reacted to any kind of antisemitism as a direct threat against me and our future children. He replied that, given the history of the last 100 years, wasn't that reasonable?


Jul. 5th, 2009 10:29 am
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Things got a bit biblical here yesterday when we experienced a plague of lice. Well, actually, Alec mainly experienced the plague as I was a shul during the worst of it and he managed to get rid of the worst of it before I returned home.

The culprits were thrips, an annoying, seemingly pointless tiny insect which sucks the goodness out of food crops, and swarms. With the heat Alec and I have been sleeping with the bedroom window wide open. Happily I didn't bother to look out of the bedroom window as I was getting ready for shul so I left blissfully unaware that the entire area behind the blind was covered in the blighters. Alec, on the other hand, got up after I'd left, went into the living room and opened up the french windows, before looking out the bedroom window and seeing the swarm there. He quickly grabbed the hoover and sucked them up, unaware that even more of them were coming in through the open french windows until he walked into the living room to find thousands of them on the ceiling. So Alec had to close all of the window in the flat to keep them out whilst he proceeded to hoover the ceiling. This morning I tentatively opened one window a bit and we don't appear to have been engulfed in another plague.

Thrips are very annoying, however they have some advantages. They aren't attracted to food, so the shabbat lunch waiting on the kitchen side was fine, although I had a short panic when I thought the pepper in the salad dressing might be thrips. They are attracted to white things and light, so after Alec hoovered most of them up, a lot of the rest could be disposed of by leaving a light on and wiping them all off the lamp with damp cloth. The down side of their fondness for white light things is that MacBooks are a bit of a Mecca to them. So now there are a few thrips which will be staying with us, as they are inside my computer. Two of them are very clearly inside my computer because they got inside the screen and promptly died. Alec helpfully looked at the internet and found that the only way to deal with this would be to send the MacBook back the manufacturer to be disassembled to see if they could get them out. I don't want to bother doing that so for now I have two very dead pixels in my screen.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
10:30 My appointment with the doctor to get the results of my many tests to attempt to explain my six month cougth. None of them show anything interesting so it's probably just a cough. All the same, she's going to send me to the chest clinic to make sure she hasn't missed anything and a mention of a family history of persistent cougths led to a blood test for a hereditary enzyme deficiency which can cause cougths. My veins were their usual uncooperative selves so she asked me to see the nurse for the blood sample. So...

1:15 Blood test with the nurse who took my previous samples. Very quick and efficient. She was amused by my comment that I'd make a terrible smack addict.

3:00 Alec's doctors appointment. I had been nagging him to see the doctor for a while and laid down an ultimatum that I'd make an appointment for him if he didn't make one himself by today. I took his dairy with me this morning. When I described his symptoms in my appointment, the doctor said that I had to use my wifely three line whip to make him go to the doctor.

5:00 My MacBook is going to the Mac shop to see if they can bring it back to life. I downloaded the software updates and ever since it's refused to start. Hopefully it's one of those things which can be fixed in two clicks by someone who knows what they're doing.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I think I might try to lose some weight. I don't know how much I weigh but I'm pretty sure that it's more than I weighed a year ago. I don't want to be stick thin, I love my little round belly, but lately I've noticed that it's getting less little and more round. I preferred it when it was a soft little curve rather than a greater expanse of flesh. I've definitely put on weight because I tried to put two things on this morning which I haven't worn in over six months and they didn't fit any more. Loosing a few pounds will probably be cheaper than replacing all of my clothes.

I've identified two main causes of the weight increase. Both are related to married life. I love baking and an oven of my own and a husband who likes cake have been great spurs to regular cake production. The problem with this is that this means that there is usually an inviting cake dome of cakes or biscuits about the place, which really needs eating up. So if I've made something I like I'll get the urge to snack on it throughout the day. I think I actually like making cake more than I like eating it, so I must try hard to get friends to come and eat my produce so I don't eat it all myself. I might make some batches of cakes today and take them down to the friends of Magen David Adom garden party.

The other issue is portion sizes. Alec and I tend to be scrupulously fair when portioning food between us. However, the nutritional needs of a 6"2 man and a 5"9 woman are not the same. If we were to eat exactly the same amount logically either I'd put on weight or he'd lose weight. On top of that, we both do the thing where you show affection by making lots of food and encouraging the other to eat. Before we got married I didn't usually have dessert, but Alec feels a bit guilty having dessert if I don't so he encourages me to and then even if I'm full I have some or I'll wait half an hour for a bit of space in my stomach and have some.

I'm aware that the best plan is to really stop the habits of eating when I'm not hungry, because it's a terrible habit to get into if your metabolism works properly. I think I'll also investigate getting a calories counter book. I don't think I'd aim for a particular number of calories a day, but I'm not sure exactly how different foods compare (obviously ice cream is more fattening than lettuce but I'm not sure how, for example, veggie chilli compares to veggie shepherds pie and broccli). I'm quite easy going about food, so if I'm trying to reduce my not-so-little-any-more round belly, I may as well pick lower calories meals.

Anyway, that's the plan.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I have a cold. My throat is sore. My nose is bunged. My joints are a bit achy.

Even worse, Alec also has a cold and, as usual, his immune system has decided that attacking his skin is more fun than attacking the virus, so he is iller than me. This means that I can't take the opportunity to whine and get Alec to run around after me, which is what I usually like to do when even slightly unwell. If I want balsam tissues I will have to make it into town myself.

As Alec is asleep I will have to whine at you. Consider yourselves whined at.

I'm not actually that ill so I don't need your sympathy or offers of help. I am just a bad patient.


May. 5th, 2009 07:54 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
Alec has been away for the weekend. He went away hillwalking/climbing in Wales from Friday morning until Monday night. He tried to persuade me to come with him but the idea of traipsing along in the rain and sharing a bunk room with several of our male friends didn't appeal. I don't think that I really like him being away for that long. One problem was that I found it quite difficult to sleep with him away so this afternoon zonked out in the afternoon in my 'able to sleep after cause of stress gone' way.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
A lot of talk lately has been about the potential conflict between religious identities and Britishness. Part of the problem is the difficulty in defining Britishness, particularly as one of the defining features of being British seems to be constantly whining about how rubbish Britain is and scoffing at countries which indulge in flag waving and knowing more than the first line of their national anthems. An older, enlightenment model of identity requires that citizens rank identities in a hierarchy in which Britishness id ranked first. Such demands seem nonsensical to a younger generation, who have grown up within multiculturalism and feel more comfortable holding a plethora of competing identities in tension.

Most of the time I think that religious obligations and national norms manage to rub together reasonably well, but I have found a seemingly insurmountable problem facing Anglo-Jewry. Antisemitism? Assimilation? Loyalty to Israel? No, don't be stupid, the real issue is tea on Shabbos. You see as English people we love tea. We view is as some kind of magical medicinal substance which can alleviate almost any trauma, perhaps adjusting the amount of milk and sugar for the severity. I can tell from my husband's experience, that tea plays a central role to pastoral care, particularly to the bereaved. Throughout the 20th century, tea has played a crucial role in British war efforts, from the tea vans which would rush centre of the devastation during the Blitz, to ply the victims with the sweet milky beverage, to government departments worrying about how to supply adequate tea to the few survivors of a nuclear holocaust, during the Cold War. However, we are also Jews, and as such we should keep Shabbat. This poses two main problems for tea making. Firstly, you can't boil water on Shabbat. Some Jews even don't use hot taps during Shabbat to avoid more cold water going into the boiler. A solution to this is to use one of those urns which can be boiled before Shabbat and will keep the water boiling over the rest of Shabbat. Even if you can live with the energy inefficiency of that solution, the brewing of the tea itself might count as cooking, which is also prohibited.

Tamar Fox has written a post about this on the Mixed Multitude blog. The Chabad method has the problem that most teas should be made with boiling water, although it might be OK with Oolong, which should be brewed with cooler water. There's a 40 minute lecture on the issue, which I haven't listened to yet.

If you're planning to make tea during the week, or do not feel bound by halacha, here is a film you might find useful.

As for me, well my solution was to marry a non-Jew who makes me tea during shabbat. I'm not sure whether to call that a triumph of integration.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
A couple of days ago Alec and I were chatting about the future and came up with an idea of how we could one day have a family pet despite Alec being allergic to fur and feathers. Pigs! As intelligent and sociable as a dog but without the allergy inducing fur and either way, they live outside. Also good because they can be fed a vegetarian diet. It's illegal to feed pigs food which could have been in contact with any meat, so kitchen scraps from a diary kosher kitchen are almost perfect to supplement their diet. Another plus is that it would probably ensure that our children never ate pork.


lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)

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