Saturday, December 25, 2010

VaEra 5771: A God by Any Other Name

Vaera 5771:  A God by Any Other Name

A good summary about the different names of God can be found in this Wikipedia article.

Please also consider listening to Forgotten Classics by Julie D.  There is an episode in the Notes to the Reader,  the introduction to Robert Alter’s translation of Genesis, which contains a discussion of the names of God in Genesis.  You can find Forgotten Classics on Itunes or you can follow the link here.  There are additional “note to the Reader” episodes which also have very interesting information about the Bible in general, issues of translation and the names of God.  Please note that Julie does not speak Hebrew and tries very hard to spell words instead of mispronouncing them.  It makes it a little harder to listen to, but her devotion to accuracy is impressive!

Please listen to and look at the show notes for Parshat Noah to hear more about the names of God and their connection to the different editorial strands of the text.

Portable recording devices anyone?  Suggestions for the best one to use on the fly.  Donations towards its purchase are greatly appreciated.

Names for our ram?  We have a new Tunis ram still waiting for a name.  Suggestions? 

What does God stiffening Pharaoh’s heart mean?  Is there a difference between the times the text tells us that God stiffened Pharaoh’s heart versus the times it simply states that Pharaoh hardened his own heart?

Comments please!

P.S.  Happy Secular New Year to all. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shemot 5771: Bushes and Bricks

Not much to note this week, though I am certain I missed saying something.  I am a big supporter of midwifery and natual childbirth, so I have always connected to the story of Shiphrah and Puah and their bravery! 


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vayehi 5771-Blessings, Endings & Beginnings

Vayehi 5771

Jacob’s Blessings for his sons and grandsons

A few things to note:

  1. The order of the blessings is not the same as their birth order
  2. All sons from concubines and wives are treated the same
  3. Younger sons are treated better than older ones continuing the Biblical tradition from Isaac on.

             Birth                          Blessing                                  Highlights of Blessing
1.     Rueben   (Leah)                  Rueben                    Disgrace for sleeping with Bilha
2.     Simeon   (Leah)                  Simeon                     Cursed for actions against Shechem
3.     Levi       (Leah)                   Levi                         Cursed for actions against Shechem
4.     Judah     (Leah)                  Judah                       Raised up to rule over everyone
5.     Dan       (Bilhah)                 Zebulun                   Sailor
6.     Naphtali  (Bilhah)               Issachar                    Hard-working, seeking security
7.     Gad       (Zilpah)                 Dan              Govern tribes, powerful threat to others
8.     Asher     (Zilpah)                Gad                          Raid and be raided
9.     Issachar (Leah)                   Asher                       Rich, line of royalty
10.   Zebulon  (Leah)                  Naphtali                   Good progenitor
11.   Joseph   (Rachel)                Joseph          Blessed with wealth and power.  Elect of
12.   Benjamin (Rachel)              Benjamin                 Powerful but fair

Hazon Food Conference and other information can be found at
A few of the presenters
Judy and Mark Dornstreich Branch Creek Farm, Perkasie, PA
Barbara & Alan Glustoff 5 Spoke Creamery
Naftali Hanau CEO and Founder: Grow and Behold
Ari Hart Co-founder, Uri L'Tzedek
Devora Kimmelman-Block Founder: KOL Foods
Gil Marks author of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food and Olive Trees and Honey
Nigel Savage Executive Director: Hazon
Jerry Schwartz, Owner/Shepherd Frisky Lamb Farm,
Chef Michael Solomonov Founder, Zahav Restaurant, Philadelphia PA
Jeffrey Yoskowitz Food writer and Director of Operations and Marketing for Negev Nectars
Molly Zeff Interfaith Program Representative, Equal Exchange

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Vayigash 5771: Drama! Drama! Drama! You are the boss of me!

Show Notes
Vayigash 5771
Hanukkah Radio Programs
I couldn’t actually find the audio feeds for these programs, but perhaps you will be able to find them through you own local NPR radio stations.  If not, you can at least look for the stories and people mentioned on these programs for further insight into the celebration of Hanukkah!
Hanukkah Lights - December 1, 3-4pm on 93.9FM          
On this perennial NPR favorite, Hanukkah stories and memoirs, written by acclaimed authors expressly for Hanukkah Lights, are read by NPR's Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz. Hanukkah Lights celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, with four brand new works:  "Finding Golda" by Margot Singer, "Legacy" by  Lev Raphael," "Geek Week" by Rebecca O'Connell, and "Moon Landing," by Shira Nayman.
In "Legacy," Lev Raphael reflects on the Hanukkah celebrations of his youth, and the miracles of a dark time that, quite literally, brought his family to life. In Shira Nayman's "Moon Landing," two young girls find common ground in the age old miracles of their vastly different cultures. In "Finding Golda," by Margot Singer, a middle-aged man, adrift in a troubled and violent city, finds new hope in the hearts of those who love him. In Rebecca O'Connell's "Geek Week," two teens meet at a high-school science fair, and stumble on a formula to reunite a divided family.
A Great Miracle Happened There: A Hanukkah Special – December 5, 6-7am on 93.9 FM and 9pm on AM820
A conversation between Rabbi Ismar Schorsch and Host Larry Josephson about the history, rituals, foods and meaning of Hanukkah--and its importance to American Jews in our time. Cantors David Lefkowitz and Elisheva Dienstfrey sing the music of Hanukkah.
A Chanukah Musical Celebration – December  5, 10-10:30pm on 93.9 FM
The spirit of Chanukah, a holiday joyous at freedom's triumph and spiritual rededication, is richly reflected in the folk melodies and songs from countries across the globe where Jews have lived and worshipped for centuries. Host Naomi Lewin presents this music for all to enjoy in A Chanukah Musical Celebration.
To see Steph Gorin’s amazing work look at:
Jewish Fiberaholics is a group on  You can find many different groups on Ravelry for all types of fiber arts and groups throughout the world.  Over 1 million people turn to as a way to learn and grow in their craft.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Miketz 5771 Sibling Rivalry and Other Family Games Also, Hanukkah

 Show Notes Miketz 5771

Unfortunately the Hebrew does not print here...sorry.  (does anyone know how to fix it?)

The text of the Letter sent by Judge KimbaWood as quoted in the Wall Street Journal can be found here:

Video of my friend Addy playing on the Sesame Street Thanksgiving Day parade float can be found here:

A great story from NPR about siblings which just goes to show that Joseph and his brothers are “normal” siblings. - Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities
Blessings for Hanukkah
Blessing over Candles
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam
Blessed are you, Eternal Our God, sovereign of the universe
asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu
Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us
l'had'lik neir shel Chanukah. (Amein)
to light the lights of Hanukkah. (Amen)

Blessing for Hanukkah
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam
Blessed are you, Eternal our God, sovereign of the universe
she'asah nisim la'avoteinu bayamim haheim baziman hazeh. (Amein)
Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time
Shehecheyanu (first night only)
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam
Blessed are you, Eternal, our God, sovereign of the universe
shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higi'anu laz'man hazeh. (Amein)
who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season (Amen)

Other Hanukkah Resources: 
Particularly for families with young children:

Good suggestions from the WW site that will help with the both the calorie count and the guilt. Well, maybe not the guilt

From my friend and colleague Rabbi Shira Stern
To get the most crunchiness out of your latkes without the huge calorie count, bake your latkes, and they will be just as crunchy.
  1. Just make sure you squeeze the shredded potatoes over the sink to drive out all the starchy moisture. Then the cakes will become extra crisp when you bake them.
  2. Always serve applesauce instead of sour cream. Bonus: this keeps them parve, if you need them to be.
 B. Latkes Recipes (WW)
 Apple/Potato Latkes
            1 large Yukon Gold potato(es), peeled  
            1 medium apple(s), such as Pink Lady, peeled, cored, quartered  
            4 tsp dehydrated onion flakes  
            1 large egg(s), beaten  
            1/4 tsp table salt  
            1/4 tsp black pepper  
            1/4 tsp ground cinnamon  
            3 spray(s) cooking spray  
            1/2 cup(s) fat-free sour cream  
    * Shred potato and apple into a medium-size bowl using the fine-holes of a box grater or shredder; stir in onion flakes. Press out as much liquid as you can by hand; drain liquid. Set aside mixture for 1 minute and press out liquid again; drain again. Stir in egg, salt, pepper and cinnamon.
 ·      Coat a very large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Drop potato mixture by tablespoonfuls into skillet and flatten each with the back of a spoon to make twenty 2-inch latkes. Leave at least 1 inch between latkes; you will have to do this in batches.
·      Cook latkes until golden on first side, about 3 minutes. Gently flip latkes with a spatula and cook until other side is golden, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Carefully remove latkes to a serving plate; cover to keep warm and repeat with remaining ingredients. Top with sour cream and serve. Yields 2 latkes and 2 1/3 teaspoons sour cream per serving.
2. Baked Potato Latkes
 Baked Potato LatkesMakes 6 servings; 2 latkes per serving
POINTS® value per serving: 3
     * Cooking spray
      2 pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Golds, peeled
      3 medium shallots, halved and thinly sliced
      1/2 cup pasteurized fat-free egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
      3 Tbsp matzo meal
      1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
      1 tsp salt
      1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
      1/2 tsp ground black pepper
·         Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Spray a standard 12-indentation muffin tin with nonstick spray.
·            * Use the large holes of a box grater to shred the potatoes. Working by small handfuls, squeeze the shredded potatoes over the sink to get rid of any excess moisture. Place in a large bowl.
     * Stir in the shallots, egg substitute, matzo meal, thyme, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Divide the mixture into the 12 muffin indentations.
 ·      Bake 30 minutes. Spray the tops again with nonstick spray. Continue baking until browned and set, about 30 more minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes on a wire rack before serving. Makes two latkes per serving.
 3. Curried zucchini latkes:
Makes 6 servings; 2 pancakes per serving
POINTS® value for 2 pancakes: 1
     * 2 large zucchini
      1 tsp salt
      1 small onion, peeled
      1/2 cup pasteurized fat-free egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
      1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
      1/2 cup matzo meal
      2 tsp curry powder
      1/4 tsp ground black pepper
      Cooking spray
     * Shred the zucchini through the large holes of a box grater, mix with the salt and place in a colander in the sink to drain for 15 minutes.
     * Working in small handfuls, squeeze the zucchini of any excess moisture, then place in a large bowl. Shred the onion through the large holes of a box grater and add to the zucchini.
    * Stir in the egg substitute, cottage cheese, matzo meal, curry powder and pepper.
     * Spray a large skillet with nonstick spray and set it over medium heat. Make pancakes using 1/4 cup zucchini batter per pancake (only cook as many at a time as will fit comfortably in your pan; overcrowding will cause the pancakes to steam rather than brown).
     * Press down slightly on the pancakes, cooking until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a warm plate and continue making pancakes in batches until all the batter is used. Makes 2 pancakes per serving.
 Sweet Potato Latkes:
Cooking spray
      4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
      1 large onion, minced
      2 cloves garlic
      2 large eggs
      3 Tbsp matzah meal (more if the consistency is too thin)
      1 tsp salt
      1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
 Spray a pan to coat bottom: spoon out mixture, and fry til edges turn brown.
 Or … spray 2 glass dishes to cover surface;  bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes; spray a light coating on top then flip them and bake another 30 minutes.
 C. Ginger Applesauce by Joan Nathan:
 1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 whole star anise, broken into points
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 Tblp fresh lemon juice
2 Tblps peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut in quarters
 Tie the cinnamon stick, cloves and anise in a piece of cheesecloth to make a sachet. Bring the sugar, water, lemon uice, ginger and spice packet to a simmer over low heat in a large saucepan.
Stir in apples. Increase the heat to high and bring to boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring often, until the apples are soft (15 mins.)
 Discard the spice packet. Mash the apples in the saucepan until chunky. Taste and add more sugar, if needed. Serve warm or chilled.)

Happy Hanukkah

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Parasha VaYeshev 5771 Dreams and Dreamers

Show Notes
Parsha VaYeshev
Genesis 37:1-29:23

A few things got lost in my re-recording of the podcast.
I realized that last week we did not discuss Jacob’s name change to Israel.   So sorry…but we’ll get to it next year.  Just know that from here on in, the text uses both Jacob and Israel for the same person.  The family tree of Jacob’s offspring is listed below.

Jacob’s children by each wife

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Dinah
Zilpah (Leah’s servant): 
Gad, Asher
Bilha (Rachel’s servant)
Dan, Naftali
Joseph, Benjamin

Jacob’s Children’s Birth Order: 
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naftali,
Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Dinah, Joseph, Benjamin

The Psalm, Psalm 118, was a modified translation of the JPS translation.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

VaYishlach 5771-Brotherly Love?

Show Notes 
VaYishlach 5771:  Brotherly Love?

To check out the NY City Opera programs look here:

Anita Diamant’s book The Red Tent can be found here:

Please feel free to leave comments here or email me at:

Please let me know your preference:
Should I: 
Discuss the entire parasha? 
Or Should I stick to one section of the parasha each week? 
What do you think?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jacob Sheep Ram from Nyala Farm April 2009 as Mentioned in Parshat Vayetzei 5771

Vayetzei 5771-Of Dreams and Mandrakes

In honor of Nofrat Frankel and in support of her as she and Anat Hoffman
deal with the aftermath of their arrests for daring to carry the Torah and wear a Tallit and pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Prayer for Women of the Wall
May it be your will, our God and God of our mothers and fathers, to bless this prayer group and all who pray within it: them, their families, and all that is theirs, together with all women’s prayer groups and all the women and girls of Your people Israel. Strengthen us and turn our hearts to serve You in truth, reverence, and love.
May our prayer be as desirable and acceptable before You as the prayers of our holy foremothers Sarah, Rivkah, Rahel, and Leah.
May our song ascend to Your Glorious Throne in holiness and purity, like the song of Miriam the Prophet and Devorah the Judge, and may it be as a pleasant savor and sweet incense before You.
And for our sisters, all the women and girls of Your people Israel: let us merit to see their joy and hear their voices raised before You in song and praise. May no woman or girl of Your people Israel or anywhere else in the world be silenced ever again. God of Justice, let us merit justice and salvation soon, for the sanctity of Your name and the restoration of Your world, as it is written: Zion will hear and be joyful, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, over Your judgments, O God. And as it is written: For Zion’s sake I will not be still and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be silent, until her righteousness comes forth like great light and her salvation like a torch aflame.
For Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem. Amen, selah.
Prayer by Rahel Jaskow is from Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site, copyright 2003 by Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut. Permission granted by Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock VT,

Life after Death coverage by Katie Couric:


Mandrakes in Harry Potter:

"The cry of the Mandrake is very fatal to anybody who hears it"
A Mandrake, also known as Mandragora, is a plant which has a root that looks like a human (like a baby when the plant is young, but maturing as the plant grows).

The real story of Mandrakes:
Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae). Because mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, hyoscyamine and the roots sometimes contain bifurcations causing them to resemble human figures, their roots have long been used in magic rituals, today also in neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.
The mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn ("djinn's eggs"). The parsnip-shaped root is often branched. This root gives off at the surface of the ground a rosette of ovate-oblong to ovate, wrinkled, crisp, sinuate-dentate to entire leaves, 5 to 40
 centimetres (2.0 to 16 in) long, somewhat resembling those of the tobacco-plant. A number of one-flowered nodding peduncles spring from the neck bearing whitish-green flowers, nearly 5 centimetres (2.0 in) broad, which produce globular, succulent, orange to red berries, resembling small tomatoes, which ripen in late spring. All parts of the mandrake plant are poisonous. The plant grows natively in southern and central Europe and in lands around the Mediterranean Sea, as well as on Corsica.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Toldot 5771--Lentil Stew and Dysfunctional Families

Show Notes

Toldot 5771

Suri’s essay, while a commentary on Hayei Sarah is still pertinent to us as we read Toldot.  This was reprinted with her permission.

127 Heirs

Just this week, while sitting in my Advanced Wealth Transfer class, my professor, a Catholic, was relating to the class a case of a Brooklyn family, very wealthy,  who, as a couple, are  permitted by law to give $26,000/per person/per year. The IRS audited this estate because they felt that the $3,302,000 in annual gifts was too great.  The professor then had the task of showing the IRS that this couple had 7 children, and each child had many children, etc. until at this point, this couple had 127 heirs, to whom they were allowed to give $26,000/year tax free.  127 heirs?  How haphazard a number is that, the professor asked the class.

It's a small class, so I responded, it isnt haphazard at all, it is the number of years that Abraham's wife Sarah lived, and the number of Persian provinces over which Queen Esther reigned.  "So, the Professor replied, do you think the couple had this number of heirs purposefully.?"  I replied, "even if it was not the couple's exact intent, it was obviously G-d's intent."  A moment of silence, and we moved on.

There are no coincidences.  That this case came up this week made me pause.  It is midterm week, and the midterm problem was to take the $24mm estate and plan so that it could pass to the heirs estate tax free.

Sarah lived 127 years and each day of each year brought merit to future generations.  After all, she lived most of her life childless, she had no thought of transmitting her merits to her own children, she did it for us, for future children, whom she would never know.  She placed her merits in a Dynasty Trust for us that generations later, it could merit another woman, Esther, who would also sacrifice herself for us.  She reigned over 127 provinces, in the merit of each of Sarah's 127 years.  She gave up her husband Mordechai and her nation and had a child with Achashverosh, who would permit the Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild the Temple.

This week's Parshah states that "Hashem Bayrach et Avraham Bakol," that G-d blessed Abraham with it all.  Was it wealth that the parshah was referring to?  No.  It was children.  Finally he had a son who would inherit and take over his Jewish heritage.

As I plugged away at my midterm this week, bothering Jeffrey Rosenberg of Yale Brokerage to provide me life insurance numbers,  I thought of this Orthodox man with $24mm and 127 heirs, and I understood that his wealth was not from the former number, but from the latter number.
Good Shabbos.


Lentil Stew Recipe

Jacob’s Lentil Stew—But you don’t have to sell your birthright to eat it!

(Based on the Mediterranean Lentil-Eggplant Stew from the Sunset International Vegetarian Cookbook)

1 large onion
Olive Oil
Garlic (3-5 cloves)
1 large celery stalk thinly sliced
(You could also use a celery root sliced very thinly)
2 large carrots thinly sliced.
Basil 1-2 tsps
Oregano 1-2 tsps
Cilantro 1-2 tsps.  (better to use a bunch of fresh cilantro)
12 oz red lentils or brown lentils
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1-1/2 lbs of eggplant cut into ½ inch cubes
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste (optional)
¼ cup red win vinegar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt (optional)
1/8 teaspoon pepper (optional)
1-2 tsp ground cumin (optional)
Chopped parsley

Slice onion and sauté in 4-5 quart pot.  Add in onions, garlic, celery, carrots, basil, oregano and cilantro.  Sauté until onions are translucent and the carrots and celery are partially cooked.  Add the lentils, water and vegetable or chicken stock to the pot and let boil.  When the pot begins to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover pot and let cook for 1 hour.

While the pot is cooking heat a frying pan and use oil/and/or chicken broth to sauté the eggplant.  You can add in ground cumin and cover the pot until the eggplant is browned and softened.  After 1 hour add eggplant mixture to the lentils and also add the tomato paste, vinegar and/or red wine, cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Continue simmering for about 1 more hour or until the vegetables are tender.  Add more water and/or vegetable stock if the stew starts to stick to the pot.

You can serve this with couscous, quinoa or brown rice for a really hearty meal.

To learn more about Droit de seigneur and/or Primae noctis you can read this quick article at wikipedia.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hayei Sarah 5771

I WON!  I won 5th place in the novice spinning competition at the New York Sheep and Wool festival!

The Cave by Composer Steve Reich and Beryl Korot is a wonderful performance piece delving into the meaning and imagery of the Cave of Machepelah and its importance to our world today.

Don’t forget to check out Forgotten Classics at: to hear more from Robert Alter on the difficulties of biblical translation. 

You can now find Torah Threads at Itunes!

My Winning Skein of Yarn with its Ribbon!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Show Notes Vayera 5771

(look for the PDF of this week's parasha in the widget for JPS on the right sidebar)

Show notes Vayera 5771

The video of felting which I watched which proved I was not more talented than a fifth grader was found at, see Oliart.

The 10 Trials of Abraham
According to Maimonides
1. God tells Abraham to leave his homeland to be a stranger in the Land of Canaan.
2. Immediately after Abraham arrives in Canaan there is famine.
3. The Egyptians capture his beloved wife, Sarah, and bring her to Pharaoh.
4. Abraham faces incredible odds in the battle of the four and five kings.
5. Abraham conceives a child with Hagar after not being able to have children with Sarah
6. Circumcision. 
7. The king of Gerar captures Sarah, intending to take her for himself.
8. God tells him to send Hagar and Ishmael away.
9. His son, Ishmael, becomes estranged.
10. God tells him to sacrifice his dear son Isaac upon an altar.

Forgotten Classics by Julie with the Reading of Robert Alter’s translation of Genesis  can be found at, or you can subscribe to it at Itunes.

Don’t forget to answer the questions in today’s shows and send the comments on to me so you can be entered into our Contest!

Have a good week!
To find out more about our sponsor, Frisky Lamb Farm go to

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lech Lecha

Happy Birthday to me!  It was my birthday when I recorded this podcast….of course, when you listen to it…it will be over and I will simply be old.

You can find Jboomers on Facebook.  If you are interested in attending the Jboomers Klezmer Brunch at City Winery on Nov 21, send a note to Jboomers through facebook.

New York Sheep and Wool, Oct 16-17 in Rhinebeck, NY.  You can look for my skein entries in the novice category.  (1 skein is purple and pink, the other two are grey, pink and blue and very sparkly).  Maybe I’ll even win a ribbon or something!  The last time I entered an artistic type contest was when I was 10  or 11 years old!  (I won!)

Thank you Linda Hirschhorn for giving me permission to play her song “Sarah and Hagar” as performed by Vocolot on their Album Heart Beat.   Heart Beat is available at Itunes.  You can find more information about Linda and Vocolot by clicking on the links below.

Two Contests
Donation Drawing:
If you donate to Torah Threads during the month of October you can win either a personalized yad or a skein of handspun wool.
You can send a donation by clicking on the paypal link at

If you submit a short essay about the relationship between the children Ishmael and Isaac, your feelings about the pre-ordained strife mentioned in this week’s portion and/or the implications of the strife arising from the relationship of Sarah and Hagar, you are eligible to win a personalized yad or a skein of handspun wool.  I will read the winning essay on a show in early November.  Please submit your essays to me at:
Our Sponsor, Frisky Lamb Farm is now taking orders for fresh, 100% grass fed, humanely raised lamb on our 75 acre pesticide free farm.  If you live in the Binghamton area you can pick up the meat directly from the farm.  If you live in NY, we can make arrangements for delivery in early December.

The chart below shows relationship of Torah to other forms of Jewish Literature.  More on this in the coming weeks

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Show Notes Parshat Noah 5771

Special Thanks to Rabbi Arthur Waskow, author of Godwrestling-Round 2, founder of The Shalom Center,, for allowing me to use his "Haftarah for a Rainbow Covenant". You can find his work based on Torah teachings at the Shalom Center website or in his book.  He has done amazing work for many years.  You will undoubtedly hear me speak many times in the future about the concept of eco-kashrut which I learned first from him.  I thank him for inspiring me throughout the years.  You can find the text for the Poem “Haftarah for a Rainbow Covenant” at
Special Thanks to Glenn Manion & Suzanne Smithline and Squeaky Clean for letting me use Glenn's "The Marvelous Relationship" from their "Pull Together album".  Pull Together is their school assembly program on character education.  The program help students learn that they will need to accept people of all backgrounds and value each other's talents so that they can work together to solve global problems.  This song, based on something Glenn learned in high school biology helps show that even a little bird can make a contribution to the world.  This is one small example of their genius and talent!  They are amazing people as well as fabulous musicians.  Go to their website, to learn more about them.  You can buy their album at Itunes. 
Biblical Criticism:  Some References & a Short version explanation
The Documentary Hypothesis
Scholars believe that the biblical text went through four basic strands of editing commonly denoted as the J-E-P-D strands.  The J strand is described as J because it stands for the Yawahist strand—the Strand using tettrgramaton—the Four letter name of God which we do not pronounce today.  The  letter yod which begins the Hebrew name of God is transposed into English as a J, which is why Jehovah’s witnesses use the J in their attempt to pronounce God’s ineffable name.  Approximately 10 C. BCE

The E strand is the strand known as the Elohist strand. It uses the term elohim frequently.  900-800 BCE

The P strand is the strand known as the Priestly strand.  It is the text placed to elevate the status of the priesthood and is prominent in the book of Leviticus. 8th C-6th C BCE

The D strand is the strand known as the “Deuteronomy strand”.  It is probably the latest editing and features texts that comport to the modifications of the book of Deuteronomy.  600-400 C BCE.

For more information you can look at 

For information about the Shabbat of Healing for the Climate go to, or

Blessing On Seeing a Rainbow:
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh zokher
hab'rit v'ne'eman bivrito v'kayam b'ma'amaro.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who remembers the covenant, and is faithful to God's covenant,
and keeps God's promise. 
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך
זוכֵר הַבְּרִית וְנֶאֱמָן בִּבְרִיתו
וְקַיָּם בְּמַאֲמָרו.

Genesis 6:9-11:32
Two versions of the Story

God saw humanity’s wickedness and God regretted that God had made them.  The Eternal’s heart was saddened

Then God said to Noah, “Go into the ark for you alone have I found righteous….take with you seven pairs of clean and one pair of unclean animals, and seen pairs of birds. I will send forty days and nights of rain.

After seven days the Flood came.  Rain fell for forty days and nights.  Noah sent out a dove, but the dove found no place to rest; he waited seven days, and the dove came back with an olive leaf.  After another seven days the dove went out but did not return.

Noah left he ark.  He built an altar and sacrificed of every clean animal and clean bird.  God in turn promised never to bring another flood. 

God saw how corrupt humanity was and God said to Noah:  “I have decided to put an end to all flesh.

Make yourself an ark.  Take with you two of everything that lives, male and female, of birds, cattle, and creeping things.

In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life in the second month, on the seventeenth day the rain began.  The waters swelled for one hundred and fifty days.  At the end of that time the waters diminished.   Noah sent out a raven.  It went to and fro until the waters had dried up.

In Noah’s six hundred and first year, on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, he and his family left the ark.  God then made a covenant with Noah and set God’s rainbow in the sky as a sign that God would not bring another flood. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Show notes for Parshat Bereshit

For the audio feed click on this Torah Threads Link

Thank you for joining me for our first week!  I am sorry there are some imperfections in the audio balance.  I will try to do better for the next one. 

The Torah portion for this week is Bereshit:  Genesis 1:1-6:8.

You can purchase the Plaut Torah Commentary, from URJ books and music.  There is a new revised edition and a travel edition.

You should also own the JPS Tanakh.  It is the best available complete English translation of the full Hebrew bible.  There are many different formats available at:

(I am still trying to get permission to add the text for each week here).  Tell JPS I recommended you purchase the book from them.  Maybe I’ll finally get permission to use their text. 

I have added the widget for JPS’ audio Torah to this webpage.  However you should know, they control the feed.  It is set to only have the audio text available for each parasha for one week before it changes to the next portion. 

Books to consider reading:

Milton’s Paradise Lost with Isaac Asimov’s commentary or the audio edition available for free at

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and Ernest Hemingway’s Garden of Eden might also interest you. 

Puff Pancake Recipe (with thanks to Ujjala Schwartz)
1 stick of butter
1 cup of milk
1 cup of flour
4 eggs
Vanilla and cinnamon to taste (I forgot to mention that in the podcast).
Cast Iron Skillet
Fruit and or Powdered Sugar for topping.

Heat oven to 425°.

Place stick of butter in cast iron skillet and place in oven to melt butter.

Beat Eggs, add in milk and flour and blend.

When butter is melted, pour the batter into the pan and replace in oven. 
Bake for 18 minutes.

While the pancake is baking, prepare fruit.  You can use fresh  or frozen berries, apples, bananas, lemon,  and/or nuts.

I like to sauté apples and walnuts in a pan with a little orange juice or butter.  I also zap some apples in the microwave for 3 or 4 minutes.  Defrosted frozen berries also work well. 

You can sprinkle the pancake with some powdered sugar.

Serve hot!


Have a good week. Next week's  Parasha, Noah,  will be released on Sunday, October 3. 

Who am I and What to expect at Torah Threads.

 The RSS feeds are now working thanks to the brilliant diligent assistance of the staff at Libsyn!

Please listen to this audio feed about me and what I plan for Torah Threads before you listen to a parasha podcast.

You can also go to to get the feeds directly.

Chag Sameach,


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I just finished erecting my Sukkah for this year.  Each year I always plan to have it ready much earlier than three hours before Sukkot begins.  Each year I plan on creating a beautiful, Sukkah made of natural woods so that it would truly be a testament to the beauty of God's world.  I even designed a deck for my house which would have the Sukkah Frame built into it so that all I would have to do each year would be to hang beautiful wooden sides and the Sechach (branch covering).  Unfortunately those designs are still on paper because it was too expensive to build.  So, this year, as I have for the past 20 or so years, I pulled out the metal poles and canvas cloth Sukkah I bought in desperation when I realized my plans for something nicer were not going to come to fruition in time for the holiday.  My poor Sukkah is so sad looking.  I have lost some of the joins for the poles and have not been able to replace them.  So we now have the proverbial duct tape helping hold the Sukkah together.  The wonders of duct tape!

As I look at my sad little Sukkah sitting in my yard instead of the dream house Sukkah I wish were there, I think though, that because it is so weak and ugly, I will have greater appreciation for the meaning of this holiday.  For I know that there are hundreds of thousands of people all over this world who would love to have even the little bit of shelter my weak little Sukkah offers.  I know that there are people who would love to have a corner of my yard to call their own.   I know that the meals I will eat in it during the coming week will provide me with nutrition others lack.  When I was a child, we used to make strings of cranberries and popcorn to decorate the Sukkah,  Then I realized that food should not be wasted on Sukkot decorations. Instead of wasting food, I ran  food collections for the hungry.  It was a much more beautiful use of food.

Sukkot reminds us too of the travails of the our ancestors as the traversed the desert trying to find a place to settle in peace and security.  These thousands of years later we live in a world in which peace and security is not a reality for all people.  We live in a world full of mistrust, greed and violence.  We live in a world where hundreds of thousands of people go to sleep each night without knowing when they will have their next morsel of food.  But rather than sit and bemoan this sad state of affairs, there are things we can do.  We can give non-perishable foods to a local food bank.  We can donate to organizations like Mazon:  A Jewish Response to Hunger and AJWS:  American Jewish World Service who are working hard to alleviate the suffering of the hungry and the homeless.  While these small actions won't solve the problems of our world completely, they are definitely a step in the right direction.  So I guess my little Sukkah is just right the way it least for this year.

Chag Sameach.  A joyous Sukkot Festival to you all.


P.S. One week to go until our podcast goes live!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Preparing for Yom Kippur

No matter what one's level of observance, Yom Kippur seems to draw in Jews to some moments of introspection.  I have been thinking about the images of Yom Kippur today as I baked my hallah and have the rest of my pre-fast meal underway.  One of the basic images of Yom Kippur, is that of the scales of justice on which sins and good deeds are said to be weighed.   Most of the rest of the year, we hardly think of those scales.  In fact most of us blithely go through our lives without really contemplating our actions until something happens to jar us out of our complacency.   I have always been one of those people who did too much.  I came by it honestly as my mother of blessed memory was also always doing too much. She did more in one day then most people could do in a week or two.   My sister once looked at my mother and tried to find her bionic parts because that seemed to be the only explanation for her ability to do as much in one day as she did.  (by the way--my sister is also quite good at doing a lot of things at once).  This past year I have consciously tried to slow down, do a little less, but be more involved and present in what I was doing.  It has not been easy to change a lifetime of habits but it has been an interesting experiment.  I have scaled back on purchasing goods, rushing to events and overdoing cooking, baking etc. I have given away clothing, books and other household goods and look forward to de-cluttering my physical spaces even more. This year instead of baking and cooking like a maniac for Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, I have prepared less dishes and made smaller portions.  These small adjustments in my physical surroundings and my levels of activity have had a surprising payoff.  I feel calmer, breathe easier and think clearer than I have for a very long time.  By scaling back on these physical aspects of my life I have opened up my mind and freed it from the clutter that at times overwhelmed me.  I am feeling more creative and more energetic than I have in a long time. I feel more secure and more tranquil even though my life circumstances are anything but secure and tranquil.  It is strange...that when I had more physical security, I was personally insecure.  When I was "settled" in my life I was less tranquil.  I guess I needed this time to re-tune my life.   But I have to admit as much as I enjoyed this sabbatical time...I am ready for some new challenges, such as preparing this podcast and building up the Torah Threads community. 

As we all face Yom Kippur and the scales of Justice upon which we measure our lives, I wish for you as I hope for myself, to find a life well balanced and a world moving ever closer to peace.

G'mar Hatimah Tovah


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TorahThreads--Knitting the Threads of Torah into the Fabric of Our lives

From Ghost Ranch New Mexico
Torah Threads will go live on September 30th.  But you can listen to the promo now with the RSS feed:

Please know:  You don't have to be Jewish to love Torah

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Preparing for Rosh HaShanah

Rosh HaShanah is only a few days away and is looming large for the usual and unusual reasons.  The usual reasons are always focused on making certain I have the meal ready with all the proper accoutrements.  Including:  Chopped Liver, chicken soup, Noodle Kugel, Brisket, homemade challah--whole wheat of course, tzimes and apples and honey.  Recipes available upon request!  I am a really good cook, though newish to many of the more traditional foods as I didn't eat most of them until recently.  I am a reformed vegetarian (I was a vegetarian for 25 years) so my holiday meals used to be quite different. 

The unusual reason that Rosh HaShanah is looming large is that my life is less settled on this Rosh HaShanah than it has been in past years.  In past years it seemed I had life together..I was working, had my kids, my meals with friends, everything seemed together...though I didn't for many years have a partner in my life after my divorce.  But with my professional life under control, and my kids well...all seemed fine.  Then life blew up for me in many ways this past year  My older son become ill for many months, I started and left a job and have now spent many months searching for the right professional path.  However, I have also found new pathways to follow.  I have become a handspinner and revitalized my knitting and other creative involvements.  I have met a great group of people through my spinning.  My older son is doing better.  Son 2 just went back to school and is deliriously happy and I have just celebrated two years of having a wonderful new man in my life who is totally supportive and loving and kind.   So...yes as knitters say...I have many UFOs (unfinished objects) in my life-with myself being the biggest UFO of all!  Perhaps rather than being a UFO--I am really a work in progress.  I am beginning to take shape...but I need some more work before I am done--a process that I hope I have many, many more years to finish.  All great fiber projects need a few things to keep them going---A willing creator, ready to take the time to turn ordinary things into works of art---some imagination to visualize the possibilities, time, a lot of love, and the understanding, that if the finished object isn't shaping up to be what you can modify it, redesign it a bit or unravel it and restart it if necessary.  I can't start my life totally over and frankly I wouldn't give up all the lessons I have learned thus far that have strengthened me.  However, I know that on this Rosh HaShanah, I will be doing some serious re-imaging, reshaping and reconstructing my life by gathering my life's various threads, knitting them together to create an ever larger and hopefully ever more interesting fabric for my life.

My best wishes to you for a year of personal renewal, beauty, health and strength as you knit together your own threads to create your own beautiful fabric for your life.