Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Show notes for Parshat Bereshit

For the audio feed click on this Torah Threads Link torahthreads.libsyn.com/rss

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.   http://www.urjbooksandmusic.com/product.php?productid=2086&cat=0&page=5

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:  http://jewishpub.org/product.php?terms=tanakh&search.x=0&search.y=0

(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 librivox.org.

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 torahthreads.libsyn.com/rss 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 is....at 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 imagined...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.