Saturday, December 10, 2011

Grunberg Update

Sure enough, he was at the Kotel Friday night, dancing up a storm with a large group of Tzanchanim and saying Kabbalat Shabbat with them. Hope he enjoyed his trip.

Edited to add: See here.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

OK, a bit less spiritual this time...

This month is "Chamshushalayim," when there are special events throughout the city every weekend. More to the point, there are deals in the restaurants, so I, Mrs. Lammpost, and a friend went out to paint the town red. After a few false leads, we had a great dinner and then decided to have "afters" in another place, an almost literal hole in the wall with a French theme that serves, it is said, the best hot chocolate in town. (This is true.)

So we go in and order hot chocolate and sort of order a waffle (don't ask; it's Israel). And who should walk in the door, entourage in tow, but Greg frickin' Grunberg. GREG GRUNBERG! Also known as frummed-out Sean Blumberg of Felicity, as Houdini descendant Eric Weiss on Alias, as Jim Kirk's stepfather (scene deleted) in Trek XI, as topless Titans fan number three in Goldmember, as typecast lovable Jewish schlub in just about every role that calls for it, especially if it's Bad Robot, as the favorite actor of lovable Jewish schlubs (e.g., moi) the world over. Man, my college buddies and I loved him back in the day. Still do. And here he was, in J-town, eating a waffle side by side with me, talking about how great Israel is. I was hooting all the way home. The lovely spouse and friend did not- brace yourselves- even know who he was. So I turn to Facebook and my blog for some companionship here. Anyone?


I don't think I'm very prone to them, but every now and then I get hit my an experience that really gets to me. Perhaps because I live here, or perhaps because it is a font of experiences, these usually have something to do with being in Israel.

A few months back, I visited Hebron for the first time, for a conference. (I've been to next-door Kiryat Arba a few times, but not Hebron.) The conference was right next door to the Cave of Machpela, which, of course, I'd never seen before. From a physical point of view, it's an amazing structure on its own, built by Herod. But then, after the conference, we had a few minutes before the buses left, so I headed up to the Me'arah. It was closed, and as a kohein I wouldn't have gone in anyway, but the experience of just standing right in front of it suddenly hit me with a wave of emotion. I'm there! The burial place of the forefathers of our nation! I'm in Israel! Wow. I go to the Kotel all the time and have been up to the Har HaBayit quite a few times, but never felt anything like that. Why? Not 100% sure.

Last Motzai Shabbat, I davened Maariv in the Great Synagogue. Afterward, we said Kiddush Levana, and did that little dance afterwards. Now, I've done that every month for decades. And yet, here, again, I suddenly felt the place and the experience enter me. Again, don't ask me why, but there I was, in Yerushalayim, singing and dancing,

Last night, I led Maariv after the latest rehearsal for HMS Pinafore. (Do come! It's going to be a great show.) Our rehearsal space is in Talpiot, in south Jerusalem, and it randomly occurred to me that we were facing more north than east, something you never think about outside of Israel (mostly). It didn't really hit me, though, until Mincha of today, in the office of a major international accounting firm located across the hall from where I work. There, too, I considered how we should be facing southeast instead of straight east...and the idea that I'm close enough to the Makom HaMikdash for this to matter suddenly hit me. Amazing, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I suppose it's the busiest months when I post the least! Rehearsals, work, setting up the new home...and no time for ol' Blogger! Still, as I've written earlier, I try to do at least once a month, lest I risk messing up the index.

I must write about Pat Dolan, whose memorial is tonight in Queens. Like everyone I spoke to, I was shocked by the news of her tragic death. I even submitted a bit to read at the memorial if possible. (I served on the board of the Civic Association- see that link for a nice memory.) Let me just say here that she was the most dedicated of people, working selflessly for the community, not accepting excuses when people tried to argue for special treatment for "their" group. (V'hamevin yavin.) I remember her being particularly upset and offended when people accused her of- yes, I'll say it- anti-Semitism when she was merely trying to have decent laws applied. (Little did they know that appealing to her Irish Catholic background had no effect either.) She had not an ounce of (undeserved) hatred in her, and had much commitment to all. She will be sorely missed; RIP.

More later, I hope! Happy Chaf-Tet!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Welcome home, Gilad!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Some rabbi made a big to-do when, speaking at Baruch Goldstein's funeral, he stated that a thousand Arabs are not worth one Jewish fingernail.

But in demanding a thousand prisoners for one Jew (or sometimes only bodies), aren't the Arabs basically conceding the same?

Yeah, I know, I'm being a bit fatuous. But what else can you do when faced with such madness and evil?

Ah well. Hope it all goes well tomorrow. The medical interns have already set up a protest "succah" (sans s'chach) next to the Shalit tent. At least the Shalits didn't extend so far out into the sidewalk...

Monday, September 26, 2011

The other day, walking home from shacharit, I saw that someone had painted the peace symbol, in bright blue graffiti, in two different places on the walls of the Kings Hotel.

I was already grumbling when I passed one more "tag": The Hebrew word for "revolution", in the same exact shade of blue, on yet another wall.

It must be nice being able to define all terms, so you can be in favor of "peace" and revolution at the same time. Oh, and be a vandal yet be celebrated as an "artist" by the New York Times.

Monday, August 22, 2011

This is one of a series of videos in which Leonard Nimoy, speaking to a Star Trek convention, looks back on his life. Fascinating and funny- follow the links to watch the whole thing.

The funniest bit, for me? He's recounting a scene in Wrath of Khan and says, "Kirk says, 'Scotty, if we don't have warp speed in four minutes, we're all dead.'" And you can hear a fan distinctly say (correctly) "Three."

I love Trekkies. (One myself, of course.)

I liked this piece- I actually know the author, somewhat. I absolutely loved this line, though:
There are some presidents and prime ministers from other countries who have said things like “Israel has the right to defend itself.” No, it doesn’t. Israel does not have the right to defend itself. It has the m*********ing obligation to defend itself.
I actually always liked it when said presidents and prime ministers would say that. Now I realize how they are (inadvertently, I'm sure, and much as I'm still grateful) buying into the other side's narrative just by bringing it up. It occurs to me that the United States Constitution actually confers no rights- look it up. They are assumed to exist. To say they do is already accepting the argument that they might not.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Friday was my aliyah-niversary, and it would have passed unnoticed if not for a Facebook comment by my fiancee. (I usually remember the Hebrew date.) I rode the light rail! Let's retroactively say that was a celebration. What was so funny was how blase all the riders were, on day one.

Oh, yes, I said "fiancee". For those of you who know me only through this blog (right), the wedding is in two weeks. Whoo-hoo!!!!!

Friday, July 08, 2011


So let me get this clear:

1. You arrive in the US illegally as a child, live there many years, achieve fame (or not). Then you reveal your status. We're all supposed to feel bad and change our views on, well, that little ol' thing called the "law" because of that and acclaim you a true-blue American.

2. You arrive in the US as a child (legally? who knows), grow up there, never really know your country of origin. You commit a heinous crime and are sentenced to death. Time comes for execution fifteen (!!) years later, and suddenly you "discover" that you're not an American and you (and both the Mexican and US [!!!, sadly but not suprisingly] governments) start demanding all sorts of rights based on that.

His last words, of course (thank God Texas doesn't buckle under to pressure), are in praise of the country he never lived in.


Full disclosure: I'm a (legal) dual citizen myself. But I'm not demanding any sort of special treatment. Nor am I (case one) lying or (case two) murdering, it goes without saying.

Edited to add: For another example of non-computing in this case, see here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I love this country

The biggest news story in Israel over the last few days has been- I kid you not- the high price of cottage cheese. I have yet to make up my mind whether this is a Good Thing (maybe we really don't have anything else to worry about?) or a Bad Thing (are we whistlin' past the cemetery?).

Or maybe Israelis just really like their dairy products.

As to the issue itself, I don't even like cottage cheese (the word is the same in Hebrew, by the way), so I'd be pretty disappointed if, say, the government fell over this. (Hey, governments have fallen for a lot less- and stayed in power despite a lot more.)

Friday, May 06, 2011


Many moons ago, I applied to the United States Navy JAG Corps. I was interviewed at their recruiting center in lower Manhattan by an officer, while another sat at his desk on the other side of the office, his back towards us- i.e., for purposes of this story, he couldn't see my kippa.

Among other questions, Lt. Rock (short for his long Germanic name) asked me a bunch about drug and alcohol use, and my answers were pretty bland- very little drinking, never used hard drugs, never smoked pot. At the last, I distinctly heard the other officer mutter to himself, in a deprecatory tone, "Christian." (He meant it in the way, well, Christians do- as a born-again type.)

That story just popped into my head. (As I mopped the floor, in fact.) For the last few days, I've been agog at the anguish some are going through about Bin Laden's death and the subsequent reaction. (I am not at all agog at the bang-up way the White House has been handling the aftermath. Can't anybody here play this game?) At first, it was the Catholics over at NRO, so my first (unposted there) thought was, "Thank God I'm Jewish." Then it was a few lefty Jews, but I expect nothing more from their ilk. But then it was the all-so-sophisticated Orthodox intelligentsia, the feel-good-sensitive-non-Zionist MO and RWMO types, and finally, I am reduced to saying, "Christians."

Back to mopping.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Spring is bustin' out

Yes, we're rehearsing Carousel now.

But it *is* coming, by gum. The first day of Spring was last week, Daylight Time began this morning in Israel, it's the first day of April, tomorrow is Shabbat Mevorchim Nisan, etc. And the weather is finally getting warmer and glorious. I went to the Botanical Garden today for an art opening and enjoyed very much, but who has to go that far? Here's the view out our side window:
If you look closely, you may be able to see the bees.

Yesterday, I attended a shiur, and the speaker mentioned the famous story about the Beit HaLevi and the four cups of milk. It took me a few seconds to realize that the speaker (a Lichtenstein) was, in fact, a great-great-great grandson of the Beit HaLevi (and so many others). I've always wondered how British royals felt in history class when great-grandpa came up; here was a living example of that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A man who knows what he wants

There's been this man standing in front of the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem since at least the mid-1990's (to my personal knowledge), soliciting alms. (He reminds me of Epictetus.) I doubt I've given him more than a few agorot these past fifteen or sixteen years. Yesterday being Purim, and having a few shekels from a friend to distribute besides, I finally gave him a nice amount. He immediately put his arm around me and asked for a thousand. :-) Happy post-Purim, all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


With (an early) Ta'anit Esther coming up tomorrow, and what with the horrific events of last Shabbat in the news, I had a memory of my junior year in college, Purim time 1996. This was the height of the Oslo madness and the Muslims, as they tend to do, sensed a weak horse and responded accordingly. (Like their Nazi predecessors and once allies, they also have a perverse way of picking just the "right" date on the Jewish calendar for their atrocities.) Five attacks (almost all within the "Green Line," but haters of all stripes are gonna hate) in less than ten days resulted in sixty deaths. Two on February 25; one on the 26th; one on March 3 (on the same bus line as the second attack), one on the 4th. The last was in Tel Aviv, on Ta'anit Esther itself. I recall that a bunch of the casualties were kids in costume.

Ah, how quickly we forget...

For that fast day's mincha, the entire school met in the main auditorium (not the usual practice). Rabbi Norman Lamm, then-president, spoke briefly about the inability to say anything appropriate when things like this happen, and how we, like all those generations before us, can just say Tehillim and let them speak to us. And so we did, before the tefilla itself. My school, Yeshiva University, like many Jewish institutions, has a major chagiga the night of Purim. (Remarkably, for all its spirit, there's no alcohol involved.) The student organizations who arrange it had a meeting and decided not to cancel. They did decide that there would be no band, and the band they'd hired agreed to back out and not even charge anything. Interestingly, I think it was the most energetic and joyous chagiga I'd ever seen at the school. I guess that's how a people like the Jews has to react. I just told this story to someone who was in Israel then, and I was told that's pretty much what happened here as well.

At the end of the chagiga, R' Mordechai Willig, one of the leading Roshei Yeshiva, took out his guitar, the first musical instrument of the night. He sat down, and we all sat on the floor around him, as he played slowly and meaningfully and we joined in singing. That's not something that leaves you. Here's looking forward, despite all, to a happy and healthy Purim.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It must be a good place...

We had to wait a bit for a table tonight, and so sat at the bar in the meantime. My companion noted that the two men sitting next to me were obviously bodyguards, so we started scanning the room for important-looking people. It was only as we walked to our table when I saw him: Avigdor Lieberman, the Foreign Minister, seated a few feet away with a small group, enjoying his dinner. Wow.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"As long as they don't make it compulsory."

That was the old line about tolerating gays. (Itself no longer an acceptable option.) Increasingly, it's beginning to look less and less funny. See this very troubling story- one is longer allowed to even deviate from the party line (whatever it is) without being beaten into submission. I still have my inch, I hope. (And yes, I realize the irony of that reference. The [supposedly] persecuted have, as might be expected in this case, become the persecutors.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"And, although his methods may be difficult for environmentalists to accept..."

See, stuff like this is what (deservedly) gives enviro-whackos a bad name. It's hard me to accept that the phrasing in the title of this post is entirely tongue-in-cheek. "May be"? Excuse me? It's almost like they approve. See all those "Life After People" type shows and books for examples of their fantasies. (List at the bottom here.)

And then comes Momma Nature to remind us that what we do means diddly squat in the long run. :-) Maybe not this time, but there was once a very frightening illustration of this in National Geographic. (Although I'll admit I didn't quite see it right the first time, perhaps because of how they presented it.)

Meanwhile, the One doesn't really seem to care, which is here, as elsewhere, the main feature of his and both our salvation as well as the danger. (Of course, wouldncha know it's all the GOP's fault, as always.)

Apropos of nothing- or maybe so- I think the way someone responds to this story (I can think of two main possibilities) would tell you most of what you need to know about their views.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Royale With Cheese."

The statistics here are actually encouraging. (The prices, not too much.) (H/T Gil.) It was just last night, at a shiur, that someone mentioned that combination of kosher meat and cheese at non-kosher Israeli McDonald's actually may make them worse than the equivalent outside of Israel. So here we see that cheeseburgers aren't even advertised and barely ever served, and that 70% of (secular?!) Israelis want kosher meat, and only 5% davka want non-kosher (whatever that means).

What's interesting that (most) Jerusalem locations aren't kosher. (In fact, it's the last non-kosher place on the eatery-heavy Emek Refaim.) I think that may be the tourist trade, though.

Not ideal, of course, but a very good sign, I think. One commenter on that article wonders if it's really about being open on Shabbat. Based on this, I wouldn't be surprised if that was a big factor.

“Make Mine a Courvoisier!”

OK, this story may well be what is technically called "untrue." But it's one of my favorite Kennedy stories nonetheless. (Come to think, that's two Kennedy stories in a row.)

The late Sargent Shriver is running for Vice-President alongside George McGovern, 1972. He walks into a bar full of working stiffs in Ohio and, perhaps coached by Tip O'Neill, accompanying him, says, "Beers on me!" Everyone cheers, but Shriver continues to the bartender, “Make Mine a Courvoisier!” At that point, it is said, O'Neill realizes the election is over and gets on a plane back to Massachusetts.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Random musings

No wonder Cracked has been running pieces of late about how Islam ain't so bad after all. Another one bites the's still pretty good, though.

Well, a new Congress, and, in a historical note, the first time since 1947 that there hasn't been an elected Kennedy in Washington (or anywhere else, I think- even Arnold is gone). Wouldn't be so bad if it would stay that way.