Thursday, March 31, 2005

She Loves You, ya YA-YA

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I am forever checking out publishers' web sites to see what's new in the book world, even if I don't end up reading these books that are being marketed online.

And in my journey among some publishers' sites this evening, I encountered an entire marketing world around the "Ya-Ya" books that have been very popular (but which I haven't YET read).

Here is a fun link to help you generate your YA-YA Sisterhood name.

I entered my information and received this message: Your Ya-Ya name is Mistress Loves To Read -- how ve...r....r....y interesting. How does this name generator know that I work in the publishing arena and that I love to read?

For fun I also threw in my husband's name and got back this message: Viscountess Loves To Cook. (no, he's not a viscountess, nor even a viscount, but yes, he loves to cook!)

And if you do check it out, let me know in the comments section what your YA-YA name is.

How Time Flies...

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I read Robert Avrech's Seraphic Secret today, specifically his latest post, "School."

Reading the post compelled me enough to comment on his site. But I also have to admit that personally I'm suffering from some guilt as a result of reading his post.

Several times, in the heat of my frustration-of-the-moment with my two oldest children (but still quite young!), I've had the audacity to blurt out, "Why don't you just grow up already!?"

And then I look at all three of my children at a different moment and wonder sadly, "How have they grown up so quickly? Where has the time gone?"

Music, Anyone?

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(First let me go into a corner and growl a bit -- damn Blogger! You made me lose my post once again.)

Okay, I'm fine now....

In case any of you have tuned in to Pearlies of Wisdom and you hear some music, specifically the Eagles singing "Hotel California," do know that you're not going out of your head. If you scroll way, way down to the bottom of the page, you'll see a video playing.

Yesterday I was haunting a couple of my favorite blogs and saw that this video feature had been added. Although I'm not a copycat by nature, I like the feature and added it to my own blog.

I chose the song, keeping in mind some of my California-based readers. But the truth is that this video wasn't my first choice. I'm a fond lover of all kinds of music, but I didn't want to offend any of my readers with a video featuring a female singer or female dancers in the background.

Perhaps there are some of you who don't normally listen to secular music and are offended even by the Eagles. Please let me know -- I'd rather you tune in to Pearlies of Wisdom than have to tune in and then tune out because of the background music.

I'll be the DJ and turn off the music if necessary...

****** A 3:45 p.m. addendum********
I respect my readers, so remember, if you'd like, I'll cancel the video segment; if not, do realize that I will change it from time to time so that it won't only be the Eagles doing the serenading. Thank you, from the management!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"Slicha, Ha'im Atem Mevinim Ohti?"

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Hebrew for "Excuse me, do you understand me?"

Last night I was at another meeting of the committee I sit on at my children's day school: the chinuch committee, ie. the education committee. Of course we talked about this, that and the other, throwing around old as well as new ideas that relate to the betterment of our children and to our tuition dollars.

An opportunity arose for me to speak, and this is similar to what I said: "You offer an Ivrit b'ivrit program (Hebrew immersion) from preschool on and you really just don't know how much a child absorbs. I've tried over the years to speak Hebrew to my children at home and they whine and don't want to hear it. I figure I'm helping them along because I'm reinforcing what they learn in school, but oftentimes they've turned a deaf ear to my husband and I.

"Once in a while, though, I'll start talking to one of my three children and my oldest will answer or comment about everything I've said; he has no desire to do so in Hebrew, but at least I have clear evidence in his English responses that he's understanding everything I'm saying.

"Several times I've wanted to say something to my husband so that my children will not understand, and I revert to Hebrew. My husband says, 'Why are you even bothering? They understand everything we're saying!' So true -- that is how I learned German and Yiddish at home!

"We don't realize just how much like a sponge a child and his/her mind are. Until we are forced to use a language, we don't truly know just how much we've absorbed."

Zeh ha-kol; ayn ohd. (That's it; there ain't no more!)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Best Not To Assume

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When I was dating my now-husband a dozen years ago, he taught me the philosophy "Don't assume." I think most of you know how the saying goes: Don't assume because then you make an ass out of you and an ass out of me. (excuse my French)

I've tried to heed his advice since then, but it isn't always easy. And often when I assume something, and it doesn't happen, I feel great disappointment more than I do anger. I'm disappointed by the fact that whatever I'd expected to happen didn't, and by the fact that I'd set myself up for a fall. I think that's what hubby was trying to teach me all those years ago.

Being a thinking, feeling, sensitive person doesn't always help; in the arena of "assuming," these attributes can actually hinder. I have the habit of sometimes assuming the most basic things, which usually center around common decency, but often the person in question fails the test. What is good for me doesn't necessarily make it good for another person. What I deem to be something relatively easy to do, the other person might consider a chore, and thus, doesn't fulfill it. What I think might be a big deal to me is actually a petty detail to others.

Assumption is based on perception, and often our life views are askew or our perceptions are tinted or someone is near-sighted and the other people are far-sighted. Whatever the reason, we don't necessarily see eye to eye on issues, assumptions are made...and grievances may result...

I hope that reading such a post can make you look inward a bit and allow you to be more conscious of the assumptions you might have of others or situations. We can all stand to learn from one another, can't we...?

BTW, I ran into some technical glitches when I went to "Publish Post" and nothing was happening, so of course I figured that I'd lost this post. Lo and behold, a few minutes later, I tracked it down just where I'd left it. Moral of this story? Best Not To Assume.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

My 'Net Worth

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Since Thursday evening, I've been MIA -- my computer was acting a bit "ferkakt" and I had no access to e-mail or the Internet. Thank G-d -- and my husband -- that the computer was fixed today and that Pearl is able to access her messages and her blog once more!

I hope those of you who celebrate Purim had a most wonderful chag, and those of you who might celebrate Easter had a most wonderful holiday. And those of you who perhaps don't celebrate anything simply had a wonderful long weekend!

Well, my d'var Torah is behind me and it was a resounding success. Firstly, I must thank a couple of you out there who offered me wonderful quotes related to the "light of Torah." I'd planned to incorporate them into my talk on the Ner Tamid, but when my computer went on the blink, I couldn't access the quotes when I was typing on Friday.

Before I even had the opportunity to speak, I received what to me is a wonderful compliment. I happened to go Shabbos morning to the shul I was to speak at (I alternate shuls usually) and after services the president made his announcements and said that Pearl _____ would be the guest speaker at seudat shlishit. I saw a woman sitting nearby confer with her daughter then, the woman and daughter turned, I was pointed out to the daughter... I tapped the woman on the shoulder and jokingly said, "I'm not going to be reading poetry!" (this woman is actually a poet, has published a couple anthologies of her poetry, has been a speaker at the Toronto Jewish Book Fair, and she and I have shared poetry readings on a couple of occasions in the past three years) She smiled and told me, "My daughter asked when she heard the name, 'Isn't that the poet?' " To say I'm flattered easily is somewhat obvious, but here this young woman heard my name and associated it with poetry was a wonderful feeling for me.

Yes, I labored long and hard at the d'var I was to present. I was very self-conscious that I was going to be sharing my words with some real "big guns", some real "talmidim" -- was I as a female going to be able to make an impression on a rabbi and on a mostly male audience with my words?

Not that you necessarily want to read my d'var but I'll share it with you anyhow. Perhaps I can enlighten you somehow; putting together the information certainly enlightened me!

My D’var Torah – Saturday March 26, 2005

Honored rabbi, family, friends and fellow congregants. Shabbat Shalom.

The night of the shul’s tribute dinner, Rabbi G. reminded my husband of his upcoming d’var Torah, and then he turned to me and asked, “Would you like to do one the following week?” I thought he was teasing. What would I talk about? How would I approach whatever I chose to talk about? I didn’t dwell on it, and assumed that because we hadn’t firmed up any arrangements, I really was not meant to do one.

But two weeks ago, when my husband did his d’var, I asked the rabbi if he indeed had been serious about the offer; he assured me he had, and so I signed my name to the imaginary dotted line.

Yes, I perceived preparing for a d’var as challenging—I have not done anything remotely similar since my U. of T. days, while minoring in Jewish studies, or when I wrote school papers in high school, but I sort of looked forward to this challenge.

I davka chose not to pursue discussing the parsha—you get spoon-fed that enough from all your rabbis and teachers. Instead I decided that I would talk about the NER TAMID, and hopefully enlighten you with its origins and some of the manifestations of light as we understand it.

The concept of the Ner Tamid has always been a fascinating one for me. From a young age, whenever I walked into a shul, whatever kind of shul it was , I noticed the “constants” – the bimah, the aron kodesh and the ner tamid, the eternal light. I’d look at the ner, looking at its casing and deciding if I liked it simple or artistic, and remaining in awe of the fact that this was indeed an eternal light, a continual glowing above the aron kodesh housing the Torah scrolls.

References to the origins of the Ner Tamid appear primarily in two places in the chumash:
In Sefer Shmot, Exodus, Parshat Tetzaveh, Perek , 27th chapter , psukim 20-21, katuv:

The second appearance, with wording almost verbatim, appears in Sefer Vayikra, Leviticus, Parshat emor, Perek , chapter 24 pasuk b, verse 2. Katuv:

In Parshat Tetzaveh, it says the olive oil that is to be brought to light the menorah, the seven branched lamp, in the mishkan has to be pure, and direction is given as to the exact positioning of the menorah and the way it is to be lit and what it’s supposed to do.

A question is raised: why does the parsha start with the commandment of lighting the menorah? Why is the commandment not listed in the previous parsha, following the description of the building of the menorah? Why does it come in between the description of the building of the vessels for the mishkan and the clothing and offerings of the priests? What makes it so special?

The details of the lighting of the menorah represent Avodat Hashem and yiraat Shamayim. Rashi understood that the commandment to build the mishkan was given after the sin of the golden calf. The Israelites needed a physical reminder of G-d’s presence to focus their worship so he gave them the mishkan. What vessels in the mishkan could possibly represent his presence and remind them of his constant protection and guidance? In the desert, it had been the pillar of cloud in the day to lead them, and the pillar of fire at night to give them light.

So the fire, the Ner Tamid, is reminiscent of the desert’s pillar of fire for it was lit from the evening until morning. The golden incense altar that creates a cloud of incense, represents the pillar of cloud, for Aaron lit it in the morning when he deals with the menorah lamp. And when Aaron lit candles in the evening he burns the incense, too.

In fact some interpretations, like Rashi’s, say that the Ner Tamid does not actually mean “continuously” but rather “regularly.”

Ramban disagrees and says that Tamid does mean continuously. He goes on to say that the Ner Tamid that the pasuk talks about is the western candle that always stays miraculously lit. All 7 candles were given the same amount of crushed pure olive oil each night, enough to last till morning. Ramban says that every night the western candle actually had to be blown out in order to be relit.

But the details of the pasuk call to our attention. Shouldn’t the text say “Vykhu eylai” – “to bring to me” the clear oil of the beaten olives. No, it was intentional. It was about the kohanim and Israelites and servitude for themselves as well. In a midrash it is said that G-d pointed out that he actually had many servants_- the brightness of the sun, the moon, the stars, lights that were created by him. He really doesn’t need the particular light of the menorah. But it is to endow the Jews to whom the torah was given, with the zechut to observe particular commandments, So not for G-d’s edification, but for ours. Preparing and bringing the oil is what the Midrash says is one of many opportunities to come closer to the shechina. And as an interesting tidbit, the word for “the oil”, “Hashemen”, is made up of the same letters that spell the word for soul, “Neshama.”

In the 19th century Rabbi Hersh examined the 2nd half of the verse: “L’a lot Ner Tamid”, ie. The flame should ascend of its own. He said that the description of the act of lighting a lamp by using “ascending” is peculiar to the service of the menorah in the mishkan. It alludes to the action of the kohen, applying the flame to the wick until it ascends. Similarly, a rabbi or teacher of Jewish tenets makes himself available but maintains some distance. People receiving instruction from him shouldn’t be constantly dependent on him. We as people should aim to be flames which ascend on our own, to shamayim.

It is interesting to note that the menorah and its candles have a significance of relating to both G-d and man. Its several branches represent the range of human wisdom, or for some, the major organs. The central branch from which all the branches extend show the centrality of Torah to Jewish life and human intelligence. The ner tamid corresponds to the heart – it is to be a light that can never be extinguished, which burns miraculously , even without replenishment of the oil or wicks of mitzvah observance.

In Proverbs 6:23 it says: "Ki Ner Mitzvah, vTorah Ohr." The commandment is a candle and Torah is illumination. The commandment is the candle and the mitzvah’s purpose is to illuminate the path to Torah, the source for all light. A commandment is compared to a lamp in order to tell you that as a lamp gives light for a short time, so the performance of a commandment also gives protection only for a short time. But the torah is compared to light itself in order to tell you that as light always illuminates the world, so does the study of torah always brings enlightenment to the world. Learning torah is a lifelong undertaking, an intricate process, just like the lighting of the menorah. First, learning involves refinement is which we work to bring the best of ourselves to the text. Second, learning must be tended to on a daily basis, and one must be disciplined to learn. Third, our learning must radiate outward in both word and deed, and must be sustained between generations.

It also says in Proverbs, 20:27 “Ner Hashem Nishmat Adam”-- the lamp of G-d is the human soul. Pardesai Yosef, cited in Itturei Torah, elaborates and says that every Jew must light a ner tamid in his/her own heart, not only in the mishkan, the beis midrash, the bet Knesset or during tefilla. But also “Mechutz laparochet”, outside the curtain, meaning in the street, in business dealings, in personal and social interactions.

In his book, A Passion for Truth, Abraham Joshua Heschel says that the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassidut, distilled in people Judaism’s essence of joy, compassion and love for God. He awakened the zest for spiritual living, expressed in “hitlahavut” which literally means “being excited/being aflame”. Like the kohanim kindled the ner in the bet hamikdash, so, to, did the Besht help to rekindle a ner tamid in Jewish hearts.

(Here: read 4 lines of poem, in Hebrew first, then English: In the world’s heart burns a torch of fire/In its footsteps, eternal wanderers we have gone./Embodied light of all that transpires/It is the fire-core for everyone.

In every Jewish soul is a spark of light, a ner tamid. In every Jewish chapel is a ner tamid, a special, everlasting light. It reminds us that a shul is like a small bet Hamikdash and that our prayers which represent and replace sacrifices, are always welcome, because like sacrifices they bring us closer to Hashem.

May we all continue to be “keepers of the flame” and maintain “Hitlahavut” in our paths of Yiddishkeit.

Shabbat shalom.

It was a very good feeling to have men say "Shkoyech" to me, for the rabbi and rebbetzin to compliment me warmly and sincerely, but I think the greatest compliment for me came from an older gentleman, who happens to be the zeyde/grandfather of the young woman who referred to me as "the poet" earlier in the day. This lovely man came up to me and said, "Pearl, it was wonderful. You should publish it in a newspaper...I really mean should publish it." (Okay, I couldn't tell him that maybe I won't publish the vort in a newspaper, but will publish it in a blog!)

When I go to a simcha or sit at someone's Shabbos table and someone gets up to give a d'var Torah, I am always so impressed; they can relay information, including psukim or rabbi citations, off the top of their heads, or know exactly where in a sefer to open up and make a point. I certainly could not do it off the top of my head, but the "spark" that I talk about in the vort, was certainly present when I was doing my research. That in itself is probably greater than any "shkoyech" I could ever receive...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Tagged! aka Books, Books, Books -- Who's Got Time To Read?

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My friend Robert Avrech has very "generously" handed me the baton. I feel like some beauty queen who has just been passed the crown by the previous year's winner, but I'm of mixed feelings whether I really belong in the competition.

I've seen on other blogs that people are getting tagged for the books questions or for a list of any other generic questions; and secretly I've been hoping to be tagged by someone...anyone. So to be tagged by an award-winning screenwriter, who is also a wonderful writer of personal essays and fiction, is something of an honor.

So, here goes:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451; which book do you want to be?

I want to be a child's picture book -- a well-loved board book that is durable when it is read countless times, clutched in sticky apple-juiced fingers, toted along from room to room and passed on from child to child.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

People, I work in the world of romance. I read romance books for a living. You figure out that answer!!

The last book you bought is:

I'm guilty. I can't remember. It's been th...a...a...t...t long. But I used to always go to the remainders tables, come home with an armful, start to read, and unfortunately not always complete a book.

The last book you read:

Walking Home (MIRA BOOKS, January 2005) by Gloria Goldreich. It is the story of a young woman's search for her place in life -- finding out what is truly important to her world; learning what to give up or replace. It is about relationships between family and friends. It is about poetry and the need to express oneself. It is about memory and reality. It is about personal identity and self-declared facades. Inevitably, it is a story about taking a walk and deciding which direction you call home.

Oh ya, and just before I finished that book, I finished reading this great piece of YA historical fiction called THE HEBREW KID AND THE APACHE MAIDEN. (nudge, nudge, wink, wink!)

What are you currently reading?

I have been reading poetry by Shel Silverstein. Yes, it's children's poetry, but highly amusing and quirky, especially with the accompanying line drawings.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

A Haggadah -- I have a lovely one with Chassidic parables and explanations
The Tanach with English translation -- lots to read and analyze in there
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 11th edition -- why not learn a new word each day?
Night -- the Elie Wiesel book that I have studied in school, university and read countless times because it is so powerful
a blank journal-- of course, being on a deserted island would offer lots of opportunity for writing my own book!

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

I now pass the baton back over to the West Coast to a group of blogging friends, aka Kerckhoff Coffeehouse. These people will probably offer us something a little more than just interesting...

I also send it out to Anna Olswanger ( Not only is she a writer but she gathers up information of newly released Jewish books and sends out a quarterly newsletter, Jewish Books and Author News, listing and detailing these books and their authors. Through Anna's fall 2004 newsletter, I learned about Robert Avrech -- writer/ friend.
I'm sure that Anna would have lots to sift through in compiling her list.

I also am sending out the call to Danny Bloom, a writer/journalist/Mr. In the Know who resides in Taiwan. His finger is on the pulse of many wordly happenings, and he, no doubt, will also offer an eclectic selection of titles.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Diversion for the Time Being

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I'm having a bit of a harried time this week, preparing Mishloach Manot packages for many little people, aka my children's friends; sending out donation cards in lieu of Mishloach Manot to most big people; getting children's costumes together; trying to work on a freelance job/manuscript that I have to copy edit; being conscious of the fact that I have another writing project to deal with, a personal writing assignment that also has a deadline; getting excited about some personal traveling plans; and with all that, trying to compose a dvar Torah for week's end.

In all honesty, I get flustered rather easily; this week is one of those weeks! I am a multi-tasker, but it ain't always so easy -- I lose what minimal organizational/time management skills that I still possess, and it's difficult for me to focus on several things at once...although I do it, and the end result is usually fine.

I have gathered several pages of resource notes for my upcoming vort, just have to ORGANIZE them now into some coherent line of thought. So momentarily I am putting that aside, and am reaching for my computer keyboard and my blog instead.

So what did I want to say? Hmmm.... Purim will be here tomorrow evening, so a Freiliche Purim to all -- drink, be merry and try to maintain that festive least all the way through to after Pesach, after the cleaning, shopping, cooking and eating has been completed; after the in-laws/out-laws have gone home after the seders and Yom Tov is over. Then you can let loose that heavy sigh that you've been holding in since...whenever!

I'm not big on Yom Tov preparations -- read: I don't enjoy them too much -- but I do enjoy the ambience, the je ne sais quoi that floats in the air pre-Yom Tov. I call it a Yom Tov fever: people scurrying about, rushing home with groceries, dry cleaning in the other hand. Main thoroughfares in Jewish neighborhoods are congested with foot traffic and car traffic as people hustle to meet the needs of the two-or-more-day holiday. I feel caught up in that fever, whether I'm sitting in a car and watching the scenes around me, or whether I'm out there, hustling and bustling with the best of them.

This Friday should be fun, driving to and from shul, and later on to and from a seudah at some friends. Car horns will be honking hysterically, costumes and masks will be seen out of car windows, the drivers disguised as they maneuver their vehicles in traffic. A fever once again, and after that, the fever of getting home in time to prepare for Shabbos. Wow, a constant fever -- but a good one. Hope you all get caught up in the fever, as well.

Now, a l'havdil... I read online today about a tragedy that befell a Teaneck, NJ, family yesterday; a house fire took the lives of four children, and their mother is in critical care in hospital. Two other children at home survived, and another one traveled home from Israel to be with her surviving family members. I understand that the father is not in the picture. What a sad, sad happening...on the threshhold of what is to be a festive holiday. We should all pray for a refuah shlema for the woman (you can no doubt Google her and her surviving children's names)and the remaining children, and pray for the lives that were lived -- and were lost -- much too soon.

Hey, What's Up with This? aka An Ode to Some Blogs

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I have a list of about a dozen blogs that I click on religiously several times a day; not only do I enjoy the posts, I also enjoy the comments, and so I sporadically look to see if anything new was added to any of the blogs.

I was just looking in the computer margin at my list of favorite blogs, and what did I see? PEARLIES OF WISDOM appears at the bottom of the list. Was that some Freudian slip of a thing -- do I not enjoy my own words; am I doing the Jewish mother sacrifice thing ("Okay, okay, you first. I'll just and wait patiently at the back of the line..."); or am I just being modest?

Who knows? But the list ended up looking like this:

Seraphic Press,
A Simple Jew
Five Years Later
Ink as Rain
Random Thoughts
, aka Jack's Shack
Stacey's Shmata
A Window into Ours
Psycho Toddler
Kerckhoff Coffeehouse
Pearlies of Wisdom (you're reading this, so you must know how you got here!!)

Now although your blog might appear on the list at # 9, rather than # 3, don't fret. I realized that things (aside from mine on the list) look as they do because I listed these blogs as favorites as I discovered them and frequented them. You might be a late entry on the favorites list, but still consider yourself most worthy. I don't read JUST ANYTHING, and each of you offers entertaining, eye-opening, stimulating thoughts and perspectives.

The blogs and the writers behind them range: there are parents who have lost children and are working through their pain, taking the reader along on their journeys; people who are parents and are contending with life issues and family issues thrown their way; young adults who are in high school or finishing college, who have yet to truly discover the world; a group of pals (and a wife!) who like to comment on the world at large, politics and all; medical experts, who are also experts at humor; religious people who provide wonderful inspiring thoughts. Some of the writers are very wordy and detailed, giving more information than necessary, while others believe that less says more -- and sometimes they're right!

However, all these blogs help broaden my horizons, giving me a look at lives different -- some minimally, some extremely -- than my own. These blogs and the writers behind them help minimize the geographical distances, the intellectual distances and the emotional distances between us.

So keep writing, and I'll keep reading...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Picture This!

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Once upon a time I was one of the most organized, attentive-to-details people around. After all, it was in my genes, part of the nurture/nature syndrome.

What happened? I got married, I had children, I kept a full-time job. One would think those would all be incentives to remain organized and well-managed. Nuh-uh. Not for this chickie.

It's tough, and as hard as we try to arrange and organize, my husband and I are actually redesigning and moving all the time. We're redesigning this pile of stuff and moving it to that pile of stuff. I have a nice-sized home, but 11 1/2 years after getting married, I still have many things at my parents' home because I don't know where to put it in my home. (and their home is MUCH SMALLER than ours, with lots less room) When my father motions for me to take something home from my personal hoarded stock, I say, "Dad, I will...eventually. I just don't know where to put it!"

Among my "accumulations" are photographs. I stopped putting photographs in albums about 8 1/2 years ago -- I kept the film-developing envelopes in grocery market bags. It is a real sore point with my hubby. He says, "If someone visits and asks to see photos of A. when he was in grade one, which supermarket bag will I pull out? Loblaws or Sobeys or No Frills?!"

Yes, to see these bags, wherever they are dispersed in the house, is a painful reminder for me as to the archiving job that lays ahead, and the job I neglected to do for so many years. But I can't JUST put them randomly in an album, either. I may not be so organized anymore, but I AM still very detail-oriented, and I'd have to look at each shot and decide when/where it was taken and write the details on the back of the snapshot. (even though the backside wouldn't be visible when said snapshot is placed in an album) Meshugas, I know...

I think I need about two weeks of fifteen-hour days to correctly assemble and archive and house these photos in some semblance of order. Anybody have any free time to help organize this photographic genizah? Contact me, and we'll see WHAT DEVELOPS...

The Four Ghosts of Inauguration

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I'm so not a political-minded person, and I mean no offense to my American readers, but I just LOVED this joke that reached me via e-mail, from an American point of origin.

The Four Ghosts of Inauguration

One night, George W. Bush is tossing restlessly in his White House
bed. He awakens to see George Washington's ghost standing by
him. Bush asks him, "George, what's the best thing I can do to help
the country?"

"Set an honest and honorable example, just as I did," Washington
advises, and then fades away.

The next night, Bush is astir again, and sees the ghost of Thomas
Jefferson moving through the darkened bedroom. Bush calls
out, "Tom, please! What is the best thing I can do to help the country?"

"Respect the Constitution, as I did," Jefferson advises, and dims from

The third night, sleep is still not in the cards for Bush. He awakens
to see the ghost of FDR hovering over his bed. Bush whispers,
"Franklin, what is the best thing I can do to help the country?"

"Help the less fortunate, just as I did," FDR replies and fades into
the mist.

Bush isn't sleeping well the fourth night when he sees another figure
moving in the shadows. It is the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Bush pleads,
"Abe, what is the best thing I can do right now to help the country?"

Lincoln replies, "Go see a play."

Monday, March 21, 2005

More on Giving and Taking

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This is a footnote to my previous blog. Interpret how you will...

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers..." (Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire)

"...In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart." (Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank)

It is nice to meet people, even if only online, who are good at heart and most kind.

Hope some of them cross your paths, as well.

Supertramp Said It Right

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(Blogger, you'd better get your act together. I had to recreate this post, when the original went AWOL. Thanks a lot, Blogger!)

"Give a little bit..."

These are all the lyrics you need to know from the Supertramp song. They say it best. Life is give and take. Blogging is give and take. You give some insights, comments, and you take away insights and comments.

I'd say that I'm a generous person. I like to share with others what I am, what I know and what I have. And then I like to learn the impact of my words/actions. If I've hurt someone in error, I hurt. If I've helped someone, I'm pleased. Even if I don't get the chance to see or learn of the impact (hopefully a postive one) I've made, as long as the recipient knows the impact, then that's the most important thing.

In the blogging arena, I've discovered that many people take Supertramp's words a step further and they "GIVE A LOT." You know who you are, and I thank you.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

In the World's Heart Burns a Torch of Fire

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In the world's heart burns a torch of fire,
In its footsteps, eternal wanderers we have gone.
Embodied light of all that transpires
It is the fire-core for everyone....

--S. Shalom

The above is an excerpt from a poem that I discovered when trying to research my d'var Torah. Aside from consulting with our limited selection of Rabbinic discourse and interpretations, I checked out some of my university books from when I was doing my B.A. with a Jewish Studies minor. I have some wonderful books from University of Toronto days, but none that provided me with fodder for my talk.

Then I discovered my book: Modern Hebrew Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology-- I was given the book twenty years ago, for my twenty-third b'day, by my brother's then-not-quite-yet in-laws. They knew I'd come home from Israel several months earlier and that I loved poetry. (And to be able to read a beautiful poem in English with the Hebrew translation by its side is a bonus!)

So I was flipping through the poetry book yesterday, and came across this lovely poem. I felt it needed to "see the light" and be shared with a bunch of blog readers. It's too bad that I can't provide the Hebrew translation for the same excerpt because in that language, the words are even more lyrical and lovely.

But I do think that this excerpt can be easily incorporated into my d'var Torah about the Ner Tamid, and the significance of light in Jewish life.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

U2 Hits the Right Note

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About seventeen or eighteen years ago, I attended an Aish HaTorah lecture that I found pretty the time. Not quite sure anymore what the topic of the evening was, but I know it had to do something with relationships and finding the right one for you and making it work, etc.

After the talk, I spoke to the rebbetzin who'd given the speech; she was a baalat teshuva, very well-spoken, hip and modern and someone anyone would be like to have as a friend--Lori Palatnik, if you're out there, kudos to you. I really wasn't dating a heck of a lot, and if I was going out, the people I was meeting weren't really right for me -- like a shoe that doesn't fit, although you might try to adjust it because you want to make it fit -- or I was not right for them.

Lori Palatnik told me that she was into setting people up and I should come over to her home so that she could ask me questions, get to know me a bit and decide if maybe she had someone in mind appropriate for me. We set up a date and time for me to visit her, even though I'd be leaving early the next morning for a trip to Paris, France, for a cousin's wedding. This visit with the rebbetzin/shadchan might make all the difference to my future, so I felt it important to go regardless that I still had some packing to complete.

She lived in the area of Thornhill, pretty new, and very foreign to me then, although we moved into the area about 18 months ago, and I know it now almost like the back of my hand. Yes, I was given directions, but still, to find an address in the dark, being a little anxious about the reason I was going to this address, and thinking about my trip overseas the next morning, had me a bit on shpilkes (pins and needles). As I turned onto her street, a song by U2 was playing on the radio, and I heard: "...and I still haven't found what I'm looking for..." How the heck did Bono know to sing that right then, right at the moment that I was gonna park the car and visit a shadchan because I still hadn't found what I was looking for? I thought perhaps it was a sign from above. Perhaps just a confirmation of what I already knew about myself, or maybe my visit would open new doors....

Okay, so I had to wait several more years to find what I was looking for; but the shoe finally fit -- very comfortably -- and I didn't plan to look at any other sizes or styles!

And for coincidence's sake:
Some close friends of ours told us three years ago that they'd be moving. They told us the name of the street and house number. Funny, but that street name sounded vaguely familiar to me, and then I had a hunch. I pulled out a journal from several years back, skimmed through to a particular time frame, and found what I was looking for. Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik had lived on that street, at that house number. There had been one or two other homeowners between the Palatniks and my friends who bought the house, but I found it interesting that the first time I'd walked into that house, I'd been VERY VERY VERY SINGLE, but the next time I walked in, it was with a husband and three children in tow.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


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glee n. exultant high-spirited joy.

That is what my youngest, a five-year-old, greets me with when I walk into the house at the end of the day. "Eema...!!!!"

The pleasure on his face at seeing his mother returned to him, the wide, beaming smile, the bright hazel eyes make for my own glee.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ah, Balderdash!

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Growing up, I played board games only from time to time. I remember we had Monopoly, Tiddly Winks,The Game of Life, Scrabble...and in the early 1970's we acquired "pop-o-matic" games like Trouble, Headache, Don't Cross Over the Bridge. For the most part, however, I didn't play too many board games, much preferring my own company so I could read books or write stories.

Yes,these days we have games for the children and I enjoy playing some of them: Coconut Drop, Don't Break the Ice, Hi Ho Cherrio, Junior Monopoly, etc.

But last summer I discovered a game that is not only entertaining, it is therapeutic, as well. The game of BALDERDASH. This particular one, ABSOLUTE BALDERDASH, has different Here are the basic rules.

Playing the Game

For the very first turn of the game the Dasher takes the first question card from the card box and chooses one of the five categories on the dark green question side. He states which category he has chosen and reads the relevant question to the other players who then write it on their Bluffing Sheet. (Make sure no-one can read the answer on the back of the card.)

Each player, except the Dasher, then makes up an answer to the question that he thinks will bluff the other players and writes it on his Bluffing Sheet. The answer can be as wacky or as serious as you want.

Depending on which category the Dasher has chosen the kinds of answers required are as follows:

WORDS - what is the definition of this word?
PEOPLE - what is this person known for?
INITIALS - what do they stand for?
MOVIES - what is the basic story line?
LAWS - complete the law!

While the other players are writing their answers, the Dasher writes the real answer (found on the light green answer side) in his own words on his Bluffing Sheet, so as to disguise it when he reads it out with the made up answers. He then returns the card to the rear of the card box.

The players hand their completed Bluffing Sheets to the Dasher. The Dasher makes sure that the answers can be read clearly, arranges them with the real one in random order, then reads each one aloud. He can reread the answers as required. The other players CAN collapse in fits of laughter but MUST NOT give away which is THEIR answer in any way - no shouting "that's mine", no nudging, winking or grunting!

Moving left from the Dasher, each player in turn decides which answer is the real one. As each player chooses an answer the Dasher writes this player's initials in the score segment on the corresponding Bluffing Sheet. After each player has guessed, the Dasher reveals the right answer and awards points as follows:

You'll notice that I didn't bother with points-- there really is no point to doing so. Yes, there is a game board with markers to move, but who cares! It's the actual playing that works.

Because I work in a creative field, I work with creative people. During lunch hour, once or twice a week, a regular group moves to a corner of the lunch room, with the board and announce: "Let the games begin...!" The more creative or obscure an answer, the funnier the round can be. Once this summer the category was Laws, and the question went something like this: "In Brooklyn, NY, it is illegal for a donkey to..." Because I was "the caller" for that particular round, reading the answers, one of my co-workers supplied a real winner: "...wear a yarmulke." The real answer was: "...sleep in a bathtub." But can you imagine how hard I had to try to refrain from laughing when I read all the answers, the correct one among them as well as the yarmulke one? I couldn't refrain myself, and I laughed until I cried. During an hour's lunch, I can have at least three of these hysterical fits of laughter-turning-to-tears...and it's usually when I'm the caller. I apologize to the others for my reaction, and then think "To hell with them, this is great for me."

The brilliant responses from the group that plays shows how we might have a misconception of someone; we think they're serious and quiet, and then they give such a twisted, offbeat idea, it makes you wonder when you hear it the right answer after all?

If you're willing to play Absolute Balderdash with me, I'm more than game...

Classical or Jazz?

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I was raised in a household in which classical music prevailed -- we had countless records (among them, A Treasury of Greatest Classical Music Recordings, volumes 1-12, at least) devoted to the music genre, which were later replaced by cassette tapes and CDs. The radio stations in the family room and kitchen were set to classical music stations; I studied classical piano for years; we attended classical music concerts from the time we were young.

Yes, my music tastes began to range the older I got, but I was always drawn back to classical in some form or another. And so, I decided that I would pass on to my children that music appreciation gift my parents bestowed on my brothers and me.

From the time my children were infants, I had an all-classical radio station playing in the nursery. Of course, when I'm roused at 2 a.m. by a wailing baby, I want him/her to relax with milk and I should relax with music. So I'd sit in the rocking chair, baby and bottle in arms, listening dreamily to the lulling sounds of middle-of-the-night classical music (which is indeed lulling; no raucous booming cannon sounds or timpani at that wee hour of the morning, thanks to brilliant radio programmers). And even when my children slept through the night, or for daytime naps, I'd keep the music playing softly in the background.

As they got older, I introduced them to jazz music, listening to the music while we were driving in the car or were hanging out in the kitchen or family room. And then I started to test them to see if they could differentiate between what was jazz music and what was classical music.For the most part, these children enjoyed this quiz and managed to get the answer right. Sometimes when I'd say: "A, that's right! How did you know?" I got a shrug of the shoulders in return. Just a good guess, or perhaps the inability to put into words the differences they were hearing...?

My daughter's bedtime routine now consists of arranging her stuffed toys alongside her, putting on a couple of night lights, putting on her sound machine with the sound of a heartbeat that will play for an hour, and putting on her radio to play for an hour -- she often can't decide between a jazz station and a classical station, but nine times out of ten, it's the classical station that wins out.

I guess those early days of classical music in the nursery have paid off...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Let There Be Light!

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For any of you who might have read my previous blog and are wondering what I'll do my d'var Torah about... Last night, a LIGHT BULB went on in my head, it hit me like a bolt of LIGHTNING, and I thought: I'll do a d'var Torah on the NER TAMID -- eternal light. Yes, the ner tamid is in each and every shul, but in essence it is in the Shabbat and Yom Tov candles we light, the Yahrzeit candles we light, the light of Torah (gee, I started writing Toronto instead of Torah!?) that helps guide our path.

I'm certainly looking forward to gathering the information and sharing with the congregants all I've learned. I'm usually the one who's IN THE DARK about religious origins, but I imagine it will be an ENLIGHTENING talk for everyone.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

My Pearlies of Wisdom Are To Be Shared

Blogroll Me! husband gave his dvar Torah at seudat shlishit at the shul ( this evening and my children and I were there to bear ear witness to the fact. When you don't do dvar Torahs on a regular basis, it can be somewhat scary, I believe. When you don't have a yeshivish background and can't cite rabbeim left, right and center, it can be even scarier. But Kol Hakavod, he did more than fine, and my children behaved, so that counted for something!

Yes, it is an Orthodox minyan, but yes, too, the women wield a bit of power, too, thanks to the rebbetzin there. I am not a feminist so power doesn't make me trip out or anything, but I'm pleased for the women in the shul that sometimes they get their way.

One of the ways is that women are also invited to give d'var Torahs at seudat shlishit. And once my husband had accepted giving his, the rabbi turned to me and asked, "So, Pearl, do you want to give one the week after?"

I sort of gaped; what kind of dvar Torah could I give? I asked if it would have to be on the week's parsha and he said, "It could be on anything." But we never confirmed that I would give one, and my husband thought perhaps the rabbi wasn't serious about the offer. So this evening I asked him, and he said, "Yes, I was serious. Please do one."

Now, I'm committed to doing a dvar Torah. It will be actually in two weeks, which is just by Purim. But talk about Purim will have tired people out already, and I don't want to bore the congregants in any way. I could throw in a joke, though, and talk about Madonna trying to be like Queen Esther, by taking that name (Kabbala Center approved) for herself...but I think not. As we were leaving the shul, someone asked if I would maybe talk about the book THE HEBREW KID AND THE APACHE MAIDEN, which I reviewed and included in a profile about its publisher/owner, Robert Avrech and Seraphic Press. I sure could talk about that, but I'd prefer for Robert to come to our fine city and give the talk himself.

I could talk about blogging...and Judaism in the blogosphere, and do some name dropping there, but I think not. I could talk about lashon hara, guarding of the tongue, which is a mainstay in my family, but I think not. I could recite some of my poetry, but I think not.

So now I'm looking for any good, easily researchable topic, that doesn't necessarily have to do with parshat ha-shavuah. I welcome any suggestions from my readers.

Yes, it is a challenge for me, but one I'm gladly willing to accept. Any challenge like this is an opportunity for and even a demonstration of my personal growth. Once upon a time, this Pearl would not dare even get up in front of the class to give a talk, unless she had to. These days, this Pearl welcomes having the opportunity to speak in front of large groups. Proof to me how far I've come in life.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Youngest "Bubby" I Know

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Mentioning grandmothers in my last post reminded me of something I learned about last weekend when I went to see the Kosher Komic, Ayelet, perform.

The event was held in a social hall at our shul, also referred to in an earlier post as "a little city." It was a sea of women from all parts of the city, from many walks of life. I got to see relatives I don't normally see, women I haven't seen in years. Among these women was someone I'd known many moons ago through a mutual friend. We'd gone to the same day school, but she was a year ahead of me, and in my brother's year. Yes, I'd run into her several years ago with a brief "Hi, how are you...? Where do you live? Who did you marry?" You know the routine questions asked when you reunite with a face from the past.

So this time when we spoke I got a little more information, an update from her. "I had a grandchild two weeks ago!" I threw a mazel tov her way, made some more small talk and went back to my table, thinking about her grandmotherhood status. After the show, we exchanged goodbyes and I wished her lots of naches on her grandchild. I got another tidbit of info. "Oh, it's not my first grandchild. I have another, a two-year-old."

I hope I was not standing there, my mouth agape like a fish out of water! She is not yet 45 years old and has a second grandchild; her first grandchild was born when she was my age!? I couldn't get around that fact.

Yes, I know the trends among the Orthodox: marry young, have children young, and the pattern repeats itself with your children. But it wasn't the case for me: I didn't have children young, I HAVE YOUNG CHILDREN!

I think it's a beautiful thing that this woman has not one, but two grandchildren. I certainly missed the early boat on the grandmotherly status she has, but I'm glad I caught the boat -- to marriage and parenthood -- before it set sail.

The Grays Are Coming... The Grays Are Coming!

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Hey, A Simple Jew, this gray's for you!

Each time I look in the mirror, I'm starting to see less brown, less auburn and more gray. A sign of aging? A sign of wisdom? Or just a sign that I'd better start to seriously consider coloring my hair? Aren't I a good mom that I didn't even suggest that maybe it's my kids giving me that new shade? No, wouldn't even consider that option...or would I?

As it is, I'm probably ten years older than my children's classmates' parents, and if I'm not older, then they also have children in their early and mid-teens, not just kids younger than ten. I don't want to show up at a school function one day in the not-too-distant future and be asked, "Who is your grandchild?"

So, gray friends atop my head, stay alert, be on the lookout. 'Cause one of these days, you might just not recognize yourselves in the mirror!

Jetsgo is a No-Go

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Wow, I woke up a few minutes ago to the radio news that Jetsgo, a discounted airline, based in Quebec but flying out of Toronto to points beyond, has gone belly-up. Today for some is also the unofficial start of Spring Break. So can you imagine the havoc that is at the Toronto airport today for people who booked flights with this airline. I don't even want to imagine the chaos that awaits them when they get to the terminal for their anticipated flights.

Apparently the signs for the airline are already gone, there are no representatives manning the ticket counters, and I just couldn't even link to their website when I tried. Either they've dropped it off the Internet or traffic to get to it has clogged the system.

There are several ironies to this entire thing.

One of them is their branding line: "Pay a little, fly a lot." Well, I guess that even paying a little wasn't enough!

Another irony is that they have continual deals to try and grab you. Currently it was a 1 cent sale -- you could fly westbound and pay only a penny for leaving the a chunk in airport and airline taxes, which no longer made it a penny. A couple weeks ago, it was a 1 dollar sale -- same premise, only a dollar to leave the city for points westbound.

Another irony is that yesterday, specifically when I heard a Jetsgo radio spot ad, I was kicking myself in the tuches for not planning a future trip with the airline; today I was thanking G-d that I hadn't.

For several weeks, I've been online seeking out the best flight deals to travel to California in the early summer -- it is an expensive flight any way you plan it, any airline you go with. A few weeks ago, I happened on this Jetsgo site, and saw they were offering a $1 promotion that was expiring at 11:59 p.m. that night -- I was on the computer after 11:00 that night. I found a "great" deal that would've run me just under $300 + cancellation insurance, but I couldn't commit to it because the trip for me was too far off. I thought maybe I'd pay and then find a better deal elsewhere. But since that time, I've checked elsewhere, and everything is more expensive. Even Jetsgo flights were over $100 more after that specific date. So daily I would see flight prices and then reprimand myself as to why I hadn't booked with that super special.

So you can understand why today I was thanking G-d that I hadn't!

"...I'm leavin' on a jet plane..." Hey, Peter, Paul and Mary, Jetsgo is no longer the way to go.


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Here, people, is the recreated post from yesterday afternoon, the one that vanished into the blogosphere, headed for parts unknown. Perhaps it is not as eloquent as the original was -- I warned in an earlier post that it was a cheap knockoff!

I have three lovely children, thank G-d, but I do not like to talk about them too much. No, it doesn't have to do with "ayin harah" but it has everything to do with not liking to brag...about anything! Once in a while, I offer up some story of an antic or some witticism spoken by one of the three -- people, as evidenced, always appreciate a good story about a child -- but generally I don't. Yes, I'll praise them to their faces, or even to their teachers and grandparents, but I'm not interested to sit and compare notes with friends/strangers/sisters-in-law about the trio's accomplishments.

But I will dedicate this post to my seven-year-old daughter. For the most part she is a lovely child, a delicate and fine child. But sometimes we've considered changing her name to REVA because of her desire to be argumentative and feisty. I didn't know that PMS can kick in at his young age! Poopoopoo, she is a pretty little girl with crystalline-blue eyes that draw people in (when she was an infant and just a few weeks old, a male friend warned us to sign her up for a life in a convent: that's how attractive her eyes are), and with her smattering of faint freckles across the bridge of her nose, there's a wholesome, natural look to her. Perhaps there's a Ralph Lauren print ad in her future...? Any agents out there?

This child has more fine art talent in her little finger than I have in my whole hand. What a pleasure it's been to watch her artistic renderings develop over time. I used to watch her progress in kindergarten from the beginning of one week until the end of the week. At the week's onset, she'd be drawing stick figures. By week's end, those stick figures were lucky to have detailed additions to their "wardrobes" and "facial features"!

It's the details that are astounding...and upon first examining her "portfolio"--read: countless of scrap papers lying all over the house -- one does not see the details. But look a little longer, and you're amazed at what's she's depicted.

A couple of examples:

Two weeks ago, she was at the kitchen table drawing a ballerina, and I was at the sink washing dishes. She began to talk to me about ballet slippers and I listened with half an ear as she continued to talk and draw. The next morning, when I looked down at the picture that had been abandoned on the table, I indeed could see a beautiful ballerina there, and my daughter had also drawn ballet slippers...but not just any kind of plain, flat ballet slippers. She drew Giselle-like ballet slippers with ribbons running up and around the legs.

A few weeks before that, I told her to make a picture for someone at work, a designer from the art department. All I told her was that he has two teenage daughters. She chose to do a pen-and-ink "tchikchuk" (Hebrew for "extremely quickly"), and I thanked her for it and told her I'd give it to the designer the next day. I had it on the seat next to me in the car and when I finally parked and moved to get out of the car, I looked closely at the drawing. She'd drawn a baseball cap on the designer, a bikini on his wife, one-piece bathing suits on his daughters and in between each of them was a surfboard, stuck in sand, with the ocean waves behind them. All this in pen-and-ink.

Granted, her drawing and love for drawing works for and against her. While she should be doing homework, she's doing portraits of the family and displays them in her gallery: on the refrigerator door. When I tell her to stop drawing and start doing schoolwork, she pacifies me, "Mummy, it's a picture of you!"

And when she hands me these pictures, I'm most flattered. I've got on very funky clothing (I don't even own any funky clothes). I have great hairstyles, and pouty lips, which are always smiling. I have long and beautiful Maybelline-like eyelashes. But best of all, I'm skinny!!!

I do hope that this daughter of mine will continue to grow in and develop her artistic abilities for many years to come. After all, I could stand to have countless more of those "I'm skinny" portraits hanging in my gallery!

Anyone Need an Editor?

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A short while ago, I helped play sounding board for my hubby who will be giving a d'var Torah at seudat shlishit at one of the shuls we attend. It's a smallish shul with lovely members who are more of a family than a congregation. The rabbi and rebbetzin are outstanding people who welcome many different people into their minyan, while still guiding the congregation in an Orthodox fashion. This shul is a far cry from the other shul -- the small city -- that we attend. Given my choice, I prefer the small shul, the intimacy of it all, the "no-airs-about-them" members.

Anyhow, so hubby will be doing a dvar Torah and tonight I got a sneak preview earful of it. It's goo..o...o..o..d. But then, together we worked on making it "gooder." And my editing tools came out, my resourceful use of Internet, my pointing out the obvious and eliminating the unnecessary.

I felt I was back in university, taking my Jewish Studies courses, writing an essay for my Rambam or Modern Jewish Civilization course. And it had been a long, long while since I was in Jewish day school/Jewish high school and wrote any kind of Torah-related paper, so helping my husband with this was a great pleasure for me -- enlightening and fulfilling.

I told my husband that I can expand my freelance editorial clientele: I can continue to edit romance novels and business-related materials, and at the same time edit rabbis' sermons and laymen's dvar Torahs. What a zechut (merit) that would be, huh?

Editing and Rewriting Out of Necessity

Blogroll Me!, I just want to say how upset I was with you today-- actually yesterday (it's already after midnight). I took about 25 minutes out of my lunch hour at work to write a beautiful blog about my daughter, and when I went to post it, the system behaved uncooperatively, and I lost my labor of love. I tried to retrace my steps, but to no avail. You were acting wacky,, and you didn't even give me warning signals. You sure weren't yourself yesterday, or even last evening, when I tried to comment on other peoples' posts. Suddenly you were telling me there were no such blogs?

Sure, I will recreate the piece in my next post, but oh, how uptight and annoyed I was. Don't you realize that my memory fails me? That it falters when it tries to recall the literary spool of thread I'd unraveled on your site? What I'd offered you was an original; now you'll have to settle for a cheap knock-off.

Do look after yourself, -- there are a lot of people out there who rely on you, who need you in their lives. Don't fail us -- or me -- again...!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Rise, Fall -- and Rise Again

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Thank you, Rabbi Twerski, for today's words of wisdom:

A just person may fall seven times and rise (Proverbs 24:16).

Although we may have realized that we learn our most valuable lessons the hard way, and that therefore we may tolerate our mistakes because of their educational value, we are apt to be intolerant of a mistake that we repeat. "I should have known better from last time," one says.

We should stop berating ourselves. Some lessons are not learned so easily, even from experience. The reason? We may understand something with our intellect, yet it may not have filtered down into our hearts and bones and muscles. In other words, if we lack an emotional grasp of a concept, the intellectual awareness alone may not suffice to deter us from repeating a mistake.

We are human. Rather than blame ourselves for a repetitive mistake, we should realize that the anguish we feel when we have failed to learn from a previous experience might just give us the emotional insight that can prevent that same mistake in the future.

In fact, new mistakes can shed light on old mistakes. When we do something wrong once, we may make only a superficial repair. Soon afterwards, in a different situation, we again fall flat. We may continue to fall until we realize that all our failures point to a flaw in ourselves that we had never noticed. Once we have uncovered the real reason for our mistakes, we can correct it and greatly, genuinely improve ourselves.

Poetry in Mo...o...o...o...tion

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On one of the blogs that I like to read, Jack's Shack, Jack posts snippets of fiction-in-progress. So I decided this morning to take his example and post a poem that I started to write last night -- ahem, I mean this morning at about 12:10. But I had to stop because I was literally falling asleep at the wheel -- keyboard -- as I was typing. So here, for your reading pleasure, is the start of "The Face in the Window."

The Face in the Window

It is midnight, and I am doing a final walkabout in the house.
Picking up forgotten books, straightening sofa pillows, securing the dog for the night.
I look in on my dear children, fast asleep in their beds,
a sliver of moon peering down upon them through a crack between window and window shade,
a crease of light
haloing the heads
of these little treasures as they sigh in their sleep.

I lock the front door, then glance out the beveled side window at the snow beyond.
The yellowish light in front of the house casts a warm glow, beckoning me out of doors.
But I cannot wander out, although it might be nice to pirouette on the front lawn amidst the white down feather blanket of snow.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Dinner Party Dinnertime

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Well, this evening I figured that if I threw this post's scenario/question out to a bunch of strangers, why not pose it to my family!?

My 7 1/2 year old daughter wants to entertain celebrity teens-of-the-hour Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Raven, and...get this, ALBERT EINSTEIN. She specified that she'd serve Albert "brain food", ie. sushi.

My 5 year old son wants to entertain Spiderman and several other characters from Game Cube games.

My 9 1/2 year old son wants to...just entertain us, it appears, with his dry wit and his sharp observations.

My 40-something-year-old husband wants to host Shammai and Hillel. I told him that guests like these would have to sit at opposite ends of the dinner table because they'd be in disagreement all the time. I guess hubby would have to be the buffer, the deciding factor in the "discussion/debates."

And if any of you would like to come to a bloggers' dinner party at our home, we could arrange that too...!

The Dinner Party

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If you could host an intimate dinner party with 3-5 others, people from the worlds of music, politics, entertainment, history, etc., and it could be people living or now deceased, who would sit at your table, and what would you serve?

I'm not sure about menus, but I'd love to have one dinner party that hosted Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld. I'm not sure that I'd have to serve anything in fact, because I'd be too busy laughing to eat, and those guys would be too busy keeping me in stitches to care enough about eating. And Jerry? Jerry would talk about NOTHING...but that would be something.

And then I'd like to have a literary dinner party, surrounded by Elie Wiesel, Sholom Aleichem, Anne Frank and perhaps author Judy Blume. Some heady conversations, some personal recollections and some sadness would permeate the room.

And one night I'd like to host a musical-inspired dinner party with Chopin, Ella and Louis and Isaac Stern. What kind of dinner music they would provide, huh? Better make sure the piano is tuned, the violin strings are tightened and water bottles and hankies are available for the vocalists.

So, you fellow bloggers, how about sharing plans for your ultimate dinner party?

If I Were a Rich...Girl?

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I'm a notorious radio channel changer -- while driving to work, one hand is on the steering wheel, the other on the radio dial. I'm continually tuning out and then tuning in to a disc jockey, or to an on-air guest on a program, and my music interests are varied.

This morning I was looking for something good on the radio and came up against a song performed by Gwen Stefani and rapper Eve. The song is called "Rich Girl" and parts of hit borrow the tune of Fiddler on the Roof's "If I Were a Rich Man!" When Harnick and Bock penned that tune, they could not foresee it being adapted some 35+ years later by a rap artist and played on R & B stations. Yes, the tune is catchy, but to me it almost seems so sacrilege for these women to be bastardizing a thoroughly Broadway showtune.

What does Tevye/Topol say? And now, what does Tevye/Harvey Fierstein say? Aw, maybe they just shrug it off, do the little Tevye dance and say "...l'chaim, to life!"

Help! There's a Mack Truck in My Bedroom!

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When I wake up to my first alarm at 6:12 a.m., it's to soothing jazz music on the clock radio. When I'm so relaxed with the music that I fall back asleep, I wake up with a second alarm at 6:30 a.m. And that alarm is like the cautioning sound that a truck makes when backing up -- you know, that loud and irritating BEEP BEEP BEEP.

This morning I was so sleepy that when that second alarm roused me out of my first alarm's fall-back-asleep sleep, I thought there was a Mack truck beside my bed!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Lookin' Out for Those Orange Cones

It's March 8, still winter here, but closer to spring on a daily basis. The snows come, the snows go, the frost comes and goes, the sun comes out and hopefully stays... But soon enough, give or take another 8 weeks, more hints of spring will be in the air.

For this blogger, spring in Toronto does not just mean: no snow boots, lightweight jackets, basketball in the driveway; laundry hanging on the outside wash line; playing in the park with my kids. Spring in Toronto means that little plastic cones can be found in neighborhoods throughout the city and its outskirts. These little plastic cones are markers; they shout "Step right up this way. Movie production in progress." Little plastic cones are associated with "Hollywood North"; "Hollywood North" refers to Toronto, a center for movie-making; and movie-making is associated with Pearl having stars in her eyes.

Can't help it -- I've always been fascinated by celebritydom and life beneath that great big Hollywood sign. And no, it's not because I especially care to move and mingle with those same people who get to walk the red carpet on Emmy Award Night or Oscar Night. It's because I want to see these people on a human level -- I want to say hi and see if they return the greeting, perhaps stop to chat. I want to know what makes them tick, what attributes (hidden or displayed) make them as common as you or I.

Now I must momentarily interrupt my ramblings with a personal message to a fairly new friend of mine, a friend who takes the time from a very busy personal and business schedule to read Pearlies of Wisdom. A friend who lives in L.A. and works in "the industry." Yes, I have stars in my eyes, but that is certainly not why I'm your friend. Knowing you does not get me closer to Hollywood, nor do I want to be closer to Hollywood. I like knowing that not everything in Hollywood is artificial, based on facades and masquerades. Life in Hollywood can be gritty, can keep you grounded, can bring to the forefront very human qualities. I could say of myself, "Enquiring minds want to know..." but it's certainly not gossip mill fodder that I want to know; I do not want to know what it's like to work with this celebrity or that celebrity; I do not want to know what these celebrities' home exteriors are like, or which designer boutiques they shop at. I would, however, like to know if these celebrities are decent people, moral people...even everyday kind of people when not working on a television or movie deal.

Okay, now back to your regularly scheduled program...

Okay, so we're up to Toronto, to spring in Toronto, to movie making in spring in Toronto, to stars in Pearl's eyes -- sound about right? Anyhow, I was probably in my late teens when I first realized what a movie trailer looked like, and once I first realized their presence around town, I always kept my eyes open, especially when I was downtown. If I was with a friend, she'd have to grab me by the arm, so I wouldn't make any side trips down a back street when I'd spot several rental trucks and long trailers with little windows in them that signified change rooms for the actors. My friends knew that if they didn't grab me, I was a goner...!

While on a hiatus -- see, I even know the lingo! -- from jury duty some years ago, I was walking in an area, saw some of these trailers...and sort of hovered. And to my luck, along came Robert Urich, jogging past and smiling at me.

Another time, I was with friends at a health juice bar downtown, sitting at an old-fashioned counter on swivel seats, when I looked around the room...and spotted Matthew Broderick sitting two stools away from me. I called over the owner of the place, and whispered, "Is that Matthew Broderick?" He said yes, and told me that Matthew was in the place almost every night after filming -- the movie "The Freshman" with Marlon Brando. I asked him if he wouldn't mind asking Matthew if I could approach him for an autograph -- see I was polite. My insides were yelling, "Just go, just go and don't ask anybody else," but my decent side was pacifying me and saying, "Be menschlich. Maybe he doesn't want to be intruded upon." Well, I got the green light to approach Matthew, and two minutes later, actor Bruno Kirby, also in "The Freshman" came along and sat on the other side of Matthew, so I got to converse with both, leaving my girlfriends to ogle and think how "brave" I was. This is how brave I was -- I asked Matthew, "So what's it like working with the big guy?" Only after the words escaped, I realized how they must've sounded -- I was implying how was it to work with such a well-known actor, with a lot of movie history behind him. But it was probably coming across as "What's it like to work with that big, flabby, out of shape, no longer good-looking actor?"

I've met a couple other, lesser known celebrities while they were filming around the city. Yes, they were polite they passed my simple test and got a gold star beside their names, when they signed autographs for me. Looking back, I wonder where those autographs have gone. What was seemingly so important at that moment in time is a lost scrap of paper today.

Yes, I still look for those orange cones around the city, but learned from experience last year that even orange cones don't always mean what they say. My work window looks out onto a parking lot, and last summer we watched a buzz of activity one afternoon. Lots of cars coming and going, trucks parking, equipment being taken out from the trucks and transferred into the on-site garage. My mind started churning and wondering, "What movie are they filming? I wonder who's in it." I couldn't wait until the end of the workday.

I hurried across the parking lot, and went up to one of the guys standing at the back of the truck, a truck that obviously held wardrobe changes. I asked him, "So what movie is being filmed? Which great actor is there in the garage?"

I received a lopsided grin in return. "We're not shooting a movie. It's a commercial. A soup commercial."

Uh, I think I won't be so quick to jump to conclusions anymore when I see "movie trucks". But I will still be keeping my eyes open for those orange cones...

I Dug Deep in My Last Post, but Now I've Caved...!

Those of you who have been kind enough to read my blog over the last little while will look at this title, will look at the layout of my blog page...and ought to understand.

Sorry, folks. I'm as fickle as they come.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Diggin' Deep

I've said it before and I'll say it again: One of my favorite blogs to read is that of A Simple Jew -- In his simplicity, he is most eloquent; he says more by saying less. Recently, in his wisdom, he touched upon timing and coincidences.

At some point in our lives, we each encounter an incident that leaves us gaping in wonder -- Can you believe that just happened? I don't believe it! Wow, this is 'min ha-shamayim.' Most of us have more than one incident that we can recall falling into this category of "timeliness." Here is just one of mine...

Since 1983 I've been a volunteer with the Toronto Jewish Archives cataloging committee. That means that I've had the pleasure of meeting one night a month for much of the year with a group of varied individuals, and we talk as we sort through files of Jewish agencies and organizations, files of reknowned Jewish Toronto figures, files that have yellowed with age, become water-stained, dog-eared and the like. It is like the Cairo genizah -- a receptacle of the history of Jewish Toronto and the province of Ontario. And it has been my pleasure all these years to sit with these people as we transfer and sort files into acid-free file folders, identify people in photographs, label files, etc. I have always been the youngest volunteer member of the committee, so I get to hear from the older volunteers the personal stories of growing up Jewish in this city. I'm getting an "insider's look" at the way the city was (my parents were immigrants in 1949 and 1956, giving me a later version of the city's history), and as is said, "The pleasure is all mine."

The files we look through are varied, some drier than others. But several years ago, for quite some time, we worked on cataloguing the JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Society) files -- we were working in particular on those files in which people were applying to sponsor relatives from abroad to come to Canada, to Toronto. They were primarily files from the mid- to late 1940's, after WW2.

It was very sad to review these applications and see names of people and the write-ups of their experiences in the war -- which camps they were interned in, which ghettos they escaped from, occupations before the wars, names of family members before the war. Although sad to read, the files were also captivating.

One night, I picked up a handful of these files, to sort through their contents and transfer the items. One file caught my eye: it had my maiden name and a woman's first name, her Jewish name. Now, I have an aunt who lives in the U.S. but used to live in Toronto after the war, and although I know her by her English name, the name on the file was the same as my aunt's Jewish name. Hesitating, I opened up the file, and began to scan one document. Address of named client; occupation of named client; length of time in Canada of named client and person she wanted to sponsor. None of it rang any bells for me. I moved on to another document. Same client name, occupation, and in this document, some time had passed. Then I saw the name of the person this client wished to sponsor: it was my father. This client was in fact my aunt, my father's sister, who was the other sole survivor of his family. She had come to Canada before him and was now looking to sponsor him. His personal story, some of which I hadn't known, was briefly outlined in the application.

I'm sorry to say this was no reunion story, but it was one of those "stop, take a breath and stare in wonder" stories. How is it that I, Pearl _____, happened to be at Archives that night, happened to pick up a file with my family name, and it happened to be about my family? Had anyone else in the room picked it up, they wouldn't have brought my attention to it because they really knew me only on a first-name basis, and the family name would have rang no bells for anyone else, either. I had just attained another small piece in my family puzzle, and I was thrilled with it. I got permission to photocopy the file and to share it with my parents, with my father in particular.

The contents of that file provided me with some missing links, and that file has since become part of my personal "genizah"!

Sign Sign, Everywhere a Sign

En route to work today, I noticed an interesting sign alongside a ramp to get onto a highway. The sign said: WAIT FOR GAP. Now I know what it means, but I wondered if people didn't quite get it, they might stand at that piece of road and wait and wait until a GAP store is built onsite.

And then I thought of another sign I've seen that's made me wonder. I travel down the world's longest north-south street, Yonge Street, and there is an intersection with lights and streets running east-west. The east side has Church Avenue; the west side has Churchill Avenue. WHAT?? Did Toronto's roadworks department decide to change the street name midway, or did they start with Churchill Avenue, and then run out of enough paint for the east side's name and stopped at Church?

And yes, there is a church on the north-east corner, at Church Avenue. That's funny, I haven't see any "Shul Boulevard, "Temple Road" or "Synagogue Crescent" anywhere in the city.

Has anyone out there noticed any odd street signs that deserve a mention here?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ayelet, the Kosher Komic

I came home a short while ago after seeing this comedienne. May I suggest an evening out for you ladies, if Ayelet hits your town. You won't be sorry--she's quick, she's entertaining, she will strike a chord and you will laugh at her humor, and those bits of yourself that you recognize.

I've had the pleasure to see and enjoy Ayelet's show, contacted her today (Monday, March 7) to tell her about my mention of her on my blog, and she had this to say:


A few more "pearlies" of my own...

If I am not going to be in someone's area, they can order my CD online through my website:

Also, please feel free to give my name and information to any organizations you feel might want to have me perform for their Rosh
Chodesh events, fund-raisers, or any function, world-wide. I travel constantly and am always looking for fun new places to which to
bring simcha and laughter!

And one last thing... There is an amazing opportunity to do hachnassas kallah, and I am pasting the email I got from my friend (who
I mentioned in my show - Yissroel Chaim Michael ben Breindel, who is a crunchy-granola alternative healer and orthodox spiritual guy
aged 39, still looking for his zivug as well!)

Tizki l'mitzvos!!!
Dear Friends, amv's

I am calling upon you to enroll you all in a GREAT Mitzvah.

Rabbanit Chaya Klein of Rechovot, Israel is an Almanah and a mother of a large family K"H. I have taken it upon myself to raise the
money for the wedding of her son Yitzchak. IY"H by Pesach I hope to have $5000 USD to be alotted for the night of the Chassanah. I
ask you all to please join with me in opening your hearts to sharing in this joyous Mitzvah of Simchas Chosson V'Kallah.

Please be as generous as you can and share this with as many people as you can. B"H all of you have come through for me before in
terms of matters of Tzedakah and I have no doubt that you will now.

Please make ***TAX DEDUCTIBLE*** Canadian cheques out to VMM, and US cheques to Congregation Binyan Olem.

Send to:

Micha (Larry) Braun
5785 Sir Walter Scott, #303,
Cote Saint Luc, Quebec,
H4W 1S4, Canada

Anyone in Israel, please just contact me and we will see about gathering the money there, and where to send it.

(514) 488-8039

Please feel free to contact me at any time for clarification about this or anything else.

Thank you again my friends, and Tizku L'mitzvos, U L'Masim Tovim, U L'Shanim Rabot!

Comedienne keeps her comedy kosher

Special to The CJN

Take a dollop of Jackie Mason, a dash of Jerry Seinfeld and a healthy serving of Lucille Ball’s wackiness and you have the recipe for the comedic stylings of Ayelet, an up-and-coming Jewish comic.

Like Cher and Madonna, she only goes by one name professionally. (Her last name is Ben Har.) But unlike those other entertainers, the 20something comic is completely family friendly – she doesn’t swear, tell dirty jokes or talk about sex – and, as a strictly observant Jew, she only performs in front of women.

Known as the “Kosher Komic,” she touts herself as the only “strictly kosher” comedienne in the world.

“Most comics today are not in any way clean. Jewish humour, kosher humour, is difficult, but somehow Hashem has helped me find the way to be funny and clean,” says Ayelet, who lives in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Her latest world tour runs from February to April and hits London, Toronto and the east and west coasts of the United States. She is scheduled to perform at the BAYT synagogue in Thornhill on Sunday, March 6, at 8 p.m.

Her set includes routines about children, Pesach, diets and quirky occasions in Jewish life. She also pokes fun at Britney Spears’ newfound kashrut observance and kvetches about her misadventures with shadchanim (matchmakers) – “I’ve contacted 165 shadchanim in nine different states, four different countries and personally seen over 75 of them, all in nine months.”

But she is perhaps best known among her fans for her tongue-in-cheek shtick called “Glatt Kosher Airlines.”

“All of our flights are numbered 613… Gentlemen, I hope you can hear me through the mechitzah. My voice has been altered for your protection… Should there be, chas v’chalila, a rapid change in cabin pressure, from the panel above your head will fall a Sefer Tehillim [Psalms]. Please say your own tehillim first, prior to assisting a small child, elderly passenger or recent baal tshuvah seated next to you.”

Ayelet wasn’t always what she calls the “ultra-Orthodox girl with bulletproof stockings.”

She’s been a performer for about 10 years, having bounced between New York and Los Angeles as an actress and appeared on HBO, Comedy Central and Lifetime Television, as well as on Sesame Street and The Division.

She began doing stand-up five years ago in “treif” comedy clubs across New York and Los Angeles – including such well-known comedy institutions as The Improv, Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store – before becoming observant 21/2 years ago.

She only revived her career in its new, more conservative form last year while performing in front of seminary girls in Jerusalem. She has since entertained haredi women, as well as more modern crowds – she appeared last month at a cafĂ© in Jerusalem’s Baka neighbourhood, followed by a performance the following night in a private living room in the haredi Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof.

“People have always told me I am very funny. I just took a while to get my courage together and get up on stage to make people laugh. But once I was up there, there was no getting me down.”

Ayelet currently works for two Jewish outreach organizations, Aish HaTorah and Isralight, where she first “found the beauty and truth in Torah, and a terrific, meaningful life.”

Ayelet has performed at seminaries, in living rooms and at shul fundraisers – but only for women.

“I have been in showbiz in the secular world. I’ve performed in front of mixed crowds, men and women. I’ve come to a point in my life where I feel that it would be most modest of me to perform only in front of women,” she says.

In doing so, Ayelet has given many observant Jewish women their first opportunity to see stand-up comedy.

Many observant Jews don’t have televisions and don’t go to movies, mostly due to sexual and violent content, thereby limiting their entertainment choices, she explains.

Ayelet says she looks up to Rachel Factor, an Orthodox Jewish convert and former Rockette who is touring with a one-woman show called JAP.

“She is an amazing Jewish woman and a terrific performer,” Ayelet says. “She has transformed her whole life and is now doing what she loves and making Jewish women happy.”

Ayelet’s CD is available at select locations, or at

Pugs Are Just Another Form

Our pug, Tyson, has had quite a bit said about him in this blogger's pages. Last week, I tried even to make a shidduch between him and Lizzie, some beautiful bitch on the STACEY'S SHMATA blog page. She's an older canine, a much-taller canine, and she's probably already gone through the dog-o-paws stage, so I can't really see puppies in Tyson's least not with Lizzie.

But who'd want Tyson anyhow? He snores...big-time. He snorts like a pig...big-time. He passes wind...big-time. For a small guy, he's got a paunch belly...big-time. He wants to eat...all the time. And when he's not eating, not passing wind, he's sleeping and snoring the day away.

Every now and again -- today was again -- he tries to clear his sinuses. It's sort of worse than his snoring. Can you imagine an old man who unfortunately forgot some of his manners, and he's continually trying to clear his throat of phlegm? Well, that's Tyson...old boy. Maybe he thinks he's human, and at the shvitz at a health club with a dozen retirees, shooting the breeze -- literally and figuratively -- and trying to clear, like them, his nasal/throat passages.

I never did mention before that Tyson is a convert -- he went from being Roman Catholic Italian, to Modern Orthodox Jewish. No, we didn't take him to the mikvah for conversion purposes, but we did stick him in the laundry tub two years ago when he was adopted by us, and douse him with water -- we dunked him three times, but couldn't figure out which bracha to say, so we just declared: "Today you are a Jew...mazel tov."

He turned eight last week -- we hope he makes it to thirteen -- I've envisioned having a bark-mitzvah for him. Not sure what kind of d'var Torah he'd give, but everyone would wish a mazel tov and say "Canine hora! Canine hora!"

So if anyone out there has a dog they'd like to breed with a pig -- oops, I mean a pug -- contact me. Maybe we can make a shidduch.... It'd be nice to post a simcha sooner than later on or!