.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

Powered by WebAds

Friday, December 30, 2005

Erev Shabbos Cholent

I have a feeling that this post is going to come out a little RenReb-ish (not that there is anything wrong with that) simply because I have a lot to say and not much time to say it.
When shabbos starts before 5:00PM I'm always a little frantic and today should be a pretty busy work day as well. So without further ado - a little pre-shabbos cholent, if you will.

Yes I'll admit to being a bit of a computer geek, but I'm a hardware person, OK? Code scares me, even HTML code. I'm getting over it (kinda) but sometimes it takes me a lot longer than your average blogger to learn to employ the simplest of blog related functions. So this week I finally figured out how to see where my traffic is coming from, the searches, of course are the most facinating part for me. I love reading about them on other websites as well so here are a few from this week.

Modern Orthodox Black Suede Kippah - Steg told me these are made from the hide of baby animals. I've never looked at a black suede kippah the same way since.

Elvis Costello MP3 - yes I have them, no you can't download them here

Heter, eat, fish, salad, business, non-kosher restaraunt - Wow talk about a SPECIFIC search, no heterim issued here. Good luck fella!

Heimish - She shoots, she scores!

Shalom Bayis husband makes fun of me- This one made me very sad- no one should be subjected to ridicule in their own home for crying out loud. I will address this soon.

Checklist Checklist:

Ever see a woman driving around town and wonder to yourself "Is that Shifra?"
Probably not. But if you did here's a good way to find out:

Follow this mystery woman from a safe distance in her car until she stops somewhere (usually the grocery store, her kids school, or her office) wait and see what happens next:

If the woman:
1) Turns off her car's engine and doesn't get out of the car.
2) Curses under her breath
3) Turns the engine back on
4) Lowers the drivers side window all the way
5) Forces the driver's side door open using the outside handle
6) Closes the window
7) Turns off the car and finally gets out

Then it just might be me.

The Modern and the Orthodox

Thanks to all of you for all your positive comments (on and off blog) on my new serial project.
As you can see I added it to my side bar (with a little help from AirTime).
I'm already at work on the next edition- and hope to be able to make it a regular Thursday feature.

A wonderful Shabbos Chanukah to all of you!
Rest well, eat well, and be happy.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Feature!!

Inspired by the title of this post I’ve decided to create the world’s first heimish online soap opera. Please bear with me, I’ve never written a script before (unless you count summer camp skits or graduation speeches) so it’s bound to be a little rocky at first.

I call it:


Episode one: Scene One:

Early evening.

The modest home of Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg somewhere in the five boroughs. All the furnishings date back to the late 50’s and yet look brand new due to it’s thick layer of preservative plastic which as been replaced several times in the last 60 years. Pictures of grandchildren abound especially over the never used fireplace and atop the out-of-tune piano.
Fattening foods are stacked on platters on every surface not already covered by photos of grandchildren, in preparation for a Chanuka party.
Mrs. Rosenberg stands watching at the window for her son and his family to arrive while Mr. Rosenberg watches the weather channel on an ancient console TV in the living room.

Mrs. Rosenberg: Bernie, shut that off already. The kids should be here any minute and we still need to decide about… well you know.

Mr. Rosenberg: Oy, this again! Every year you say you want to “decide” and then I say “lets do it” and then you say oh, now is not a good time because everyone is in such a good mood, or Malky is pregnant, or the kids are in the room, or Boruch is out of work… Do it or don’t do it but leave me out if it this time.

Mrs. Rosenberg: I know, I know we really shouldn’t have waited until our boy was 38 to tell him he’s adopted, he just seems so much like our son I didn’t see the point in stirring all that up. All the questions, all the tzuris… I guess I’d just hoped he’d figure it out on his own by now. Every year it seems to get harder and harder to tell him. (Sighs) I know it's foolish but I always thought it might get in the way of his dreams... you know... but now that he's married, with beautiful children- he's got his Phd in psychology and he's the Rabbi of a wonderful modern orthodox kelliah it seems like all his dreams have come true so what could it hurt right?

Sound of minivan pulling into the driveway, lights shine in the front window.

Mrs. Rosenberg: (with resolve) OK tonight is the night, I'm going to tell him right after we give the kids their chanuka presents. Go open the door, I need to check on the latkes.

Scene Two:
Setting: Evening
The bais medrish of a famous yeshiva in Jerusalem, maariv is just wrapping up. Suddenly there is a loud bang, followed by gasping and a general panic at the front of the room.

Bochar #1: (in Hebrew) What happened, what happened!!

Bochar #2: (in Hebrew) It's the Rosh Yeshiva I think, let me get a closer look

Bochar #2 squeezes himself forward for a closer look, the Rosh Yeshiva, an older man with a grey and white beard lies motionless on the floor. His talmidim stand all around him chattering loudly about what should be done but not acutally doing anything.

Rav #1: It's his head! He hit it on the Shtender during va' anchnu Korim in aliynu!! I heard the thump but he fell to the ground before I could get to him!

Students moan and begin reciting tehillim. Minutes later someone finally remembers to call the ambulance.

Tune in next week for another exciting episode of THE MODERN AND THE ORTHODOX!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gift Giving Idea

Here's what to get for the Chabadnik who has everything.

Good News!

When I was a kid there was a shop that opened on a main thoroughfare in my neighborhood with a huge blue and white awning reading "GOOD NEWS FOR ISRAEL!"
As a Jewish kid growing up in a not very Jewish area of the midwest I was immediately drawn to it as we passed it by in the car on the way to get ice cream.

All thoughts of ice cream (one of the big treats of my childhood) quickly vanished as my 8 year old self filled with excitement.

What could this great place be?!
A shul?
An Israeli Jewish bookstore?
A school?
Kosher food?
And could we please please stop and see???

My dad slammed the lid on the whole thing pretty quick when he told me it was not only not Jewish or Israeli but in fact a store front for Christian missionaries.
I was crushed of course, and looked at that enticing awning with great dissapointment thereafter.

I do have some actual good news though (that whole post above just jumped unbidden into my head as I typed the title- funny how that works.)

My brother is out of the hospital!!!

After three weeks of uncertaintly and excessive shlepping around he is finally home.
I thank you all for your support through all of this.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Standards for Blog Promotion and Commenting

A while back Krum posted some hat tipping guidelines for blog users.
In that spirit I'm pleased to present:

The American Society for Testing and Materials' Standards for Blog Promotion and Commenting:

1. General Principle: While it is common practice to leave comments on popular blogs with the hopes of having your own blog recognized for the work of genius that it is, it is unacceptable to comment on a bloc post with the sole purpose of promoting your own blog.

Example 1 (Relevant links - Acceptable): Comment on a post about coffee: "Shifra, I love coffee too! Check out the cartoon I drew of me drinking coffee over on my blog!" (Link included in comment.)

Example 2 (Name dropping - Acceptable): Comment on a post about Slugs: "Ewww slugs!"
(signature includes blog address)

Example 3 (shameless Self-Promotion- Not Acceptable): Hey Shifra, check out my blog it's AWESOME!! (Link included in comment.)

Example 4 (Spam - Not Acceptable): Looking to buy lamps - check out Bernie's house of lamps! It's AWESOME!!! (link included in comment.)

In conclusion if you want your blog promoted start leaving clever, on topic, comments around the blogesphere or just go the direct route and email bloggers you like with your blog's address. If they like what they see they will link to you. Shameless self promotion is definitely not the way to attract long term readers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Check out my Challah recipe on the Shabbos Cooking Blog.
IMO Wednesday is the ideal baking day.

Go with Your Strengths

Dear Shifra,

I got an email today asking me to help with meals and errands for a sick congregant. Yet instead of jumping at this opportunity for a ticket to Olam Haba, I find myself balking. I feel busy enough with my own family. And (this is the petty part) I know the family in question and they aren't, how shall we say, the easiest folks to deal with. Not that I am either! (And not that there's anything wrong with that!) But I'm afraid I'll volunteer too much and find myself in over my head and neglecting the home front.

I'm going straight to hell, aren't I?

Ooooh a well written question WITH Seinfeld references!! Today is my lucky day!
Well let's get to it shall we?
First off let me state for the record that I am not an authority on who will and will not be going to Hell, but does seem clear though that Gemilut Chassadim (acts of kindness) make the world a nicer place in which to live, and I am a big advocate of volunteerism and kindness in general.

All that said it is important for a person to know their limits even when it comes to matters of do-gooding. If a person is always helping other people out to the point where they are stressed out, snapping at their spouse, or own family is generally neglected then that's too much. After all, charity begins at home, right? (What would as Ask Shifra column be like without at least one platitude thrown in for good measure?)

Since everyone is busy these days it is easy to overextend one's self and conversely it is just as easy to become completely absorbed into one's own life - it's important to find a balance. I find it's easier for me generally to do the type of volunteering that can be fit into a fixed schedule such as volunteering at a nursing home, planning shul activities, or cooking food which can be frozen for the community food bank, but some people prefer to just pitch in here and there as needed (such as the kinds of requests as you received) and not make a regular commitment. Both kinds of help are always needed and appreciated.

Lastly I'd like to say Go With Your Strengths.
If you are a poor cook please don't inflict the sick and the needy with your terrible cooking or your lousy leftovers. After my youngest was born (in late November) someone presented me with their Thanksgiving turkey leftovers as a Shabbos meal. I thought that was pretty lame. Maybe you are great with kids or the elderly, or just a good listener. Perhaps you own a huge van and are a master shlepper, or maybe you have piles of money and nothing to do with it? There is so much good work available in the world there is bound to be something for everyone. If you are going to do something do it right and more importantly with a full heart. It's very hard for many people to accept help so whatever you choose to do, and whenever you choose to do it do it with a smile and let the person know that it was YOUR pleasure. Doing good things feels really good when you see how much even the most ungrateful of people benefit from your kindness.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I confess

I've seen that "confession" meme floating around the blogs recently. I'm not sure what the rules are but somehow I think a little confession might be good for my soul about now, so here goes.

I confess: I didn't get a chance to shower this morning.

I confess: I think I'm really funny. (My brother is always on my case about my laughing at my own jokes...)

I confess: I find most Jewish novels, art, music etc... to be substandard.

I confess: Sometimes I feel like a total fraud giving other people advice when my own life can be a total train wreck at times.

I confess: Sometime the key to my faith is simply not thinking too much about it.

I confess: I lose patience with the people closest to me much too quickly.

I confess: I like listening to ABBA and dancing around the kitchen with my girls.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Giveret Shifra's Weekend Activities

I'm tired.
It's been one of those weekends where you are busy every minute and not much seems to get done... I hate that.
Since I came back home Thursday evening far to exhausted to prepare for shabbos I was happy to accept an invitation to spend Shabbos in NYC. It was nice but much too social for my liking. In addition, my husband and I were the oldest, married-est people around- and that gets a little depressing/annoying after a while.

I spent Sunday cleaning up the past weeks mess, doing laundry, catching my kids up on homework and baking chanuka cookies.

My brother had a tough shabbos and ended up back in ICU for a while, but getting well is hard work. Hopefully he will be back in a regular room today. Once things settle down at home and at work I hope to get back into a regular posting rhythm. Thanks again to all of you for your good wishes.


Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm Back


I'm back - much thanks to Orthomom for minding the store while I was gone and to all of you for your support.

Right now I'm wading through my emails and trying to get my bearings at work.
I'm really worn out and although I'm happy to be back with my own family I'm really sorry I was not able to stay longer. I feel guilty, conflicted, traumatized, grateful - your usual post-traumatic stress cocktail.

I hope to get back to my mail bag of "Ask Shifra" questions and give you my whole take on the hospital experience starting Monday. For now just know that all your teffilos and support were greatly appreciated.

Good Shabbos to all of you.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wednesday's Update

Hey everyone, an e-mail update from Shifra has some really good news, Baruch Hashem:
I wanted to tell you that things are going well. My bro walked down the hall just
now (with assistance) and will be moving to a regular room within the

I'll be coming home tomorrow.
I hate to leave but I'm needed at home (and at work I'm sure!) and it
seems like he is really on the road to recovery now.
Everyone's pulling for him over here in the blogosphere. May he continue on the same road to a full recovery.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Today's Update

Today's update from Shifra:

Though her brother continues to improve, he seems to be in a lot more pain, especially in between doses of pain medicine. The doctors took both chest tubes out today. He was able to sit in chair for few hours today, and even watched a DVD with Shifra.

Shifra says it's been really hard to see hard to see him in so much pain but the doctors say he's definitely headed in the right direction, and might get out of the ICU as early as tomorrow.

She even got out of the hospital a little today, taking her nephew (her brother's son) for a sorely needed visit to the park, and running a few errands for her family.

Here's wishing him a continued speedy recovery.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Update from Shifra:

Her brother is B"H continuing to improve. He has been extubated, so he can finally speak. The doctors are continuing to disconnect him from tubes and machines one by one, so things are settling down. Thankfully, he is completely coherent and communicative in between doses of pain medication. Though he is still in the ICU, they are talking about sending him home, as early as early next week!

Shifra has been sleeping on a chair in the hospital, and in a classic Shifra line, says it's like "a cross between staying in a nice hotel and being homeless".

We miss you Shifra, and look forward to your brother's speedy recovery, and your speedy return home, and of course, to the blogosphere.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Update From Shifra

Hi everybody, this is OrthoMom, Shifra's designated updater.
First, the update on her brother's condition, in Shifra's own words:
My brother is doing better. They took out his breathing tube this afternoon and he's breathing well on his own with a little supplemental oxygen. He's responding a bit here and there and told me to "stop it" when I tried to hold his hand (his first words since the surgery.)
Please ask everyone to keep davening for him but his stats have been good generally overall and he's starting to look like himself again (he had 8 liters of fluid pumped out of him via dialysis he was retaining water all over prior to that!)
This is good news, but all of our tefillot are obviously still needed.
Second, a message from Shifra to a couple of commenters:
Please tell Trep that I am not upset with him at all, quite the opposite and that that Mar Gavriel is right that it is exactly my friends neighbors and co-workers that I don't want to know about my blog ;-)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

More Updates

I'm heading out west to see my brother in the morning so I wanted to put up another update and share a few of my thoughts before I go.

First the update:
Thursday was quite a rollercoaster of emotion of myself and my family. We went from being concerned about the surgery, to worry over how poorly it was going, to sadness that we were losing him to euphoria when after being unhooked from life support for the last time his heart miraculous started to beat again!

All his vitals have remained stable over Shabbos. He was able to shake his head yes and no to questions and to squeeze the doctor's hand when asked. They've returned him to deep sedation to allow him to rest and are keeping him intubated at least until tomorrow. It's going to be a long recovery but so far so good. I'll give his had a squeeze from all of you when I see him.

Now a few thoughts:
Loyal readers will know I have mixed feeling about asking people to say tehillim for someone.
Beyond that, although I love helping people, it's a real weakness of mine that I don't like to ASK for help.
In addition to that I've tried to keep my real identity hidden because I don't think I'm brave/confident/stupid/fearless/whatever enough to blog with my identity revealed.

So what do these three things have in common? They all made posting my brother's hebrew name here on the blog seem like a bad/risky idea to me.
I didn't know what to do - then Trep- a very, very good man made the decision for me and posted my brother's hebrew name in the comments section. A decision I knew right away was the right one.

B'H my brother's name has traveled all over the place through the internet, over the phone, in shuls all over the place. I've heard that tehillim was said for him under the chuppah at wedding in NY! So it seems inevitable that my identity will not be a secret much longer.
Don't get too excited now, I'm no one special, just a regular woman with regular problems, a regular family, and a regular job. I just worry about keeping that "regular" lifestyle if people find out I'm a blogger. So I'll have to think about what the next step is for me.
In the meantime I'll be away until Thursday night without internet or email access (no, I will not be in Lakewood, but close enough...) but I will call OM with updates that she can post here on my blog so I don't leave all of you hanging until them.

I wish you all a shavuah tov- and I'll let you know what I've decided about the blog next week.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Matters of the heart (and mind)

As I'm typing this my brother is being prep-ed for open-heart surgery.
I'm at work and he is hundreds of miles away and it's very difficult.

I bought a ticket to fly out there from Sunday to Thursday to help take care of him and his family as he recovers. I think my sister-in-laws parents are there now, and I didn't want to get in their way. I wanted to come when I'd be of the most use... but as the hours and minutes slowly tick by I'm sorry I'm not there now.

I've been worried about my brother since I found out he wasn't well but right now is the first time I'm really afraid. When he had surgery when we were were both kids, I remember seeing him on the gurney, in his hospital gown, IV in place, 1/2 sedated ready to roll into the operating room. I remember squeezing his hand for luck even though I didn't know if he was aware that I was there. When he squeezed back I knew he'd be OK. I wish I could feel that "squeeze back" now. Sure my brother can be a jerk sometimes, but when the two of us are together we make each other laugh like no one else can. If anything happened to him that's what I'd miss the most.

Now I'm crying but it feels to good to finally get that out there- this is exactly why I love blogging.

The screen is getting all blurry now so let me just say thank you to all my friends out there in cyberspace for your kind emails, offers of tehillim and support- you've all been a big help to me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

When Memes Attack

I've been tagged by Orthomom!

What's On Your iPod?
1. Turn on your mp3 player.
2. Hit shuffle.
3. Put the first fifteen songs that come up in a post. No matter how embarassing. No cheating!

I don't have an ipod, but I do have an MP3 player. Here's my list- and it IS embarresing.
I guess all the "cool stuff" sank to the bottom when I shuffled.

Rain King - Counting Crows
Warning - Green Day
Fallen - Sarah Mclaughlin
The first cut is the deepest - Cheryl Crow
Takes a little time - Amy Grant
What’s so funny about peace love and understanding - Elvis Costello
Me and Juilo - Paul Simon
Big me - Foo Fighters
Behind these hazel eyes (acoustic version) - Kelly Clarkson
Accidentally in Love - Counting Crows
Gravity Fails - Bottle Rockets
Hero in me - Jeffery Gains
Heaven - Los Lonely Boys
Steal my kisses - Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
One - U2

I don't know who to tag on this one but if any of my readers want to pick it up let me know and I will link to it here!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Beware of the Grappel

I consider myself a fairly adventurous eater. Although I'm often hampered in my ability to try every new food I'd like by that laws of Kashrus (ie keeping kosher) when I see a new fruit or vegetable in the market, or a new kosher product on the shelf, I can rarely resist trying it, at least once.

Naturally, when I noticed the Grapple in the produce section with it's claim of tasting like a grape and looking like an apple I HAD to have it even if they were six dollars for a package of four. Having no fear of "franken-fruits" the pluot being one of my favorites, I dove right in- and darned if they didn't taste and smell just like grape while retaining the crisp crunch of a fuji apple. Silly me I didn't even think to read the package for ingredients- namely Fuji Apples and ARTIFICIAL GRAPE FLAVORING!!!!

What? I'd been duped!! These apples not were a result of gardening wizardry, or scientific achievement but merely an apple soaked in the equivalent of grape kool-aid!
A quick googlesearch of the word Grappel indicates that I'm not the first blogger to have this happen to them. For people who like to write so much you'd think we'd be better readers don't you?!

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Y.Y. Commented:

A healthy relationship is all about compromise- here is my question:
How does a person know when its his time to bend to the other partner?
You can't say that I have to bend all the time because then its not a compromising relationship.
[spelling and punctuation edited]

That's a good question. How much does a person need to compromise in a relationship?
I looked up compromise on dictionary.com which defines compromise as:

A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.

So basically if you are the only one making adjustments then it's not a compromise at all!
Clearly gender roles and the ideal division of power in any relationship is a subjective issue but for me equality is the way to go. If one partner is always getting his/her way while the other is always giving in clearly the balance of power is well.... unbalanced!

Sometime it feels like we are always making concessions, but in a healthy relationship both partys are always assessing how their words and actions will affect their partner- it's called sensitivity. There needs to be a balance between considering what your partner wants and needs and letting him/her know what YOU need. If there is open communication rather than a lot of guessing and speculation the chances are a lot better both of you will get a least some of what you want.