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The Edible Torah


Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

VIDEO: Passover Noir

In a couple of days, Passover is going to start, which means that right now, some Jewish families are frantically scrubbing their house down in an attempt to remove chametz, anything made with flour.

If you are one of those families, and you are perhaps wondering (grumbling) about why it’s gotta be this way, this video may offer you a moment of amusement.

Assuming you are a fan of stylistic film making techniques. If not, then this is just plain weird.

VIDEO: Best Seder in the USA

Just in time for Pesach, I’m posting a video from LAST year which was co-produced by JewishTreats and NJOP (the National Jewish Outreach Program)

You can find JewishTreats on Twitter or on Facebook.

You can find out more about NJOP on their website.



VIDEO: Early Shabbat

We’re on the other side of the time change, so Shabbat’s are getting later now (according to HebCal, it starts at 4:53pm this week. How will I ever manage to stay up that late?) but that doesn’t stop them from feeling just like this:

It’s all good (it’s Shabbat, after all!) but still, it would be nice if I had gardening neighbors, bakers and yes, even winos just handing me what I need as I race to the finish line.

Speaking of the wine, I hope they wipe off the top of that bottle off REALLY well. And come to think of it, this is one of those times when I might not complain about boiling the wine first.

VIDEO: Dude, It’s Shabbos

I’ve worked in a lot of different companies, and I’m usually one of the only (if not THE only) Jewish person on the team. And often, my co-workers have questions, which is great.

I’m happy to report that everyone I have ever worked for is more respectful than this guy. Equally curious, but much more polite.

Still, this is a pretty funny conversation.

Thanksgiving Seder


image courtesy of

Last year I posted links to a few Thanksgiving Haggadot, which gave our American Turkey-centric festival the old Passover treatment.

This year, just in time for your own feast, I’m posting my notes from last year in case you enjoy tormenting your guests and children as much as I do.

Our seder began before we even sat down. You see, on the night before Pesach we hunt for chametz – bits of bread-stuff. So of course a Thanksgiving seder had to include that experience as well. But with all the stuffing around, bread was NOT the target of choice. No, we hunted for… CHOCOLATE!. In this case, we had secreted away some pareve chocolate Hanukkah gelt (we opted for pareve rather than milk chocolate in case some of our kosher-observing guests had already eaten a meat meal before arriving.).

Once we were certain that our house was clear of chocolate, we were able to begin the seder proper with a rousing rendition of America, The Beautiful – all four verses and four (slightly different) choruses, including the one about Pilgrim’s feet (my boys loved that one). You can find the lyrics here.

Next, we said a shehechianu and said the blessings over wine and bread.

We read responsively, sharing the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence together as a group.

That was pretty much the end of the serious stuff. From that point on we borrowed liberally from “Company’s Coming“, with the following additions:

  • When we mentioned “The Bitter Herb”, we produced our ancient beloved bottle of Goldschlager. We keep it around because every year when it’s time to read Parsha Ki Tisa, we say we’re going to drink it. We never do.
  • We included an explanation of the Thanksgiving Seder plate. Of course, we first had to INVENT the Thanksgiving seder plate. Like the Passover counterpart, this plate contained all the items emblematic of Thanksgiving, including:
    • a football
    • a figuring of a pilgrim
    • Pepper (Passover is all about salt – in the water, in the soup, etc. Let another spice get some attention already!)
    • Marshmallows (on top of the candied yams. Nobody in my house ever ate them. It just sat on the table turning into a paperweight.
    • nondairy creamer (as a reminder that this is a fleishig meal)
    • matzo (to remind us of the joy that this holiday brings since WE DON’T HAVE TO EAT ANY!)
    • a cantaloupe

OK, the cantaloupe requires a bit of explanation. One summer, we took a family vacation to visit a friend in Boston. Part of the trip involved going up to Plymouth. But the line to see it’s most famous rock was too long, and the day was already over as far as our kids were concerned. When we expressed our disappointment back at home base, our hostess grabbed a cantaloupe and wrote “1620” on it. She explained that weather and memento-seekers had worn the rock down until it was about that big so we now could say we’d pretty much seen it. Thus, the presence of the cantaloupe on our seder plate.

  • After the meal, we had a rousing hunt for – no, not the afikomen – but the wishbone instead!. The finder of this scrumptious morsel won the right to take it home (her parents were so proud) along with a Sacagawea dollar.

Why Weren’t You More Like…

A classic story tells about the great Chassidic Rabbi Zusha, who was found agitated and upset as he lay on deathbed. His students asked, “Rebbe, why are you so sad? After all the the great things you have accomplished, your place in heaven is assured!”

“I’m afraid!” Zusha replied, “Because when I get to heaven, God won’t ask me ‘Why weren’t you more like Moses?’ or ‘Why weren’t you more like King David?’ God will ask ‘Zusha, why weren’t you more like Zusha?’ And then what will I say!?”

This comic (from XKCD, one of my favorites) is, perhaps, a more modern retelling of that story.


Having a role model is a great idea. It gives you a real world example of how dedication and excellence in a particular area look. But it’s just one example. Have lots of role models – lots of examples of how someone is “successful” in a particular way.

But keep in mind what Zombie Marie Curie says in the last two panels.

Or in the words of Yoda (another great Jewish thinker), “Do or Do Not. There is no try.”

My Children Are Weasels

One of the challenges with cleaning for Passover is guarding against the possibility that, after cleaning a room, someone in the family will inadvertently chometz it up again.

Especially in this last week of cleaning, when my wife and I are checking rooms off as clean, only to catch a child (or 2) wandering in an hour later with a cracker, or pretzel, or even (gasp!) a non-kosher-for-passover candy.

But knowledge is power, as they say. Armed with the knowledge I’d gained last year, I have a perfect solution.

I’m having my children officially classified as “weasels”.

VIDEO: Passover 1

I say “Passover 1″ because many of us are waiting with baited breath for the long awaited, eagerly anticipated Maccabeats Passover video. Which will be posted here (as well as, like, everywhere) the instant it hits the internet.

Never the less, the Fountainheads, who posted a Purim video at the same time as the Maccabeats have beaten the Yeshiva Bocher boy band to the punch with “Dayeinu, Coming Home”

From Aish: “Google Exodus”

After two years, the old “Facebook Haggadah”  has gotten a little stale.

Leave it to the jokers over at to give the whole concept a fresh coat of virtual paint – working in  Google, Amazon, Twitter, YouTube (and yes, Facebook too) into a VERY modern retelling of the Exodus story.

Tradition teaches that each of us should feel as if we were personally freed from slavery in Egypt.

And for some of us, that freedom story includes wifi hotspots and unlimited downloads. Enjoy!

Drash: Shabbat Shekalim (Parsha Pikudei)

I am not sure if I will be delivery the d’var Torah this week at shul. If I *do*, this is what I’m planning to say.

In today’s portion we read:

These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the Pact, which were drawn up at Moses’ bidding…” (Exo. 38:21)

While I believe only the most OCD CPAs would want to audit Moses so many years after the fact, it does provide a model for transparency. Torah is teaching us that it is important for our leadership to be completely open about what they are doing, what they are planning, and how things are going. Having worked on IT projects for over 22 years now, I’ve discovered one thing to be true: No project ever failed because management shared too much information.

Meanwhile, in an earlier section we read:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: When you take a census of the Israelite people according to their enrollment, each shall pay the Lord a ransom for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled. This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight — twenty gerahs to the shekel — a half-shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is entered in the records, from the age of twenty years up, shall give the Lord’s offering: the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel when giving the Lord’s offering as expiation for your persons.” (Exo 30:11-16)

Now nobody likes getting a bill. And worse is getting a bill for something we don’t understand. Just as much as our ancestors, we want to know clearly what it is we have to pay, how our offerings are being divvied up, and what we’re getting for our money.

So I am up here today to correct a possible error on the part of our board. Standing on the verge of our next annual appeal, I want to make sure we are completely open about how you are being charged for membership in our community.

After a few years here at Beth El, I recognize that our bills and the dues they represent are not particularly straightforward – it’s certainly not a flat half-shekel a head. I mean, we have the yearly dues payment (or 3 payments if you choose to break it up) plus the option to sponsor a kiddush, or contribute to the annual appeal, or to pay into the window fund, or to make a donation in honor of someone or something, or… you get the idea. It can get really confusing.

That’s why I thought it would be good to consider alternate payment options. I thought I was in a unique position to comment on what was simple and easy, since I’m not on any of the finance-related committees and I don’t handle any of the bills at home nor have I ever successfully balanced my checkbook. Even better, what I’m presenting here contains no input from our president or the board.

You heard it here first.

You might ask, given my utter lack of financial experience, how can I create a better system? Well who better to take a fresh look at things? In a moment of what surely must be divine inspiration, I decided to look at various industries because I figured if they were doing well in this economy, they must know something about shaking people dow… I mean, improving revenue.

I started with the cell phone carriers. Using their example, I devised a much simpler billing system for Beth El’s dues: First, you get your seat here at the shul for free, as long as you sign up for a 2 year membership contract. We have 3 different membership prices based on whether you want to use your seat just a little, a moderate amount, or very often each month. Now I have to point out that if you decide not to go with the 2 year contract, the cost for the seat is somewhat higher, and you have to pay for seat usage per minute. There’s also an additional charge for texting… I mean chatting with other members of the shul while you are in your seat. But we also plan to offer an unlimited chat option for a small additional fee. I think, based on demographics, this option will be very popular. We’re also excited to be able to offer a “new every two” option where you can select a new seat in the sanctuary every 2 years as long as you re-up your contract.

Next, I explored what the medical industry has to offer. From their example I devised a system where you can pay a monthly fee that would cover you in the unforeseen event of being given an aliyah. If you DO receive an aliyah, there will be a small copay amount we will collect motzi shabbos. Depending on the coverage plan you select, you can either pay a low monthly fee with a larger aliyah copay, or a higher rate where the in-network aliyah charges are lower. I do want to point out that people who are Kohain or Levite are considered to have a pre-existing condition and may have difficulty getting coverage.

I looked at the home entertainment market – cable and dish tv. First and foremost, we would provide a discount for members switching from other shuls, as well as low introductory membership rates (which would, of course, go up later and without notice). The actual dues would be based on the types of shul entertainment you enjoy. “Beth El Basic” would include weekly Shacharit services. For a small additional fee you can get access to the education channel which includes the Learner’s service, Teen Torah study, and Lunch and Learn. In order to address revenue issues as well as competition from other Shabbat providers, the Kiddush channel would become pay per view.

Looking at the tax industry was very instructive. Here I learned that our congregants could estimate the number of honors they’ll be assigned on a quarterly basis and pay membership based on that rate. If they end up receiving more honors than estimated, they would merely have to pay back-dues, along with a small penalty that is calculated from the date of the additional honor, interest compounding daily.

The Department of Transportation has an interesting system that was worth a look. Based on their example we could charge a yearly tax to cover the wear and tear of the shul. The taxes will be priced so that we can replace the carpet with a high quality surface. Unfortunately due to the vagaries of the biddig process, we’ll always end up installing a cheap berber. Also, the route for Hakafah will change unexpectedly from time to time, which we will note with decorative orange indicators.

Going back to insurance, but cars this time, I hit upon a system where again you would pay a relatively low monthly rate. How much you pay would be tied to actuarial tables that predict how likely you were to come to shul, receive an honor like hagba’ah, or lead services, based on your background. If you actually DO receive an honor, your rates will also go up. People who have been ordained, have received a day school education, or can lift more than 20 pounds over their head may need to get specialized insurance as high-risk congregants. Rabbi Klausen: I’m afraid you may be uninsurable.

However you choose to contribute, it’s also important to consider why we contribute. Unlike our cell phones, we probably don’t continue our contract for the “new every two” option. Or the low introductory rates. Although the kiddush channel…

In Parsha Pikudei we read

Just as the Eternal had commanded Moses, so the Israelites had done all the work” (Exodus 39:42).

Nachmanides points out that the usual word for work, m’lachah, is not used here. Instead the text uses avodah, work in the service of Hashem.

It’s interesting to note that the Golden Calf required a simple cash donation which was collected and seems to only have required Aaron’s participation. The Mishkan required more than money – it required people to bring their colors, their threads, their hooks, and the very skins they lived in. The task of building required weavers, jewelders, stonecutters, woodcarvers and more. Everyone had to bring themselves to the project.

Furthermore they were commanded to build a sanctuary not, as we might expect, so that God may dwell b’tocho, ‘in it’, but rather the people were commanded to build a sanctuary so that God might dwell b’tocham ‘in them’. (Exodus 25:8)

So I say to you with all the transparency I can muster: Pay yearly or in 3 easy payments. Contribute the offerings of your heart as you are so moved, and as we read last week, using the skills that God endowed upon you, performing expertly. Perform the avodah of building our community not so that God will dwell in here, but so that in the process of building together we discover God dwelling in us.

Shabbat Shalom