Sunday, December 18, 2005

Seven Sevens

I don’t usually spend a lot of time on blog games, as I have precious little time already to write amidst raising children and keeping the house just barely on the neat side of total chaos. But given the importance of seven in Judaism, and how my Jewish life operates a cycle of seven, this seemed like it would be fun, and still be thematically linked.

I got this from The Dabbling Mum.


Seven Things to Do Yet in My Life

  1. Go to Israel

  2. Write at least one book that makes the NYT Bestseller list

  3. Be involved as my children grow up, graduate from college, get married, have children, and create their own Jewish families

  4. Earn greater recognition as a Jewish scholar/writer/thinker

  5. Write all the books that are within me

  6. Give my children the skills and resources they need to be strong, confident, healthy, whole, Jewishly knowledgeable human beings

  7. Make a difference
Seven Things I Cannot Do

  1. Betray who I am as a Jew

  2. Intentionally hurt another

  3. Stand by while others are hurt in my presence

  4. Direct sales

  5. Ski

  6. Get away with wearing French braids, dreadlocks, beads, or any other similar hair style

  7. Eat just one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

Seven Things I Admire In My Spouse

  1. His open-mindedness

  2. His unwavering support for me

  3. His involvement in our children’s lives

  4. His work ethic

  5. His sensitivity

  6. His honesty

  7. That look in his eyes when he…
Seven Things I Say Most Often

  1. Hey!

  2. Um…

  3. Please?

  4. Thanks!

  5. Cool!

  6. Wait a sec…

  7. That depends…
Seven Books (or series) I Love

  1. Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, Writings)

  2. Talmud

  3. Alex Delaware series (Jonathan Kellerman)

  4. Stephanie Plum series (Janet Evanovich)

  5. Illusions (Richard Bach)

  6. Good in Bed (Jennifer Weiner)

  7. Rabbi David Winter series (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin)
Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again

  1. American Dreamer

  2. Independence Day

  3. Fiddler on the Roof

  4. The Jazz Singer

  5. Yentl

  6. Yellow Submarine

  7. Grease
Seven Songs I Can’t Get Enough Of

  1. Making it Up as I Go Along (Marie Wilson)

  2. Breathe [2am] (Anna Nalick)

  3. Best Years of Our Lives (Baha Men)

  4. Hachel Rash (David Broza)

  5. Joshua’s Band (Noah Budin)

  6. Hayiti (Shlomo Artzi)

  7. Milky Way (Kitaro)

Seven People I Want to Join In, Too

  1. Catherine Wade

  2. ChickWrit

  3. Eliza

  4. Ella Susan

  5. Kai

  6. Karen

  7. Mir

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Happy... Merry... what is your holiday, anyway?

Disclaimer: They say you should never talk about religion or politics in “polite” company. I’m going to talk about both. What follows is my own opinion and my own feelings on the topic. I respect that others have differing opinions and expect that said people will respect my right to my opinions, too. I am not interested in debating this topic or hashing out whose opinion is more correct. BTDT. Flames toward anyone (including me) and anti-Jewish rhetoric will not be tolerated on this site.

Now, on to the topic at hand…

Is it just me, or has the whole “Holiday” versus “Christmas” thing gotten out of hand?

Not long ago, tempers ignited over whether the decorated tree at the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion should be called a Christmas tree or a Holiday tree. It was all over the news. Officially, it is a “Holiday Tree.”

To me, when I see an evergreen tree, all decked out in lights and various baubles, it is, unequivocally, a Christmas tree. I am not offended by it being called a Christmas tree. There is no way anyone is going to confuse a Christmas tree and my Chanukah menorah, so why not call it a Christmas tree?

Enter my friend Jeanice.

Jeanice celebrates Solstice, and in keeping with the history of the holiday, she has a tree. A Solstice tree. This I had not heard of before, so I asked her for more information. This is what she had to say:

True Solstice trees are not cut down but left outside and "decorated" with food for the animals so that they could feast as well during the Solstice celebration. People always had a grand feast, so the animals should, too. The idea of light on the tree started as candles on the trees so they, too, could celebrate the rebirth of the sun. During the dark times, before the Solstice, pine bows were brought inside to help connect with nature since people spent most of their time inside due to the darkness. Holly berries were still on the bushes and the only sign of color in nature, hence the red, green and white colors.

Okay, so now there are possible grounds to call it a Holiday tree. I’m still leaning toward checking out the tree before naming it. If it’s cut down, decorated with glass bulbs and candy canes, chances are pretty good it’s a Christmas tree. If it has candles (or maybe lights for safety reasons), food, and especially if it’s still rooted, it’s very possibly a Solstice tree.

Although either way, there is no chance whatsoever that it’s a Chanukah tree.

But the details of the governor’s tree (which is rooted and decorated only with white lights, thus creating possible religious confusion) are not nearly as important as the intent behind the naming conventions.

State officials claim that by calling it a Holiday tree, they are attempting to be inclusive. They explain that the governor cannot endorse any particular religion over another, and to call it a Christmas tree may give the implication that the state is endorsing Christianity to the exclusion of other religions.

Opponents, the most vocal of whom are devout – often fundamentalist – Christians, say that the state is abandoning G-d. They claim a sort of “majority rules” approach, that since the majority of Minnesotans (or the country, for that matter) are Christian, everyone else can go to… well, wherever this type of Christian thinks the rest of us go… and the state or country should adopt Christian terms. Further, they seem to think that their covenant with G-d is the only divine covenant out there, so their view is the only one that counts.

As an aside, when I first started blogging, I posted an allegory I wrote on my view of what’s sometimes called dual or multiple covenant theology, or in Christianity it’s also sometimes referred to as the Theology of Recognition, and if you’d like, you can read it here.

So what do I think of all this?

I thought you’d never ask!

I think the intent is well-placed. I think the application is misguided.

I appreciate that state officials want to be inclusive, and I reject the “majority rules” approach. “Majority rules” is antithetical to mutual respect and tolerance, and if we are ever to have the sort of peace on Earth that most Christians claim to want, mutual respect and tolerance of all faiths is a must.

That said, I think that calling the governor’s tree a Holiday Tree cheats everyone. It demeans everyone’s holiday.

It demeans Christmas by diluting it with other holiday(s) that involve decorated trees.

It demeans Solstice by creating the impression that there’s nothing different between a Christmas tree and a Solstice tree, when in fact there are enormous differences.

And it demeans every other religion, including my own, by implying that every winter holiday somehow involves a decorated tree.

So now, this begs the question: if the governor’s tree should be called a Christmas tree, and even a religious Jew agrees with that, then what the heck is so wrong with wishing customers “Merry Christmas!” when they walk into a store?

It’s different. It’s very different.

If we decide to ignore Minnesota law and call the governor’s tree a Christmas tree, the fact remains that it’s not in my face. I don’t have to drive by it every day. It’s not in my living room. And I don’t personally feel that a Christmas tree in the governor’s yard is endorsing Christianity over any other religion.

But if I walk into Target to buy a box of diapers and a clerk wishes me a “Merry Christmas!” it is now in my face. I can do one of the following:

  1. Smile and say thank you, thus perpetuating the mistaken belief that everyone wants to be wished a merry Christmas

  2. Wish the clerk a Happy Chanukah in return, whether it is currently Chanukah or not (some may want to wish the clerk a Good Yule), regardless of what the clerk personally celebrates

  3. Say nothing and be considered rude

  4. Politely explain that I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I appreciate the sentiment and I wish the clerk a happy whatever-the-clerk-celebrates
There’s no good answer.

I mean, would you say “happy birthday!” to someone when it was your birthday but not theirs? Of course not.

Would you say “happy anniversary!” to a single friend (with no dating anniversary to celebrate)? Of course not.

Would you tell someone who was not sick to “get well soon”?

So, why would anyone want to wish a Jew, or anyone else who does not celebrate Christmas, a “merry Christmas”?

The truth is, we’re not going to have any sort of Christmas, merry or otherwise. Because it isn’t our holiday.

Whereas, if the clerk wishes me a “Happy Holidays,” I can accept that graciously and return the wish.

But some will argue it’s not about the recipient of the wish; it’s about the person making the wish. It’s part of their celebration of Christmas that they wish everyone around them – Christian or not, religious or not, a “merry Christmas.”

Doesn’t that fall under the rule of “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose”?

Celebrate Christmas all you want. But please, leave me out of that wish. Let me wish you a merry Christmas (which I will, if I feel my own beliefs are respected), but don’t wish one for me.

Okay, so this leads to one last segment in this topic, one that easily falls into the “in your face” category: religious Christmas cards.

I’ve debated this topic for several years now, and like those religious Christians who send out annual cards, I feel very strongly on this topic.

I won’t rehash the debate. It was long. Years ago, amidst a very fundamentalist Christian audience, it got ugly. Those who feel strongly are not likely to change their minds.

So here’s the bottom line. Some who send out religious cards feel like they’re sending a little piece of themselves to their friends and family. It really is a beautiful image. And it doesn’t matter what the recipient believes or celebrates, because it’s all about the sender sending something of herself out into the world.

I understand that. Truly, I do. I write books. I send little pieces of myself out into the world, too.

Others who send out cards think it’s about the recipient, not the sender. They reserve religious cards for their religious Christian friends, and send generic cards (or Chanukah or Solstice cards) to the appropriate recipients.

Here’s where I stand, and it’s pretty simple. I appreciate friends thinking of me. I really do. I’m touched when friends think enough of me to sign a card, especially if it’s personalized, address an envelope, affix a stamp, and send it to me.

At the exact same time, I am simply not comfortable with a card depicting a nativity scene, or a star over Bethlehem, or even a Christmas (not Holiday, not Solstice) tree buried in presents, displayed in my home.

I’m a religious Jew. I’m not interested in viewing the nativity every time I walk through the house.

So once again, I have a choice. I can:

  1. Display the card in the interests of friendship (though some would argue said friend might not be respecting my religious beliefs by sending said card) and feel uncomfortable in my own home

  2. Not display the card and not tell said friend about it (and hope she doesn’t come to visit)

  3. Send a quick telepathic “thanks!” for the sentiment of friendship and recycle the card

  4. Tell the friend that receiving religious Christmas cards makes me uncomfortable and run the risk that said friend will be offended that I have rejected that piece of her she sent to me
Again, not really any good answer.

Add to this the fact that there’s a Jewish perspective with which many – perhaps most – Christians are unfamiliar: it is almost impossible for a Jew to receive a religious Christmas card from a friend or family member without wondering, even a little bit, about the sender’s agenda. For many religious Jews, receiving a religious Christmas card often smacks of religious trimphalism. It carries with it a subtle message that we can be friends every other day of the year, but now it’s time to be reminded that Christians are “saved” and Jews are not (unless you subscribe to dual/multiple covenant theology).

It’s important to remember, when pondering the religious Christmas card to a Jew question, that Christianity and Judaism are mutually exclusive. You cannot be both within one person. (Don’t even get me started on “Jews for Jesus”… anyone who claims to believe in Jesus as a messiah is a Christian. Period.)

For a Christian to receive a Chanukah card, it is not contradictory to that Christian’s beliefs. Not exactly in line with them either, but not in direct opposition to them. There is nothing about Chanukah that denies Jesus.

But for a Jew to receive a religious Christmas card, it IS contradictory to that Jew’s beliefs. The birth of Jesus and the place of Jesus within Christianity is in direct opposition to religious Judaism, which acknowledges Jesus as a Jew, as a rabbi, as a storyteller and teacher – one among many in the first century of the Common Era – but NOT as Moshiach – as a messiah.

So where do we stand? Are we generic and inclusive, or specific and awkward?

I really believe that the politically correct pundits are looking for a blanket inclusivity to apply to everything religious. Just replace “Christmas” with “Holiday” and everyone will be happy, right?

No. I don’t agree. Blanket solutions rarely work.

What I believe we need to do is take a step back and ask ourselves what our intentions are.

How can we celebrate our own holidays with meaning and personal fulfillment without our “fist” connecting with someone else’s “nose”? How can we respect and honor each others’ holidays without demeaning, diluting, or betraying our own? How can we take others’ beliefs and feelings into consideration as we enter into a time that is supposed to be known for its joy and light?

What can YOU do this month to bring joy and light into the world, while acknowledging, honoring, and respecting (but not necessarily celebrating) religious beliefs and holidays that are not your own?

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Wow, what a day! And it's not even over yet.

So far today, I've created an 11-page book contract (and my Legalese appears to be in good shape), started learning the Torah portion I'm layning (chanting) in two weeks, finished some minor projects that have been on my to-do list for a week, finished my notes and preparations for the writing class I'm teaching tonight and next week, and made a major breakthrough in AS IN DAYS OF OLD.

With the breakthrough, I'm out of my stuck-ness and feeling VERY motivated to get back into the creative side of writing and not so much the business end of it.


I also requested and received information from my friend Jeanice on the origin of Christmas (or is it Holiday?) trees, and that entry IS coming. Honest!

Meanwhile, I'm getting excited about tonight's class and looking forward to meeting readers and talking about writing while sipping hot cocoa in front of a crackling fire in the beautiful Fireside Lounge.

Join us if you can!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

All I want for Chanukah...

I can use your help!

Although Destined to Choose is often classified as Jewish fiction, it is written for both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. Response to the book from both the Jewish and Christian communities has been quite positive, but due to circumstances surrounding its release – some of which were beyond my control – a lot of people still don’t know about it.

YOU can help to change that!

Whether you’ve read it or not, here are some things you can do to help. I would greatly appreciate any of these things (most of which are FREE):

  • Borrow or buy a copy and read it
  • Give it as a gift for Chanukah/Christmas/Solstice/birthday/etc.
  • If you’ve read it, write a (preferably favorable!) review on or
  • Recommend it to your friends, coworkers, blog readers, book clubs and others
  • Ask your local bookstores to carry it, if they don’t already
  • Ask your local library to carry it, if they don’t already
  • Ask the professional and/or lay leaders in your faith community to consider using it and/or recommending it as an engaging way to learn about contemporary American Judaism
Please visit my web site at for lots more information!

Thank you so much for your support!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Remember when...?

I got this from Patti on Writes for Chocolate and it sounded like a lot of fun:

Please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL MEMORY OF YOU AND ME. It can be anything you want -- good or bad -- BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you’re finished, post this paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON’T ACTUALLY remember about you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Law and (dis) Order

Okay, 21 minutes into Law & Order tonight, and we as the audience are to understand that 1) [some] Jews stiff their creditors and claim no work was done; 2) a NY Jew can be identified by listening to him speak for less than a minute; 3) Jews will risk life and limb, running through traffic, to gather torn pages from a chumash; 4) Jews are highly emotional and threaten to “raise hell” if immediate action isn’t taken against a possible anti-Semitic action, and 5) to many Jews, money is more important than religion or even human life.


I think – or at least I hope – we’re smarter than that. Aren’t we?

Add to that the fact that the show is randomly interchanging the words “Torah,” “chumash,” (a bound, machine press copy of the Torah, not a Torah scroll itself), and “prayer book” (a prayer book, in Hebrew, would be a siddur, not a Torah or a chumash).

My big problem with assertions 1-5 is that they’re stereotypical to the point of being offensive, especially the way they were presented in the show.

So far, the Jewish community portrayed in the show is either on the defensive (with multiple references to the Shoah [Holocaust]), or on the offensive (does desecration of a holy text pardon murder)?

I’m tempted to turn the show off, but keep hoping somehow something can be salvaged.

I’m not holding my breath.

What I'm learning THIS Wednesday night

It’s after 7:00pm on Wednesday night. If I was where I wanted to be, I’d be in a beit midrash style class, learning Talmud with like-minded friends and an incredible “resource person” (read: teacher). Rob, the resource person/teacher is quite knowledgeable, has a great sense of humor, and most importantly to me, has a wonderful teaching style that involves asking question after question and leading you, the student, to his point through your own answers. It involves quick give-and-take, a single-minded intent to reach a logical conclusion, and frequently, a sharp wit.

I’d like to think that, at least when I’m healthy and well-rested, I have all three. I could be wrong.

But that’s not where I am right now. Right now, I’m home with a sore throat and no voice. The bad news is that there’s a good chance I’m coming down with something. Again. (Someone in my family has been sick nearly every day since August 8th.) The good news is that I might get some more writing done.

Or reading. E-mail, specifically.

I just recently joined another e-mail list (for procrastinators, listserv is spelled D-A-N-G-E-R), this one for SAHM/WAHMs who write. Yes, there are quite a few other masochists like me who wondered what they could do while being at home with their children and thought, Hey! I could write books!

This particular list, which is new, has turned out to be quite chatty. I like it that way, especially since another writing list I’m on is heavily moderated. For those refugees from the much-talked about Other E-mail List for Moms Who Write, this is yet ANOTHER heavily-moderated writing list. The moderator not only moderates for compliance with rules and for content, but anything that might be construed as religiously pluralistic or potentially offensive to the conservative religious (which, between the two, describes a good deal of what I might post). So, having a friendly, chatty e-mail list about writing and parenting is quite a delight.

It’s also generating about 150+ e-mail messages a day.

And, oddly enough, greater motivation and inspiration to resume blogging, to journal more, and to work on AS IN DAYS OF OLD.

All in all, a good thing!

BTW, on said new chatty e-mail list, we had an assignment to do a writing exercise about a household object. I started it, about a headboard that Husby and I used for quite a few years, then stored in our basement for a while. We finally decided to find someone else who could use it and gave it away (check for a free exchange near you), only to find that the two women we gave it to had dumped it on the side of the street not two blocks from our house…in the pouring rain!

I was SO mad!

I rescued the headboard, thinking all the while about how it had been abandoned (by these two women whom I hope I never see again or I will likely say something horrible and insulting, if I can figure out what words to use), and betrayed (by me, for letting this happen to it in the first place).

After some journaling on the topic, I finally came to the realization that the headboard was ME and there were just a few issues I needed to work through. Some people consider this a sign of weakness. I, personally, feel a sense of accomplishment that I am doing my part, and then some, to keep the psychotherapists in business.

The writing exercise became something quite different and while it was written down, it will never leave the confines of my journal. Sorry. I have to draw my limits somewhere.

Meanwhile, I have just been informed by Husby that
Law & Order is showing an episode tonight having something to do with whether or not a Torah scroll is more sacred than a human life. Do we really NEED to ask this question? Again? Shouldn’t the law of pikuach nefesh (saving a human life is more important than almost anything else in Judaism) be enough?


I might just have to comment on that episode after seeing it.

And coming next: is it a Christmas tree or a Holiday tree? Some humble opinions on where the tree came from, where it’s going, and whether we really want to be politically correct about it after all.

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's [my] year... to do what?

I just received my Hadassah membership materials in the mail today: a seven-page full-color brochure and a membership card. "It's Your Year" the brochure says on the glossy cover.

Paging through it, I find that on page 1, it says, "Hadassah has so much to offer." Pages 2 and 3 have vague descriptions of programs Hadassah offers, with a focus on Hadassah's admittedly impressive accomplishments. Each of the six programs have the words "you can..." in them somewhere, indicating that you are now provided with the opportunity to participate, though nowhere does it state how available these programs are or if there are additional costs.

What prompted me to write this was what I found on pages 3, 4, 5, and 6 (page 7 is blank): plenty of detailed opportunities to upgrade my membership (remember that I JUST joined), purchase a membership for someone else, and buy merchandise like pins and pendants.

So, what are they saying? "It's my year" to give them my money?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Illness Yields Good Results

It was 6 degrees Fahrenheit out this evening, but I haven't left the house in two days. Feeling a little under the weather, I spent Shabbat curled up with a blanket and a good book, and Sunday I worked.

Worked on AS IN DAYS OF OLD? You ask, slightly hopeful.

Alas, no. Not actual writing. But I did give myself a boost of motivation and energy by launching my new web site:

I still need to finish one page (the one for writers, of course) but otherwise, I'm pleased with it.

Go check it out. Go on. Really. I'll wait.

>>humming to self...<<

So, what did you think?

Not bad for someone who hasn't written HTML code in a couple of years, right?

And okay, I'll get to work on that book thing right away. Especially since I don't have anything more to procrastinate with.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Schlepping Through a Winter Wonderland

I wrote this a few years ago; figured this was a good time to share it. :-)

Sung to the tune of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

Copyright (c) 2001 by Sheyna D. Galyan

Outside the doors, bells are ringing

Fill the kettle, these folks are singing,

I repeat to them all,

I gave at the mall,

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.

Gone away is the parking,

Here to stay are people narc-ing,

They’re loud and they’re rude,

Treat everyone with a ‘tude,

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.

In the street you can get your car towed,

And ignore the snow emergency;

You’ll have to go downtown to get your car back,

And pay them an outrageous parking fee.

Later on, we’ll conspire

To give away what we’ve acquired,

But reality sinks in,

We’ll face the debt that we’re in,

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.

In the front yard, we can build a snowman,

And pretend there’s feeling in our toes,

Our Minnesota winter is a cold one,

The temperature is ten degrees below.

When it snows, there’s work to be done,

Shovel fast, while we still have sun,

But compared to summer’s heat,

I’d still rather be,

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.

(spoken) Why am I wearing five layers?

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.

(spoken) Don’t slip on the ice!

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.