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Category Archives: humor

Failure to Communicate


I recently started a new job at a new company and once again I am the only Jew (observant or otherwise) on the block. Which means I have to (get to?) educate my manager and team about certain aspects of Judaism when they intersect with work.

Most often, this comes up when responding to the question “we’re running out to lunch. You want to come with us?”.

But sometimes I find myself digging into the details more than I would have predicted when I first started this journey. Like when I was invited to my manager’s house for the annual Christmas party.

He knew I kept kosher, and actually went to great lengths to make sure there was SOMETHING I could eat (he asked me to print out pictures of the kosher symbols, and texted me from the store as he was buying things. It was actually one of the kindest things a manager has done.)

So there we were, sitting around the fireplace playing the obligatory office-party-game complete with prizes for the winners. Which happened to be chocolate candies.

I won a round and was handed my candy, which I began checking for a heksher. As I did the comments from the other people served as a reminder that, if Kashrut is difficult to grasp for Jews, it can be downright incomprehensible to others.

THEM: Is it the nuts? My candy bar doesn’t have nuts so you can have mine if you want.
ME: No, I’m looking for the special symbol that would tell me if it’s kosher. Which would be ironic, since it’s a Santa Claus candy bar
THEM: Oh! Well, mine’s in the shape of a snowman. So it’s probably kosher.
ME: (slight pause) Uh, that might not be true.

In retrospect, I probably should have just told them I was on a diet, and I was going to save the candy for my kids.

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VIDEO: Kosher Symbol Blues


While on one level, this is just a cute little ditty, on another it hints at some of the confusing and frustrating moments many of us have when learning to live with the mitzvah of keeping kosher.

Like many human endeavors, our efforts to make things clear have – to the un-initiated – made things even more confusing. does “P” stand for pareve, or for Pesach (Passover)? The answer – like many answers to Jewish questions – begin with the phrase “well, that depends…”

UnKosher: Microsoft Uses Bacon to Poach Employees


Microsoft is trying to steal good programmers away from Amazon and Google.
No surprising news there.

By tempting them with bacon.
Whaaa fuuuh huhhh?!?!

I am not making this up. I couldn’t. I’m not that creative.

But according to this article on Gizmodo, that is exactly what is happening.

Microsoft wanted to double its Kinect for Windows team from 35 to 70. And with good engineers typically already working for other companies, the bacon cart is a great ploy for Microsoft to grab their attention and tell them to “Wake up and Smell the Future”. The food cart is serving free bacon today at Amazon headquarters in South Lake Union, Seattle and has plans to move over to Fremont on Tuesday to be near Adobe and Google.

I wonder if the ADL is going to get involved, because in my mind the implication is either that no observant Jewish programmer is any good; or they’re good, but Microsoft (like a certain cantina at the Mos Eisley Spaceport) doesn’t serve their kind.


[Edit] In my haste to get this posted, I overlooked a point my Rabbi just made: They are saying the same thing about traditional Muslims and Hindus. Not to mention the rock solid programmers who are vegetarian or vegan.

Thanksgiving Seder


NOTE: This post was too fun NOT to share, both here and on The Edible Torah

image courtesy of JoyOfKosher.com

One of the things I’ve marveled at is how, once you start making Shabbat part of your weekly routine, previously “big” holiday meals start to feel a bit empty

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.

Lunch Meat Diet


My wife recently gifted me with a five-pound bar of chocolate. I expressed my appreciation by enthusiastically consuming it at a frightening rate.

Because, you know, who needs willpower right? Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s all giggles and teasing and fun and games until your pants don’t fit. Just as I was about to throw in the wardrobe, I stumbled upon a fantastic solution. So fantastic, that I’ve dropped 3 pounds this week and managed to avoid all junk food snacking for days. What’s my secret?

Meat.

I’ve written before about how the kosher laws around eating meat – and the time to wait after eating meat before you can eat dairy again – have been a subject of much discussion here at GoingKosher Headquarters. In fact, a great deal of planning goes into what we’re going to eat and when we’re going to eat it, just to avoid chewing ourselves into a corner from whence no ice cream can be scooped.

Why all the planning? For those who are coming to this late, here’s the basic facts about keeping kosher with regard to meat and milk:

  1. You can’t eat something that has meat in it together with something that has milk in it
  2. You can’t have them on the same plate
  3. You have to wait between eating one type of meal and another
  4. from milk to meat, you have to wait a short time (some say seconds, others say 20 minutes)
  5. from meat to milk, you have to wait some number of hours. In our case, we wait. Six. Long. Hours.

Normally, we simple eat meat meals – like turkey sandwiches – on Thursdays, when the boys get a meat meal at school, and after school have to bounce off the bus, across the dinner table, and off to cub scouts in short order. Halfway into my sandwich I realized that no milk chocolate bars would be in my immediate future. And by “immediate” I mean that whole six hours thing. I’d have to stay up well past my bedtime just for a snack I didn’t need. Problem solved. At least on those few days we eat meat for dinner.

Through a series of weird events, we’ve been having meat meals at odd times during the week (and day). That six-hour timer kicked in and like magic, half of the contents of our fridge and pantry became off limits to the wild roaming snack-a-beast dwelling in my mind.

“Off limits?” you may be asking. “Like no cheating? Isn’t snacking the epitome of cheating in the first place? What makes this (ie: being fleishig) so much more adhear-able than being on a diet in the first place?”

God.

God didn’t tell me to diet.

(side note: Most of the commandments point to a full enjoyment of each holiday (including Shabbat). This does not jibe well with a desire to say “Oh, I’m going to skip dessert or I’ll regret it later.” Not that “enjoyment” is the same as “eat yourself into a food coma”. But many interpretations are that you should eat more than you normally do during the week. Which was probably great back in the days when people had one or maybe two meals a day and those were pretty sparse. But in America, in these days of plenty, obesity lies just one more “Oneg Shabbat” away if you don’t have some kind of discipline.)

Getting back to God. God didn’t tell me to diet so I treat dieting like most of the other rules in my life – guidelines meant to be bent as the situation dictates.

But Kashrut is a different story. Kashrut came from The Source of All Things. Kashrut is a mitzvah – an obligatory commandment that, if you buy into the whole “God is real and is all-powerful and really does care what I do” scenario, is part of the deal. So yes, I cheat on my diet and no, I don’t cheat on kashrut. You don’t have to agree with it, but it works for me.

While it would make a lousy commercial (and I’m not – yet – svelte enough to be on the short list of spokesmodels anyway), I’m here to tell you that whenever I get those sudden cravings for junk, I just pop a slice of (kosher, of course) bologna in my mouth and that craving just fades away.

Brit Challah


We are moving into a new house. While I might blog more about that later, I did want to comment that it makes for some interesting moments.

The kitchen in our new house is not quite up to the level that my wife prefers. While we have plans down the road to remedy that, for now we have to make do.

Which is what prompted a momentary heart to heart between my wife and our newly acquired (yet somewhat aged) oven.

“Let’s get this straight,” she was recently heard to whisper. “I know you’ve seen better days and you are probably tired. I’m not going to make you work too hard and I’ll find a nice retirement spot for you soon enough. But for right now, you and me need to work together to feed this family.”

“And you had better make good challah.”

For everyone’s sake, I hope the oven has the good sense to toe the line.

Sweet Potato Pie… I mean latkes


(originally posted on The EdibleTorah)

The best Jewish food recipe I ever found came to me not at a friends house, or at a cooking seminar, or while leafing through old cookbooks at my Bubbe’s house (which is where all my friends get them). No, I got my best recipe when I was covered in dust and spackle at 10:00 at night, halfway through a project to finish my basement. Read the rest of this entry