Articles From September 2015

All You Need is a Little Mazel

mazel tov

The word mazel is a fabulous word that has been used vehr vais (who knows) how long! Mazel means luck, or good fortune – and mazel tov means good luck or, more commonly, congratulations.

Interestingly, mazel is not just for Jews any more. It has become a universal expression. But that must have happened in recent times, because when someone said “mazel tov” in the presence of the late Jackie Kennedy (wife of the late President Kennedy), her response was a shrug of the shoulders. If she had spoken Yiddish, she would have uttered, “Voss meint ess – what does that mean?” But the matter never got that far, so to speak.

Read More:All You Need is a Little Mazel

Shalom Bayis

fancy dinner

My son wants to have a fancy bar mitzva in a restaurant. He wants a band, a photographer, and all the trimmings. We are simple people, and never thought it was necessary to spend so much money on an affair in order for it to be simchadik. There are two reasons: Hashkafically (religiously), we don’t believe in frivolous spending. We also try to be financially responsible and not spend beyond our means. Considering the many expenses coming up as our family grows older, we don’t want to blow it on this one event or create a precedent for the other children. How important is it to give our child what he wants? Should we stand up for our beliefs or give in to him so that he will feel equal to his classmates? Some of his classmates have had big affairs and some have had more simple affairs in their homes. My child is very competitive and always wants to have the best. Where do we draw the line?

Plain Jane Mom

Read More:Shalom Bayis

Go West Young Man How to Plan a Great Vacation

grand canyon

With the summer coming to a close, and my recent trip out West fresh in my mind, I thought now would be a good time to do a how-to article, so you can start planning for next summer. In addition to building anticipation, early planning is important for accumulating credit card miles. Please skip that winter break in Florida and save your miles for a fantastic jaunt to the American West.

Where Are You Going?

The first and most obvious thing to do when deciding on a trip is to pick the destination. As I have written in the past, I am a huge fan of our national parks. Folks, our Creator has given us a beautiful world. To me, it seems almost like a religious obligation to see as much of it as we can.

Read More:Go West Young Man How to Plan a Great Vacation

Working Toward a Good Retirement

old people

When you are in the thick of life – raising small children, going to a job, and trying to fit a week’s worth of tasks into each day – you feel like the whirlwind will never end. But as a person whose children are mostly out of the house, I am beginning to realize that it is inevitable for all of us, if we are fortunate enough, to enter a new phase of life that is very different from that previous “era.” It is called retirement.

Retirement, say the experts, is more than simply the cessation of a career or a job. Rather, it is a distinct stage with its own joys and problems. Many things change. Working people have a routine and purpose to their daily activities. Whether plumber, scientist, teacher or social worker, they wake up in the morning and know what they will be doing that day. When they retire, they no longer have the structure of a job. They may also miss the socialization with the people at work, the satisfaction of a job well done, and the regular paycheck.

Read More:Working Toward a Good Retirement

Creating a New Reality

big flight of stairs

More than 20 years ago, I made a resolution that I would try to walk up steps whenever possible, rather than taking the elevator. At that time, I worked on the sixth floor. I told my daughter, “Elevators don’t exist for me.” I have continued this practice. I now work on the fifth floor at GBMC, and have four flights to climb. GBMC, like Yerushalaim, lehavdil, has hills, and in my building, the main entrance is on the third floor, but I park on the side and enter the building from the first floor. My practice is to walk up and down the steps, unless I am carrying something heavy (over and above my laptop and my weighty pocketbook, which also needs a diet!) or there is a social reason – I ’m talking with someone, etc. – to take the elevator. (See below for a technique for walking steps without getting short of breath.)

Read More:Creating a New Reality

The Punishment Fits the Crime


So, I have this friend who holds a position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. It came as no surprise to any of her friends or family that she rose to the level of Chief Prosecutor in the Narcotics division. After all, she graduated from Harvard Law with the intention of making the world a safer place. So far she has not disappointed. As her life continued along, she met her husband, and they started a lovely family. After a few years she hit a bump in the road (I suspect there were a few before that), and whom did she call for advice? Me.

Imagine my surprise when, one afternoon, I got a call from her while she was at work. She was calling to ask me for help. I couldn’t imagine what a person in her position would need from me. After all, she spends her mornings supervising a staff of 20 other lawyers and then dedicates her afternoons to putting criminals behind bars. I soon found out. After a few minutes of uncharacteristic hemming and hawing, she finally blurted out, “Okay, how do I get my three-year-old to pick up her toys?” Before I could recover, she proceeded to tell me that she had tried almost every tactic, including charging her daughter with destruction of property (her husband made her to drop the charges), but so far nothing had worked.

Read More:The Punishment Fits the Crime

Appealing Appetizers for Your Yom Tov Table

fruit salad

Ever wonder where the concept of having mini-servings of food before the main course originated from? It was actually those ancient Romans who first introduced the idea of a set order to meals. They also promulgated the idea of serving small portions of food at the beginning of a meal to stimulate the appetite and aid in digestion. According to The World of Jewish Cooking, by Gil Marks, Ashkenazic Jews later followed the Roman-German practice of serving a first course, called a forspice (Yiddish for “before food”) to start the meal.

Master herbalist, K.P. Singh, writing on explains more about the health connection to appetizers: “Before sitting down to the main courses, start with an appetizer that gets the juices flowing. Small portions of pungent, bitter, and sour tastes especially stimulate digestive juices.”

Read More:Appealing Appetizers for Your Yom Tov Table

Ask the Shadchan


To the Shachan:

I have been on a few dates with a boy who is nice but – at this point, anyway – nothing special. We get along very well, and the conversation flows nicely. Although his looks as well as everything else about him are average, I would be willing to keep dating him, as I feel he could grow on me over time. The only thing is that I just got a “yes” from another boy, who is a real “catch.” Everyone says he is a top boy with great middos. He is also personable, wealthy, and very good looking. He is the type of boy you wait a long time to get a date with. I’ve been single for a while and have been hoping for someone like him to come along. I feel I won’t be able to concentrate on the current boy as long as this new boy is in the picture. I am ready to say no to the boy I am dating, because the other one sounds much better. My sister says I am not that young, and dates don’t come as often as I would like. She is strongly urging me to give the current boy a chance and tell the second boy I am busy. We decided to write to you to see what I should do.

Read More:Ask the Shadchan

Baltimore’s Warmth Shines Through on Khal Chassidim’s Kollel L’Horo’ah


Mrs. Chava Temeral Ostreicher was already impressed with our community when I spoke to her, only five days after her move from Monsey, New York. She and her husband, a native of Williamsburg (in Brooklyn), are just one of the 21 pioneering chasidishe couples who will be living in town by Cheshvan, coming here to join Baltimore’s newest kollel: Khal Chassidim’s Kollel L’Horo’ah.

“I’m so amazed,” shared Mrs. Ostreicher, a mother of two, who was able to keep the school curriculum job she had in Monsey and work from home. “It’s such a nice community, and people here are so nice and so accepting. I love the way everyone lives for themselves, not because their neighbor or their friend does it. Everything they do is with purpose, not like some other places. You don’t feel peer pressure here. There are such special people. Everyone is so helpful, so kind, and so accepting. It is such a warm community and that’s what makes the adjustment much easier.”

Read More:Baltimore’s Warmth Shines Through on Khal Chassidim’s Kollel L’Horo’ah