Pekudei (Exodus 38:21 – 40:38)

I was wearing a comfy flannel nightgown. As I recall, it was blue, with stripes, a bit of lace, and lots of little flowers. I was in my college dorm, in the hallway. As I headed toward the communal bathroom, I saw another girl wearing the same nightgown.  We laughed, recognizing the trope of two women being mortified at wearing the same outfit at an event.  When I emerged a few minutes later, I saw she had changed into a different nightgown.

The irony of clothing.  We want both to stand out and to blend in, but not stand out nor blend in too much. 

Once, at work, I was told I had been picked to be in a focus group meeting with the CEO.  After my initial reaction (“omigodomigodomigod!”), my first thought was, “What shall I wear?”  It was summer, too warm for my suits.  I settled on a two-piece, silk-like, jacketless outfit.  At the meeting, I sat at the far end of the table from the CEO.  There was another employee not far away, an Asian woman wearing a similar outfit.  During the discussion, it became clear that the CEO had trouble telling us apart, even though we addressed completely different subjects.

Clothing has long been a powerful tool of identity.  That’s why Joseph’s brothers were upset at his coat; it designated him as future leader of the family. That’s why there were sumptuary laws in the Middle Ages (e.g., the English Sumptuary Law of 1363) that dictated what you were allowed to wear based on your social class.  

In this week’s Torah portion, the priestly vestments we read about a few weeks ago are made, and their design goes far beyond simple identity.  According to Dr. Baruch J. Schwartz, in “The ‘Garments’ of the High Priest: Anthropomorphism in the Worship of God,” the elements of the High Priest’s outfit are much more like ritual objects than parts of a garment.  For example, the breastplate includes 12 gemstones, each carved with the name of one of the 12 tribes, showing explicitly that the High Priest represents the entire people.

The rest of the articles for the Tabernacle are made as well, under the direction of Bezalel and Oholiab. There is a detailed accounting of all the silver, gold, and copper collected and used. The directions Moses received on Sinai are followed to the letter, emphasized both by the detailed repetition of the text from Tetzaveh and the recitation of the phrase, “as the Lord commanded Moses” ca. 19 times.  Everything is brought to Moses, and he assembles the Tabernacle and its contents on the first day of Nisan, just short of a year after the Exodus from Egypt.  Instructions are given are for the priests’ upcoming ordination.  A cloud covers the Tabernacle and will continue to do so by day, as will a fire by night (glowing cloud?).  The cloud’s movement is a sign that it is time for the people to decamp and continue their journey.

So ends the book of Exodus. The Israelites are now ready to proceed onward to the Promised Land.  Or are they?

Next week: Leviticus.

Shabbat shalom,


Accounting Jokes

  • Did you hear about the cannibal CPA? She charges an arm and a leg.
  • What do you call an accountant who is seen talking to someone? Popular
  • An accountant is having a hard time sleeping and goes to see his doctor. “Doctor, I just can’t get to sleep at night.” “Have you tried counting sheep?” “That’s the problem – I make a mistake and then spend three hours trying to find it.”
  • Budget: An orderly system for living beyond your means.
  • What did the accountant say when he got a blank check? My deductions have at last caught up with the salary.


The Tailor
Tailor: Problem?

Customer: Frayed sew.
Tailor: Sew it seems!

An ancient Greek walks into his tailor’s shop with a pair of torn pants
“Euripides?” says the tailor.

“Yeah, Eumenides?” replies the man.

Why did the FDA close down the convent’s tailor shop?
Because it was found to be habit forming.

It was just another day in the jungle, and the little tailor store was open as usual.
*ting a-ling-ting* The door jingles open and in walks a flea, a spider and a rat.  They all ask to be measured up and fitted for suits. 

“Step this way”, says the tailor and begins measuring up the flea with his tiny teeny tape measure. “You’re pretty fat for a flea”, he says, as he finishes his measurements.  The flea steps back, slightly disheartened, and the tailor starts measuring the spider. 

“Wow, your legs are laughably short for a spider”. He says, as he finishes sizing him up. The spider steps aside unhappily, and he measures up the rat. 
“Your teeth are disgustingly yellow”, he tells him as he finishes up the job.

Disgruntled, the three of them walk out of the store, empty handed. 

A few months pass and the amount of small jungle creatures coming to the store gets smaller by the day. 
“I just don’t understand”, the tailor says to his shop assistant, “it seems I am no good at this anymore”.

The shop assistant replies, “Well, maybe you need to quit critter sizing”.


tph ikea furniture kit cropped


DIY Help From Your Cat 

tph DIY cat help


Quotes about Clothing

  • The finest clothing made is a person’s own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this. Mark Twain
  • I grew up in the age of polyester. When I got to touch real silk, cotton and velvet, the feel of nonsynthetic fabrics blew me away. I know it’s important how clothing looks, but it’s equally important how it feels on your skin. Colleen Atwood
  • Be in the habit of experimenting with your clothing so that you don’t get stuck for life with a self-image developed over the course of high school. Marilyn vos Savant
  • The language of clothing is high symbolism and we all, in moments where we need to know this, realize it. Judith Martin
  • I am not really interested in clothing as a conceptual art form. Issey Miyake


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Vayak’hel (Exodus 35:1 – 38:20), Shabbat Shekalim

Ah, the wonders of the Hebrew calendar. When we have a leap year, like now, we don’t fool around; we add a whole month. So instead of reading a double portion, Vayak’hel-Pekudei (214 verses), we only need to read Vayak’hel (122 verses). Plus 6 verses from a second scroll for Shabbat Shekalim.  Plus 6 verses from a second scroll for Shabbat Shekalim.  Shabbat Shekalim is the first of four shabbatot leading up to Passover (Pesach), on which we read an extra portion from a second scroll.  In this case, it’s Exodus 30:11-16, about the flat tax of a half-shekel paid for the work of the Tabernacle.  And we just read it last week, so if it looks like a rerun, it is.  There’s also a special haftarah, II Kings 12:1-17 for Ashkenazim (Sephardim and Chabad Chassidim start at II Kings 11:17), about the half-shekel collection for the Temple under the reign of Jehoash.

The main Torah portion is the execution of the design for building and furnishing the Tabernacle (mishkan). First, though, the people are commanded yet again to observe the Sabbath.  Because this command comes directly before the building of the Tabernacle, the rabbis use the types of work employed for that to define what activities are forbidden on the Sabbath.

Moses heard the Tabernacle plans in great (sometimes overwhelming) detail while communing with the Lord on Mount Sinai, as we read 3 weeks ago.  This week, therefore, there’s a lot of repetition concerning materials used, measurements, etc.  What is added is the emotional involvement of the people.  They donate silver, gold, copper, dyed wool, fine linen, goats’ hair. skins, spices, oil, and gemstones so generously that Moses actually has to tell them to stop.  They also generously donate time and skills.  There’s certainly a lot to do in addition to the measuring and building construction: metal working, carpentry, spinning, weaving, sewing, embroidery, carving and setting gemstones, preparing the sacred oil and incense.  The people probably experience both intense joy and anxiety.  After all, they have survived the golden calf incident and are still bound for the Promised Land, but they escaped total annihilation by the skin of their teeth.  Now they can demonstrate that they really can do the right thing.

Here are some memories I related in 2014: “I’m not into interior decorating for its own sake (OK, stop laughing out there!).  Art work I got several years ago has yet to be hung.  Whether they are beautiful or not, I am most affected by furnishings that evoke memories. I remember not my father’s easy chair per se, but snuggling next to him in it as a child, while we watched ‘Rawhide’ or ‘Bilko’.  I remember Mama’s silverware because I counted it after dinner every Shabbos (checking for loss, not theft!), one of my admittedly too-few chores.  The wooden rocking chair upstairs is the one in which I nursed my children, that my mother used for us, and that her mother used for her and her brothers.  And when I look at the silver Chanukah menorah that my mother gave us for our 25th anniversary, I remember her saying that she wanted it to be something ‘to remember her by.’  As if we could ever forget!”

Next week, we finish the Tabernacle, the priests’ vestments, and the book of Exodus.

Shabbat shalom,


A little boy in church for the first time watched as the ushers passed around the offering plates. When they came near his pew, the boy said loudly, “Don’t pay for me, Daddy, I’m under five.”

* * * * *

Church Bulletin Bloopers

Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.

The Associate Pastor unveiled the church’s new fundraising campaign slogan last Sunday: “I Upped My Pledge–Up Yours”

Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

* * * * *

The Sunday School teacher was just finishing a lesson on honesty. “Do you know where children go if they don’t put their money in the collection plate?” the teacher asked.

“Yes ma’am,” a boy blurted out. “They go to the movies.”


tph interior decorating


Construction Quotes

It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time. David Allan Coe

The road to success is always under construction. Lily Tomlin (also Arnold Palmer)

When I say artist I mean the man who is building things – creating molding the earth – whether it be the plains of the west – or the iron ore of Penn. It’s all a big game of construction – some with a brush – some with a shovel – some choose a pen. Jackson Pollock

Reinforced concrete buildings are by nature skeletal buildings. No noodles nor armoured turrets. A construction of girders that carry the weight, and walls that carry no weight. That is to say, buildings consisting of skin and bones. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

tph flat tax


Best Sewing & Knitting Jokes

  • My friend composes songs about sewing machines. He’s a Singer-songwriter.
  • My wife’s sewing machine isn’t working properly. Not sure what’s wrong with it though, it just seams a little off.
  • Let me sew and no one gets hurt.
  • Sewing is cheaper than therapy.
  • Of course I talk to myself when I sew. Sometimes I need expert advice.
  • I only quilt on days that end in “y”.
  • Blessed are the children of quilters. They shall inherit the quilts.
  • I’m only hugging you to see if that fabric is wool or polyester.
  • Sewing doesn’t solve all the problems in the world. Sometimes you need to quilt as well.
  • I’ve got scraps. They’re multiplying.






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Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11 – 34:35)

A poll tax, sacred incense and oil, a calf made of gold, smashed tablets, punishment, new tablets, Moses and the Lord, and starting afresh. 

That’s an outline of this week’s Torah portion.  A few more details:

The half-shekel head tax (aka poll tax) was a means of counting the people, paying for communal offerings, and reinforcing the idea that all are equally responsible for supporting the community.  Next are the final details for the establishment of the Tabernacle, namely, a copper washbasin for the priests, recipes for sacred anointing oil and sacred incense.  The Lord even designates the lead artisans, Bezalel and Oholiab.  Once more, there is a divine reminder of the importance of observing the Sabbath.  And the Lord finally gives Moses the two engraved tablets.

Meanwhile, down below, someone has apparently miscounted the days and the people think Moses is late.  They demand of Aaron that he make “gods that will go before” them.  Apparently playing for time, Aaron asks for their gold jewelry and makes a statue of a calf from it.  The people proclaim this as the god that took them out of Egypt (32:4) and start reveling. But Aaron proclaims a festival for the Lord on the morrow.

The Lord, of course, sees what’s going on and decides to annihilate the apostate Israelites but reconsiders when Moses notes the consequences, especially very bad PR among the other nations. 

Moses then sees for himself what’s going on, shatters the tablets, and grinds the golden calf into dust which he strews over water and makes the people drink (like a parent washing a kid’s mouth out with soap).  Aaron doesn’t explicitly tell Moses he made the calf out of fear for his life, just that the people were “disposed toward evil.  Then, in an excuse so lame Moses doesn’t bother to answer, Aaron claims he threw the gold into the fire “and this calf emerged” (32:24). What follows is a massacre of 3000 men by the Levites who had joined Moses, a plague, and a stern warning to the properly downcast people. 

Moses now carves the second set of tablets on the mountain. After trying to mend the relationship between God and the people, he wants to deepen his own relationship with God, asking “Show me now your glory.” (33:18-23). But he gets to see only God’s back while hearing a proclamation of what we call the Thirteen Attributes (34:6-7).  God reseals the covenant with Moses and Israel, restating a few of the core laws (idolatry, the Sabbath, the harvest festivals, dedication of the firstborn).  Moses returns to the people with his face glowing, literally, so that he has to wear a mask to not freak out the people.

This is a puzzling portion.  First, it’s full of action and disobedience and punishment.  Yet it is sandwiched between portions idyllically describing plans for a tabernacle and beautiful furnishings and priestly ordination and vestments and later portions describing the happy execution of those plans.  I have thought of the surrounding portions as a cushion, to delay and then blunt the painful events in Ki Tisa.  Among Biblical literature scholars, the inclusion of the golden calf story in the middle presents the story of the Tabernacle and the priests as creation (Ex. 25-31), fall (Ex. 32-34), and restoration (Ex. 34-40), echoing similar themes elsewhere in the Torah (James W. Watts, “Aaron and the Golden Calf in the Rhetoric of the Pentateuch,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 130(3), Fall 2011, pp. 417-430).

A bigger question for me is, why is Aaron treated so leniently?  Yes, he loses two sons later, but that’s for their sins, not his. And he doesn’t get to enter the Promised Land, but that doesn’t appear to be a punishment specifically for making the golden calf.  He isn’t even stricken with tzara’at when Miriam is, after they both slander Moses. 

One idea is that Aaron’s actions are involuntary (Watts, p. 424).  Rashi wrote, “As soon as he (Aaron) had thrown it (the gold) into the fire in a melting pot the magicians amongst the mixed multitude who had come up with them from Egypt came and made it (the golden calf) by their magic art.”

Or, maybe the devil made him do it.  Also Rashi, “וירא אהרן AND WHEN AARON SAW that there was the breath of life in it — as it is said with reference to the golden calf, (Psalms 106:20) “[They changed their glory] into a similitude of an ox that ate grass” — and he realized that Satan’s work had succeeded and that he had no argument (lit., mouth) to put them (the people) entirely off.” 

Or maybe the editors of this text needed to soft-pedal Aaron’s misbehavior to be able to hold him up as the model High Priest.

Next week, the Israelites get to work.

Shabbat shalom,


The sacred incense was not to be made for home use and enjoyment (30:37-8). I remember more frivolous incense from the ‘60’s, when you got it at a head shop (where I also got cigarette papers to clean the pads of my flute keys).  Much later, I tried lavender incense as a palliative for migraines, with inconclusive results. Now incense just makes me cough.  

For incense-loving do-it-yourselfers, there are recipes on the web and ingredients for sale.  See, for example, 70 Best Incense recipes imagesThere’s also a lot of how-to information at

Ingredients for Biblical-type incense are available at You can also buy ingredients for the anointing oil .   IGP


Which tax is the fairest?

At a business conference in Montpelier, Vermont, the state tax commissioner asked the audience which sort of taxation they found fairest.

There was a pause, and then a white-haired man in the back raised his hand. ‘The poll tax,’ he said.

‘But the poll tax was repealed,’ replied the commissioner.

‘I know,’ declared the man, ‘that’s what I like about it.’


tph 2 more commandments


tph aaron hiding calf


(10 of) The 60 Most Ridiculous Excuses People Actually Used to Get Out of Work

Brandon Specktor

“Grandma tried to poison me. Again.”

An employee got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store and couldn’t get out.

An employee’s wife found out he was cheating, and he had to spend the day retrieving his belongings from the dumpster.

The employee said that he couldn’t come to work because his fortune-teller had asked him not to step out of the house or he would suffer a brain hemorrhage.

An employee couldn’t come to work because she accidentally got on a plane.

An employee had a “lucky night” and didn’t know where he was in the morning.

An employee said that someone glued her doors and windows shut so she couldn’t leave the house to come to work.

An employee said bats got in her hair.

An employee woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it. [This may be my favorite. IGP]

An employee forgot he had been hired for the job. [Or maybe this one. IGP]


tph moses duct tapes tablets

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Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20 – 30:10)

It’s mid-February and gray. Unsettled.  I have not yet watched my “it’s mid-February and gray” movie, Enchanted April (1991).  Classes and rehearsals have re-started, sort of, interrupted by cold and wet precipitation. So, you’re getting comments from 2012 this week. My synagogue has begun holding services in the shared space, and the Torah portion happens to be my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah portion, which she read from in the synagogue with which we are sharing space.

Tetzaveh includes instructions for Moses (the “you” – his name isn’t mentioned) concerning the menorah; the duties, vestments, and ordination procedures for the priests; and the altar for burning incense.  Again, these are just the instructions; we’ll read about their being carried out in a few weeks.

The garments for the priests (Aaron’s sons) include fringed linen tunics, linen headdresses (turbans), embroidered sashes, and, for modesty and decorum, linen breeches.   As High Priest, Aaron has additional vestments: a breastplate, an ephod, and a robe.  The breastplate is to include 12 gemstones representing the 12 tribes, with the name of each tribe carved on a gemstone.  Here is a definition of “ephod” I included here last year (2011) “A definition of ephod: ‘n. A part of the sacerdotal habit among Jews, being a covering for the back and breast, held together on the shoulders by two clasps or brooches of onyx stones set in gold, and fastened by a girdle of the same stuff as the ephod. The ephod for the priests was of plain linen; that for the High Priest was richly embroidered in colors. The breastplate of the High Priest was worn upon the ephod in front.’ Source: ,” which also has a link to lots of pictures related to the vestments.  The robe is to be blue and have on its hem alternating golden bells and “pomegranates” (pom-poms) of blue, purple, and crimson yarn. The bells were my daughter’s favorite part of the uniform.

tph vestments

[Source for the following paragraph’s content: A Daily Dose of Torah, Y. A. Weiss general editor] Why does the High Priest have such elaborate garments, aside from simply wowing those who look at him?  And they had to fit perfectly; according to the Gemara, a priest’s sacrificial service could be invalidated if his clothes were too long or short (Zevachim 35a).  According to Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah, section 99), the vestments constantly remind the priest of his mission and contribute to the aura of holiness in the Tabernacle. The Maharal of Prague (apparently one of my ancestors) further noted that the Hebrew words for “heavy” and “honor” have the same root.  Presumably, the substance (weightiness) of the vestments symbolized the degree of honor accorded the priest.

I’m part of a Facebook group set up for my high school class.  A recent discussion concerned when we were first allowed to were slacks (not jeans) to school. It was the middle of junior year.  By graduation, slacks had become the new “normal” to the extent that it was actually a shock to see everyone in dresses (white dresses, not cap and gown).  When I was a child, on Fridays, I wore a dress to school, play clothes afterwards, and a slightly dressier dress for services.  The particular clothes worn clearly marked off segments of time.  Nowadays, casual clothing (even pajama bottoms instead of slacks) appears to be the rule, or the desire, everywhere and all the time.  This can be economical, but it also reinforces the regrettable tendency for time and corresponding identities to blur.  In my opinion, special times and places, like Shabbat synagogue services, deserve special clothing.

Shabbat shalom,


Clergy can dress down after church votes to let them ditch vestments (excerpts)

Olivia Rudgard, religious affairs correspondent  10 JULY 2017 • 5:44PM

Clergy have been given the go-ahead to ditch their robes and dress down for services following a vote by the Church of England’s General Synod.

Priests should be allowed flexibility to wear what they want to make the church more accessible and relevant to the modern world, members said. This means that clergy are now officially allowed to lead services in casual clothing such as jeans and trainers (British for ‘sneakers’).

The changes would help the church by “reflecting the way society has gone in the way of informality”, said Leyland vicar Alistair McHaffie.  He also pointed out that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had led the charge by wearing unorthodox footwear to the York-based synod.

Mr McHaffie said: “Years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury would wear sensible black shoes at General Synod – and I’ve noticed this weekend our Archbishop is wearing a pair of blue trainers.” However the Archbishop protested that they were in fact “walking shoes”.

During a debate on the motion members said they had been concerned that the new freedoms could mean clergy were pressured into “foolishness”…But clauses which specified that clothing must be “suitable for a minister of the Church of England ministering divine service” had allayed concerns.


tph scratching a diamond


Two altar boys were arrested for putting weed in the censer-burner
(High Church)

 junio 11, 2018 Fabiola ARRESTEDmarijuanaweed

(This looks like a machine translation from Spanish, but it’s reasonably intelligible.)

What started as a joke ended with the future of two altar boys from Spain. They were detained overnight, after having surprised them putting weed in the censer-burner of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The censer-burner is used the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela to celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. Several assistants stated that in this occasion the holy precinct was suddenly covered in an odd smell “it did not smell as always, it was a familiar smell but I could not relate it to anything, but in my son’s bedroom sometimes smell like that”.

Following the Mass, these altar boys were arrested by the police after confirming that the strange smell was correspond to marijuana, “it was a joke, the idea came during the Christmas Eve mass, we bought no more than half a kilo of weed and we drop it inside the censer-burner, we are sure that people has left of the Cathedral happier more than ever”. Finally, they were freed without charge but they will not be able to discharge their functions as altar boys any more.


Did you know babies are nauseated by the smell of a clean shirt? Jeff Foxworthy

Clothes make the man; naked people have little or no influence on society.  Mark Twain

You know you’re getting old when kids start to dress like you used to.  David Brenner

I base most of my fashion sense on whether or not it itches.  Gilda Radner

You’d be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap!  Dolly Parton


Emor: Eternal Light (excerpt)

When non-Jewish groups come to visit our synagogue, they are usually quite impressed with the Ner Tamid (eternal light). They imagine a kind of worldwide Olympic torch relay, connecting Jewish synagogues everywhere. If one torch were to fail, all of Judaism would be threatened. Someone always asks anxiously, “What do you do if it goes out?’

And I always say, “We replace the bulb.”

And then everyone laughs with relief. Because holding in your hands the spiritual health of 13 million people would be a very big responsibility.


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Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

My synagogue just sold its building:

tph DE-Wilmington-AKSE-a-300x199

I try not to get attached to buildings, even ones that hold very personal memories.  They always change, so they don’t match my memories anyway.  And some are totally “repurposed.”  The hospital where my father worked and I was born is now a Korean Presbyterian church. My first synagogue is a senior center. My second, where I went to Hebrew school after the first’s closed, is a Baptist church. Even my childhood home is a church, albeit a very small one, the Church of the Living God Healing and Miracle Center.  But the groups that occupied these buildings survive. The hospital relocated, my first synagogue’s congregation merged with another, my second relocated, and my family moved.  Similarly, my current synagogue’s building has been sold, but the congregation is still alive, renting space from a nearby synagogue.

We had a farewell ceremony for the building on February 3. Very fittingly, this week’s Torah reading, Terumah, focuses on the design of another congregational building, the Tabernacle (mishkan) with all its accoutrements – curtains, Ark, table, menorah, etc.- and courtyard and altar.  The design is very specific; you can buy reasonably-priced Tabernacle model kits, even a 3D puzzle, online.  This is not a little wooden shack.  The materials include silver, gold, copper, dyed wool, fine linen, goats’ hair. skins, spices, oil, and gemstones, all donated gifts from the people.  The details of the design are presented lovingly, with the excitement of anyone building a dream house.

But why have a Tabernacle at all, a corporeal house for an incorporeal God?  According to Martin Buber, building a Tabernacle enables the people to connect with God by carrying out, in a small way, their own act of Creation.  Buber identified seven such parallels (Nehama Leibowitz, New Studies in Shemot, vol. 2, pp. 480-1):

tph terumah v. creation

The key reason for the Tabernacle is found in verse 25:8:

וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃

And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.

The Tabernacle is a focal point for ritual, but more importantly, it will enable the people to experience a closeness, an intimacy with God in a beautiful, sheltered place.  But God also benefits from “dwelling among” the people and getting to know and understand them.  The concept of “dwelling among them” goes beyond the ancient Tabernacle to this day. As Rabbi Edward Feinstein wrote about 25:8 (sorry, I lost the 2017 link), “We are to build a place for God to dwell in our world, in our lives. Not on high. But down here in the rhythms of daily experience God wishes to dwell.”  For us of Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth Congregation, those rhythms of daily experience will continue, no matter what building we dwell in.

Shabbat shalom,


Jokes About Buildings and Builders

Did you hear the joke about the roof?
Never mind, it’s over your head!

Did you hear they’re changing the flooring in daycare centers?
They’re calling it infant-tile!

What nails do carpenters hate hammering?

Why can’t your nose be 12 inches long?
Because then it would be a foot!

What area of a room is the warmest?
The corner – it’s always about 90 degrees!



November 12, 2010

If Ikea Made Instructions for Everything

tph Ikea house

———————- jpg

tph design process


Nonprofit jokes that are bad — for good (selections)

by George Weiner

The nonprofit sector tackles an exponential amount of serious issues facing our world and society, all for the greater good. In that spirit, we’ve created this (frankly terrible) list of bad jokes about nonprofits and fundraising to make you smile, to use at your next board meeting, or to populate your Twitter feed. #sorrynotsorry

Nonprofit jokes: Matching gifts

1.Why did Duracell donate batteries for their matching gift program?
They were free of charge.

3.Why did the matching gift program at the sushi restaurant fail?
It was fishy.

5.Why did the beaver company’s matching gift test succeed?
It was the best dam program.

Nonprofit jokes: Corporate donors

6.Why did Coca Cola’s recycling plant stop its giving program?
It was soda-pressing.

Nonprofit jokes: Event planning

9.How do you organize a fundraiser for the Earth?
You plan-et.

Nonprofit jokes: Donor relations

19.Why did the clown donate his salary?
It was a nice jester.

20.What did the beekeeper say to the fundraising ask?


Donate to Charity

I won $3 million on the lottery this weekend so I decided to donate a quarter of it to charity. Now I have $2,999,999.75.


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Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:8)

This past week, I saw my second Ruth Bader Ginsburg movie, the first being the documentary “RBG.” I wondered whether “On the Basis of Sex” would be redundant or overly Hollywood-ized.  It wasn’t.  Besides being awed again at her ability and stamina, I was struck by the case that was at the movie’s core, Moritz v Internal Revenue Service, her first case involving sex discrimination. 

Charles Moritz was a bachelor who paid a caregiver to look after his elderly mother, a dependent, who lived with him, when he traveled on business, which was often.  He was denied a tax deduction for that expense.  Had he been a never-married woman in the same situation, it would have been allowed. In 1972, over a year after argument, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Moritz, noting that the “invidious discrimination based solely on sex” violated the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. Meanwhile, in 1971, Reed v. Reed, a case which built on Ginsburg’s arguments, marked the first time the Supreme Court struck down a law on the grounds of sex discrimination, finding that it violated the equal protection guarantee of the 14th Amendment.

What struck me in particular as I sat in the theater was that this was all going on while I was in college.  I remember the Help Wanted ads that were explicitly divided into male and female jobs. I remember the career guidance test we took in high school which was similarly divided (the teachers at our all-girls school made certain we were scored for both “male” and “female” careers).  Also in 1970, marital rape was legal, women could always be fired for becoming pregnant, women could not have their own credit cards, and some states did not allow women to serve on juries.  This was all true as I entered adulthood.  This is not ancient history to me. 

Laws necessarily reflect the values of the society in which they are enacted.  This is clearly illustrated in this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim (statutes). (You knew I’d get to it eventually.)  After three action-packed, popcorn-worthy weeks, the Israelites are given about 53 laws, roughly divided into three sections.  First (21:2-22:16), there are civil and criminal laws pertaining, for example, to Hebrew slaves, homicide, assault, mistreatment of parents, assault, kidnapping, damage caused by livestock, and the like.  Penalties include restitution, fines, and death. This section also includes (Ch. 21) “23 But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” This is the first of three times we’ll see this general formula in the Torah.  It actually prescribes “appropriate compensation,” not maiming.

The second section (22:17-23:19) addresses moral and compassionate behavior, such as returning lost items, judging fairly, and taking care of the needy. There are also brief mentions of dedicating the firstborn to the Lord and the three harvest festivals (for when they are in Canaan). The third section (23:20-33) reviews divine promises and sternly warnings against adopting Canaanite ways.

Two statements in “On the Basis of Sex” caught my attention.  “We must not be guided by the weather of the day, but by the climate of the era.” This is an argument that recognizes that social concerns are inextricably entangled with the law.  Sometimes, the law needs to change to correct an injustice. Sometimes, it must not change, so as to hold the line against injustice. And sometimes it is not until later that a legal injustice is recognized.  Slavery, sex discrimination, the restrictions on Jews for centuries in Europe, the Inquisition, apartheid – all were legal practices.

The other intriguing statement was the engraving over the Tenth Circuit’s bench: “Reason is the soul of all law.”  We would like to think so, but too many laws are formulated to cement or redistribute power.  And “reason” needs to be combined with compassion, as we see in the plethora of laws in Mishpatim.

The people (naively?) tell Moses (24:7), “All that the LORD has spoken we will faithfully do!” they will obey the laws they’ve been given. God commands Moses (24:12) to go up the mountain “to get stone tablets with the teachings and commandments which I have inscribed to instruct them.”  Moses leave Aaron and Hur in charge.  But what could possibly go wrong in a mere 40 days?

Shabbat shalom,


When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) British politician and author.

The law isn’t justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.
Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) U.S. writer of detective fiction.

Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) American black leader.

Laws and institutions, like clocks, must occasionally be cleaned, wound up, and set to true time.
Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American politician.

The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it.
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German writer.


From 2014 from The Best Ever Book of Good Clean Jokes

By Bob Phillips

p. 56  I once saw a movie so bad six states use it in place of capital punishment.

p. 130  Mrs. Franklin had been called for jury duty.  She declined to serve because, she said, she did not believe in capital punishment.  The judge tried to persuade her to stay.  “Madam,” he said, “this is not a murder case.  It is merely a case in which a wife is suing her husband because she gave him $4000 to buy her a new fur coat and he lost it all at the race track instead.”

“I’ll serve,” agreed Mrs. Franklin.  “I could be wrong about capital punishment.”


tph optometry-cartoon


tph wisdom teeth



There were three men at a bar. One man got drunk and started a fight with the other two men. The police came and took the drunk guy to jail. The next day the man went before the judge. The judge asked the man, “Where do you work?” 
The man said, “Here and there.” 
The judge asked the man, “What do you do for a living?” 
The man said, “This and that.” 
The judge then said, “Take him away.” 
The man said, “Wait, judge when will I get out?” 
The judge said to the man, “Sooner or later.”


Lawyer and Court Jokes
This from the current Texas Bar Journal (from a trial transcript):

The Court: Next witness.
Ms. Olschner: Your honor, at this time, I would like to swat Mr. Buck in the head with his client’s deposition.
The Court: You mean read it?
Ms. Olschner: No sir, I mean swat him in the head with it. Pursuant to Rule 32, I may use this deposition for any purpose, and that is the purpose for which I want to use it.
The Court: Well, it does say that. (pause) There being no objection, you may proceed.
Ms. Olschner: Thank you, Judge Hanes. (whereupon Ms. Olschner swatted Mr. Buck in the head with the deposition.)
Mr. Buck: But, Judge.
The Court: Next witness.
Mr. Buck: We object.
The Court: Sustained. Next witness.

The following is a courtroom exchange between a defense attorney and a farmer with a bodily injury claim. It came from a Houston, Texas insurance agent.

Attorney: “At the scene of the accident, did you tell the constable you had never felt better in your life?”

Farmer: “That’s right.”

Attorney: “Well, then, how is it that you are now claiming you were seriously injured when my client’s auto hit your wagon?”

Farmer: “When the constable arrived, he went over to my horse, who had a broken leg, and shot him. Then he went over to Rover, my dog, who was all banged up, and shot him. When he asked me how I felt, I just thought under the circumstances, it was a wise choice of words to say I’ve never felt better in my life.”



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Yitro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23)

Busy week. Comments from 2018, wistfully:

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me.”

That verse, Exodus 19:4, is in this week’s Torah reading, right before the (2018) Big Game.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Lots of exciting stuff this week in both the Torah and haftarah readings.  But first, a mundane lesson in management and yet another dysfunctional (better, nonfunctional) Biblical family.  Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, having heard of the Exodus from Egypt, arrives along with his daughter Zipporah and grandsons Gershom and Eliezer, i.e., Moses’ wife and sons, with whom Moses apparently does not interact and whom we never hear of in the rest of the Torah.  Jethro observes the workings of the camp and sees Moses is trying to run it all himself, not out of a desire to be an autocrat but because people come to him and he tries to help.  Recognizing this is a fast path to burnout, Jethro introduces Moses to the concepts of delegation and a hierarchically organized judicial system.  Then he goes home.

The core of this week’s reading is Revelation, the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.  Actually, the phrase, “the ten commandments” (aseret hamitzvot) is never used.  Even “ten” isn’t used until Deuteronomy, where they’re referred to as “the ten statements/words/things” (aseret hadibrot).  You can find anywhere from 9 to 14 depending on how you parse the text.  The content is clearly modeled on the suzerain/vassal treaties in the ancient Near East, consisting of a preamble (the parties and their relationship, Ex. 20:1-2); stipulations (what the vassal has to do, 20:3-17); and what will happen to the vassal depending on whether or not the stipulations are met (blessings and curses, 20:5, 6, 7, and 12).  It’s a straightforward contract, or covenant. The text is not even currently in our liturgy.

Moses and the Lord try to ease the people into Revelation.  They have had several weeks to absorb the end of the plagues, their escape from Egypt and the miracle at the sea.  The Lord sends them an inspiring message via Moses (19:4-6): ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me.  Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

Nechama Leibowitz reviews several commentators’ takes on the eagle’s wings imagery in Studies in Shemot, vol. 1, pp. 290-302.  It is an image of love and protection, an eagle carrying its fledglings on top of its wings, soaring beyond the earth.  But the eagle is also teaching the young, preparing them: ‘and (I) brought you unto Myself,’ from slavery in Egypt to the service of God.

Next, the people are to ready themselves over three days: wash their clothes, stay ritually pure, and don’t touch the border of the mountain.  But now we start to see that neither Moses nor the Lord really understands the psychology of the people.  Take 19:9, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.”  Ever after?  Their trust lasted at most 40 days, forget “ever after.”  More importantly, neither the Lord nor Moses anticipate how the people would respond to the phantasmagoria of the shofar and lightning and thunder and smoke and fire, so freaked out that they beg Moses to hear the Lord’s words for them.  He does, but their frightened refusal to hear for themselves introduces a flaw into their relationship with the Lord before it has yet solidified.

The haftarah is Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6 (9:5 includes the famous “For a child has been born to us, a son has been given us.” Note the past tense.) which includes another theophany, a manifestation of God, this time only to Isaiah.   He sees the Lord enthroned in the Temple, served by six-winged seraphim calling to each other (6:3), “Holy, holy, holy (kadosh, kadosh, kadosh)!  The Lord of Hosts!  His presence fills all the earth!”  This is the source of both the Kedushah in Jewish liturgy and the Sanctus in the Christian Mass.  One seraph touches Isaiah’s lips with a live coal, to purify him (cf. the midrash of Moses and the coal, and he then responds “Send me!” when the Lord asks whom to send.  No reluctance, unlike Moses’ response to his call in Exodus 3:10.  Then again, Isaiah isn’t being given the task of leading an unruly and increasingly cantankerous people.

Shabbat shalom,


tph new org chart

I don’t have a problem with delegation. I love to delegate. I am either lazy enough, or busy enough, or trusting enough, or congenial enough, that the notion leaving tasks in someone else’s lap doesn’t just sound wise to me, it sounds attractive. John Ortberg

There is too much employer-employee relationship in America. I wish the musicians would feel that many decisions have to do with them and not delegate everything to management or to the board or to the committee. This is why you get a sense of pride in some of the European orchestras: because they are part of the decision-making. Daniel Barenboim

Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too. Robert Half


tph 10 commandments first draft


Moses opens his tablet.

The notification says, “You have 10 unread commandments.”

———————– [dead link from 2014]

(with light corrective editing)

Top Ten Things We’d Probably Complain about if Revelation at Sinai Happened This Week 
by Weekly Bang Staff Posted: 05-20-2010(Viewed 1708 times)
(with light corrective editing)

10. No cell-phone service at Sinai
9. predicted sunny not thunder and lightning for Sinai desert
8.  No TIVO for the “Real Housewives of Egypt County” season finale
7.  Luchot* insurance ads don’t involve geckos or cavemen
6.  Not enough PortaPotties for 600,000 people
5.  GPS keeps saying “recalculating route” to Israel
4. Elena Kagan not able to participate in Yisro’s judicial system
3. BP oil spill ruined the drinking water
2. No hechsher** on the Manna
1. 3 days ain’t enough time to confirm all the “Maybes” on the Facebook invite

*The Tablets

** Kashrut supervision mark


Many modern 10 Commandments rewrites and parodies are just lists of 10 behavioral recommendations, often at least partly in 17th century English to sound “Biblical.” Or they are the originals but written in an amusing style (redneck, texting, etc.). The list below concerning modern dating actually matches up, commandment by commandment, without being overly cute. IGP

The 10 commandments of modern dating

Jessica Semaan Jan 3, 2017

  1. You shall treat your date as a human, and not as an object of instant gratification, in a sea of online dating matches. Get to know them, and take your time. [You shall have no other gods before Me]
  2. You shall not idealize your date, you still don’t know them. [You shall not make idols]
  3. You shall not bail on a date last minute. Especially not over text. Never take your date in vain. They made time for you. [You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain]
  4. Remember not to use your phone when on a date, especially don’t tinder when they are in the bathroom. (Tinder is a dating app) [Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy]
  5. Honor your mom and dad issues, aka figure your stuff out, before projecting all of it on them. It is called being an adult* [Honor your father and your mother]
  6. You shall not ghost. EVER. (Ghosting: breaking off communication with someone without notice.) [You shall not murder]
  7. You shall always disclose if you are married or in an open relationship. [You shall not commit adultery]
  8. You shall not pretend you are interested when you are not. You shall practice being vulnerable** before showing up on a date. [You shall not steal]
  9. You shall not deceive your date, by telling them you were busy instead of you’re just not into them. Don’t waste their time, because you are scared of looking bad. [You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor]
  10. You shall work your ex stuff out before you jump in another relationship, or promise one. Also you might want to work out any issues you might have with your ox or donkey. [You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s]

*How to be an adult
**How to be vulnerable

Commandments credit: God





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