Shekhina on the mind this week

Shekhina by Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy

I made my way to Sinai Temple this past Sunday to hear Leonard Nimoy speak about his new book Shekhina, a “photographic essay” of the feminine side of God. Nimoy spoke eloquently, told some great stories about growing up Jewish in Boston, and spoke about photography, his hobby/passion since the 1970’s. During the talk, he displayed a couple dozen photographs from his book, narrating a spiritual journey as his relationship with God developed and deepened. After speaking for about 40 minutes, answered some questions from Rabbi Wolpe and the audience. It turns out that the model on cover of the book wearing tefillin isn’t Jewish.

It turns out that Nimoy is full of yiddishkeit; he’s not some Kabbalah faker like Madonna or Rosie. Yasher Koach to Steve Silverman from the Sinai Mens’ Club for organizing the event and introducing us to a real mentsch. The Seattle Jewish Federation made a big mistake in asking him not to speak. Despite the controversy surrounding his book, they missed out on an opportunity to learn that this man is much, much more than Mr. Spock.

Niggunim with Reb Mimi

Last night, a dozen folks from the Shtibl Minyan spent an hour and a half with Reb Mimi learning melodies for Shacharit and Musaf. Since every time Jews get together is an opportunity for learning, she started with a brief shiur. We read a commentary on Parashat Kedoshim that said that when a community comes together l’shem shemayim (in the name of Heaven), the Shekhina is present, and that it is our responsibility to create a kli (vessel) for that presence. What an awesome responsibility. Can you imagine? The mere gathering of ten people creates the presence of God. I’ve always taken davening pretty seriously, but this makes the endeavor all the more important.

Many of the melodies we learned came from Reb Shlomo Carlebach z”l; others were Hassidic tunes from Yakar in Jerusalem. Some were haunting and melancholy. All were beautiful.

A couple of people brought tape recorders, and Chaim is planning to burn some CDs so we can learn the melodies well enough to sing them in shul.

I’ll be leading the minyan in Shacharit this Saturday. Even if I don’t get to include some of the new melodies I learned, my kavannah will be greatly enhanced knowing that Shekhina is there.

Protecting email addresses, part 2

MVHS Spartan I wrote on Sunday about wanting to protect email addresses in the MVHS Alumni Internet Directory. I finally found some time to code it up.

The mailto: links have been replaced with a web form that alumni can use to send a message.

Since the website doesn’t require a login, it’s not totally spam-proof. I do include an MD5 hash of the real email address in the form as a hidden variable, so there’s some guarantee that you’ve at least first fetched the form from my website before hitting submit. This isn’t that much for security, but it means that someone writing a robot to abuse the site would have to do some extra work (fetch the webpage first, grab the hidden field, and then submit it back with the spam message).

I’m also using the Email::Valid module to check to make sure that the return address is RFC822 compliant.

People have often asked why the website doesn’t use a password/registration model like or, because it would certainly do more to discourage spammers. It turns out that spam hasn’t been too big of a problem for the 1500+ alumni listed on the website for the past seven years, and the complexity of passwords and registration just make life things to difficult when all you want to do is send a quick hello to someone you haven’t seen in 10 or 20 years. For the time being, the trust model is working well enough.

Usenet posts from 1993

At lunch today with Mike and David, we were talking about Google and whether the Pyra acquisition would be as successful as the Deja News acquisition. Both Mike and I had read somewhere that Google had managed to get Usenet archives going way back to the beginning, and how it’s become such a valuable historical resource.

So just for kicks, I went and searched Google Groups for and found 15 posts, all from 1993.

They’re all related to desktop publishing. I used to love fonts. And you can see that I was interested in intellectual property ten years ago, even though I couldn’t spell.

What a trip!

Protecting email addresses for my Alumni Internet Directory

MVHS Spartan I’ve been publishing the Mountain View High School Alumni Internet Directory online since 1995. Think of it as an free version of, but just for my high school.

Since a group of us started planning our 10-year reunion, I’ve been thinking about the website more recently. I’ve had RSS feeds on the site since the summer of 1999 (long before I ever heard of blogging), but I finally added the orange XML icon (View the raw XML source) today.

One of the things that has always made alumni timid about using the site is the possibility of getting spam. The fact that their email addresses are published on the web makes them good candidates for email harvester bots. I originally addressed this problem by adding a <meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow"> tag to the site, hoping that bots would respect that.

Later, I started using the decimal HTML entity encoder trick (listing addresses like mailto:mradwin&#64;yahoo&#46;com) but I’m sure spammers will catch onto that soon.

So the only thing left to do is to create a “send email to this user” form and list the addresses in the same way that Y! Groups does. The links will look to the user like mradwin@y..... but instead of being a mailto:, they’ll be regular hyperlink to a /bin/mail?to=<secret base64 encoded data> form which asks for an email address and sets the Reply-To header.

The 1500+ alumni registered on the site right now would definitely benefit from this feature. Plus, after changing the email links to use the email-protect form, I’d be able to remove the robots meta tag, which would allow Google and other legit search engines index the site better, increasing visibility to the larger alumni community.

I’ve just gotta find the time to code the thing.

[Update: I found some time to write the code. The mailto: links have been replaced with a web form]

Leonard Nimoy, photographer extraordinare

Saw this ad in the Jewish Journal today:

LEONARD NIMOY goes where no man has gone before. Join him on a voyage towards SHEKHINA


Live at Sinai Temple on Feb. 23, 2003 Leonard Nimoy will present his new book and dialogue with Rabbi David Wolpe.

At least he’s Jewish. There are a few Hollywood celebs who study at the Kabbalah Centre just a few blocks from my home, and I’m not even sure if they’re Jewish. Heck, they probably aren’t even 40.

Veggie Chili for dinner tonight

Shabbos dinner tonight is going to be simple: Vegetarian Chili.

Valentine’s Day dinner was actually last night for the Radwins. We have a tradition of celebrating on the 13th. It was a fancy four-course vegetarian Italian dinner. The owner of the restaurant greeted us at the door with a handshake and a kiss (for me and Ariella, respectively).

Shabbat Shalom!