Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I put up a poll on my other blog, Half Baked, in the hope of discovering how to better please my readers and possibly attract more. For some reason, I was unable to put one up here (I deleted all my cookies and lost 5lb... in my dreams... but my layout page is still being crabby)
So, while waiting for my next "real" post to come up, please mosey over there and give your $0.02. Who knows, you may even find yourself enjoying my other blog, which I think I myself prefer. The poll is on the upper right in the sidebar.
A Guten Moed,
Friday, September 21, 2007
comes Yom Hakipurim
no matter what the year has been like,
slowly at first
I can see so clearly now.
As the light of dusk fades
the world is different.
Hear O Israel
Voices rise in a thunderous roar
G-d is One
Nothing else exists.
The truth fills the world
HASHEM HU HA'ELOKIM
pushing out all else
HASHEM HU HA'ELOKIM
I have vanished
HASHEM HU HA'ELOKIM
to be but part of Him
HASHEM HU HA'ELOKIM
The heavens are shattered
HASHEM HU HA'ELOKIM
This must be the redemption
HASHEM HU HA'ELOKIM
and I'm no longer scared.
HASHEM HU HA'ELOKIM
The silence is absolute
it's almost over
my breath stops
this is it
As the blower raises the Shofar
I wait to hear the sound
I am certain is coming
The "Shofar Gadol"
will mingle with his
nothing else is possible
when the world is filled
The call sounds
it somehow adds to the silence
... and last year
And I left the synagogue
to find people
walking on the streets
as if nothing was wrong.
But this year
just the same
that moment of revelation will come
and the Great Shofar will sound
and God will gather us in
because we're coming home at last
and the sound will be
like it was at Sinai:
Strong and growing
and not ending
Sunday, September 09, 2007
I'm leaving out the details. Although the whole scene is a mosaic of memory fragments, I'd rather avoid the risk of boring you and sacrificing yet another bit of my anonymity. So I am posting only one shard of the mosaic, a particularly sharp one. You can add pieces by posting your own story in the comments.
I was away from home at the time of the attacks. "Home" at the time was not far at all from Ground Zero, so I wasn't able to return until the next day. I was relatively young at the time and felt quite far away from my family, despite having been reassured that everyone got out OK. It was the kind of time when you want your father and mother close by.
I returned home on September 12, 2001 to a whole different world. The air was thick and gray, and I couldn't identify the smell except that it made me think of crematoriums and gas chambers (though of course I had no frame of reference for that either.) Every time I absently touched the subway handrails, my hands came away white with ash.
Finally, I arrived at my home, an island of familiarity in a changed city. As I approached, I noticed something on the door that seemed strangely out of place. It was colorful and loving.
"Happy Birthday, BasMelech!"
I had completely forgotten.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Thanks for the invitation.
I would love to come for a visit now. I'm dying to see you.
I know you're waiting, and you've set aside this time for us.
But... I am just so embarrassed.
Last time, I enjoyed being with you so much that I thought I'd never be able to peel away. But since our appointment was ending, we at least made up certain arrangements to keep in touch.
Besides for that, I thought up a whole bunch of things I could do in between to make you happy.
That way, at least we'd have something to talk about next time we could really get together.
But now, as I'm already running late in getting ready for our upcoming meeting, I have no idea how I am going to face you.
Because, I'm ashamed to say, I didn't do a very good job on those things.
I mean, I did think of you... pretty often.
I just didn't act on it very much.
And sometimes, even when I did do something, it... got messed up.
So I'd feel kind of silly giving you that... y'know?
And I'm sorry I wasn't home when you called. I kind of, well, things got busy and... I'm sorry. I guess I should have called back. I mean, I know, but... whatever.
But G-d, do you know what I am going to do?
Since I really, honestly, do want to be close to You,
I am going to make a pretty hard sacrifice.
I am swallowing my pride
and dealing with the embarrassment;
accepting the searing pain of shame
and coming before You
Here I am.
Please let me in despite the past.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
"I'm not what you would call frum," she said.
I didn't answer.
What would I call "frum?" Am I frum?
Am I frum because I dress similarly to many people in Boro Park?
Would I still be frum if I were in Meah Shearim?
If you'd believe me, I'd tell you that as I see it, we're very similar.
But you'd think I'm insincere.
You are absolutely, positively certain that I am judging you.
Yes, so judgemental, her type.
The reality is simply that we both have our strengths and weaknesses.
I was raised with some mitzvot that are now automatic, and there are some I have yet to learn.
Some midot come naturally to me, while others remain a constant battle.
I aim to do good, yet there are constant failures.
I make mistakes.
I'm still growing.
I believe you can say the same.
So who can call one of us "frummer" than the other?
How do you define "frum?" Please comment here. Muse continued below.
Are you calling me frum because I have something you lack?
Well, you have several essentials that I lack. [trust me -ed.]
(and probably more that I don't know about)
That's part of the beauty of being part of Am Yisrael:
If we can truly be as one, we can help make each other whole.
(I need to check my source for the following -- I have it written down at home)
Suppose there is a Jew who wants very much to do the mitzva of hosting guests, but he lacks the means, while another Jew is wealthy enough to host many guests, but he does it grudgingly. Who should get more credit? Neither mitzva is complete.
The Jewish nation is called Adam, a word meaning "man" that has no plural form in the Hebrew language. The connotation is that we are one -- one person with one soul.
Just as a person has both a body and soul, each mitzva has two corresponding components. If one Jew fulfills the "soul" of the mitzva, that is, the pure intentions and desire, and another provides the "body," they combine to form a complete, wholehearted mitzva. (Think of eye-hand coordination -- you may do things with different parts of your body, but it is the same person doing it)
Yes, you really are my soul-sister, and I am not complete without you.
Perhaps it is true that I perform more mitzvot than you, but how many of those are rote, or insincere! Perhaps you quest for Truth, your striving to become closer to HaShem, is the shining flame of our common soul.
Now, do you really think I could possibly write you off as "not frum enough"?!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
As I prepared to temporarily close up shop, I looked back on about a year of blogging with mixed feelings. While there is no doubt that I wasted way too much time online in the process, it was definitely a growing experience for me.
I therefore dedicate this post to you, my fellow J-bloggers, who have led me on this fascinating journey. Through my interactions with you, I feel that I am much more bonded with the various stripes of the Jewish nation, more open and understanding, more positive and caring.
to Nuch, who has shown me that there is more to the American Chusid than bad grammar...
to SWFM (and Poochie) who rises every day...
to Dreamer, who helps me look up even when she's being negative...
to DOT(L), who puts depth into words (and music)...
to Kasamba, who even in her absence makes laughter always possible...
to Jacp, who opens her journal and my eyes...
to the various lurkers and commentators, who have been a great audience...
Just wanted to let you all know,
that while I hope to get a life and stop spending time on this stuff,
it's too late -- you're part of who I am
even if I manage to break away
you've made a difference
just by being you.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Friday, June 08, 2007
When reading the advice of people greater than me
Is he talking to me?
I am so far removed from that, it isn't even practical!
Then I remember...
We are all on a journey
to the same place.
We may not be at the same point
but if I make sure to stay on the same road
as those who are where I'd like to be
then I'm going in the right direction.
The actual examples in the mussar books don't relate to me so well, but if I read and learn from them I can make sure to take steps that will put me on that path.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Yes, that's right, amid all the ado of modern Shavuos one nearly forgets that this is the time when all the farmers are supposed to be bringing the first fruits to Yerushalayim with great fanfare. As we present the beautiful produce to the Cohen, we say the very words which we uttered not long ago, a mere 50 days prior, with a cup of wine before us as we looked at the matza and marror: "Arami oved avi..."
Friday, May 18, 2007
Sometimes I wish I could do this to my brain.
"Delete temporary internet files."
And everything else I should never have looked at.
To some extent, with strong tshuva I can erase it from my soul.
But that is on a higher sphere.
Here and now, it cannot be undone.
Everything I've seen, heard, or done on this Earth will remain to taunt me for a good while.
Ah, well -- at least I can remove the traces from my computer!
Except this little confession defeats the purpose...
And the moral of the story is...
I AM TOO TIRED TO BLOG!!!
Oh, and by the way -- For those who were so kind as to be with me and offer comfort on the last post:
I want you to know that since posting that, through some very interesting twists of hashgacha, I received several very encouraging signs that things are OK after all. The circumstances are rather personal, so I won't share, but the messages were strong and the timing was incredible.
During the same time, I also picked up some equally clear signals of my differentness. Although it made me very uncomfortable, I think I was better equipped to handle it. Though next time I think I will try a little harder to blend in... Anyway, thanks.
Monday, May 07, 2007
It really makes no sense to post this here since to my knowledge only two of my readers know me in real life. So this is more of a muse than a question, for the sole reason that I am too chicken to ask "real" people. Maybe it will even be a bit of an eye-opener for some. Or should I say "ear-opener?"
Some background is in order:
I am hearing impaired.
Perhaps it is one reason why I enjoy blogging better than live socializing.
Thank G-d it's only mild.
I've gotten along OK without hearing aids (...so far)
Sometimes I wonder what I'm missing.
Whether things would have been different if...
But that's besides the point.
Sometimes I think that I think of hearing aids as a "quick fix." Another of those things that we lost souls are prone to convincing ourselves that everything will be ok if___. Who says? **(note to the blissfully unaware: hearing aids do not cure hearing loss.)
Today I don't know what got into me, but I asked a pretty awkward question.
We had an event at work. At the end, all the kids were hanging around being noisy while the teachers stood around chatting. These situations are not ideal for me. It's difficult for me to focus on the speaker and read lips in the kind of setting where several people are talking at once and there's a lot of background noise. I kind of assume it's hard for anyone to hear when there are 200 young children partying in the same room.
I was with one of my coworkers, a teacher with the most wide open heart you can imagine, very warm and non-judgemental.
And I asked her... I was really curious...
"When everyone was hanging around together earlier... Could you actually hear what people were telling you?"
I'm not sure what I was expecting -- hoping?-- to hear.
Well, of course, I have to concentrate on the person who's talking... If I look directly at the speaker, I can usually make out what they're saying even with so much going on.
As you with the normally functioning ears have probably assumed already, she didn't even understand my question:
"What do you mean, could I hear them?"
"I mean, when it was so noisy in the room, and the other teachers were all talking together -- you could hear what they were saying? Clearly?"
To make a long story short, just imagine the rest of the very short, uncomfortable conversation and you'd probably be about on target. And this, with the one person in the world that I felt OK asking.
I never realized how different things really are for others.
To be able to hear things more clearly than I, I knew others could do.
But so easily that they don't even realize they're filtering out other sounds?
Sometimes I wonder how different I really am.
Most people don't know about my difficulty.
Is that because I've been so successful at compensating, B"H?
Or maybe they just think I'm spacey, slow, not paying attention to them?
When I give a wrong respose, what do they think, they who don't know that I heard them say something different?
When I talk too loudly, do they think I'm unrefined?
Sometimes I feel like I'm doing all right.
But inside, there's always that nagging anxiety:
Maybe I missed something.
Maybe that's not what he said.
Maybe they're looking at me differently.
How normal am I really?
Sometimes I feel like a money eater. Nothing more. A total taker. And it feels rotten.
I believe that G-d provides for all my needs. The question is am I needing too much? And I wish it didn't have to be coming so directly from others. It's not a good feeling.
My policy is to avoid bringing personal details onto my blog, so I'll stop about here. Think what you want. The bottom line is, I feel down. Stuck in a rut. And very dependent on people.
If you've been lurking, please speak up. I need a lift.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
I'll try to make this brief, as my last muse turned out as a filibuster that never got posted...
It's not so hot at this precise moment, but there has been a lot of controversy both within the frum world and without over the correctness of "labeling" people, particularly exceptional children.
On one side, you have a lot of very heated people shouting that it will stigmatize the labeled individual for life, that it will limit their ability to expand their potential by reducing optimism and accountability, and that it will cause others to look at the person differently. In short, to label is to condemn.
On the other hand, identifying and facing a difficulty is the biggest step towards remedying it. Furthermore, if a person has no label, the unusual behaviors are attributed instead to the individual himself, harming his self-image and others' perception as well.
As an educator, I see both sides pretty clearly. Here's my humble opinion:
I am in favor of labels. However, they must be used properly:
@ The student should not know his label. Most are not equipped to deal with it properly, it only confuses them and/or gives them a good excuse to cop out (I had an elementary school student once whose favorite line was "I can't, I'm hearing impaired." She wore hearing aids that enabled her to hear just fine -- but so many people just took her word for it. It was turning her into a spoiled brat). They can be told along the lines of "Morah sees ___ is very hard for you. But don't worry, you're a smart kid and we're going to help you get better at it."
@ The point of the label is to communicate efficiently in order to get services and information in order to overcome the problem. Parents and educators must not view it as a prognosis. This can be hard work but you must do it.
@ No one, but no one besides the student's parents and educators should know about this. They are not close enough to the child to use it productively.
It might help to think of it as a "diagnosis" rather than a "label." It is a description of a problem, not of the person.
Frankly, a child who could be labeled but isn't has the same problem anyway. Except no one's quite sure what to do with him because they're too busy avoiding saying anything that could be taken negatively. This irks me greatly. The kid feels terrible because they don't know why they keep on failing...don't have friends...get in trouble so often. They thin they're bad, stupid, or just doomed. This sticks with them for ages. Furthermore, the teacher, despite her superhuman efforts, doesn't see any concentrated effort from the parents to face the problem and therefore doesn't have as much patience to deal with it herself. Or, she may simply not be able to figure out your child's problem withing the busy, crowded classroom setting and would benefit from knowing what you know. There is not much that is worth hiding from the people who spend almost as much time caring for your child as you do.
So what do you think? Do the potential gains outweigh the potential losses?
OK, due to procrastination, I haven't posted here in nearly a month. :O
Not that the old mind's stopped churning -- not for a second!
Just I had a post baking... and it was droning on.... and I don't like to post too long because I can't stand when a blog post sounds so interesting but turns out to be a megilla that makes your eyes spin and head hurt from staring at the screen so long...
So now there's a new post on the way, it's ready today, just I have the perfect pic to accompany it but I need to edit it a bit first. So that's later. Maybe even later because I don't want to obscure this one.
Now here's the question...
Does anyone really want to hear the filibuster post? Should I bother finishing and posting it?
It was a response to the rash of pessimism in the J-blogosphere about three weeks ago.
Cast your vote in the comments.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
This Shabbos, Parshas Hachodesh was read in shul. Parshas Hachodesh is the portion in the Torah in which G-d tells Moshe Rabbeinu that the month of the Exodus is to be counted as the first month of the Jewish year. From the wording of the verse, Rashi derives that G-d showed Moshe Rabbeinu an image of the moon as it appears when the new month is to be sanctified.
Thus far, I have been speaking in stricly technical terms about the Jewish law.
Essentially, what this means is that we are in control of our time. Time doesn't dictate what I have to do. As King David said in Psalms, "A-eerah shochar-- I shall wake the dawn." Not "in the dawn" or "at dawn." A David Hamelech doesn't say, "Oh, it's morning, that means I have to get up." A David Hamelech decides it's time to start his day of serving HaShem, and starts it. A David Hamelech is an initiator, not a reactor.
When you start with a goal, you are in control. You're not letting the "times," or circumstances, decide what you'll do. A Jew cannot afford to let time control him -- he has his own agenda, namely avodas HaShem.
So, bli neder, tomorrow I will have a plan. Nothing will be able to distract me because I know exactly where I am heading. Of course, I will also have to plan for obstacles, but since I have anticipated them first, I am already ahead of the game.
Tomorrow I take the first step. A'eerah shochar -- Awake, dawn! I am ready!
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Sunday, March 04, 2007
The decline of themed mishloach manot.
I witnessed a back-to-basics revolution as people handed me paper bags with some random candies and maybe a hamantash. My family received an all time low of three thematic packages today.
Does this mean that people are beginning to realize that they are not to be judged by the originality of their theme?
Perhaps it is a result of mothers reorganizing their priorities.
Or maybe I'm just mixing in the nebby circles.
In any case, the themes were not terribly missed and their absence did not at all detract from my Purim joy.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
IFT posted about tsniyus, a while back so I don't have the patience to find it and link you directly. Anyhow, this is my response, I don't think it's typical, and it's something I feel very strongly about, so please give it a few moments:
Instead of focusing on creating tsnius guidelines that are updated with each new trend that comes out, educators of Jewish girls need to take up the issue from two angles, both but no more:
1. Clearly defining the halachot of tsnius. The girls need to know where the line is drawn between rebelling from the school rules and breaking Jewish law. As it is in all BY schools that I know of, this line is very fuzzy as a zillion rules are thrown at the girls from all directions. Give them the laws clearly. You can make your own suggestions or school dress code as well, but there should be a clear differentiation, we must empower our nishei Yisrael to make informed choices.
2. Infuse them with the pride of a Jewish woman. There are levels of meaning behind the laws of tsnius that would make anyone proud to wear them. Give them a sense of purpose, mission, (I do mean besides supporting a kollel boy! This is way overemphasized, nice though it may be, a Jewish woman needs to have her own identity independent of her husband. Especially since at the time when these concepts are being drummed into the girls most of them will not be getting married for quite a while. But I digress.) We need to give our girls the strength to stand tall in the face of their challenges, and this won't happen by telling them a long litany of what they shouldn't and aren't.
Through a combination of those two curricular goals, along with plenty of siyata diShmaya, perhaps we will be able to prepare our girls to make appropriate tsnius choices without suppressing their feminity.
Personally, I find it difficult to fathom that after about a decade of this vicious cycle (in which lower levels of modesty and more rules chase after each other so frenetically that it's impossible to tell anymore which is the cause and which the effect) many major, respected mechanchim continue to stuff more and more rules down their students' throats, even as these rules are repeatedly defied. Don't they understand that their system isn't doing it?
I'd love to hear your reaction to this view, and whether you've heard anything along these lines before. I wouldn't think it's such a chiddush except that it's not happening.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
But sometimes, when I'm in a public place, and I see someone open a bag of nosh and dig in, I think with a start almost like an innocent child, "Stop! You didn't make a bracha!"
Before a second passes, I realize that the individual in question is (probably) a gentile and doesn't know anything about brachot, and in fact has no reason too.
And then I think, Poor guy.
And I feel lucky, lucky, lucky for being an FFB. I grasp the moment to ponder the meaning of brachot and my connection to G-d. I feel warm and fuzzy and hope that the feeling will last a little longer.
It's funny, though: there are sins going on all around me but this particular jolt only happens when they eat.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Ads like this make me think. I'm not taking issue with the service, but with the ad itself, so please don't yell too loud. The idea of davening for other Jews is beautiful. The knowledge that you can ask others to daven for you or your loved one in a holy place is heartwarming. Definitely commendable. Giving charity for an added zechus is a wonderful idea, backed by generations of great Jewish leaders. That part of the ad sits fine with me.
It's the message blaring across the headline that made me do a double take.
Of course my prayers can reach the heavens! I am a daughter of G-d, with a direct connection available any time I open my mouth.
My fear is that someone desperate for a yeshuah (salvation), when responding to these ads, may be led to overlook that essential fact. People trying to peddle such tefilah-services advertise as if theirs is The Way to get what you need, effortlessly. Well, though it's true that some people and places are known to be especially close to HaShem, no one has a monopoly on prayer!
Ever heard the expression, "you get what you pay for"? Well, let's say it does work and you get what you asked for. If someone else did the praying, you still lose out on the connection to HaShem. Chaza"l say that one reason why people suffer in this world is to stimulate their relationship with HaShem. So let's say you email a kvittel to the kotel and it gets answered-- what a waste of a great nisayon! Again, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this, but to insinuate that it is actually the preferred, most effective way... I don't think they have a right to say that.
By the way, the above advertisement was clipped from a respected orthodox publication. I often wonder why they print ads whose spirit is contradictory to the publishers' message.
Anyway... I'm not sure if I'm being clear, and I don't even know if I'm right on this call. So for once and for all, please comment!
Monday, January 22, 2007
IMHO, as long as the kids know it's fantasy/fiction, it's pretty good as far as modern juvenile literature goes. A ten-year-old is much better equipped to deal with HP than a five-year-old is for Jack and the Beanstalk, yet the people who are wary of Potter have no issue reading fairy tales to kids who are too young to differentiate between fantasy and reality.
The themes are basically in keeping with our hashkafos (perspectives). I find them to be fairly deep and rich, especially when viewed relative to the other liesure reading material usually chosen by kids. OK, recently things have gotten a little less acceptable for our BY knaidlach, but whatever ban is in place definitely came about before those volumes were released.
There are non-magical books with much more objectionable content and less literary value that haven't raised objections.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Don't know if I've been blogging long enough for this to be quite obvious, but I'm not the mushy type. Still, I feel that this matter goes beyond my personal tastes.
I'm referring to the zillions of poems, waves of checklists, mounds of sweet graphics, that pour inspiration into our inboxes nearly daily, telling us about the perfect friend, husband, wife, and mother. I'm telling you, the one who wrote it doesn't have one.
They're there to convince you that there's something lacking in your life. You're not a good enough friend, nor do you have one. NEWS FLASH: Your life is perfect. So's mine. We just need to get used to our kind of perfect.
I used to long for a best friend. This started in about second grade. The perfect friend is the one who sits next to you on the bus every day, lets you copy the colors she uses, shares her snack with you at recess. Of course, you reciprocate. You go to each other's house after school nearly every single day, yet never run out of things to whisper to each other over lunch.
Over the years, this definition became only slightly more sophisticated. It took quite a long time before I realized that I probably would never have this "best friend" -- but it was OK, because I didn't really want her. I have my own precious friends and we follow our own rules, and I wouldn't trade our relationship for all the matching notebooks in the world. I have no need to read emails telling me that someday the special someone will come into my life and send me chocolate just for nothing... know supernaturally, cross-continentally, when I'm feeling down and need a hug... wipe all my troubles away... or whatever they're saying the perfect person should do this week.
You'll notice that most of the touching photos that accompany these emails consist of kittens and puppies. Ever wonder why they couldn't find an adult human perfect enough to impress you? Stop saying "awwww" at the poems and look at the beauty in your life. The person who wrote that poem is guaranteed misery because they will never find the person who fits their imagined ideal. Don't be fooled.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
When and how did it become cool to say "I can't"?
How come usually when someone says "Thank you," or, "You're the greatest!" the other person says "It was nothing"?
Or if they say, "Wow, you're so thin!" the other says "Oh no, I gained weight this month," or just feels embarrassed?
On one side of the coin, it's not true. I can only speak for myself, but one would generally feel quite proud at receiving a compliment. This is true even when it's not deserved, but especially if you earned it. "It was nothing?" How about, "It was my pleasure, anything for you!" After all, what's the favor worth if you didn't put anything into it? And why can't we at least give the complimenter the pleasure of having made us feel good?
On the flip side, people start believing what they say. Keep on feeding yourself negative statements and you'll grow your very own negative self-image. Very unhealthy.
So, what's happened to us?
Monday, January 08, 2007
One of the most striking points was that the speaker quoted a commentator who defined the Hebrew na-eh, beauty, to mean connection. As in, connection to G-d, spirituality, etc.
It was based on a Rashi on the verse that says "You are children of G-d... do not cut yourself in mourning..." Rashi explains that because we are G-d's children, we have to look nice-- na-eh. I won't go through the whole process, but that's where the whole thing came from.
The speaker then brought a bunch of places in Tanach where this word for beauty is used, and they all took on such deep meaning when viewed in the context of beauty as connection to the Eternal. I can't remember them right now and I don't have time to go back through the tape, but for example think of the above verse: We are children of HaShem, intimately connected. If we maintain this connection, we won't feel such despair as to cause us to harm ourselves. Sadness at our loss, yes, but with the realization that everything G-d does is for our good.
So, here's my challenge:
Can you think of other places where the word "na-eh" (in any form) is used in the Torah (written or oral) that we can look at in this different dimension? The only one I can think of offhand is "Kallah na'ah vachasudah."