Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A brief interruption

Aish has a new, chilling 2-minute movie. I don't know what the petition will do, but it does make one think. CLICK if you haven't seen it yet, then scroll down for tonight's TT post.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Best Prayer

Posted by Picasa

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

Harry who?

Can someone clue me in as to why Harry Potter is taboo in some frum circles? I know, I know, magic is forbidden, denies G-d, etc. But do these people censor Cinderella? Purge Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? Ban Bedknobs and Broomsticks? Poppins--yes, but Potter-- no? What's up with that?

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

A real problem (or maybe I'm the one in lala land)

This is not your usual rant about email forwards. I'm here with a specific gripe.
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

A Quick Muse

Why do people often feel a need to put themselves down?
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

A "Beautiful" Thought

I was just listening to a shiur that was so great, I wanted to share it. However, it was about an hour long and I don't think I could do it justice before losing the average blog-surfer's attention span. So here's the basic gist, maybe together we can build it up:

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."