Sunday, December 31, 2006

Kill him first...

In the Gemara Sanhedrin, 73a (Hat tip, Back of the Hill), there's a discussion over what one should do if he knows that someone is coming up against him to kill him. The final answer: Kill him before he kills you! little people don't have a way to kill Mr. Ahmadinejad, even though he wants to kill us and our people. So what should we do?

Sara Yoheved Rigler at looks into our history for when we were in a similar situation, and gives some pretty good ideas for what we can do. Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Warning: This site under construction

Alas, the dangers of modern technology....

So I upgraded my template into the easy Google beta mode, and thereby lost all my past template items...which I can't find anymore. So excuse the mess while I try to remember all the links I had up there. If I linked to you, please email me to remind me, and I'll put you back up. It's not that I don't like you, I'm just very forgetful, and it took me a really long time to make those lists...I'm annoyed. Plus I have to find all the little icons I had and put them back...

If anyone knows how to see the old template (I don't really want to restore it for good, I just want the old stuff...), please please let me know so I can bring it back to normal..


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Twain on Jewish Women

I'm reading this fascinating book (now that the semester's over and I have tiiiiime ;) ), called Mark Twain's Jews, by Dan Vogel. I can't say I love the writing, but the content is really interesting - it's about Mark Twain's perception of the Jews, based on his writings. I really liked this quote (p. 32), written during one of his many travels through Europe, after seeing lots of paintings of Mary:

"The Italian artists painted Italian Virgins, the Dutch painted Dutch Virgins, the Virgins of the French painters were Frenchwomen - none of them ever put into the face of the Madonna that indescribable something that proclaims the Jewess, whether you find her in New YOrk, in Constantinople, in Paris, Jerusalem, or in the Empire of Morocco."

What do you think is that "indescribable something"? ;)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

TRT Observations

Or as a far away friend would call it..."mind dump." Each of these lines deserve their own blog post, but I think that's a bit overwhelming...and I DO have other things to you'll get the shortened version :)

The slightest smile makes the biggest difference.

Before you call a helpline for anything, make sure that everything possible is plugged in. Otherwise you sound really stupid after talking to customer service for two hours...

Russian sounds like a very unhappy language.

There are so many different people in New York. It's absolutely fascinating. And terribly lonely.

Chewing gum in public, especially with an open mouth, is disgusting and should be banned.

Is setting a mousetrap צער בעלי חיים?

It's very nice to see people learning Torah on the train.

The more people, the more intense the peer pressure.

You know you're living in a Jewish neighborhood when they put a huge menorah up in your apartment lobby (and no tree...)

My Conspiracy Theory

It's very rare that I comment on politics on this blog. The things that I would comment on, everyone else has already said, so I don't think it's necessary. Today, however, I can't hold back - and I don't think this has been said before:

I believe that the Neturei Karta who went to the Holocaust "conference" are not real Jews. I believe that they are people who are dressed up as Jews because they want to make Chassidim specifically, and Jews in general, look bad. Because it was one thing that they were saying that Jews shouldn't consider E"Y the be-all, end-all. But there is no possible way for them to twist Torah to validate their thinking about this. I mean, they're basically condoning, straight out, the murder of thousands of Jews by collaberating with Ahmadinejad. And they're clearly doing it for media attention. So my theory is that they're doing it to get an impression of Jews on TV. Either way, I'm exceedingly disturbed.

And the newspapers that I read over everyone's shoulder on the train are sooooo's frightening.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cloud Nine

I went to a shiur today for the first time in a long time. I went specifically because of the speaker, and I was not disappointed. When she spoke, I found myself transformed into a previous life. An old life of mine, idealistic and striving. And I realized that I've been stagnating. I realized what I should be doing, what my goals should be.

I realized that obsession with school does not a better me make, nor does it bring me closer to G-d. That the one thing that drives me, that makes me wax poetic (relatively, anyway), that makes me feel all full inside, is (dun dah dun): Torah. And DOING for my people.

And so, I resolve today, with you, my waning readership as witnesses, to focus on Reality. Or at least to try a little more than I've been trying.

Wish me luck! Or rather, הצלחה ;)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Intolerant about intolerance

I think that quite a lot of people have a complex. From discussions I've had recently with people telling me what they know about Orthadox Judaism, based on the fact that they can apparantly read other people's minds, every Orthadox Jew is judging them.

Um. What?

I've just experienced it quite a bit recently, due to my fascinating job, and I've come to a realization about judging. Now read this slowly, think about it, and read it again:

In order to assume that someone is judging you, you have to judge them. You know that you're making a judgement, and you only assume that they're judging you. So who's stereotyping here?

So please, I beg of you. Converse, don't assume. If you think Orthadox Jews just are a certain way, look into it. Ask an Orthodox Jew!! Speak to Jews outside of New York, for example. As a general rule, it's healthy to speak to all kinds of Jews outside your comfort zone. You'll find many, different types of Orthodox Jews, many quite friendly, many quite open-minded and tolerant.

And you'll become a much happier person, 'cause you'll realize that they're not judging you, and they don't hate you!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hi, I'm living in Long Island, CT

I've always liked maps. They put the world in perspective - literally. Call me a nerd (I'll bear it proudly), but one of my favorite books is from my sister, called the Atlas of World History. I dunno, but I just like the way maps clarify things. My point?

My roommate got a Snapple cap that said "Long Island is the largest island in the Continental United States." In my simplistic, out-of-town mind, I thought about Long Island - y'know, where the five towns and Far Rockaway is! After all, you take the Long Island Railroad to get there, so that must be it! Well, apparantly it's not. So said my roommate.

So I asked: Then how is Long Island so big? What's it made of?

So we turned to that ever useful resource, Google maps. And it turns out that Long Island is indeed a pretty big island! It encompasses not only the traditional Long Island, but Brooklyn and Queens as well!! So now I can say I'm living on Long Island. Sounds much, much better ;)

But wait - there's more! Looking further at the map (I added borders), I realized that Manhattan is barely attached to New York, hanging just barely onto a tip of the state. Long Island, even more, is about 75% (if not more) on the Connecticut side of the border! Why it was attached to New York State, I'm not so sure. But it kinda makes sense to me why people from New York City think they're in their own state, and people in "Upstate" are in another hemisphere....

So the final outcome for me is that I'm saying that I'm from Long Island, CT. After all, that's what the map seems to show...and maps are never wrong. :)

In other news, communication is really really important in relationships. Thank you for teaching me that, hon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Coincidence and Choices

Don't really have time to write too much - I have two essays due tomorrow and I haven't started, but I haven't posted in a while, and my thoughts are bursting out. So I'll share one.

Yesterday, I was supposed to meet a friend. I had a little extra time, so I decided to get off the stop before the one I really needed and walk down (even though it was pouring rain) to meet her, and visit the interesting sights (which there always are) along the way. On a whim, I stopped in a store. Not one I usually frequent; in fact, I hadn't even known that the store existed on that particular street! While browsing around, I (literally) bumped into a friend from home. Someone I'd pretty much lost touch with and haven't spoken to in ages. We talked for a bit, exchanged new phone numbers, and promised to meet over lunch or something. And the friend I was supposed to meet? She cancelled, so I stayed and talked with Friend #2 for far longer than I would have.

I got thinking about it. For some reason, I was supposed to meet her. I was so close to not walking into the store, so close to just walking past. After all, I have a ton of work to do!! But I made the choice to walk in - it was one of those times that I got to see the outcome of a choice I made almost immediately. Incredible!

(So tonight, when I realized I left my jacket at school after I'd already gotten to the subway, I went back to get it...after much thinking about it. But you can't expect to see outcomes that clearly two nights in a row!)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I'm starting a revolution

(whisper) "Smile. Pass it on."

I had a revelation on the train today. If you barely smile - just raise your lips slightly - the person sitting across from you notices. And, barely perceptably, that person's lips slightly rise. Smiles are catchy. But they're scary to do, especially when the person sitting next to you might be a serial killer. So I decided to start a revolution (when I have the funding).

I'm going to print out business cards that have nothing but a smily face and the above four words on them. I want to hand them out. There doesn't have to be any interaction, just the handing of a card to a person, and then leaving. People do it all the time for bars, passing out paper that just gets thrown on the why not for emotions? It has to be passed on, so hopefully too many won't get thrown out. And it's something that touches people, I think, so hopefully they'll actually pass it on!

So...if any of you have the funding and the guts to do it, you can take the credit - but start it!

Sunglasses, Part II

My sister sent me this link:

Apparantly, people who are very chic wear sunglasses indoors. I'm not chic, I'm friendly (or at least I try to be - see my upcoming post!). I'd rather not be chic, makes you have to be so standoffish and cold...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Dare to say something

I learned a valuable lesson on Friday.

I was waiting for a bus, just sitting on a bench minding my own business, and I noticed a frum girl sitting next to me. Actually, I'd noticed her before I sat down and thought, I guess now we'll studiously ignore each other...but I started to think. Really think. What will it hurt if I said hi to her?

Maybe I'll be embarrassed, maybe she'll say something incredibly nasty, look at me like I'm slime, scum of the earth, and move to sit out of the way of my contamination. But...maybe she's just shy. Maybe she's not smiling 'cause she's afraid of what I'm afraid of - not recieving a smile back. But then maybe I'm just as bad as all the people I complain about. Maybe I'm the one who's unfriendly and unsmiling...

S0 I put a smile on my face and said "Hello, I'm trw!" And, lo and behold, she looked at me and smiled back!

People, inside, are really kind (as a general rule). They're just shy. In some places, they're so sure of rejection that they're afraid to say hello. So try it. Just once. Smile at the person. It makes you feel better, 'cause you get that whole self rightous "I'm being nice" thing. And it certainly makes the other person feel better.

The world can be a lonely place. Or a lovely place. It's your decision.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Positive Side of the Monsey Catastrophe

I just came back from a wonderful Shabbos in Monsey. My hosts used paper plates and plastic silverware (oxymoron, I know), did not use many of their pots and pans, and constantly came up with more shailos to ask the rav over the course of their Shabbos.

Why? Because someone had been selling treif chickens as kosher ones. Enough has been said, I think, about the awfulness of the situation, the tircha that everyone now has to go through, the dishwashers and china that can't be kashered and therefore the money that is being spent...

But seeing it, for me, being a part of it - just for one Shabbos - just showed me how amazing my people are. The Jews of Monsey found out that there was a problem. It wasn't a sanitary problem, there was no dirt on the chickens (at least not visible), and to an outsider, it had to look pretty strange. I was reading a copy of the NY Times over someone's shoulder on the subway that showed a picture of a bunch of Chasidim waiting on a line to do hagala (one kind of ritual cleansing), and really wondered what the guy holding the paper thought about it...

I'll tell you what I thought about it: I thought, Hashem, Your people love you. They'll do anything for you. וכל מאודך indeed. When push came to shove, the people that I saw in Monsey rushed to remove this purely spiritual taint from their lives. No, there was no physical ramifications that one could see from the use of treif chicken on their plates. But the spiritual ramifications are so important to Your people that they will do anything, no matter what the cost, to remove them.

מי כעמך ישראל

Edit: I just heard (via Stx, who would know) that all the rabbis in Monsey got together and put out a statement that everyone should kasher according to what their specific rabbi tells them - and no person is allowed to make judgement on other people's kashrus. If you did what your rabbi told you to do, you're fine. If someone else's rabbi told them something else and they did it, then REGARDLESS of what the rabbi told them to do, you have to assume that their kitchen is kosher. It's all about שבעים פנים לתורה and אמונת חכמים.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


I have to just add a bit about this place where I'm currently residing. When I have actually spoken to people, they have been exceedingly nice. I've been invited to countless places for Shabbos, and many people have offered to help me in so many ways.

Don't get me wrong. There are lots of nice things about this place.

It just takes some getting used to, and I'm not so used to it right now.

TRT - Day 18 - The Country

Once upon a time, the people from Brooklyn got together and formed a Country. They have no ruler except the people themselves, (which, granted, can be pretty scary, so I guess it's okay). It's only a temporary Country, however, existing and functioning, strangely, only during the summer. People shut down businesses, homes, and stores, and flee the city to this oasis of...something. I've never heard a name for this Country (apparently for fear of the U.S. government realizing that they've seceded from the Union and created their own Country), and so people only talk about it vaguely and mysteriously, calling it The Country, or sometimes just "Upstate". Everyone who's in the "know" in Brooklyn knows which Country they mean, so there is no need for further explanation.

Now, toward the end of the summer, the inhabitants of The Country have begun coming back into Brooklyn, flowing back in droves. Although I'm told that they will leave again for their last holiday weekend before they must return to reality, I've noticed that They are back. The purse-carrying, makeup encrusted, sparkly, flat-shoed people are back! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!


In other news, foreigners who move to Brooklyn are really lovely, and I am extremely grateful to them :)

Monday, August 21, 2006

TRT - Day 8


Look. You don't need to wear them in the subway. It's dark in there. Really dark. Wearing them in the subway is a statement, and, IMHO, cowardly.

Essentially, you're saying: "Not only do I not want to meet your glance, but I might want to stare at you without you knowing. I'm cooler than you, and if you don't see my eyes, you can't see me at all! Nyah, nyah.."

You don't have to meet my eyes, it's ok. I know I might follow you home and kill you if you do, and you're worried. But a little smile never hurt anyone. A smirk, yes. A leer, definitely. But learn the difference and you'll be a much happier person.

In other news, people from my home town who have relocated here are lovely and friendly, as are random people who introduce me to supercool bookstores and theatre! :)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Temporary Resident Tourist - Day 1

Key word: Positivity. Learn to laugh at self and at others rather than to be offended. I can do this. I can do this...maybe if I say it enough times, I'll believe it...

So the little-city-that-thinks-its-big-cause-its-near-the-big-city is funny.

I said good morning to the random lady I passed on the street, 'cause it was, and she looked at me like she wasn't sure if I was quite human. But there were people who distinctly smiled at me on my very first shopping trip in this crazy town, and the lady at Duane Reed was quite nice ('couse, she was African, and they're always friendly, so many it doesn't count).

I feel very stupid because I only speak (or somewhat understand) 2-3 of the millions of languages spoken by all the people. But it certainly motivates me to learn more!

The sky does get blue here! It's quite helpful for morale.

The big electronics store here doesn't carry ethernet cables. It's owned by frum people, so maybe they don't want to sell anything that can be a מכשול. Pretty impressive! But where's Radio Shack when you need them...?

I understand why so many Israelis move to Brooklyn. There're so many little holes in the wall where you can buy stuff, and they also use those black plastic bags!

Everyone uses Buicks! What do they see in them? (Aside from the whole looking-like-a-government-official thing...well...maybe that's it!)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Attention world:

Lemme get one thing straight. I don't feel sorry for myself. I'm not sad, I'm not bitter, I'm certainly not depressed about my friends getting married. So stop assuming I am! I don't think I'm old, I don't think I'm over the hill, and you know what? It doesn't upset me that this summer, two of my best friends married people that will love them to pieces! I wish them only joy and a bayis ne'eman, and all good things in the world. Why would I feel otherwise? Why do you assume that I would חלילה wish anything but that? Part of loving someone is wishing only the best for them in life. And when my dear ones find their dear ones, that's amazing and wonderful and fantastic! :)

So stop feeling bad for me, stop pitying me. If I'm not sad for me, why should you be?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Thank You

In the news: The Rosh Yeshiva at Mir suggested that none of the boys go on Bein Hazmanim. To paraphrase what I heard that he said, "if you're not fighting, then you'd better be learning."

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Obvious Difference


Edit: The artist's name is Gary Varvel (not all of the posts on slate are that pro-israel...or rather, pro-honesty...but alas, such is modern media...)

Edit #2: For more inspirational pictures of the soldiers, see this (the words are in Hebrew, but the pictures are pretty self-explanatory ;) )

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I've been starving...

I'm a perpetual student. If something exists, I want to know about it - why, how, where...everything that there is to know, I want to know. It's why when friends ask me what I want for a gift, I tell them to look at my Amazon Wish List (which has no fiction on it). It's why Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis was a very thoughtful (and well-used) gift, and why I'm up to Unit 5 in "Alif Baa," an Arabic textbook. It's why I'm going to graduate school...forever ;)

So in the past few years, I've been studying hard, learning lots, and generally getting good grades (Baruch Hashem! ;) ). And...I've been starving. I didn't realize it until recently, but I was gasping for air, for the slightest breath. Caught up in all my work and studies, I barely noticed the lack - but now that I have it back, my world is brighter!

It's Torah.

Sounds cliché , perhaps, but it's true. Earlier this summer, in a weak moment, I told someone that I would give a shiur for women. I'm still not so sure why she asked me, but she did, and I said yes - and so I have to face the consequences. I returned to my high school and seminary notes, scrounging for topics. I borrowed books from all over to research the material. And I'm still terrified for the speech. But I'm feeling so accomplished, so content. There's really something amazing about learning Torah - it changes you, it affects you.

And so when I sit down to my banquet of preparation, every night, I relish each word, each letter. And I hope I never forget this feeling again. Learning is wonderful, but learning Truth...there's nothing like it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Crazy situations...what can you do about Israel?

So I'm not really sure what to say about this matter...

I just want to reiterate what other bloggers have mentioned:

We have to be davening every day with major extra kavana (Scraps mentioned that "Individually or in groups, people are recommended to say the following perakim of Tehillim: 6, 13, 20, 22, 30, 79, 83, 121, 130, 142.") Keep an ear out for shul gatherings in your area for group tehillim.
Edit: The above tehillim are the ones we said at an incredibly intense gathering of seemingly the entire city at shul tonight, so I can confirm that they're the ones that have been "recommended."

Keep updated on the news. It's really important to know what's going on - these are our brothers and sisters we're talking about! I personally get my news from Jameel @ the Muqata (currently hosting fellow blogger Rock of Galilee and his family, refugees from the North...)

We have to focus on positive portrayals of Eretz Yisroel to all the confused people around us (at work, etc.) who (silly them) believe Western media. Here would be a good place to point out a great post of Olah Chadasha discussing the positive reactions of many of the Lebanese (and NOT Palestinian - don't mix them up!) toward Israel's invasion of their own country, which is amazing. But they hate the Hezbolla as well - they've been destroying their country for years!

Cross-Currents gives Top Ten list of "Ways to Help Israel," which I think is fairly insightful.

My personal one? When you're feeling an intense negative emotion about the small things in life ("oh, he cut me off; my friends don't like me; I'll never be able to..."), focus that emotion on the greater situation in כלל ישראל. It's not an easy exercise, but try it. You're feeling the emotion anyway...use it to focus outside of YOU and more into the US.

Other ideas? Let me know...

Scraps mentioned that "Rav Elyashiv is recommending people say perakim 13, 70, 125, and 128 for the current matzav."

She also included other "up-to-the-minute" news bloggers: (IsraellyCool)

I also want to point out JBlogosphere's War post, which includes a live news feed, what-we-can-do, and a pretty long list of "up-to-the-minute" bloggers.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Simple Joys

Simple joys have a simple voice:
It says why not go ahead?
Wouldn't you rather be a left-handed flea
A crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea...
-Pippin, the Musical

I was driving home from work today (that's where I do much of my thinking recently...there's nothing like traffic to help with philosophy), and I noticed something that was so simple and sweet, and made me smile. I started to think about the simple joys in life, little things that make me smile and give me a warm feeling inside. It's like singing about favorite things - it just makes you feel content with the world at large.

So here's my list. What's yours?

1. The inspiration for this post: Two people in the car behind me were singing together to their radio. I couldn't hear them, but I saw them in my rearview mirror, and they were just sharing a moment together. I almost felt like I was intruding to watch them, but seeing happy people like that makes me happy.

2. Music. It calms the nerves, soothes the soul...I once wrote a post on it (or started to? I don't remember). But there's something amazing about the power of music. And it gives me a simple joy.

3. Blue skies. After a week of pouring rain, blue skies are like an apology for the bad weather. And they make everything okay (for me, at least).

4. Blossoming things. My sister has this rubber plant that's been just doing nothing for years. It had leaves, but never grew any more, and just kinda sat there forever. Last week, I noticed a new leaf. It was a different color than the other leaves, a lighter green, but it was so fresh and new - a sign of new life. Nature has a wonderful beauty that man-made things can never capture. 'מה רבו מעשיך ה

5. Baking. Baking is one of my personal simple joys. I'm not like my sister, who goes to the mall to de-stress (in fact, the mall usually stresses me out). I guess I'm a good Jewish woman, 'cause I love making food for other people. And it de-stresses me. (It also probably explains the phenomenon as to why my body build is so different from my sister's :) ).
Tonight: Blondies, Baby Ruth Bars, and choco chip cookies.

6. My family. Baruch Hashem, they're absolutely awesome. And I'm gonna miss them sooooo much. (Why am I moving away again? Do I really have to? And to....there?)

7. The fact that my friends worry so much about me. They really shouldn't, 'cause by worrying, they sometimes create problems that don't exist, but it shows that they care about me. And we all need to know that we're cared about.

8. An exceptionally beautiful turn of phrase. I can't express my feelings in words, and so I'm amazed by those who can touch people in any way (for good, but bad also, unfortunately) through their words. An addendum to this is people who are not afraid to say when they feel spontaneous (good) emotions.

9. Kindred spirits (of course ;) )

Monday, June 26, 2006

Kindred Spirit

How would you define a kindred spirit?

(And, for extra points - but not to replace an answer - where is the term from? It could be more than one place, but there's one specific...and Stx, you're not allowed to answer the E.C. question until 5 people answer ;) )

Sunday, June 18, 2006

TRW's Theory of Relativity

If A = bad, and B = 2a, and C = 2b and so on, then after an abundance of Z, A starts looking pretty good.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I learned a lesson from my כלה מיידל tonight. Four days before her wedding, IY"H, with stress piling up, and everyone asking her in that worried voice "are you okay?", she provided an answer that was so simple and possibly cliche, but showed me a lot.

"Why should I be worried? I know I made the right choice, and what else should I be worried about?"

Now, in all honesty, there are things to worry about, and she is worrying about them. But the concept of Bridezilla never occurred to her. That she could be obnoxious and demanding, and everyone would do what she wanted anyway, excusing it because "well, she is getting married next week..." did not even cross her mind (maybe it did, but she's doing a pretty good job not showing it!). She's being sweet, caring, and considerate. And if she can be this way at this time, what right have I to be anything but, when I have no such stresses to worry about?

I'm proud to call her my friend. And I wish her the bestest of the bestest (even though she probably won't even read this...)


Tuesday, May 23, 2006


According to Wiktionary (which so many of my co-academicians would be shocked to see me using, but hey, it's convenient):

1. The first existence of anything; act or fact of commencing; rise; origin; beginning; start.

2. The day when degrees are conferred by colleges and universities upon students and others.

3. A graduation ceremony, from a school, college or university.

I like that it's both a beginning and an end. It's one of those rare profundities that emphasize how חכמה בגוים תאמין. And it really is, for me. It's the end of an era in my life, that's for sure, but the beginning of a new one. A continuation of the same, but in such a different way.

Some things that I learned from university:
1. You may be the only ספר תורה a stranger will ever meet.

2. It's a crazy world out there. B"H for my family, my life, etc.

3. There is no such thing as a plutonic relationship. Ever. Whether you feel emotion or not, apparantly others do...and then things get uncomfortable.

4. There are so many genuinely thinking people out there, trying to figure it all out.

5. I have it all figured out (or at least, I have the tools to figure it all out. It'll take me multiple lifetimes to actually do so).

6. There are so many people who don't think beyond their own skin - or other people's skin. And I feel sorry for them.

7. Those huge paper bags that you get at clothing stores are very useful for returning dozens of books to the library.

8. If they want to give you honors in the academic world, they tell you to wrap a rope around your neck. After much discussion, it was decided that you're gonna end up with a rope around your neck if you go the Ph.D route, so it's useful to have a colorful one.

9. Graduating as the only Summa Cum Laude in your department is a bit anticlimactic when none of your family or friends know what it means. Alas, priorities...

10. There are a lot of people who care about me, even though I disappear under a mound of books every semester. I love those people. I'm going to miss them. But they're gonna keep in touch, and I'll sharpen up my letter-writing skills once again! (And my IMing skills will reach perfection).

Monday, May 15, 2006

Friends Forever?

As I near graduation from university, and as so many things happen in the worlds of the people around me, I took out my yearbooks last night-from both middle school and high school. It was an eye-opening experience, and I cried, for the first time in quite a while.

It was a kind of selfish crying, when I think about it. So many people close to me are going through things that are so much more worthy of tears, but it was reading my old yearbooks that finally did it for me.

I suppose the nostalgia kinda rushed over me unexpectedly, and that's what hit me so strongly. I was reading the messages that people wrote to me so long ago, between 8th and 12th grades. We were so innocent, so excited for the future. So happy to start a new chapter in our lives and sure that we'd all continue our relationships just as they were.

The Graduation Song from Vitamin C has been playing in my mind ever since:

As we go on
We'll remember
All the times we
Had together
And as our lives change
Come whatever
We will still be
Friends forever...

That's what made me cry. Those words of certainty from people whom I thought would always be there, would always know my every thought, and would never leave. Many of them did, though, some earlier than others, and some later.

Certainty is impossible, and I'm the proof of it-I'm beginning a new chapter of my life soon as well, and leaving people behind. Shinuy makom, shinuy mazal. I certainly hope that it is only a physical leavetaking from those friends that remain, and not a permanent one, but considering the odds, who knows.

I guess there's not really a point to this post...I'm just emoting, and I'm not sure how to address it, so I'm attempting it through words.

(If blogger had the emoticons that livejournal had, I'd put "mood: uncertain")

Monday, May 01, 2006

Is Your World in Color, or Black and White?

Today I saw a film for a class that I'm taking. It was shocking, terrifying, and altogether disturbing. There was no blood, nudity, or foul language. In fact, it was made in 1940.

The name of the film was Jud Suss. It was made under Goebell's propaganda program, to show how decietful, hypocritical, dirty, and downright disgusting the Jews were, and how, in Martin Luther's words, one should "burn their synagogues and schools..."

I don't even know how to describe it. I never was all that good with words, but after I saw it, I was upset that such a film could ever be shown to anyone (incidentally, it was supposed to have been destroyed after WWII, but a Soviet film company copied it and sold it to a very large audience of in the Middle East - and the audience was not Jews).

But we can learn something from everything. So what was the lesson I took out of it?
The difference between black and white and color.

The film itself was a typical early movie - bad sound, bad picture, bad editing. The story and its blatant anti-Jewish message was pretty clear, but everything else was kinda fuzzy, especially the scenes of the Jews performing rituals. When I put myself into the position of my fellow classmates, they truly did seem strange, dancing frantically with huge objects (ספרי תורה), and chanting strange chants.

After the film, I came home and went to a shiur. It took place in a shul, and I was surrounded by people. These people, however, quite unlike the ones in the film, were full of color! The clothes, the hair, each unique and distinct face...vibrant with color and life.

And I realized the difference between the film I had seen and the reality I had witnessed. The film was made by an outsider, one unfamiliar with the Jewish world and its beauty, and, in fact, one who was looking for the bad and the strange within it. My shiur on the other hand, was attended by participants of the life, who see the wonderful reality of it every day!

When looking at Judaism (and especially the Orthodox brand, regardless of prefix), the question to ask is how you view it. Are you an outsider, seeing an ugly, fuzzy, noisy picture, or do you allow yourself inside, and open yourself up to the beauty and color within?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Note to self:

Keep your big mouth shut.

Words destroy. They rip tears in people's hearts. They rip apart relationships. The Chofetz Chaim says that you should assume things are secrets unless specifically told otherwise.

I feel like that woman who came to a rabbi (was it the Chofetz Chaim?) and asked him how she could repent for saying Lashon Hara. He told her to take a feather blanket and rip it open (there's that word again). When she did, the feathers all flew away. She returned to the rabbi, who then told her to go and collect all the feathers.

"But it's impossible," she replied. "They've all flown in so many different directions; they're impossible to retrieve now!"

"That's just the point," responded the rabbi. Words are like that. Once they're out of your mouth they're gone. They can't be taken back.

But words are not like feathers, but rather like big, sharp knives...flying every which way, striking whatever they hit...

I wish I could adequately apologize.

Incidentally, I was just listening to a tape by R' Noach Orlowick, and he said an amazing truth: "The more aware a person is, the more capable he or she is to feel both pleasure and pain."
So it's zeh l'umas zeh - on so many levels.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pesach Lessons

1. Watching someone get excited about Torah is amazing-absolutely wonderful. It just lifts me up and carries me...well, I just like it a lot.

2. I miss my sister when she's away. But my sister's friends can sometimes help with that, especially when I need serious ranting or advising :) B's cool, so her friends must be cool too! Thanks again.

3. Chiquitita, you and I know/that the heartaches come and they're awesome! :)

4. "Off the Derech" - I'm reading it prepared for a review sometime in the general future...

5. I am an excellent actress. Better than I even thought.

6. Putting a major research paper off until the absolute last moment is really really not a good idea. Especially when the last time you wrote a paper for this professor, you worked really really hard on it and the prof. now expects the same results...

7. Need dating advice? Of all my friends (all of which but one are currently attached), I am apparantly the guru. Which is kinda funny, 'cause I have the least experience in engagements.

8. I don't wanna move to that claustrophobic city up north...but I may just have to :-/

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Jewish Bloggers' Campaign for Responsible Speech Online

While avoiding rewriting my essay that's due next week, I was doing random blogger searches (very very bad), and found this, which I definitely want to be a part of! (The main point is about 1/4 of the way down the page. To quote Jewschool:

The recommendation for bloggers carrying this banner is that they be
mindful before pressing the "Publish" button and that they ask this
consideration from their site's contributors - both other bloggers on their
site and visitors. Ask yourself before posting, I"s what I've written a
kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of God's name) or a chilul Hashem (a
desecration of God's name)?" If it's the latter, consider revising your
remarks to preserve your point, while minimizing whatever harm you may do to
your fellow. In other words, attack the idea, not the person, and do so
tactfully and respectfully.

With my limited computer knowledge, I couldn't figure out how to get the little banner of the Chofetz Chaim on my sidebar, but y'all should know (by now that I wholly support this initiative, and kudos to Jewschool for making it known among a far larger readership than I ever could have).

Update: Thanks to defen's highly superior blogging knowledge, I now do have the Chofetz Chaim on my sidebar. Thanks again, defen!

It Must be Spring Break...

I had time to sit and watch a movie! Well, actually, I didn't, but it was from 1947, black and white, and certainly educational, so I think it was acceptable.

Fascinating. I'm taking a class this semester on history and film in the 1930s in the US, USSR, and Nazi Germany, so I've gotten to analyzing old films quite a bit. So when my sister asked me if I wanted to watch Gentlemen's Agreement (1947) with her, I was pretty interested.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the movie, but as soon as it was over, I felt that I had to research it a bit-to find out the film stats. on it, see how popular audiences thought about it, etc.

In short, the plot: A journalist goes "undercover" by claiming he is a Jew so that he can do an article on anti-semitism.

What struck me most about this film was the depth that it actually went into exploring the idea of hatred. True, the Jewish theme could have been replaced by an African American theme, or an Irish theme (depending on the period), but it was, imho, pretty honest. It discussed self-hating Jews and the real loud WASPS who call them names, but it also talked about subtle anti-semitism that existed in the 40's - not selling houses to Jews, not allowing them into country clubs...'twas interesting. The most crucial point that it mentioned, however, was complacency - how it's not enough just to get mad about something and talk about it. You have to do something to show that you care, or else all you say is, literally, just talk.

It wasn't the best film I've ever seen (although it won three Oscars-best film, best director, and best supporting actress), but it was quite thought-provoking.

Has anyone else seen it?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Perspective: What Golden Calf?

In this week's parsha, hidden between the halachos of the קטורת, the שלש רגלים, and Moshe's vision of Hashem's "back" is a short incident that changed Judaism. The עגל הזהב was considered such a bad עברה that we are still being punished for it (although even so Hashem still promised that He would never exchange us for another people....but that's a whole other discussion). But this whole incident is not at the beginning nor at the end of the parsha, it's in the middle, sandwiched between the halachos of the משכן, which were completed exactly as commanded, and the description of Moshe and his greatness. Why is it squirreled away? Why is it not listed in a prominent place, if it had such a long-lasting affect upon future generations?

The answer touches on a recent (heated) conversation that I had with my dear, beloved B.

Some people feel that there are a lot of problems in Orthodox (specifically Yeshivish) Judaism. These people feel, for some reason, that the best way to address these problems and perhaps (although I'm not sure how) to solve them is to blast them across the web.

To those people, I respond: look at where the Golden Calf is described in the Torah. Before we even get to it, we talk about the solution to it, a description of what we can do to solve the great sin that was committed, before it happens! The whole description of the Mishkan, which was built in part as an atonement for the Golden Calf, is written before the action was even committed! The Torah changes around the entire historical order of events to do this, so you'd think it's a bit important.

I know it is.

Admittedly, there are issues that need to be addressed in the frum community. So if you see them, PLEASE, describe in detail what we (all of us, as ONE people) can do, or, better, take action to directly solve the problem! Blasting your fellow Jews, will never help. That will not solve anything-if anything, it will just cause more hatred between brothers (Sibling Rivalry, to quote Sakrfys, which is the most heart-breaking "issue" of all, and the reason we don't have Moshiach).

Why would you want to create hatred when there was none before? Follow the example of the Torah, which doesn't start nor end the Parsha on a negative note. Try to end every conversation (or blog post, for that matter), positively! See if it makes you a happier's done that for me!

I have a friend who taught me to see the other side of every situation. I am eternally grateful to her, because it is solely due to her that I can see light in the darkest night.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

There ain't room in this town for the two of us...

There is only one kind of person in the world about whom Hashem says "He and I cannot exist in the same place." This is someone who's arrogant.

Why not that serial killer? Why not, even, the one who performs a Chilul Hashem, disgracing His Name?

Because everyone can do teshuva. Once someone realizes that he or she has done something wrong, it is possible to clear the slate. Sincerity is crucial, but it can and has been done! ;)

The problem with an arrogant person is that he cannot admit that he's wrong. By definition, he considers himself infallable and therefore refuses to admit to a mistake. So he won't do teshuva-he will persist in his bad ways (or even way-it could be one particular thing) and refuse to assess himself and try to change. This is an extremely dangerous character trait, because our whole purpose here is change! And life is like a down escalator-if you're not working to go up, then by definition, you're falling.

So what does this have to do with me? I have seen the most arrogance in people with Ph.D.'s (although, I've also met some absolutely wonderful people, such as my advisor, who have, for some reason, avoided the pitfall). I guess prolonged study in anything will do that to you. You become The Authority on that particular topic, and so you feel like you are The Authority on everything! (Including other people's religions, which can get kind of annoying when it's your religion that they're pontificating on...)

But its fascintaing, to me, because these people (and I've had experience with two such people in the past week) can't learn anymore, unless they teach it to themselves.

It's really kind of sad.

Disclaimer: Notwithstanding this, I still see a Ph.D. in my distant future. It's just a warning that this is a danger. And Tina, you are certainly NOT in this catagory ;)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Public הודעה

משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה :) :) :)

I just wanted to put out a public הכרת הטוב.

First and foremost, to the One.

I don't know if I've been getting this across clearly enough, but I've been extremely stressed out recently, and it's not going to end any time soon (at least not till May 25-when I walk down that aisle!! ;) No, not the wedding least as of now...).

For some reason, though, I sat down tonight, rather (read: much much) later than I expected to, and got nervous. And then proceeded to do what needed to be done. Even the Latin homework was easier than it had been earlier tonight, so I know that couldn't have been natural! We really do get small miracles in our lives daily-it's just a matter of identifying them. After all, מקרה can be switched around to 'רק מה!

I feel very sad for people who don't believe in some kind of guiding power in thier lives. I don't know how I could function without knowing that He is there for me, always! Knowing that, I am able to tackle the seemingly impossible, 'cause He is holding my hand! Isn't that amazing?? Sounds simplistic and naive, perhaps, but it astounds me every time I think about it. To convince yourself that there is no one there except us physical Earthlings makes lonliness very lonely indeed.

Second thanks go to y'all for the better-than-platitudes.

Words are incredibly powerful, and many of you have more than your share of capability for their use.

Third, to the awesome people that worked on and came to Sunday night. I don't need birthday presents, but an evening spent with friends (and other random guests ;) ) really makes it special. Special thanks to the A. family for making all that food and then allowing me to play while they cleaned up...;)

...and that's my positivity for the week/month/semester!!
I'll (likely) be back...

Monday, February 13, 2006

(Please, no platitudes)

It's like getting addicted to cigarettes to replace coffee.

Can one thing ever replace another? Doubtful. But if you don't have time for anything, it all falls to the wayside. The good things go first.

That's very frightening.

Priorities? Are there any?

I don't think blogging is all that healthy.

Oh well. Back to work.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dillemma of the Week

Should I apply to YU's Revel Graduate School for Jewish History?

Why or why not?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Yeah, I'm Back. I shoulda stayed, but I'm back.

Thanks, Stx, for blowing my cover...I wasn't gonna post for a few days yet, but with all the pressure from y'all...


Before I left, everyone kept asking me why I was going. My answer: "I need to." And I did. It's amazing how you don't know how much you need something until you have it again. And how much more you miss it once you taste it for a moment.

I needed to see the Kosel.
I needed to see the lady at the Kosel who reached into her change purse every single time that one of the women asking for money came over to her.
I needed to see the chayelet who turned around and gave tzedaka to the old lady sitting outside the Tachana Merkazit.
I needed to see the friends of mine who left extremely comfortable lives in Chutz La'aretz to begin their marraige on holy soil.
I needed to see friends who left less comfortable lives in Chutz La'aretz for not-so-easy lives on holy soil.
I needed to see my sister, brother-in-law, and their children, who have planted themselves Ba'aretz and have directed their lives exclusively to Torah and Hashem.
I needed to see my grandfather, who represents a generation that has lived through so many eras and has more knowledge and life experience than anyone I know.
I needed to see Rebbetzin Kanievsky and have the zchus to watch her holy husband make havdala.
I needed to daven at Kever Rachel.
I needed to speak in Hebrew, which is far closer to Lashon Hakodesh than the language that I speak here.
I needed to walk on the streets that had led to the Beis Hamikdash.
I needed to be able to give money to a random guy in the airport who couldn't pay his taxi driver, but knew he could ask us because we were frum.

I needed to stay for longer.

I went to remind myself of what I miss in Chutz La'aretz.
I came back with the knowledge that I must return.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


After (one of) My Best Friend's Wedding, I'm going on a very long-overdue journey of spiritual rejuvination.

I'll be back in the end of January ;)