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 True, the Jewish theme could have been replaced by an African American theme, or an Irish theme (depending on the period), but it was, imho, pretty honest.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...