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Isn't it pretty?

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Rosh Chodesh Elul

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul. The day to start thinking about the next year. What am I going to work on for the next year? What will happen in my life? Who will come into my life and who will leave it? Today we start reading Tehillim #27, which has always spoken to me. "Hashem, hear my voice when I call, be gracious toward me and answer me." Isn't that what I ask for every day? For Hashem to be listening when I pray, when I shed tears, when I sincerely ask for His help. It amazes me that I can connect to these words that were written so long ago, that even King David wanted the same thing that I want. "Teach me your way, Hashem, and lead me on the path of integrity, because of my watchful foes." Help guide me in my actions, Hashem, because I know that everything I do can be used against me. "Strengthen yourself and He will give you courage" Please, Hashem, give me the courage to do what I know is right, even if it is not always popular, or easy. Elul is a time of reflection. Please let me have the courage to see myself in a true light, to objectively look at myself, and decide, first of all, what needs to be worked on, and secondly, what I can realistically accomplish in the next year. Thank you, Hashem, for all the blessings you have already given me. Please let me merit to have many more bestowed upon me in the future. Thank you, Hashem, for all the challenges you have given me, and the fact that you have also given me the strength I have needed to get through those challenges. Please let me merit to have more challenges, along with the tools to get through them, in the coming year. And please Hashem, for all of B'nai Yisrael, let everyone find the same strength and meaning, and foundation, that I have.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003


I was at a shiur last night. I am still not quite sure what the rabbi's main focus was, but he said something that made an impact when I heard it. He said, "It is in the becoming, not in the being."

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Relationship with Hashem

I know I am a little slow on the take here, but I just got around to reading Shmuely Boteach's reaction to Dr. Laura's rejection of Judaism in the Jerusalem Post. While I have to admit that I have never been the biggest fan of Boteach's, I have to say that the article is extremely well-written and a very articulate response to the feeling of Dr. Laura "not feeling fulfilled" by Judaism. I also find Boteach's article a very good delineation about feelings I have been having recently. Being a baal teshuvah, and having made the choice to bring Torah into my life, I don't usually have doubts that the way I have chosen to live my life is the right one. But it is not always easy to live the Torah life. And lately I have to admit that while I have not been questioning my faith, I have been having trouble feeling connected with Hashem. Boteach writes: "To be a Jew is to pray three times a day even when it bores you to death, to starve in cities where there is no kosher food, and to go into the army to defend your tiny homeland even while American kids your age are partying in Cancun. And for all that, your reward is to be hated by the other nations of the earth just for wanting to live. So why do we do it? For the simple opportunity to walk with God, as Abraham did; brave tyranny, like Moses; and sing to God with harp and lyre, like David. These are privileges not to be squandered simply because we don't always feel all giddy inside. Even the most secular Jews have been prepared to be tortured and killed rather than be separated from so glorious a heritage." Why do I keep doing it even when I am not feeling such a connection? Why do I daven every day even when I have no kavanah? Because I can't break the tradition and responsibility that Hashem gave us so many years ago. Who am I to say, that just because I am having it tough for a while (and certainly tough for me is not any great trajedy, I know that I am incredibly lucky), "Forget it, Hashem, it's over. I am only going to do what you want when you do what I want." Boteach also says, "Man is created to serve the purposes of God, and not the reverse." I think I need to keep reminding myself of that. Finally, Boteach closes with, "Before she turns her back, I would encourage Dr. Laura to reread Moses' words: "For [God's law] is not something empty from you," with the famous talmudic commentary: "If it is empty, it is from you." " I guess I need to keep searching and learning. I have to find it in myself, Hashem has already done his part.

Monday, August 25, 2003

It was fine

I wish I could just not expect anything. I hate when you get excited about the possibility of something, you play it over in your mind, you think you know what to expect... And then when the moment finally happens, it is not at all like you expected. The event that you had hoped would be extremely enjoyable, fun, easy, ends up being fine. Nothing to write home about, certainly. Not horrible, not a story that you can entertain your friends with or anything. But just okay. Blah. Nondescript. And that's not the end of it. You have to see it through to the end, because you don't want to cut something out of your life because it is "just fine." So now you have to wait a week to follow up on your fine encounter, to see if it could possibly be made into something more than fine, something that you might want to nurture, and make into a part of your life. But you are dreading it, and in dreading it, will probably make it worse anyway. So you really try to not think about it, to give it the benefit of the doubt, "it was a bad time", "you weren't at your best", or even "it will be better next time." You hope that this is the case. But in the back of your head you are thinking, "Why?" Anyone have any suggestions for making a "fine" situation more enjoyable? Please, I have six days and counting to find a new attitude!

Thursday, August 21, 2003

(Please excuse this post if it is less than eloquent. I had a very nice blog written and then my computer decided to crash on me) I feel the need to write something about the recent bombing in Israel. It hit me hard for a few different reasons. The first reason is simply that I can not relate to what would make a human being strap explosives to himself and kill himself along with many others, innocent children among the victims. And to say that a religion would tell you to do it! The second reason is that I can relate to what happened in a personal way. When I was in Israel, I spent a lot of time at the Kotel. It was the place I ran to for solace, support, comfort, to feel Hashem's presence. I credit my first trip to the Kotel as a huge stepping-off point for my journey towards Yiddishkeit. I never went to the Kotel where I did not leave feeling reassured that Hashem was out there, watching out for me, caring about me. To think of having that feeling and then, minutes later, being struck my a bomber, is something that I can't fathom. The other reason the bombing troubles me is that the bomber was dressed as a religious Jew. I heard a thought-provoking vort on this topic a few months ago. It was said that while the bombers are dressed like religious Jews on the outside, on the inside they hate Jews fo nothing other than the fact that they are Jewish. The thing is, maybe it is a reflection of many religious Jews, who dress the part to perfection, but hate other Jews who don't look the part, or are maybe not as religious as they themselves feel they are. They don't get to know other Jews as people, they just judge them as not being as worthy as they are, because of their religious level, as if evidenced by external appearances. I guess the point is that it is time to stop judging everyone on their outward appearances and realize that if someone is a Jew, they are worthy in Hashem's eyes of being a Jew, and that is enough. Please, Hashem, let these horrible bombings end soon.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Radiate Positive Energy

I read this today and thought it was good enough to share. It comes from one of my favorite rabbis, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin. I know an individual who excelled in the ability to make people fell good about themselves. “What thoughts go through your mind when you meet someone new?” I asked him. “I always mentally bless people with success in what is important to them,” was the reply. When you wish people success in your mind, you radiate positive energy. Even though others don’t know exactly what you are thinking, they pick up positive energy. As King Solomon wrote “As water reflects a face back to face, so one’s heart is reflected back to him by another.” When your heart and mind generate positive energy, others feel good about themselves and good about you. All too many people think critical or negative thoughts about others. This is noticeable in the look in their eyes and their entire facial expression. With very critical people, the victims can feel very uncomfortable. How can these people change? They can begin by seeing the good in others and blessing them in their minds. Bless people in your mind whether they are people you know or people you are seeing for the first time. Whether they are people you especially like or you don’t for whatever reason. Whenever you see that someone has a troubled, worried, or sad look on his face, bless him in your mind. Wish him healing. Wish him solutions. Wish him joy. Some of the thoughts you can think are: “I wish this person much happiness.” “I wish this couple marital harmony and unity.” “I wish this person financial success.” (Upon seeing a person who is angry:) “I wish this person inner peace.” “I wish this person a healthy child.” “I wish this student success in his studies.” When one’s mind is full of blessings for others, the very first to benefit from those blessings is the one radiating those good wishes.


I am having trouble dealing with someone in my office. I find this woman extremely difficult to interact with. She changes moods constantly, at times treats me like I am 5 years old, and seems to feel that if she was in charge of everything then the office would run perfectly. She also talks about our boss behind her back, saying extremely negative things about her, like that she is mentally ill and a control freak. In general, I find her to be a very negative person. I am not the only one who feels this way about her, my office-mate has confirmed that it is not just me who feels like she is negative and hard to deal with. The problem is, I have read numerous sources that say that when something bothers you about another person, it is often reflective of problems you yourself have. So I wonder if the reason she bothers me so much is that I actually have many of the traits I have a problem with in her. I work very closely with this woman, so when I first started my job, I befriended her and became close with her. The problem was, it was too close and I found myself engaging in behavior and loshon hara that I didn't want becoming something I did with ease. So I distanced myself, and now don't speak of personal issues with her. But this seems to have hurt her, and she now lashes at me unexpectantly. Dealing with people is something that I am usually reasonably good at. I don't think there are that many people out there who dislike me, and I try not to give people a reason to do so. So that is why I wonder if the reason I have trouble with this particular person is rooted in my own issues. Or maybe she truly is a difficult person to get along with. I guess the real issue is, how do I deal with it? Do I continue as I have, and just keep my distance as much as possible, considering we work in the same department and do have to interact on a regular basis? Or do I try to say something to clear the air, and if so, what do I say without attacking or making it extremely uncomfortable between us? And if my difficulties with her stem from problems within myself, how do I recognize that and make changes in myself? I try so hard to be a kiddush Hashem, because for most of the people in my office, I am the only Orthodox Jew that they know. I worry that if my interactions with this woman are something she see in a negative light, she will judge all Jews by that standard. I feel tremendous pressure by that. She has told me that she finds me judgemental, that she is "not going to hell" for her actions, and I try to tell her that I am not judging her, and I would never think she was going to hell, that is not even part of my thought process, but I don't know that she believes me. And maybe I am being judgemental, I probably am. But how to handle it???

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Defining Characteristics

When I think about what defines me, I usually think about being intelligent, kind, independent, someone who is growing in their Yiddishkeit. The problem is that it seems that what defines me to others is something that I have never had any control over: Being From Alabama Ok, fine, so there are not that many frum jews from Alabama. Most of the people I know haven't met any others. Fine, I understand that it is unusual. And don't get me wrong, it is not something that I am ashamed of at all. I recognize that I possess many qualities, such as courteousness and hospitality, that the South ingrained in me that I might not have gotten had I grown up in New York or other locales North of the Mason-Dixon line. But is it really necessary, when I am meeting new people, for the person who is introducing me to stop all conversation in the room and shout out, "Guess where Shoshana is from! Alabama!" I don't feel like it needs to be the first thing that a new acquaintance finds out about me. Nor do I feel it has to be the focus of the way people relate to me. Does anyone else get this focus for other unusual characteristics? If someone has an extra toe, for example, do they get introduced to others as, "This is Chana, guess what, she has six toes on her left foot." I guess my point is, I want people to find out who I really am, not to just think of me as, "That girl from Alabama." There is much more to me than that. I hope that most people will take the time to find out.

Friday, August 08, 2003

On My Mind

Ok, so today's musing is not so well formed in my brain, just a few things that have been happening in my life. The big step that I took in the past few days - I actually signed up for classes at the University of Baltimore. I will be matriculating starting September 2. It is a big step towards getting that degree that everyone has been telling me for the past five years that I need to get, and I have to say that while I am a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of being in school three nights a week and having tons of work outside of work to deal with, I am happy with my decision and relieved to have made such a step after talking about doing it forever. Whew! That was a long sentence! My next step is figuring out what I want to do with my degree - if anyone has any good ideas of what to do with a Bachelor's in Psychology, let me know. The second thing on my mind was that yesterday, Tisha B'Av, I heard several amazing and inspirational speakers. I have to say I made use of the day to get rid of lots and lots of tears, though I have to admit that I am not sure I was always crying for the right reasons, but I figured if I was going to cry I might as well do it on Tisha B'Av. The main message of the speakers was that we should always strive to sanctify Hashem's name in everything that we do. We should always consider what Hashem wants for us. We should look beyond our boundaries and try to determine why we are in the situation we are in, and what we can get out of it. So, with Hashem's help, I am going to strive to look at each situation I am in, and really struggle to see the best of it. I will admit now that this will not be easy and that I am going to fail many times at it. But if I continue to look at everything as a hindrance, I don't know that I will ever learn what I am supposed to, and I may never get to move on with my life. So, I am going to try to take each hurdle as an opportunity. I will keep you posted on my progress. If anyone has any motivational tactics to fulfilling this, please share! So, Shabbos will be here in a few hours and I am looking forward to sharing it with friends. Thank Hashem for putting so many wonderful people in my life. I will be having a friend stay in my apartment, and I am happy that I can extend her the hospitality that was extended to me for so many years. G-d willing, I will be able to soon have a guest bedroom in my own home to share with guests instead of making them stay in my living room. May everyone have a wonderful Shabbos. Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003


Just a quick musing on advice - Lately, I have had several people come to me for advice. The most recent was someone actually asked me what I thought she should do with her life. Who I am to come to for advice? I try to do the best I can, but later I wonder, "Should I have said anything? What do I know?" Any suggestions?

The Evil Green-Eyed Monster

Ok, here are my current thoughts on overcoming my particular nisayon of jealousy. I have had trouble for the past few years (especially this last one) being truly happy for someone who gets engaged or married, because that is what I want so much for myself. It is something that has bothered me, why can't I be happy for someone else? Why can't I push beyond thinking about myself and feel for others in a more empathetic way? So last night I was thinking about a friend of mine who told me how she would like to be married within the next two years (and even in two years, she won't be nearly as old as I am now) and how I was having trouble hearing her say that and really wish that it comes true for her. But then I thought about how much I hate dating, and everyone I know who has been dating hates it so much, how it is so much pressure, and frustration, and disappointment. And then I realized that I really did not want my friends, or anyone at all for that matter, to have to go through all those frustrations. And in that moment, I realized that if I could focus on being happy that someone who gets engaged doesn't have to date anymore, I really can be happy for them. Because I know what it is like to date, and I wish that I could be done with it. I truly can imagine the joy of being done with dating, and that feeling is one that I can hope for others. So, that is my new outlook. Wish me luck in remembering it and feeling it the next time someone I know gets engaged.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Ramble On

Ok, here's a blog that probably won't make much sense or be terribly entertaining, but it's stuff that I needed to get out: I never did like surprises. I was always the kind who wanted to know what I was getting for my birthday or Chanukah. I never wanted to wait to open my presents. Nor did I make other people wait to open things I got for them. Which is why I am having such a hard time believing that the right person will come along for me. Why I have such a hard time waiting for him. Why can’t I just know who he is going to be already? Why do I have to go through all these wrong people? I am sure the questions have been asked before, and I know so many people who have gone through so much more than me, I should be grateful that I don’t have any really horrible stories, that I have not been divorced, or abused or anything else. I know that intellectually, but I am having a hard time with it emotionally. And it makes it worse when I can’t keep my mouth shut. I tell everyone what is going on with my life, and then my mom gets all excited and there is nothing to tell her. Hashem, please, just give me the strength to get through this incredibly frustrating part of my life. You know what else it is? There have been very few things that I have not been able to accomplish. I am not used to it and I don’t deal with it well. I usually deal with it by giving up and acting like it doesn't matter, but this is something that I can’t give up on so easily and it really does matter. It is frustrating, and irritating, and I have to go through it. And I have to ask the help of lots of people along the way, another thing I am not good at doing. Hashem, is this what you are trying to teach me? If so, let me learn quickly and be able to move on. Lessons for the day: Patience. Wait and good things will come. Hashem knows best. Learn something from everything. It is okay to ask for help when you need it.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Tisha B'Av Thoughts

Tisha B'Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Intellectually, I know what I am supposed to be mourning on Tisha B'Av, but I have a very hard time connecting with it. Aish.com (my first stop for jewish sources and inspiration) has a lot of very good articles about the Three Weeks, as well as Torah.org and the main Chabad page. But can we really feel like we miss the Bais HaMikdash? Can we really feel sorry for the mistakes made in the Midbar? I am not sure. I was told that it is virtually impossible to miss the Bais HaMikdash today. That it is extremely hard to want to have it again, because there isn't even another nation that has anything like it that we can be jealous of. It was suggested that I go to the Simon Wiesenthal Center homepage and remind myself that with all the Anti-Semitism that is out there today, we really are in Galus. And that we should want to get out of Galus as soon as possible. And then I think about every day at work, when I struggle to fit in with my non-Jewish co-workers (and should I really want to fit in, or should i keep myself separate?), when I work at being a kiddush Hashem, a good example of an Orthodox Jew, since I am the only one most of the people I come into contact with know. Just this morning a co-worker told me about an Orthodox woman she saw who she tried to smile to who wasn't friendly back, and I found myself making excuses for this woman who I didn't know, because I didn't want someone else to think that we aren't friendly. And then I think, THIS is what it means to be in Galus. It means that not only are we not seen as a light unto the nations, but people take every action we make and scrutinize it and put a negative spin on it. It means we must watch our every step and be cautious with every word that comes out of our mouths, lest it be taken the wrong way. This is the loss of the Bais HaMikdash, that we can never really be comfortable, no matter where we live or how much we think we have been accepted. Until Moshiach comes, we must always be on guard, on our toes, and watching every step we make.

Friday, August 01, 2003

What is the value of a good education?

To go to school or not to go to school, that is the question... And one I have been struggling with for the past five years. The question is, "Is it worth it for me to finish my degree?" Ideally, I will be married within the next six months, have a baby in the year after that, and never have to work again. Ha! Just kidding, even I wouldn't be happy with that situation. I want to work a bit when I get married and have kids, and I would prefer to have a job that I am suited for, and that makes use of my unique abilities and talents. The problems are: 1) I have a unique talent in math, and my current company would encourage that talent by paying for me to pursue actuarial studies. 2) I love psychology, which you can do absolutely nothing with if you have only a bachelor's degree. 3) I would like to be a school counselor, but a) could I handle the emotional toll, b) could I find a decent job doing it and c) is it really what it is cracked up to be? And further, I make more money now without a degree than I would make if I had a Bachelor's in Psychology and pursued doing what I want to do. So what do I do? More later. Ok, thought about this one a lot and have decided that I do want to go back to school and will just take it one step at a time. Right now the focus will be on finishing my Bachelor's in Psychology and then I will figure out where I want to go from there. The school of my choice: The University of Baltimore A good choice for me, because it keeps me from having to be in class with a bunch of 18-year olds who are two seconds out of high school. I decided to say "no" to studying the actuarial sciences because while I am very good at math, it is not something that I feel makes a difference in people's lives, and if I am going to pursue an actual career, I want it to be something that can make an impact on others, even just a person at a time. Wish me luck!

The Beginning

Ok, a Blog for my musings. I have been thinking about doing this for a while, but wasn't sure how I felt about exposing my thoughts to the public forum. Oh well, I figure that probably not that many people will read it anyway! Short list of stuff on my mind: Dating (always seems to pop up on top) Being a mentor to someone - who am I to give advice? Being true to who I am What is the purpose? Can I really tell someone I am right and they are wrong, even if that is the way I truly feel? Jealousy Looks, how important are looks and why does it have such an effect on my self-esteem? Why do people treat me so much differently now when they first meet me than they did when I looked different? Are people's reactions to me totally caught up in my external appearance, or is there a way to get beyond that? Have a good Shabbos.