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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Return of the Finger Bruise

Okay, so the bruise on the inside of my finger has been gone for a while now. I guess my finger decided that it could handle being in school and realized that I wasn't going to stop using it just because it chose to become discolored at random intervals. But last night I am looking at my hand, and there is a very angry-looking purple bruise on the side of my pinky finger. I have no idea where it came from. It only decides to hurt on occasion. But, boy is it ugly. My poor hand. This bruise is in addition to the huge bruise on the back of my hand where I walked into the handle on the shower door and the many paper cuts and cat scratches that array the rest of my fingers. Is it asking too much to have a hand that doesn't look like I have been in battle? I work in a professional office, and go to school. The most manual of labor that I do is carrying my backpack from my car to class. It is not such a rough life. Yet, by looking at my bruised and scarred hands, you would think I have been through eight wars and dig ditches for a living. I hope that the guy I am looking for isn't insistent on having a girl who has perfectly manicured fingers at all times, because I have news, it ain't gonna happen here. Oh well, things could be worse, right? It could be my face that has such problems. Oh wait, I do keep banging my head into stuff. Never mind.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Parshas Bereishis

I wanted to put a little dvar Torah up, because I realized that we are now starting the cycle again with Bereishis, and I figured I should start the year out right. I will preface this by saying that it is my own thoughts, so accuracy might possibly be lacking, I apologize in advance. In my class this past week, we were speaking about friendships and whether a relationship with an animal can be considered friendship. Many in the class pointed out instances in which their pets showed displays of affection, emotion and even reason in regards to the relationship with their owners. I could relate to this, as I know that my cat has a habit of eating very little when I am not home and certainly seems to show affection or even distress when he does not see me often enough. Another person in my class told over a story in which one of their pets actually tricked another pet into getting the "good bed" in the house, showing the ability to reason and use some form of problem solving. So the question is asked, what makes our relationships with animals different from our relationships with humans? The Torah says, in Bereishis, Chapter 2, Verse 7, "Hashem then formed the man, dust from the ground, and He blew into his nostrils the breath of life. And so man became a living soul." (Thanks to Tachash.org for the text.) I believe it is this "breath of life", what we usually call the neshama, that makes such a huge difference between man and animals, what makes the relationships so much greater between man and man, than between man and animal. Hashem made humans "a living soul," not a living body. As humans, we crave to connect with other souls, rather than hollow sentiment that is not based in a soul, which is the only thing that an animal can offer. Hashem, in his incredible kindness, gave us this soul to be higher than animals, and to yearn for more than the average animal can offer. And in yearning for more, hopefully we will be able to use Hashem's great gifts to benefit others. As we begin reading the Torah again this year, may the lessons enclosed therein cause our souls to strive for greatness in Hashem's eyes. Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, October 23, 2003


So, my big class was last night and the topic was friendship. We discussed the three different types of friendships as defined by Aristotle. Aristotle discusses friendship of utility, where two people get something from each other and then friendship of pleasure, where it is pleasing for two people to be around each other. Then Aristotle discusses the highest level of friendship, a virtuous friendship, in which the two friends both have ample virtue, and their friendship is about wanting excellence of each other, rather than pleasure or material gains. Our professor asked us if we have any virtuous friendships, and most of the people in the class felt that they did, which surprised our professor. He told us a little story about himself. The friendship that he feels is the closest to being a friendship of virtue is with a 78-year-old woman whom he met on the Internet. He has been e-mailing her back and forth, quite regularly, for the past six years. Apparently they are very close and he feels that he truly respects and cherishes her for who she is and the values that she holds dear. He has never spoken to her on the phone or met her in person. According to Aristotle, this could not be a virtuous friendship, because in a friendship of virtue, there must be some proximity of location and common activities shared between the friends. Of course, Aristotle could not have anticipated the Internet. Our professor asked us if we thought that his friendship could be one of virtue. Most of us felt that no, it could not be, because it is missing so much depth that in-person interaction adds to a relationship. I think he was a bit bummed at his class dissing his friendship. It made me think about my friendships, and whether they were friendships of virtue, pleasure or utility. If I look at my friendships honestly, I think that many of them are about pleasure, and a few about utility. But I do think that I have a few people in my life with whom my connection with them is about virtue, it is about absolutely wanting the best for the other, and not at all about what each of us get from the relationship. I guess I should consider myself lucky to have that level of friendship in my life, I do know that it is rare. I hope that I can sustain these friendships throughout my life, and cherish them for what they are worth.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


A co-worker of mine is obsessed with the video game The SIMS. She plays this game for hours at a time while ignoring the other responsibilities in her life. She is fairly addicted to it. Apparentely, the game is a simulation of life. You have to build neighborhoods, acquire friends, get your characters in shape, etc. It reminds me a bit of the Tamagachi virtual pets that were popular with kids a few years ago. I have never played the game, so I don't know much about it. A few of us were talking the other day and someone asked her what the point of the game is. She tells us, "to get to the highest level in your character's career." Oh. Now this was something that I found quite interesting. The game is about life. Your characters have to eat, sleep, exercise, build friendships, and apparentely, the point of all of it is to reach the highest level in your career. Now I know that I live in America, where money rules and people work so hard to provide luxury for their family that they end up not getting to ever see their family. But I found it extremely sad that a game that supposedly imitates life finds the highest goal, and the ultimate reward, to be a successful career. What about family? Why do people work so hard? Getting to the top of the corporate ladder seems to be an empty accomplishment if quality time with the people you love is the expense paid for it. I was talking to a guy last night. I was extremely impressed with him. He is a single guy, and everything he has done for the past few years, his choice in jobs, housing, purchases, have been so that when he does have a family, it will be the best for them. That, I believe, is having your priorities straight. What is a career worth if at the end of the day you come to an empty house, a family that doesn't know you, or children whose goal in life is to have the newest car? I would much rather sacrifice a huge house for a family that I get the opportunity to spend time with. If a career is the end in and of itself, what is it really worth? Does it make someone a better person to be CEO? I think I will stick to playing solitaire.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Yom Tov at the Yeshiva

I spent this past Yom Tov at the Yeshiva with a friend of mine who grew up there. I have been there for Shabbos before, but never for a full-blown Yom Tov. It was definitely interesting, and quite a difference from my typical Shabbos at home in my apartment. This friend of mine is one of ten children, and all but one was home for the holidays. This meant that altogether, besides myself, there were my friend's grandmother and grandfather, her parents, eight of her nine siblings, three of her siblings's spouses, her husband, and six children three and under crawling around. It was quite a zoo, to say the least. My friend and all of her married siblings, except for one, live in Lakewood, also known as the shtarkest place this side of Israel. I have been there a few times, to visit my friend, it is not a place that I could ever see myself living in. My friend's family is very nice, and made me feel extremely welcome. But I couldn't help looking around at everyone, all the children crawling around, all the in-laws together, one big happy family, and I knew that I would never have what they have, nor do I think it is what I really want so much. I can say that I envy the large, close family, bound by tradition. I loved the fact that all the men knew so much Torah and that was the focus of discussion at the table. But I also felt that there was something missing there, and I think that there is some merit in bringing the secular world into your life. I think there is definitely something to be learned from embracing non-frum Jews. I think when your entire life is so homogenous, you lose your capacity for being able to connect with others, and I think this is a loss. I know that I do learn a lot from my non-jewish co-workers and classmates. I find that in a lot of ways, my exposure to the secular strengthens my belief that Torah is the correct path, and it also forces me to realize that Torah encompasses all of life. I think some people miss this lesson by never seeing how people who don't have the Torah get through life. The truth is, I don't think that a family such as the one I stayed with would understand the lessons I learn from the secular world, I think they are not even open to hearing it. But I have to say that I now appreciate even more that I have seen both sides, and chosen the one that I have.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Unexpected Happenings

I sometimes feel that I am sitting in the backseat while my life takes me for a ride. Weird stuff happens to me. Okay, maybe I have some responsibility for the things that occur in my life. Maybe I need better impulse control. It is definitely possible. Something to think about. There is a story here, but I don't want to post it. Have to protect the innocent. Sorry t be vague.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Natural Talents

I got my first Statistics exam back yesterday. I got a score of 106. My teacher kept coming up to me and making comments to me like, "You don't need a review, do you?" and "You must be using a lot of patience to sit through this class." Come on, I don't want the other people in my class to hate me! The majority of my class is having a very hard time with the material, while I am picking it up pretty easily. I have always had a natural aptitude for math, but this is the first time I am realizing how my mind naturally picks up the patterns and works them out. I guess I have never given it much thought. It was only recently that someone told me that this kind of stuff was hard for most people. Two of my brothers have been taking calculus and having a miserable time at it and I didn't understand why until my roommate told me that she, who is extremely intelligent, had a very hard time with it also. This is really interesting to me, the fact that people's minds work in such different ways. To me, math is logical, it makes sense and that is that. I figured that people who weren't good at math just weren't that smart. I didn't think about highly intelligent people having a hard time at something that made such basic sense to me. I once took a class on how the brain works, called Behavioral Neuroscience. It was a fascinating class. I had a very hard time grasping how memories and thoughts are really little electrical impulses going on inside the brain. It is even more amazing to me now to know that each person's brain works in such a similar way, but so differently at the same time, and that is what makes each of us unique. I think if you study the brain, you can gain a better appreciation for the complexity of human beings and how they function. I know that for me, it gives me an even greater appreciation for Hashem's creation and solidifies the belief that there is no way it could have happened by chance.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


I think Alabama needs better PR. Having lived in Maryland for almost a year and a half now, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to hear my home state, Alabama being dissed over and over again. I consider myself to be an intelligent, well-educated, articulate person, and yes, I am from Alabama. I don't believe those things to be mutually exclusive. So, why is everyone so surprised when I tell them where I am from? Some contributions and contributors from Alabama are: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Helen Keller Booker T. Washington Zelda Fitzgerald George Washington Carver Rosa Parks The University of Alabama at Birmingham (my alma mater, and an incredible medical school) and many more. I find that in any state, when you leave the big cities, you find rednecks and hicks and I am tired of people just associating that kind of behavior and ignorance with people from the South. The ignorance that I have heard from people about the South gives a case for my argument - lines about pickup trucks lined with AstroTurf and someone asking me if Alabama is close to California. So, Alabama, my advice to you is to stop advertising your worst and start promoting your best.

Monday, October 13, 2003


I just had to post that I have received my first grade and it is a good one! I got an A on the paper I had to write about "The Iliad." It is nice to know that I worked hard on something and managed to attain the level of accomplishment that I am striving for. It gives me a renewed impetus for continuing to work hard and see results. Had a very nice Succos - the weather was beautiful and there were only a few bees. Hope everyone else is enjoying the chag!

Friday, October 10, 2003

Good Yom Tov

I have lots of issues rolling around in my head today, but none of them are very clearly thought out, so I thought I would just mention them quickly and not dwell on them. Protocols has a posting with lots of comments, some of them extremely distateful, discussing Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality. Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Beth Tfiloh, a "Modern Orthodox" shul here in Baltimore, gave an interesting sermon during Kol Nidre that was meant to stir up a lot of controversy among his congregants and the Orthodox community at large. I wrote to my professor who I no longer have a crush on and accused him of adding stress to my life. He told me not to worry so much. Then he forwarded the e-mail to all the students in his classes (thankfully keeping my name out of it). Ok, so there was more to the e-mail than an accusation of stress. I might be back to having a little crush. I have a friend who I can't figure out. I feel that there is always more to the picture than she presents, and our interactions leave me more and more confused about her. I don't like the feelings she stirs within me. I feel like I am not a good person with my feelings towards her and it bothers me. Finally, I want to wish everyone a Good Yom Tov. Here's lots of information about Sukkot.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Irritation and Idealism

I am irritated today. I am irritated because my AOL is not working. I am not being able to check my e-mail from work and I feel utterly and completely cut off from my friends. Okay, I am being overly dramatic, but I like to know if I have e-mail or not. The next part of this post is not so clearly formed in my head, so please bear with me if it is not succinctly written. As for Idealism, in our class discussion last night we were discussing being motivated out of love versus being motivated out of fear. Most of the people in my class felt that people are motivated in their actions out of fear rather than love, though most felt that it is a higher level to be motivated by love. I realized what an idealist I am because I really feel that people are motivated by love rather than fear. I don't feel like everyday actions are predicated with the thought of consequence first. I also argued that children can be taught by parents to act out of love for others rather than fear of punishment. Most of the class disagreed. It is becoming a common occurrence. I don't think I realized that most people are so cynical about life and act out of fear of punishment rather than respect for other human beings and their rights. I am wrong to think that way? Am I going to suffer for my idealism later? I hope not, I would rather go around giving people the benefit of the doubt, otherwise I think I would find it very hard to trust anyone else. I find it extremely discouraging to think that most people have this view of their fellow humans. I hope that this class, in addition to irritating me, will not cause me to lose part of my idealism also.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Excuse Me?

The Town Crier referred me to this article about several schools in Maryland being closed for Yom Kippur. Now, to this girl who went to school first in Oklahoma and then Alabama, and was usually the only Jew in her entire school, the thought of a school being closed for a Jewish holiday is one that is met with amazement. A whole school being closed for a Jewish holiday? Wow. Then I realized that in some of the schools in this area, over half of their student population is Jewish and not much would get done with so many students gone anyway. Then I read the article. It truly is a piece of journalism filled with ridiculous assumptions and basic stupidity. The line that baffles me the most is, "There is clearly an anti-Christian bias when it comes to giving equal opportunities to different faiths." Excuse me? Since when is it Anti-Christian to give equal opportunity to all religions? And since when is giving a week off for both Christmas and Easter and one day for Yom Kippur considered equal treatment anyway? Of course, then I look at who is quoted (the director of the Christian Defense Coalition) and the quote makes a lot more sense. The article rounds off with a quote by Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the conservative Missouri-based Eagle Forum, who says "she is bothered that schools don't observe Christian holidays as they used to." She said "some school districts in the country have abandoned the Good Friday holiday, and that some schools pretend Christian holidays have nothing to do with Jesus Christ." Hello, have you looked at America these days? Have you noticed that Christmas is more about Santa, presents and trees than it is about religion? I call that a reflection of the times. Not to mention the notion of separation between church and state. Since when is it acceptable to force students, in a public school environment, to celebrate religious occasions that are not part of their tradition? Having been a member of my public high school choir, I know the feeling well of being given the choice to either sing the praises of a "savior" that I didn't believe in or not sing at all. I would never have dared for equality, would never have asked to sing Jewish songs, that would be blasphemous in my "Bible belt" environment. I didn't even object to singing the more secular of Christmas songs, such as "Jingle Bells" or "Frosty the Snowman." But heaven help me when I opposed to singing "O Little Town of Bethlemen" or "Away in a Manger." I was a pariah and outcast for having a problem with these "holy" songs being sung in a public school. So for the people who think that "equality of religion" equals "anti-Christian bias," and that having one day off school for Yom Kippur and two weeks off school for Christian holidays is "equal treatment," I have news for you - you have no idea how good Christians have it in America. Get over yourself.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Thoughts for the New Year

Yom Kippur is over, Succos is coming, the weather feels like fall (or colder). I would like to write a deep blog about my Yom Kippur and how inspiring it was and how I am so different now, but the truth is, I can't. While the davening was meaningful, it didn't have the effect on me that it did last year. Maybe I didn't do enough preparation for the day, I am not sure. Maybe it was the fact that at the Break-Fast that I went to I saw a guy that I dated who I think is one of the greatest guys I know, but just can't marry, and it bothers me. I am not sure. But here I am, sealed for a new year, hoping that it will bring good things. I hope that I make it through working full-time and being in school and manage to both well. Of course, I hope to find the person I will marry. But I know it is all in Hashem's hands, so I have decided that I am not going to obsessively worry about it anymore. I will take the punches as they come. I had a friend say to me right before Yom Kippur that she really values my friendship. I really value hers as well and hearing her say that really made me feel good. I had the mother of a family I am close with come up and hug me out of the blue at the Break-Fast last night. These are the moments that I hope to dwell on and cherish in the coming year. I wish everyone these wonderful moments as well.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Shabbos Shuvah

This Shabbos is Shabbos Shuvah, the Shabbos between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I have always found it to be a very introspective, spiritual Shabbos for me, where I am scrupulous about hilchos shabbos and try to keep myself focused on being the absolute best that I can be. I have had a hard time focusing on improving myself this week, because I have had so much else to focus on. I hope Hashem will decide that I have done enough. I want first to wish everyone a meaningful and inspiring Shabbos Shuvah, and easy Yom Kippur fast and a positive and growthful new year. I would secondly like to humbly ask the forgiveness of anyone who I have inadvertently or not so inadvertently offended or hurt in the past year. I gave an assignment to my chevrusa a few weeks ago to come up with one thing that she is going to work on in the coming year and five practical ways that she is going to do so. She gave it a lot of thought and found something she is going to work on. I didn't complete the assignment myself. So here goes: In the coming year, I am going to work on accepting the fact that I can't do everything on my own. I am going to work on this by: 1. Asking for help when I need it. 2. Talking to my rabbi and rebbetzin when I have a halachic or ethical matter I need guidance on. 3. Asking people I respect for advice when I need it. 4. Let go of things that I can not fit into my day and accept that it is okay for me to not be able to do everything. 5. Accept constructive criticism as that, not as a personal insult. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Random Musings

Okay, just some random musings today, because I am happy that it is almost the end of the week and I can home tonight before it gets dark. First, I looked up "Shoshana" on Googlism to see what it thought about me. Not all of the comments were flattering, or accurate to say the least, but it was certainly funny. Some of my favorites: shoshana is from the dc area (not too far off there) shoshana is sitting comfortably on the bed (don't I wish) shoshana is up there in "slimness" (again, don't i wish) shoshana is very generous with her time (I try) shoshana is stubborn and persistent (How did they know?) shoshana is my best friend (awww) shoshana is a font of heartfelt gift ideas shoshana is wasting the saleswoman's time I had my fun class last night, where we debate issues and try (with extremely limited success) to come to conclusions about ideas that impact life. I love this class because it really makes me think about my beliefs and it has really helped me see where Torah fits into everything that occurs in life. In class last night, we got onto the topic of differences between men and women. The majority of the class is of the belief that gender differences are based on societal expectations and that they are caused by nurture rather than nature. I have a huge problem with that. Men and women are different by nature. Of course there are always going to be some exceptions, but you can generally categorize some traits as being feminine or masculine. What society has done is told people that it is not right to generalize or treat someone different based on their gender. And I think this is a major problem with society today. Women and men have different needs, not only physically, but emotionally as well. There were only a few people in the class who agreed with me on this point. It scares me a bit. Okay, final random musing for the day. Are there people in your life that when you are around them, you just feel good? You are not sure why, but when you are with these people, you have so much fun, you are completely comfortable and yourself, and you feel that they appreciate you for who you are. I have two friends who I feel that way about. I saw them both last night and it made my day. Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Book Review

Everyone seems to be talking about a new book by Rabbi Benjamin Blech, entitled If God is Good Why is the World So Bad?. I have, in the past week or so, seen articles about this new book on Jewsweek and Aish.com. A guy I went out with bought me a copy of the book when we were browsing through a bookstore (don't even ask, for some reason the guys I go out with seem to find a need to give me things). I thought that it looked interesting and that I might send it to my brother, who has recently been asking theological questions lately. I wanted to read it first to make sure that it wouldn't be over my brother's head, since he doesn't have much background when it comes to Jewish knowledge. So I started slowly reading the book, reading a few pages a night when I could fit it in, with no idea that it was going to be the new book that everyone is reading. After seeing how popular it suddenly is, I decided that maybe I should devote a bit more attention to it, and since it is the Aseres Yamei Teshuvah, I wanted to focus on reading material that was good for my neshama, so I have been spending a decent amount of time on it this past week. And I have to say, it has given me a lot to think about. Last night I came across a passage that really made me think. It was talking about the reason for the death of a baby, but I feel like it can be applied to much more than just that circumstance. It was saying that sometimes Hashem gives us something and then takes it away, causing pain and suffering on our part. Rabbi Blech explains that the reason for this could be that we are in debt to Hashem and Hashem wants us to be able to clear our account. We can be in debt because of a past action that we have committed that has caused a distance in our relationship with Hashem. Because we do not have what we need to repay Hashem in the bank, He gives us the amount to be paid back, but then takes it away to repay the loan. This often causes a lot of pain and hurt, but also causes growth and through that growth, a renewed closeness with Hashem. In looking back at the things I have dealt with in the past year, I have often wondered why they have happened. I know that there is no way for me to understand the why of the world, it is only for Hashem to know. Why would Hashem send someone into my life that I thought would be part of my life forever, and then take him away from me so suddenly, for such crazy reasons (see my story)? I know that what I went through caused nowhere near the same amount of grief as the loss of a child would, but I really feel like the metaphor Rabbi Blech uses can be applied to my life as well. I was in debt to Hashem, and probably was distanced from Him in many ways. And my experience definitely did cause me to grow and become closer. So, I guess if that is what it took to teach me what I needed to learn and repair my relationship with Hashem, then it was worth it, and I should thank Hashem for putting me through that pain. And I have to say that I can now appreciate that guy who bought me the book, even if there was no way it was a good shidduch.