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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, April 30, 2004


Ugh - does work ever get interesting? Apparently not on a beautiful Friday when all I want is to be outside, basking in the sun. Oh well, got to pay the bills somehow. It was suggested that I write about my experiences growing up Jewish in the South. And I think it is a great suggestion. That will begin next week. I don't think I can coherently put together a serious post today (and I have my final paper of the semester looming over my head). As for my final paper of the semester (I can't beleive it's almost over already), I am writing a book critique of Fire in a Canebrake by Laura Wexler - it is the story of the "Last Mass Lynching in America." It was incredibly well-written, and brought a lot of poignant topics that struck me especially strongly, with the story having occurred in Georgia, another one of those states that I have lived in (there are probably a few I haven't yet mentioned). Anyway, as Shabbos is coming in a few hours, and I am looking forward to actually co-hosting a meal of my own tonight, I want to wish everyone a good Shabbos. And to Greg and Peninah, who are having me for Shabbos lunch tomorrow - I can't wait!

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something BLUE

Don't get too excited, I'm not getting married. I was bored at work so I changed my color scheme (again). I think I really just like playing with colors. Anyway, I know it is a bit bleak and plain at the moment, but that's what it is. If anyone has any suggestions, or can help me liven my blog up (using simple instructions, I am NOT a techie), let me know.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


During our discussion in class last night the topic of discrimination came up. One of my classmates mentioned that someone had said that he didn't believe that someone who is black can be racist, because racism is typically targeted at black people. My classmate, who is black herself, said she didn't agree with that idea, and I don't think I do either. Another classmate, who happens to be gay, said she gets upset when gay friends of hers are racist. She said that she doesn't understand how someone who is part of a group that is commonly discriminated against can legitimately discriminate against another group. Because someone understands what it is like to be discriminated against, they should have empathy for other groups who are commonly singled out, and should fight against discrimination for all groups. It made me think about being Jewish, and a target of Anti-Semitism. I am very lucky, and have rarely been confronted with discrimination because of my religion. Typically, I am simply met with innocent ignorance, and a lot of honest questions. Though there have been a couple occasions where the questions or comments came with more malice than curiosity. I know I am lucky for my lack of negative experiences; growing up Jewish in the South, and the only Jew in my school, was not always easy, but I can not complain about experiencing rampant Anti-Semitic behavior. While being a part of a minority group has given me a sensitivity about discrimination, and in a lot of ways I think it has helped me develop a distaste for stereotyping other groups, I don't know if my sensitivity is high enough. I don't know if I feel real empathy towards other minorities. And I don't know if I personally battle the discrimination that I see towards others as much as I should. I don't like it when I see it, but I don't know if I actively pursue an end to it. I guess the question is, should I feel a personal responsibility towards battling discrimination against groups other than my own? I think the answer is yes, because I believe that if you accept discrimination against any minority, it then makes it much easier to justify any discrimination. Do I need to get personally and actively involved in ensuring that discrimination does not take place anywhere? I think that would be an impossible task that I am not prepared to deal with. However, I think I need to be prepared to speak up against the discrimination that I personally see each day and I think I need to set an example of not discriminating against others. I think that is the least I can do to fight the justification that many could lobby to discriminate against me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Book Quiz

I don't post (or even complete) quizzes often, but this one I really like: The Book Quiz

You're Siddhartha!
by Hermann Hesse
You simply don't know what to believe, but you're willing to try anything once. Western values, Eastern values, hedonism and minimalism, you've spent some time in every camp. But you still don't have any idea what camp you belong in. This makes you an individualist of the highest order, but also really lonely. It's time to chill out under a tree. And realize that at least you believe in ferries.
Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

What book are you?

Monday, April 26, 2004

Weekend Wrap-Up

I spent this weekend being surprised, mostly postively, by the people I came into contact with. It was one of those weekends where everyone I met I saw through a new light, which in a lot of ways was really nice and refreshing. My feelings at the moment are a bit confused about something and I have been having a lot of trouble sorting it out. Something is bothering me, but I am not quite sure what. It might be the fact that the events that I looked forward to this weekend were much less pleasing than those that I dreaded, and the events that I dreaded turned out much better than expected. I did spend the weekend outside, enjoying the weather, and actually got a bit of color, which was really nice. I was introduced to a new park, and I would love to go back and explore it more (when the cicadas are finished ravaging this part of the country). I finished the paper I have been working on, and though I can't really say I am proud of it, I know it will be fine. I started reading a book this weekend that earily pinpointed feelings I have; I feel like the author could have been reading my mind - how does he do that? I have been thinking a lot about writing on this blog. I like writing a lot, and I like having this medium to improve my writing. And I think having a blog has given me motivation to actually write and work on my skills. But I am still not sure how comfortable I am with having people read my thoughts. It is definitely a weird feeling, and I am trying to decide if I want to stop airing my thoughts for everyone to see. On the other hand, I don't know if I would actually write on such a frequent basis if I didn't have a blog. I will have to weigh my options and see where I come out.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Male or Female?

Apparently I blog like a boy. I found the Gender Genie (I apologize to whoever I stole this from, because I can't remember) online and plugged in a few of my favorite posts. The vast majority of them came up as likely to be authored by a male! I also plugged in posts from a few of my favorite bloggers. It seems to me that good, formal writing turns up as male, and more casual writing is encoded as being female. The program must have been written by a man.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Thoughts on the Shidduch System

Okay, time to air some of my thoughts about dating (again). Just some thoughts I have to get off my chest. Shidduch dating seems to work well for many. You avoid a lot of the pitfalls of the non-shidduch world - you have an intermediary to help guide you through the process, you are not dependent on meeting someone randomly, and you have similar values and beliefs as the person you are set up with. However, as a person gets older without getting married the shidduch system seems not to run quite so smoothly. I think this is for a number of reasons, but at the heart of them, I believe the system encourages singles to halt the development of many of those skills that are so important to a future marriage. As people get older, their personality matures, and they become more of an individual. Goals and aspirations are set and interests are pursued. All of this can make it more difficult to subsequently change gears and begin to think in terms of what is best for more than just oneself. And the consequence of shidduch dating is that because an individual is not accustomed to taking part in serious relationships, he or she does not necessarily develop the mindset of thinking about someone other than himself. I am not saying that I think being in a series of serious relationships will positively affect an individual's ability to sustain a marriage, but I do think that a drawback of being an older single in the shidduch system is that you tend not to cultivate the ability to think in terms of more than one's own goals Another major problem I have with the shidduch system is that it seems very focused on finding a reason to reject someone. I find that often singles go out with each other searching for negative attributes that they cannot possibly live with. Rather, I feel that they should attempt to find the positive aspects of the other person that may very well complement and enhance their own personalities. I am completely not exempt from this - I have often found myself thinking that someone seems nice but... I just don't think I could handle this or that. Rather, I feel I need to be forced to look for the positive traits that the other person possesses and focus on those positives rather than the few negative qualities I can find. G-d knows guys will be able to find my negative attributes if that is what they choose to look for, so I know I should give them a break as well. Unfortunately I think this aspect of shidduch dating gets harder and harder as one gets older. I know that there are things I would have easily accepted in another when I was 20, that I just cannot tolerate now. And this list tends to get longer and longer as time goes on. I feel the shidduch world also fosters a lack of maturity when dealing with major life issues. Hiding behind a shadchan is not a sign of being prepared to confront another person with issues that must be dealt with in a mature and adult fashion. And I think these skills must be cultivated in order to be able to effectively succeed in marriage. For someone who does not get married into his late 20's or early 30's, this lack of skills in dealing with another is going to have a negative impact on that relationship. Like I said, I think the shidduch system works well for many, but those people are mainly the very young, and those who don't yet know themselves well. Because you are still learning about yourself at the age of 19 or 20, it is often much easier to grow alongside someone else. But once you move beyond those early-20's, and get more set in your ways, and are given reinforcement by your community to draw a longer laundry list of absolute musts and must-nots, I think the shidduch system begins to fall in effectiveness. I don't know what the solution is, I think navigating the dating world is difficult no matter how you choose to do it. But I know that a system that encourages singles to postpone the enhancement of those qualities most important to a successful relationship until they are actually committed for life needs to reevaluate something.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

So Different, but Really Similar

I had a really interesting conversation last night. For the past two semesters, one of my classmates is a girl who is a religious Muslim. Last night we talked a bit about some of our theological similarities, of which there are a surprising number. She wears what she told me last night is a "hijab," a scarf that covers her head except for her face, and long robes. She explained the for modesty purposes, she is required to cover everything except her face and hands. Yesterday she was wearing pants, which she told me she is technically not allowed to do, but sometimes she gets tired of wearing skirts (gee, I don't know what that's like). I told her about our laws of tznius and how women cover their hair after marriage. She commented to me that a lot of people ask her if she is married. She thinks they probably have the association because of Jewish practice. Muslims also follow dietary laws, though they are not as strict as ours. No pork, meat must be slaughtered by a believer of G-d (which makes kosher meat okay), though the mixing of meat and dairy is allowed. Apparently some Muslims feel saying a blessing before eating meat of questionable slaughter is good enough, which possibly explains why I am always asked about my food being "blessed." She told me that her family typically gets their meat from kosher sources, or her father slaughters it himself. We talked a little bit about our respective mating rituals. What she described sounds very similar to Chasidic dating to me. They have almost identical concepts of yichud, and shomer negiah. She told me she has a friend who was married at the age of 14, and she was engaged at 16 (though it didn't work out). She is 19 now, and wants to wait until she is finished with school to get married, though she admitted that she gets pressure from her community to get married now. It was so interesting to hear about a different culture that has such parallels to my own. She wasn't at all amazed about the things I told her about Judaism, they were similar to the beliefs she holds. Sitting next to her in class the past two semesters, we have spoken often about general topics, and occasionally asked a quick question of each other. But we had never before spoken in such depth about our religious beliefs. I knew we had a lot in common just because of the fact that we are both more religious than the typical college student at my school, but I didn't realize what depth the commonalities held. We didn't discuss at all the politics that I am sure would separate us by miles. I really enjoyed trying to find similarities rather than differences with her. I find it empowering to be able to connect with someone who many would see as on the opposite side of the spectrum from myself. I am happy that we were able to see beyond our differences to be able to look for similarities.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Negative Shakespeare

It really is amazing what some sleep mixed with a lot of sunshine will do for a person's mood. I woke up today with a much better outlook than I have had for the past few weeks. And that is even besides the fact that I am frustrated with SPSS and didn't finish writing a paper over the weekend. But the weather is way too pretty to worry about grades these days. I read King Lear recently and it got me to thinking about some of the themes that Shakespeare commonly uses in his plays. Shakespeare had amazing insight into some aspects of human nature. The problem is, I feel like he really had a very negative view of people. His plays - comedies AND tragedies - are full of deception, misunderstanding, and treachery. Shakespeare has his characters use disguises, act insane and constantly misrepresent themselves to each other. Love is often portrayed as a jealous emotion, one that often leads to the destruction of characters. The only trust shown is usually to those individuals who deserve it the least. Ok, I know that a normal person's life would hardly make good drama, especially during Shakespeare's time when people wanted fights, confusion and a story line that could carry them away from their boring lives. And I don't think we have changed much in that area. The best-selling movies are often those that have absolutely no basis in reality. But I guess I wonder what kind of life Shakespeare actually lived to write such disturbing themes. I wonder if he saw those around him as people who looked out only for number one, who would stab their father in the back if it served their purpose. I think there are people who view those around them in this negative light. Who always expect the worst from those around them. I have heard enough discussions to feel this is the case. I think this is a sad outlook on life, and I am sorry for those who view others as steps to climb over in their quest for power, or money, or whatever they feel is important. But I truly believe that most people do care about more than themselves, and that is why we have families and friends and a social nature. I feel good when I help another person, when I connect with someone else, when I find common interests with a new person. They don't have to necessarily advance my status to be valuable to me. It makes me sad that Shakespeare, with such incredible talent and insight, chose to write plays that are so full of negative themes. Maybe he felt that was what sold, and he had to make a living somehow. But it is sad to me that the legacy he left was such a dark one. It is sad to me that Shakespeare's works are held as some of the greatest writing ever composed, and it shows such a pessimistic side of human nature. I hope the legacy I leave, while certainly not as influential as Shakespeare's, will be positive. I hope that I am remembered for the good I saw and brought out in others. Maybe it won't last as long, but that's fine with me.

Friday, April 16, 2004


By the way, if anyone out there is a whiz with the statistics software SPSS, please let me know. I have a project due next week and I am having major trouble figuring out what to do.


I have been told that I am a "complex" person. I don't know that I disagree with that, but it makes me wonder if there is such a thing as a "simple" person. Every person is so complex, so I have problems when I hear someone say, "You are not the average (fill in the blank)." Because I don't think you can ever point to the average (fill in the blank). Every person is so unique that you can't pinpoint an average anything. Though some people definitely seem to fall into place better than others, some people seem to be more easily categorized than others. So I wonder about complexity and what it means to be complex. When people tell me I am complex, I think they mean that they feel that there is a lot that doesn't necessarily come out instantly. There are layers that I don't always reveal, or possibly ever reveal. Or maybe I haven't even figured out some of those layers. I think a lot of great artists and thinkers throughout history would have been described as complex. I am not sure someone who is not complex can create what would be considered "great art," whether it be paintings, music or prose. Someone who manages to create art that transcends time must be a person who has taken the time to try to understand the complexity of life, and being. But maybe I am wrong, maybe some people just have within themselves the inspiration to speak to generations. But again, I get caught up by the question of an uncomplex person. Because we all grow and change every day, and I don't know that one person can ever truly understand someone else. So how could a constantly changing person not be considered complex? Maybe there are those who don't dwell as much on issues, or don't take the time to delve into their depths. But I feel like everyone must be capable of the same complexities, I feel like it is a part of being human. I wonder what determines whether someone will become "complex" or "simple." Is it innate, something hot-wired into our brains? Or is it learned, something that comes from experience? Maybe those of us who encounter certain experiences in our lives are led to the complex path? Is complexity something that is inherent in every person, but some have not dug deep enough to explore their inner layers? Or do some people really have more layers than others? I am not sure whether the description of complex is meant by others as a compliment or a criticism. It probably depends on who issues the description. But I know that if I wasn't the complex person that I am, I wouldn't be me. I wouldn't be capable of the same aspirations and accomplishments if I didn't dwell on things the way I do. Would life be simpler if I was less complex? Maybe. Would I sleep better if I could learn to supress my deeper layers and not think so much? Probably. But would that be better? I am not so sure.

Thursday, April 15, 2004


Made a HUGE mistake at work...really feeling dumb today. I hope to start back to serious blogging very soon, but my thoughts are wiped out for the day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Not totally back yet but... I have decided that I really like being able to eat whatever (kosher) food I want to. I really miss my music already - talk radio is no substitute. Thank G-d, my grandmother is doing much better, she is home from the hospital. My mother reports that the hardest part now is keeping her from doing too much. I read King Lear over Yom Tov - I couldn't believe how horrible his daughters were to him. And then I was talking to my father this morning, and as usual, he managed to completely frustrate me. Kibud Av V'Im has got to be one of the toughest commandments. I still don't think I was anywhere near as awful as King Lear's daughters though. And after all that, every Yom Tov what I end up realizing is that I really miss my family and really want to have a family of my own. I appreciate so much the families who open their homes to me, but seeing all those families together for the holidays has got to be one of the hardest parts of being a baal teshuvah. I guess it's time to visit Alabama.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Question of the Day

Ok, here is my question for the day, it is something I have been wondering about for a while now. Hashem punished Adam and Eve for eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. My question is, how can they be held accountable for eating of the fruit? I am assuming that before they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they didn't know the difference between good and evil. So how would they have known that disobeying Hashem was wrong?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Prayer Request

My grandmother had to have surgery over Pesach - please pray for a refuah shleimah for Rachel bas Dorothy. Thank you.

Monday, April 05, 2004


Just a few quick words about Pesach... Pesach is about freedom. Freedom is an interesting concept. When you try to define it, you kind of get stuck. Because along with freedom comes responsibility. And when you are responsible for anything, then you are limiting your freedom in some way. Pesach is all about freedom. Pesach celebrates when the Jews were finally free from slavery in Egypt, but in order to free themselves from this slavery, they accepted the responsibility of serving Hashem, of Torah and commandments. It is an interesting juxtaposition. Knowledge is similar - because when you have knowledge, you gain freedom - freedom to choose which path you want to take, but there is also such a great responsibility that comes with knowledge, because then you can't ignore the fact that you are making a choice, and you have the responsibility to make the correct choice. It is sometimes hard to decide whether you want the knowledge that leads to freedom, and choices, because the choices that come about because of the knowledge are not always easy ones. Just as leaving Egypt came with great hardship and responsibility, but also freedom, we must every day decide whether we want our knowledge, and the subsequent freedom and responsibility that comes with it. This year, may we all make the correct decisions, accept the responsibility of our freedom, and be able to internalize the messages that Pesach gives us.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Just some random stuff...

Since Pesach is starting next week, my blogging will be quite curtailed as I attempt to keep up with work and school while having half of my days taken away by Yom Tov. So I just thought I would quickly throw some random thoughts out. I started reading Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America this week for school. It is an extremely well-written book, about an extremely disturbing topic. It absolutely amazes me how hate could have been a platform on which a political candidate campaigned, and won. I know it shouldn't shock me, because it has happened in so many instances throughout history, but it does. But as gruesome and horrible as the topic is, the book is absolutely fascinating. I wrote my counseling paper, which was a big stress lifted off my shoulders (though I still have to figure out my focus for research paper on technology). It still needs a lot of clean-up, but having the basics down makes me able to breath a lot easier. Last night in class, we talked about Reality Therapy. The founder of the theory postulates that mental illness, including psychosis, is a choice that people make for themselves. We had an interesting conversation about how we didn't agree with it. It is interesting to me that the founder of the theory, who supposedly was in the profession of helping people, would come up with such a frustrating view of mental illness. I can't imagine that telling clients who were suffering from psychosis that they were choosing to hear voices. Someone was telling me about Hobbes and how he believed that people are motivated in their actions out of desire to avoid war. Seems to me that if people desired only to avoid war, they would avoid all interaction with others. I hope he is not correct, because I think it would be depressing to think that the only reason people do anything for anyone else is to save themselves. Finally, I want to wish everyone a wonderful Pesach. The holidays are often the hardest time for so many...I know for myself, it is always difficult spending holidays with someone else's family. While I am so incredibly grateful to all those families who open their homes to me, and I personally am so lucky to have a family who just expects me to join them on all holidays, it is still hard. I hope everyone has someone to celebrate with and has an enjoyable Chag.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Animal Lovers

I find it very interesting when I meet a person who seems to like animals more than they like people. I have a co-worker who doesn't get along with most of the people she comes in contact with. It is rare that I have a conversation with her in which she doesn't point out all the flaws in someone else's character. She is consistently rude, abrasive and confrontational to those around her. This woman has very few friends, no intimate relationship, and has been disowned from her family. She was telling me about a stray cat that someone in our building found. She told me that tonight she is going to go to the pet store and buy this stray cat food, toys and a bed. She is then going to come to our office tomorrow, pick up the cat, take it to her vet's office and give her vet $50 to find the cat a good home. Why is it that she can treat animals so well, but people so poorly? A possible reason is because animals are easier - they don't talk back, they can't hurt you like humans can, as long as you give them food, they probably won't reject you for being too ugly, or fat, or anything else. But there is so much that humans can give you that animals can't. Humans can truly care about you, rather than about their next meal. Humans give you the interaction that is necessary to go about your life. Maybe animals are safe, and that is why she can give to them easier than she can give to people. But I feel like she is really missing out by giving herself to animals rather than people. I think if she would treat people the way she treats animals, she would have a much easier time getting along with them.