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Isn't it pretty?

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Blogging From Israel

Ok, so I know people do it all the time, but I don't. I'm sitting here in my friend's apartment in Yerushalayim, the street lined with beautiful menorahs. There's a special quality to the air here that is nowhere else. The weather cleared up for me and has been beautiful - very warm and sunny, quite unlike typical winter weather. I needed a break from the cold, so I am hoping it will last. We had a cozy Shabbos at my friend's place, the only time I left the apartment was to go for a nice walk through a park near here. Really beautiful. After Shabbos, my friend and I headed out for the Old City. She lives a good distance away, but one of our pastimes used to be taking walks together so we revisited our old tradition and walked from her apartment all the way to the Kotel. It was weird walking through the city, because some of it was so familiar, but so much of it wasn't anymore. I guess I need to come here a lot more often. The Kotel is the single most spiritual place I have ever visited in my life. I have never been able to go there without crying many tears to Hashem, because I just feel his presence there like no other place in the world. So being there tonight gave me the opportunity to let it all out, to cry to Hashem, to beg for clarity and peace of mind. And in many ways, I was granted what I need. I left with a feeling of understanding about some of the things going on in my life. Which I needed desperately. So, that's my trip diary so far. Stay tuned for my continuing adventures in the Holy Land!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I'm Leaving, On a Jet Plane

I'm off to Israel tomorrow for ten days. I can't wait - both because I want to be in the Holy Land and because I need a vacation so badly. It's been seven full years, almost to the day, since I have been in Israel and I yearn to once again be at the Kotel, davening where I feel Hashem so strongly, in the place which changed my life. It's ironic that the man who enabled me to go to Israel initially, who is responsible in many ways for the path I have taken, passed away a few days ago. He kept tabs on me throughout the years, and somewhat knows what an impact he had on my life, but I don't think he could ever really know how he touched every facet of my being and helped me grow into who I am today. If he had not accepted the call to do something for yiddishkeit, then there would be an alternative me out there that I can't even imagine. Living a completely different life, in completely different circumstances. I pray that, in this merit, Hashem blesses him many times over. I don't have any concrete plans for my time in Israel - I wanted to be free to go and do whatever I wanted whenever. I want to be open to interesting and surprising experiences and to chase whatever comes my way. I will be wandering, thinking, dreaming and really living like you can't anywhere else in the world. Blogging will be light until I get back - I will have my computer with me, but don't know how much time I will have for blogging, but will hopefully be posting some updates and pictures of my trip. Tomorrow - Yerushalayim bound!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Please Daven

Please daven for a refuah shleimah for Yocheved Hoda Bas Shifra, who will be undergoing surgery very soon. Thank you.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Another Shadchan Meeting

At shul this Shabbos, I was at the kiddush when my roommate who is engaged walked up to me and wanted to introduce me to her soon-to-be aunt. As we were walking towards her aunt, she says to me, "She's a shadchan." Oy. My roommate certainly has my best interests at heart, I know that. She loves me and wants to see me get married. But she hasn't quite caught on to the fact that I abhor random shadchan meetings, that I vastly prefer to get to know someone fairly well and then have them set me up with someone else that they actually know. My worst dates have been those set up by shadchanim who mean well (and I do appreciate their efforts) but who just aren't able to grasp the complexity of who I or another person is in a 20-minute meeting. I couldn't get out of it at that point. I walked up to this woman with my roommate and she introduced me. Then my roommate started touting my strong points. She told her aunt-to-be what fabulous challah I make, and what a great cook I am, and how I am really going to be able to take care of a home. I was actually a bit insulted at this description, because I am much more than my cooking and homemaking and I want any guy who I go out with to know that! But then my roommate went on to describe me more colorfully - she described my creative streak, my slight funkiness, the fact that I am looking for someone who does his own thing, rather than following the crowd. Almost made up for the homemaking remarks. Then the shadchan asked me a few questions before telling me that she needs me to type up a bio because she won't remember the critical details that so many people will ask her about me. You know, how many siblings I have, what school I went to. The important stuff. Right. (Can you read the sarcasm?) I told her that those details don't matter, that I am much more than that. She replied that I was right, but someone would ask those questions, so she needed to have the information in front of her. To give her credit, she did say that those were the things that she won't remember, that she remembers middos. But I still hate the fact that she needs it at all. Because any guy who asks those questions of her and seriously considers whether or not to date me based on the answers is not the guy for me. Any guy who cares about the fact that my brothers are unmarried is not going to have the same values as me. Someone who asks what school I went to will get a long list of educational institutions ranging from Canada to Alabama, and none of them Jewish, so why bother asking? The only reason someone should ask those questions and care about the answers is to see just how far I have come. Because I can tell you now, there's probably not another student who attended Will Rogers Elementary School who is frum today. But unfortunately, that's not the reason people ask. I think people need to start focusing on what is important in shidduchim - Character. Values. Goals in life.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I Love Chanukah

I am sitting on the floor of my living room (long story why I am sitting on the floor - not so important) in front of my menorah that I just lit and listening to Chanukah music (you can listen to it also here, scroll past the Christmas albums at the top until you reach the "Chanukah Rocks" album, thanks to Mcaryeh). Just lighting the candles and seeing the beautiful flames puts my soul at ease. It's been a hectic day, lots of traffic and a bit of frustration, but I feel it all ease away when I lit those candles and sang Maotzur. Happy Chanukah again! I can't wait to be experiencing this peace in Yerushalayim!

Beyond BT

I have become a contibuter to Beyond BT, a new blog designed to be a support system for Baalei Teshuva once they have become frum. Check out my first post and stay tuned for more!

Happy Chanukah!

Just wanted to wish everyone a beautiful, Happy Chanukah, filled with light and miracles!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday Season

It's amazing to me. I work in a company who derives a large portion of their business from Christmas. Our office has been full of decorations since September. I walk up and down 34th Street every day. My next door neighbors have decorated their house with lights and a couple animated reindeer. And yet, I still don't feel the Christmas rush like I used to. Growing up, all my friends were Christian. Their families made huge deals about decorating their houses, putting up trees, having huge Christmas dinners. I joined them on many occasions, swapping gifts with them year after year. When I was in high school, Christmas time was hard. I was the only Jew in my school, so I felt a bit left out, to say the least. I sang in the choir, and if I wanted to be part of it, it meant singing a lot of Christmas songs, with possibly one Chanukah song thrown in for good measure (sometimes). It was hard, but I think it helped make my Jewish identity even stronger - I knew I was different and I was forced to stand up for it and make it a part of me. Those things that we work the hardest for in life are often the ones that are the most important to us. But my life has changed a lot now. I don't have that many non-Jewish friends any more. Christmas basically means a day off work to me now. Oh, and my boss just reminded me what Christmas is to so many Jews - Chinese food and movies. I like that I don't feel Christmas the same way I used to - there seems to have been a paradigm shift at some point when I tipped the balance from living more in the Jewish world than the secular. It's nice feeling that I am not so alone not celebrating the big holiday. I know I am in good company now. Good Shabbos to everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Once Again, Pleasantly Surprised.

I was talking to my father this morning, and we had a conversation that I wasn't quite expecting. He made some comment about my brothers and their connection to Judaism, and how each of us has a very different relationship with being Jewish. He said that the oldest of my brothers really seems to connect to being Jewish and really thinks about God and faith. It's true, my brother has come to me a couple times, asking about God and Judaism. We have had a couple discussions about faith and belief and how it all fits together. It hasn't happened in a while, but he does sometimes turn to me for these type of questions, which I am happy about. But my dad said they had lunch a few weeks ago and my brother asked him about his personal beliefs. My father is very open about the fact that, although he certainly identifies himself as Jewish culturally, he is very skeptical about the existence of God. My father told me that, in his discussion with my brother, he made sure to point out that we each have our own way of connecting to spirituality. And that different things work for different people. He said he specifically made mention to my brother of the fact that I have found a very different path to believing and expressing my Judaism than he has, and that it works for me. I was surprised, because when I first became religious, my father wasn't so supportive. I certainly didn't expect him to use me as an example of how different paths work for different people. But I guess we both have grown, and our relationship has evened out quite a bit. And he has come to accept my decisions as mine, and as working for me. It's nice to know that we have come so far, and it was really incredible hearing from him, completely unprompted, that he accepts, and respects, my decisions.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Reader's Questions

I received an e-mail the other day from a reader who asked some very tough questions. I don't want to reveal anything about his identity, because I don't know if he would be comfortable with that, so I will just summarize briefly his points. First he asked why it is that Orthodox Jews can have so many chesed organizations and take such good care of other frum Jews while ignoring the atrocities going on in the outside worlds, sometimes even giving the impression that the horrors are not that important because happen mainly to non-Jews. My response to that was as follows: I hear your frustration. It is hard to understand how people can be so concerned about some things and not others. For your first question, about how people can have so many chesed organizations for their own community, but not care about what is going on in places like Africa - I think it is normal for people to take care of those closest to them. It's horrible what is happening in far off countries, it bothers me so much that I can't even read many of the accounts because I just can't stomach it. But when it comes to helping, most people will feel better about doing something where they can see the impact of their help. I think few people are on the level of really doing kindnesses complelety anonymously - where they have no idea how their help actually affects the person they are trying to help. And it's easier to understand the plight of someone who is more familiar to yourself, someone whose struggles you can relate to, whose family resembles your own, who you can see suffering by looking out your window, rather than having to imagine what is going on on the other side of the world. It's not necessarily right, and I am happy to say that I know quite a few people who have joined the Peace Corps in order to help others, but I do think it's human nature. I want to address the comment you referred to in which someone said, "BH, it's only goyim." That reaction is, unfortunately, the result of education and environment in which many frum Jews are taught that non-Jews are less important than Jews. It frustrates me to no end, but in many ways, I don't blame the people that I hear such comments from; I blame those around them, and back for many generations, who have enforced it. I think it is true that there is some kind of bond between Jews, and that we should look out for other Jews (all other Jews, frum and non-frum), but I don't think that means it's okay to brush aside atrocities that happen to non-Jews. I believe that we could care about all humans, each of whom have the B'Tzelem Elokim within them. But I was raised much differently from most in chareidi communities. The second question he asked was why it seems that there can be so many chesed organizations while people still treat others without sensitivity and kindness, often really hurting the feelings of those around them without seeming to care of give a good reason for it. He related a specific event in his life that pained him almost to tears, and which the person he was interacting with seemed to brush aside without any problem. My response to that part of the e-mail was: As for your second frustration, I don't have any answer for you on that one. The way you are being treated is not right, and it's not Torah. One of the frustrations I have with the kollel system is that it seems that there are many people who learn Torah all day long but fail to internalize so many important components of it, such as treating others with compassion and sensitivity. Again, it's a human flaw - it's not always easy to act with compassion. But as Torah Jews, we are commanded to do so, and I often feel that because it is harder than things such as kashrut and Shabbos, because it is much less straightforward, it is swept aside. I think that the essence of Torah is in treating others well, and I make an effort to do so. I know many other frum Jews who make such an effort as well, but there are many who don't. And there is no excuse for it. Again though, that is the failing of particular people, it is not Torah. Like I said, very tough questions, that I have little answer for. How would you have responded?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tagged - Simple Pleasures

These tags never seem to end, but this one I really like, so thanks to Lvnsm27 at A bit of Light for tagging me. 5 Simple Pleasures - - Hearing my friend's children, who barely know how to talk, say my name. Additionally, seeing their faces go from that scared, shy look to one of recognition and having them come over and take me by the hand to show me their toys or crawl into my lap to be read to. - Being with friends and catching myself in a "moment." One of those moments where you just realize that you are really happy and enjoying yourself, surrounded by those you love. - Ice cream with hut fudge. And whipped cream. And a cherry. - Being curled up in bed, under my favorite blanket, all cozy, when I know it's really cold outside. It was even better when I had my cat and he would cuddle up with me, purring until he fell asleep in my lap. - Walking outside in nature on a day my old roommate would call a "perfect tznius day" (of which we determined there are approximately four such days a year). Just strolling through, maybe sitting down in the shade of trees, appreciating the beautiful world around us. Okay, that's my five for today (I am sure I will think of a ton more later). Feel free to leave your simple pleasures in the comments. As for tagging, I don't usually, but I think I have to get back at Ezzie for having tagged me in the past and I'd like to see the aforementioned old roommate's simple pleasures. Anyone else who wants to consider themselves tagged, go for it!

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's a Small World?

I often hear the phrase "it's a small world." You know how it goes, you meet someone new, you play Jewish geography a bit and find that you know quite a few people in common. Inevitably, someone throws out the phrase, "It's a small world." But the truth is, I wish it was a lot smaller. Physically smaller that is. Because I have moved around so much, and because my friends have moved around so much, I have friends scattered all over the globe. And that makes it hard to see them. And I miss my friends so much. Because I have a full-time job, it's hard to take time off regularly to visit friends and family. And it's hard to see everyone. There are so many people who invite me for Shabbos, but they are several hours away, and I can't get away all the time. I have a friend who lives in another state, and not one of those states that is close enough to drive to on a regular basis. We lived in Baltimore at the same time, living in the same apartment complex. When I was down, when she was down, when we were bored, for whatever reason, we would get together, take a drive, air our discontents and just enjoy each other's company. We now often reminisce about those days past, when it was so easy to spend time together, to keep each other company. We miss those days terribly, and often speak of how we miss Baltimore. But we both know that the Baltimore that we miss doesn't even exist anymore. Because it wasn't just the two of us that made the times so great - there was a whole support group of friends to pass the time and share each other's company. To lie on the couch with, to share dinners, and to give hugs when needed. Because it's such a big world, and people move on, it's so hard to keep the connections. It's hard to call or e-mail, because it just isn't the same as having face time or great adventures together. I can go away for a weekend here and there, but I can't manage to see everyone on a regular basis, and because of that, some friendships do fall through the cracks. And it makes me sad. So, as much as it does seem like a small world, sometimes, I kinda wish it was smaller. Or that all the people I love would live in the same place. Have a good Shabbos!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What Would You Do?

Last night in class we were discussing career counseling. One of the techniques used in career counseling to discover what a person really enjoys doing is asking some thought-provoking questions. One of the questions, that I found particularly interesting was, "If you found out you had a terminal illness, how would you live the rest of your life?" So I thought a little bit about it. I would definitely quit my job. If I had long enough to live that I needed the money in order to pay bills, I would take some part-time job that would pay just enough to allow me to pay for what I need, but was meaningful and where I felt I was making a difference. I would want to help people, whether it meant coooking meals for the homeless or taking care of underpriveleged kids. I would also make sure to spend as much time as possible with my friends. Because the people in my life are the most important thing. I would make a great effort to express to my friends all my gratitude for what a difference they make in my life. And I would tell them, explicitly, all the wonderful things that I admire about them, and make sure they knew that I appreciate their good qualities. To the few of those in my life who I feel need helpful suggestions, but I have been holding back in fear of hurting their feelings, I would probably be more honest with them, albeit in a gentle manner, because it comes from a place of caring, and I would like to see them be happier. I would also spend some quality time with myself. To review my life, to write a lot, to think back on my fondest memories. Probably cry a bit. Talk to Hashem a lot. I would indulge and spoil myself some. Buy the full-fat ice cream, some really good chocolate. Drive to places I haven't seen, maybe see parts of the world that I have missed until now (there's lots of them). I would have fun. I don't know if I would feel the need to do more skydiving, but I would love to go scuba diving, and swim with dolphins. Lie on the beach at night and count the stars, while listening to the ocean. Sit in a park admiring the beauty of the world. Watch the ducks swim and hear children laugh. See the Grand Canyon and walk in a forest. So why don't I do all these things now? Why wait until I only have a little time left? It's a good question. Part of it is being practical - money keeps me from doing some of it. But it doesn't keep me from it all. And some of it I do now - and wouldn't change. Anyway, I don't know if I have found a career by all this dreaming, but it certainly gave me lots to think about! What would you do?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My Own Harshest Critic

The other day, the puppy in my office was curled up in my lap, cuddling and having fun. So one of my co-workers brought the digital camera over and took a couple pictures. He then printed them out in color and posted them on our bulletin board. Today, another co-worker came up to me and complimented me on the pictures, remarking on how photogenic I am. Another chimed in, telling me what a great smile I have, so that it's easy to take pictures of me. It's funny, because that wasn't quite my reaction to the picturess. I saw them, and was kind of embarrassed, noticing that my hair was really curly that day, that I had chosen my ultra-casual sweatshirt, not the most flattering of things to be photographed in and that the photographer had gotten my profile, which I have never loved. This is symptomatic of a greater problem - others often give me much more credit than I am willing to give myself. I know I am not alone in this - I have had the conversation with others, where I am convincing them that the horrible flaws they see in themselves are, in fact, part of being human. I hold myself to a very high standard, probably because I know what I am capable of if I really put my mind to it. But it's often hard to really put your mind to things, to really push yourself to do all work and no play. And it's okay, we are human, and therefore, not meant to be perfect. There are two ironic aspects of this. The first is that, though I hold myself to such a high standard and give myself a very hard time when I make mistakes, I don't do this to others. I give the benefit of the doubt to them, I encourage them to forgive themselves, I let them know it's okay to not be perfect. The second bit of irony is that although I recognize this in others, I have trouble following my own advice. With this and many other things - it's so much easier when you can be objective, which you just can't be with yourself. Why am I so hard on myself? I don't consider myself a perfectionist. I know I am human, and that I have things to work on, many things. Why can't I accept these facts and give myself a break? Why am I able to give others the benefit of the doubt, but not myself? Again, I think part of it is because I know what I could do if I put my mind to it. I know that I have a lot of potential and a lack of discipline that gets in the way of my accomplishing what I could. But I think often I am nicer to others than I am to myself. Maybe because I know I won't lose me, I won't (can't) turn my back on myself if I am hard on myself, and I am scared of losing others. Whatever it is, I think it would be easier to treat myself the same way I treat others. Give myself some leeway, focus on the good and positive. I do try to. And I hope my similarly harsh-on-themselves friends will do the same.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

'Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost...

Than never to have loved at all. ~Alfred Lord Tennyson - In Memoriam I was watching Good Will Hunting last night (one of my all-time favorites). With my favorite movies, it seems that each time I watch them, different scenes stand out. Last night, there was a scene in which Matt Damon is talking to his therapist, Robin Williams. In atypical therapy fashion, Damon is questioning Williams about his deceased wife. Damon asks Williams if he regrets having married a woman who subsequently dies a slow, painful death of cancer years later. If it was worth it to have loved someone and then lost them, causing so much pain. Williams answers Damon that he would not have changed a second of it, not even those moments that hurt the most. It made me think about the idea of loving and losing, of opening yourself to someone with the knowledge that it may end, and that ending can cause a lot of heartbreak. It's a scary proposition, loving someone. I have found myself, in the past, realizing that I like someone, and really hating that feeling. Because I know that when I like someone, I can get hurt. And getting hurt isn't fun. But I also know that, like Tennyson, it is worth it. It is better to have loved and lost than never to love. Because love brings so much into your life, at least I know it does to me. It brings happiness, it brings growth, it brings the motivation to give. It gives color to life, and causes me to learn so much about myself and others as well. When I think back on my past relationships, those relationships in which I allowed myself to really love another (and the truth is, this can't even be restricted to dating relationships, it is true for the closer of my friendships as well), even though many of them have ended, I grew tremendously from those experiences. Those relationships and the memories I have of them color the landscape of my past - I couldn't be the same person today without the love I felt in the past. So, as much as it sometimes scares me to let someone in - because when someone gets in, they do have that power to cause pain - I think it's worth it. Even a few moments of experiencing love is better than to not know what it is like to feel, to care, to love.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Spirituality vs. Religion

In class the other day, we were discussing using spirituality and religion in the counseling field. i was a little bit surprised by the discussion that was generated. The words suggested in relation to the word "spirituality" included: nature, balance, meditation, peace, calm, higher being, connection with others, yoga and candles. In contrast, the words associated with "religion" were: faith, prayer, God, organized, institution, history, man-made, structured, rules and money. I was quite surprised by the negative connotations that seemed to be associated with religion. I am the only person in the class that I consider identifiably "religious," meaning simply that I have no idea what religions the other people in my class identify with by looking at them, though I know at least one other girl in my class is Jewish, though not Orthodox. I guess in a way, I live in a bubble. My friends are mostly (though not all), other Orthodox Jews, and because I know so many people who have become religious later in life, I thought it was a phenomenon not specific to Judaism; I kind of figured it was more wide-spread than that. But so many people in my class had such negatively visceral reactions simply to the word religion that it seems I was wrong. Though I guess it makes sense - spirituality without the structure of religion is very appealing, and very easy. It's a feel good without the guilt, a connection without demands. It's do what you want. And a lot of people like that. Heck, I like it, I just can't live it and feel like I am being true to what I know is right. It made me sit back and try to figure out how I defined the terms, and the truth is, I had a difficult time. First, the concepts are extremely abstract and therefore difficult to define. Second, there is such a vast spectrum of what they mean to each individual that I had a hard time figuring out to define them, and who to base the definition on. And finally, for me religion and spirituality are so intertwined that I had a really hard time separating the two into functionally different categories. For me, lighting candles, something that is proscribed by religion at a specified time, is extremely spiritual. Bringing light into the world and ushering in our holy Sabbath is both religious and spiritual, and I don't know how to separate them. To me, feeling spiritual when making a bracha can be difficult, but I know that the element is there for the taking. Even the most mundane of tasks, which are required by the religion I am a part of, have spiritual elements to them if I just allow them to. When I look at the above lists, I think it is sad that so many negative things have been associated with religion over the years. I guess I understand where it is coming from - people have done horrible things over the generations in the name of religion. I don't deny that. But I can't separate spirituality from religion - the two go hand in hand. Religion to me gives me connection to others and a sense of a higher being. Spirituality gives me faith and enhances my prayer. It made me think a lot about how I will handle counseling students who come with such different religious orientations from myself. While I would never push Orthodox Judaism on anyone, Jewish or otherwise, will I be able to handle students who share such negative views of religion, for whatever reason? Will I be able to counsel students without my religious beliefs getting in the way? It's a lot to start thinking about.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

What Kind of Footprints Will You Leave?

This post marks two notable occasions (to me, anyway) - my 500th post and my 28th birthday. As such, I thought it appropriate to ask the question in the title of the post (stolen from the Timberland ad I see all over Port Authority Bus Terminal) - "What kind of footprints will you leave?" As far as looking back on the year, it has been a year full of change. I saw several of my friends get married, I finished my Bachelor's degree, I moved. I started graduate school, got a new job and have met many new people and made many new friends. I said good-bye to my beloved cat (though hopefully not permanently). I have had many challenges throughout the year as well as many blessings. I like to think I have grown personally throughout the year. Since I started my blog, almost two and a half years ago, the blogworld, and my blog itself, has gone through many changes. I started my blog because I was bored at work, and had come across the Protocols blog and found it interesting. I had been having the desire to write and it was a great outlet. The blogosphere wasn't nearly as huge at that point, and you didn't see things in the media about blogs every second. My life has changed quite a bit since then. One of my first posts was about my decision to return to school to finish my Bachelor's degree, with no direction in mind after that. But what has changed in my life since starting my blog is the community that has grown from it. Ze'ev and Ezzie have recently written about the Blogosphere and the connections that are made through it, and I have definitely experienced that. I know I have been the impetus for at least three blogs starting since I started mine. But I have also come in contact with a number of wonderful individuals through my blog - through their comments, e-mails and their own blogs - that I would never have come across without it. I have been fortunate to engage in interesting, thought-provoking, caring, helpful and important correspondences through my blog in the past year, and since its inception. I can't imagine my life without these connections - it would certainly be far more boring than it is - I definitely appreciate the color it has brought into my life. So, I am back to my initial question - What kind of footprints will I leave? Well, at the least I hope my blog and writing make people think - about life, themselves, and others. I hope people read my blog and leave having learned something new, having gained some perspective or with something to think about. I hope I have positively impacted at least a few people, that my footprints will be imbedded with kindness and caring. Where do I go for the next year? I think I will just keep at it, plugging away, sharing my thoughts, hopefully continuing to grow a little bit every day. Hopefully the next year will bring even more wonderful connection and correspondences into my life. Here's to a great year!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Musical Tag

Ezzie tagged me with the following:

1. Turn on your mp3 player. 2. Hit shuffle. 3. Put the first fifteen songs that come up in a post. No matter how embarassing. No cheating!
Well, I actually do have an Ipod, a little Ipod shuffle (thanks Dad!), so on my commute home last night and back to work this morning, I wrote down the songs that came up. Here goes: 1. She Talks to Angels - Black Crowes - Shake Your Money Maker 2. Couldn't Love You More - Edwin McCain - Scream and Whisper 3. Found Out About You - Gin Blossoms - New Miserable Experience 4. When I Look to the Sky - Train - My Private Nation 5. Collide - Howie Day - Stop All the World Now 6. I Want it All - Edwin McCain - Austin Sessions 7. Sorry to a Friend - Edwin McCain - Austin Sessions 8. All for You - Sister Hazel - Somewhere More Familiar 9. Goodnight Elisabeth - Counting Crows - Recovering the Satellites 10. Everybody Hurts - R.E.M. - Automatic for the People 11. If You Could Only See - Tonic - Lemon Parade 12. Why Can't I - Liz Phair - Liz Phair 13. Redemption Day - Sheryl Crow - Sheryl Crow 14. Something's Missing - John Mayer - Any Given Thursday (Bonus for this one - it was recorded at Oak Mountain Ampitheater in Birmingham where I saw many concerts in the day, some were even the artists on this list) 15. Crash Into Me - Dave Matthews - Crash All in all, a fairly good representation, including some of my absolute favorite songs. I do have an advantage - because I have the Ipod shuffle, I have a very limited number of songs I can put in it, and I have gone to the extreme of putting JUST favorites so I will like whatever comes up. It was a little heavy on the Edwin McCain, but I do really like him. I was surprised that a few didn't show up, like Pearl Jam and U2, but I guess that's what happens when you shuffle. Anyway, there you go, Ezzie - hope you enjoy! (I don't like tagging others, but if you would like to feel tagged, then there you go - have at it!)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Role Models

This past Sunday, I was asked to drive from New Jersey to Providence, Rhode Island with a very special passenger in the car, Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller, whose talk on gender roles I wrote about yesterday. She was scheduled to speak as the guest of the kiruv kollel that was formed there about a year and a half ago. I was asked to drive her because the head of the kollel and his family have been friends of mine, and an amazing influence in my life, for many years. So while I was honored to be the one to drive Rebbetzin Heller and I got a lot from her speech, to me, the day was really about seeing this family and catching up with them. I met this family seven and a half years ago, about a year after my first trip to Israel. At that point in my life, I was kind of floundering about what I wanted religiously. I had learned a bit, but had made no committments to anything. They came to Birmingham with their then two babies and a few yeshiva guys for a couple weeks to lead a kiruv program. They gave classes and made connections and got to know the community a bit. They invited me for Shabbos meals, which I drove back and forth to. I sat down and spoke to the wife for hours on end, we just really connected immediately. After that Shabbos, I knew what I wanted. And I made the committments necessary to do it. I became Shomer Shabbos after that Shabbos, and soon thereafter returned to Israel to learn for a couple months. That was seven years ago. I have been fortunate to continue the relationship over the years, getting to know them and their children, visiting sporadically and staying in their home for many Shabbosim. I was fortunate to be in Baltimore for a couple years at the same time they were, before they moved to Providence, so the relationship really got a chance to deepen and flourish, with the whole family. They have really been there for me over the years, supporting me in quite a few very difficult situations. I call them and they always make the time for me, regardless of their extremely busy schedules. So it was really nice to see them this past Sunday. To see how big their now five children have gotten, to catch up a bit. The whole family just makes me feel so comfortable and welcome. When we got to Providence, I was greeted by them as warmly as Rebbetzin Heller, and made to feel just as special. They really take care of me, and I am so fortunate to have them in my life. They are really amazing people - they have dedicated their lives, moving their family and they do everything in their power to bring Torah to Jews, no matter what background. They have sacrified a lot for their mission, and they go out of their way to make it important and relevant to anyone, providing ways of learning for people individually, delving deep into explanations in order to make it real, rather than fluffy. I am so lucky to have such amazing role models of kindness and caring in my life. I just hope I can live up in a small way to their example.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Feminism Redux

What a weekend! I was busy from beginning to end. I spent Shabbos in Boro Park, which is always interesting. We touched on quite a few hot topics, and feminism was among them, which is a topic that I have a lot of trouble with. Then yesterday I was fortunate enough to Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller speak to the Providence, Rhode Island Jewish community on a similar topic. I don't consider myself a feminist. But...I do have a problem being told that my place is in the home. I have written about it before, but I have recently been challenged on my stance once again. The truth is, I don't know what I am going to want once I actually do have children. At this point, just the thought of being a stay-at-home mom full-time makes me feel stifled. I can't imagine being at home with my children all day long, I just think that I would get antsy and need a break. And part of me feels that I have been working too hard at school for too long to throw away those career aspirations in exchange for being a homemaker. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong with staying at home with one's children. If that's what you desire to do. I think it's an incredibly difficult job, and no one should devalue that role. But I don't feel like it's the life for me. I feel that I would be a better mother if I am not with my children all day. But...I also don't want someone else raising my children. I want to show my children that I care about them, am devoted to them, and I want them to have both quality and quantity time from me, because I think it's really important. So, with that in mind, why does it bother me so much when I hear someone say that a mother should take care of her children and the home? I think it's not so much that I have a problem hearing that, but I have a problem when I hear someone say a woman CAN'T successfully have both a career and a family. Because my response to someone saying I can't do something, is to prove to them that I can. (Part of the rebelliousness discussed in my last post I guess.) I was discussing this with my rebbetzin in Providence, and interestingly enough, she agreed with me. She grew up in a very traditional home, and she herself does teach part-time, because she loves it, but has spent time as a stay-at-home mother as well. And she said, from her experience, as much as she agrees that it is woman's nature to be nurturing and take care of the home, she also has a really hard time hearing that a woman can't do whatever she wants. Because no one says that to men. Though they certainly have other challenges. So, the truth is I kind of agree with those that say a woman can't do everything, but I just want them to say it differently. It's about semantics. I don't want to be challenged on what I am capable of doing, because I know I'm capable of a lot. And to suggest otherwise makes me feel limited and underappareciated. But when it all comes down to it, though I still am not saying I will stay at home full-time, I do agree that my children will be my responsibility and I want that. I accept it. I guess I'm not such a feminist.

Friday, December 02, 2005


I rarely buy books, because The Book Thing has me so spoiled, but the other day when I was in the airport, I had this overwhelming urge to spend money on something, and I figured a book was a good investment. I don't like fluffy books, so I spent a bit of time roaming the book store at the airport trying to find a good one, and I came across "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri. I have read other Indian writers, and always found them to be extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking, and even more appealing, they manage to show a positive outlook without the ending having to turn out happily ever after. All these things were encapsulated in "The Namesake." I always think it's cool when reading books across my own culture, to see how some themes are so universal. The struggle for self, for home, for meaning in life. And of course, the search for love. The book was excellent, I highly recommend it. One passage particularly struck me. One of the characters, a young Indian woman describes falling for her husband, also Indian as such:

He was not who she saw herself ending up with, he has never been that person. Perhaps for those very reasons, in those early months, being with him, falling in love with him, doing precisely what had been expected of her for her entire life, had felt forbidden, wildly transgressive, a breach of her own instinctive will.

It's interesting to me, because for her, doing what is expected is rebelling against herself. I know that feeling sometimes. I get so used to not doing what the crowd is doing, not following along, fitting in, that once in a while I want to do exactly what everyone else is doing, just to change things up a little. To rebel against what I have gotten used to myself being. Because to continue would be predictable. The problem is, and this is shown in the book, when you rebel against yourself, you aren't being true to who you are, and it doesn't last. It just isn't quite right. And the repercussions of rebelling against yourself are often worse than rebelling against others. I do the rebellious thing in many ways. In my refusal to care what others think, in my refusal to be a follower, in the childish way that I, on occasion, do exactly what I know others don't want me to do, just to show them that I can, that I will make decisions for myself. (Hey, at least I admit it's childish.) But I think the illustration that "The Namesake" shows, of a woman rebelling against her own instincts, is the scariest rebellion. Because not only does it end up leading to paths that aren't really you, it leads to then rebelling against those decisions as well. And the spiral never ends... I can't say that I will ever let go of my rebelliousness, I think it's a part of who I am. But I can strive to be true to myself. Even if that means being predictable in my rebelliousness.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Other Side of the Coin

In a comment to this post, Semgirl expressed the difficulties in spending Shabbos with one's family, even when they are frum. It's something that's easy to forget when your family isn't frum. It's easy to focus on the fact that you have to spend all the holidays away from your family, that you don't get a brocha from your parents on Friday night, and that you constantly have to find places for Shabbos meals. That when you are with your family for Shabbos or a Yom Tov, it is really difficult. But there certainly are challenges to being "frum from birth" as well that I realize I don't have to deal with. The pressure to conform, to get married at a young age, to live up to standards. I know I live in a fish bowl, being the frum community, but I am sure it would be much worse if I had my family there also, always on the lookout for what I am doing wrong, being a reflection on others rather than just myself. It's hard to remember how good you have it sometimes. To look on the positive side, to see things through another person's perspective and realize that your challenges are your own, and that there are many other challenges you don't deal with. That doesn't make your challenges less difficult, or less real, but you do realize that there are a lot of things that aren't so hard either. And hopefully that makes you better able to deal with the things you have to deal with. As hard as I sometimes feel life is, I know that I have been blessed with a lot also. Many of the trials I hear about other people going through are things that I am not sure I could handle, emotionally or mentally. And Hashem hasn't given me those things to deal with, as an incredible kindness to me. I hate that this realization comes by having my eyes opened to the struggles of others, it doesn't seem right. But I guess it is good if it gives one perspective and empathy for others. And an appreciation for the things you do have.