Thursday, July 31, 2008
While whiling away the time, I found two interesting articles:
1. On government funding or not funding of Chareidi schools in Israel
2. On an interfaith meeting in Saudi Arabia
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
A few highlights from the full-length version that really spoke to me:
"When you screw it up and no one's saying anything to you anymore - that means they gave up...your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care."
"The brick walls are there for a reason...the brick walls are not there to keep us out...the brick walls are there to show how badly we want something...they're there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough."
"Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you."
"Anybody can get chewed out - it's the rare person who says, 'oh my G-d, you're right'"
This one is more for the humor - "When it comes to men who are romantically interested in you...just ignore everything they say and pay attention only to what they do." :)
These all (well, except the last one which I included just because it's funny) speak to me in various different ways - those who know me better will probably understand why. I think it's important to be reminded of this sort of thing every once in a while. We all get so caught up in what life is throwing at us, it's easy to forget to take a step back and look at how much we've all been blessed with and at how much we still have going for us. Right now I'm overcoming a challenge of trying to cope with a job I really dislike (so far). I'm trying to figure out how to make it a good experience rather than a complete waste. I'm here, I'm doing it, I might as well make it worth my time and effort - right? I don't know how I'm going to do that, but I'm trying to figure it out. A month is not something to be thrown away lightly. I'm not going to spend all of August moping and feeling down. I'm just not. I won't let myself. It's an entire month of my life and it should be worth something.
The other message I really got out of this lecture was to have FUN. If you're not enjoying life, something is wrong. Even when bad or difficult things come our way, attitude is everything. The more time we spend feeling sad, the less time we spend engaging with the world in a positive way. I thought about writing a post today lamenting the way August is turning out for me. But the truth is, most of my issue is all in my attitude. Nothing horrible has happened. I just have to do really, really, really boring work. I can handle that, can't I? I'm trying. I'm trying to go about this the right way. It's hard - it's a lot harder than it may sound. Really. But that doesn't mean I'm not trying. I'm nervous to go back tomorrow and have to face another really dull day with hardly anyone to talk to. I don't like days where I watch the minute hand on the clock slowly, ever so slowly, slug its way around...five minutes, ten minutes, quarter of an hour, half an hour, an hour - and then again. All the way from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon. That's not a way to live your day - counting hours. That's not how I want to spend my days.
Anyway, this is worth watching if you haven't seen it yet, and it's worth watching again if you haven't seen it in a while.
The link to the full-length version (which I highly recommend if you have the time) is here.
I think there's always this feeling of, "everyone always has these outlandish dreams from when they were kids. But at some point you have to learn to face reality." And in some ways that's true. But in many ways, if you just hold onto those dreams you once had, you'd probably be surprised at how many of them you can make a real part of that reality you're "facing."
I don't know this from experience. It's just something I'm hoping.
Friday, July 25, 2008
What is with all the labeling these days? How did it come about? Why is it there? Why do people swear by their labels so strongly that they get almost offended if you don't get them pinned exactly right (What?! I'm not that modern! I'm not that frum!)?
I don't claim to be an expert on this issue, but I was talking about it a little bit with my mom in the car earlier today. I asked her if people labeled others so much when she was growing up. She said definitely not, not the way it's being done today. She said that when she was growing up, you were either Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or there were Chassidim. Yeshivish was just starting to evolve and there was Modern Orthodox but it wasn't split up into these minute little sections (RWMO, LWMO, et cetera). Of course, I'm sure there were still people who could fall into those sections, but no one was putting labels on them.
So what happened?
My theory (which could be 100% wrong and, even if there is some truth in it, there's probably a lot of other stuff contributing, as well) is that it has somewhat to do with shidduchim. It seems like more and more people are using shadchanim nowadays than they were a generation earlier (from what I've observed, anyway). Because it's not just the Yeshivish who are going to shadchanim. Lots of YU-type are, too. And the thing about going to a shadchan is that you are essentially asking a complete stranger to find you your life partner. That means it has to be easy to define people. It has to be easy to know where people stand on issues, what lifestyle someone leads, what their background is - all this has to be summed up as simply as possible. Thus, we rely so heavily on labels. And because these labels have been given such a crucial purpose, people see them as actual definitions of who they are.
I don't know if this is really why these labels exist and why they are relied upon so heavily. It's just something I've been thinking about. Because, if that is the case, then we really haven't given ourselves much choice, have we? Unless people are willing to date longer and find out more about the person they're dating on their own, they're going to need labels. And even in the crowd where people are dating longer, it just seems easier to skip over all the people who you know wouldn't fall into your hashkafic viewpoint and you're able to skip over them because you label yourself a particular thing. Right? This is what I've been observing, in any case, but I could be completely wrong.
In the quiz from the post below, one of the questions was what label you would give to the Rambam. Does it matter what label the Rambam would have? I understand the point of the question - it was to judge where you stand based on what your opinion of the Rambam is - but the concept of labeling the Rambam just seems strange to me. What purpose would it serve? Would certain people stop learning his sfarim because he was labeled something they were not?
What's scary about these labels is that they're not innocuous. They are dividing our nation in scary ways. Too many people look down on too many other people for the most absurd reasons. Too many people won't associate with each other for no good reason at all. Sure, there are people who thumb their noses at juding others based on labels (I'm one of them), but there are way, way, way too many people who rely heavily on these labels. Too much importance is put on them. Labels and dress code. I'm not talking about being tznius. I'm talking about people who judge and put much too much importance on whether or not you wear black or colors, what kind of kippa a guy wears, etc. Is a guy who wears black velvet any more of a shomer torah u'mitzvot than a guy who wears a kippa sruga?
We once randomly got a magazine called The Shadchan and it was basically a catalogue of girls and guys looking for a shidduch. How lovely. Each person had a little blurb about them and the kind of person they're looking for and, let me tell you, the things people had on there were r.i.d.i.c.u.l.o.u.s. So much emphasis was put on whether or not one wore "the garb." Girls were looking "only for guys who wore black hats" or who "wore the garb." Now, I understand that guys who wear black hats probably also belong to a certain mentality and hashkafa that these girls wanted, but what about looking for qualities in a person?
Face it. There are people who give themselves labels and then don't live up to those labels. There are people who dress a certain way but don't at all behave in a manner which reflects their dress code. The labels mean a lot less than people give them credit for. And what I've been learning is that people of different 'labels' are sometimes a heck of a lot more similar than they think they are.
I think we all need to take a breather and read some Dr. Seuss.
by Dr. Seuss
Now the Star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.
The stars weren't so big; they were really quite small.
You would think such a thing wouldn't matter at all.
But because they had stars, all the Star-bellied Sneetches
would brag, "We're the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches."
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they'd snort, "
We'll have nothing to do with the plain-bellied sort."
And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
they'd hike right on past them without even talking.
When the Star-bellied children went out to play ball,
could the Plain-bellies join in their game? Not at all!
You could only play ball if your bellies had stars,
and the Plain-bellied children had none upon thars.
When the Star-bellied Sneetches had frankfurter roasts,
or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts,
they never invited the Plain-bellied Sneetches.
Left them out cold in the dark of the beaches.
Kept them away; never let them come near,
and that's how they treated them year after year.
Then one day, it seems, while the Plain-bellied Sneetches
were moping, just moping alone on the beaches,
sitting there, wishing their bellies had stars,
up zipped a stranger in the strangest of cars.
"My friends, " he announced in a voice clear and keen,
"My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
I've heard of your troubles; I've heard you're unhappy.
But I can fix that; I'm the fix-it-up chappie.
I've come here to help you; I have what you need.
My prices are low, and I work with great speed,
and my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed."
Then quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean
put together a very peculiar machine.
Then he said, "You want stars like a Star-bellied Sneetch?
My friends, you can have them . . . . for three dollars each.
Just hand me your money and climb on aboard."
They clambered inside and the big machine roared.
It bonked. It clonked. It jerked. It berked.
It bopped them around, but the thing really worked.
When the Plain-bellied Sneetches popped out, they had stars!
They actually did, they had stars upon thars!
Then they yelled at the ones who had stars from the start,
"We're exactly like you; you can't tell us apart.
We're all just the same now, you snooty old smarties.
Now we can come to your frankfurter parties!"
"Good grief!" groaned the one who had stars from the first.
"We're still the best Sneetches, and they are the worst.
But how in the world will we know," they all frowned,
"if which kind is what or the other way 'round?"
Then up stepped McBean with a very sly wink, and he said,
"Things are not quite as bad as you think.
You don't know who's who, that is perfectly true.
But come with me, friends, do you know what I'll do?
I'll make you again the best Sneetches on beaches,
and all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches.
Belly stars are no longer in style, " said McBean.
"What you need is a trip through my stars-off machine.
This wondrous contraption will take off your stars,
so you won't look like Sneetches who have them on thars."
That handy machine, working very precisely,
removed all the stars from their bellies quite nicely.
Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about.
They opened their beaks and proceeded to shout,
"We now know who's who, and there isn't a doubt,
the best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without."
Then, of course those with stars all got frightfully mad.
To be wearing a star now was frightfully bad.
Then, of course old Sylvester McMonkey McBean
invited them into his stars-off machine.
Then, of course from then on, you can probably guess,
things really got into a horrible mess.
All the rest of the day on those wild screaming beaches,
the Fix-it-up-Chappie was fixing up Sneetches.
Off again, on again, in again, out again,
through the machine and back round about again,
still paying money, still running through,
changing their stars every minute or two,
until neither the Plain- nor the Star-bellies knew
whether this one was that one or that one was this one
or which one was what one or what one was who!
Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
the Fix-It-Up-Chappie packed up and he went.
And he laughed as he drove in his car up the beach,
"They never will learn; no, you can't teach a Sneetch!"
But McBean was quite wrong, I'm quite happy to say,
the Sneetches got quite a bit smarter that day.
That day, they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches,
and no kind of Sneetch is the BEST on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars,
and whether they had one or not upon thars.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
So why group anyone at all? The more labels we give, the more we segregate people into groups, the more separated we become as a Jewish nation. And, when it comes down to it, isn't it really all about being shomer Torah u'mitzvot? If we have to call people names, it only spurns more names, more labels. "Well, within Modern Orthodoxy there are different spectrums, of course, so let's separate it out into...hmmm...Left Wing Modern Orthodox and Right Wing Modern Orthodox." Okay, hooray, more labels! And you know what? People aren't going to be happy with that either because guess what? There's still lots of gray in there! Quick, quick - more labels! We must get rid of the gray! We must define everyone! Right Right Wing MO? Left Right Wing MO? Right Left Wing MO? Left Left Wing MO? Just keep adding Rights and Lefts to everything!
You know what? The gray still won't go away. It won't. Because we're individuals, we're not clones. As similar as we can be to one another, we don't all fall neatly into little packages. People will divide and divide and divide until, you know something? Each person will just have to be their own label. Sure, when it comes down to it, there will always be groups of people who have extremely similar hashkafas and ways of practicing halacha, but we'll all still be individuals. There will always be tiny things that make each of us our own unique person.
Holy Hyrax and I were having fun with an online quiz that attempts to tell you in which branch of Orthodox Judaism you fall (of course, it can't really tell you that, but it was fun to see what it would say). I took the quiz twice. My results the first time around are not important but when I took it again (because I wanted to see what would happen if I changed around a few of the answers I had been debating between the first time around), this is what I got:
The Orthodoxy Test
says that I'm Huh?
What does it mean?
I give up. What are you?I'll tell you what I am. I'm Erachet. And I just officially stepped out of the box and broke it. Ha!
It's amazing how far back people can remember what was said to them. Sometimes words don't have to be even remotely remarkable in order for them to make an impression. You'd be surprised at the random little remarks you don't even remember saying that someone else does.
Why is it that people are so afraid to talk about things which scare them? Does speaking the words actually mean that thing is true? Or going to happen?
Why is it that people are comforted by prayer? Why do people turn to prayer in times of need? What is it about prayer that feels so powerful?
It's words. When we pray, we are actually, physically speaking to G-d. And we, as physical beings, put our faith in physical actions. They mean something to us.
And this is why we have to be so careful with this power we were given - this power of speech.
Over the internet it's a little bit easier because you're not actually saying words. You're typing them. But even then, you have to be careful. Conversations there really can be kept forever - physically. Anything you say about anyone or anything is on record. Even on a blog - if you comment and then decide to delete it - well, sure, it's gone from the blog, but anyone who read it before it was deleted still knows it was there. You can't delete something from someone's memory.
But even more than who or what it is you're speaking about - words can have a profound effect on the speaker, as well. Even if no one actually gets hurt by what you say, even if whomever or whatever you're speaking about never ever knows you said those things, you know you said them. Those words actually came out of your mouth or your fingers actually typed them - however it was said. You did something in order to express something and that's enough.
Obviously not everything people say is negative, but it's so incredibly important to think before you speak and to control yourself before you say something you might really regret, even if you think no harm was done by it. Because you will be effected, whether you think so or not.
On the flip side, words unspoken have weight, too. We shouldn't be afraid to speak out if we need to and we shouldn't be afraid to express ourselves. Words kept inside but never spoken still exist - they're like cooped up balls of energy just bursting to break free and wreak havoc. That's when you really have to be careful.
And, from yet another angle, it's amazing how strong an effect words can have on someone who is upset. A few simple, kind words and you can bring out a smile. Words may not fix problems, but they let people know you're there. They remind people they have a friend who cares. And that's super important.
We have to pick and choose what we say carefully, but without driving ourselves crazy. Obviously you don't have to sit there for five hours thinking before speaking each word that comes out of your mouth, but you shouldn't flippantly just spew things either - especially at times like the heat of the moment.
Words hurt. Words heal. Words stick.
Words are forever, whether you like it or not.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Maybe I'm too naive. Maybe I feel this way because I really identify with my Judaism as part of an entire nation and so I feel strongly about it, but perhaps someone who doesn't identify as much with all Jews really couldn't care less. But they should care. Treating someone with respect has nothing to do with how many halachot you keep or don't keep. It has nothing to do with anything other than being a decent human being and, when it comes to a Jew against another Jew, having somewhat of an understanding that you belong to the same nation, even if you practice differently. But I guess some people just don't feel that in the same way.
It just really upsets me.
To me, Israel is not just a Jewish country and it's not just a theoretical homeland. It's an actual future home. I'm going to live there. I don't know when, but I know it will happen - hopefully sooner rather than later. I struggle all the time with making sure I still feel passionate enough to want to live there and with figuring myself out so that I can become emotionally and mentally ready for such a big change in my life. Already, most of my friends have made Aliyah and those who haven't are doing so very soon (one in the next couple of weeks, one in January - and that's not including the ones who don't have dates yet but are planning on making Aliyah soon anyway).
I've worked hard and gone through a lot of doubt, emotional turmoil, and general re-assessing in order to make Aliyah truly my own dream. It's something I've wanted to do since I was a little girl for no other simple reasons than 1. my best friend had done it with her family (there are actually a whole number of families who have made/are making Aliyah from my community) and 2. Israel, to me as a six year old, was a magical place for Jews where a lot of things in the Torah happened and I felt that if I was there, everything would be okay because it was Eretz Yisrael. Since the summer I was nine until the summer after Israel I went to Camp Moshava, both as a camper (chanicha) and as a counselor (madricha). As much as I felt I was being a little brainwashed by Moshava, it was a wonderful, wonderful place to grow up in. It was rich with Jewish and Zionistic values and the heads of the camp really made it a priority to make sure that everyone at camp behaved appropriately and with respect towards one another. "Dugma ishit" or "Ishiut l'dugma" (being a role model, essentially) was a value stressed over and over and over to the Moshava staff. And - okay - I'm not going to go on and on about how amazing Moshava is. It, of course, has its issues and that's one of the reasons I decided not to go back and I ended up dropping out of Bnei Akiva (even though I don't think you can ever really drop out). But overall, it was an exceptionally positive experience, especially when I was younger.
Maybe one day I'll write a post about Moshava specifically. But as for now, the point is, I ended up feeling a little brainwashed. When I went to Harova for my year in Israel, I felt even more brainwashed. Because of all the brainwashing, I started to freak out a little about how I was unable to discern what I was being told I wanted and what I really wanted. I didn't want to make Aliyah because I was told to. I wanted to do it because I wanted to. I wanted it to come from me, not from ideas put into my head by other people. And I didn't want it to seem like I was only making Aliyah because it was "the thing to do" - because all my friends were doing it and that's just what one did if she went to Moshava and did bnei akiva and had all these Zionistic friends. I needed to convert this general dream into a dream I felt was truly my own. I had to make it mine.
Eventually, I did succeed at this. In a weird way, I feel a very strong, personal connection with Israel that has nothing to do with Moshava, nothing to do with Bnei Akiva, nothing to do with Harova, and nothing to do with my friends.
Well, okay, I'm sure it has a bit to do with all of those, but mostly it's because I worked hard to create a bond with the country that is my own personal bond. It's hard to explain it. The simplest way to describe it is...Israel makes me feel more complete as a Jew. I look at Israel and I feel G-d's existence in a way that I don't elsewhere. Having a relationship with G-d is so difficult, especially because He is not physical. Prayer is one way of connecting, but words are fleeting. You can't hold onto them the same way you can pick up a rock from the Jerusalem streets and grasp it tightly, or scoop up Israeli dirt and let it sift through your fingers. Israel, in a way, is something physical in which I can feel the presence of G-d and can realize all He has done for us and for the world.
And the history! The history that is in those rocks, the dirt, the sand, the trees, the streets, the air...layers upon layers upon layers of Jewish history! The atmosphere is so thick with it, I can feel it hugging me, warmly welcoming me, drawing me closer to my past, my ancestors, my heritage. I get enveloped by all the heroism that decorates our time-line, the bravery, the pride, the honor, the stubborn will to stand by our beliefs even under great stress.
As long as we have Israel, I feel comforted that redemption is not too far away. I feel in tune with my own identity as part of the great Jewish nation.
And, by the way, I definitely don't exclude America as a big, important part of my life, either. I'm an American and I'm proud of it. I'm not going to put down America just because I believe all Jews belong in Israel. It always really bothers me when people do that. America has done so much for us and has let us practice Judaism pretty freely, especially when you consider our history in other countries. We owe it tremendous hakarat hatov and anyone who says differently is deluding themselves.
I'm American and proud of it. I'm a Jew and incredibly proud of it. And one day I'll be an Israeli, too. I can't wait for that day to come. I'm waiting with baited breath. I'm at the edge of my seat.
Israel, sunny Israel, beautiful Israel, warm, loving country who has sooooo many issues...and yet I ache for it all the same...
One day, it'll be my turn.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The other problem with drawers are people who actually pronounce the silent '-er' at the end. Weirdos.
The three most famous poskim -
1. Someone Told Me
2. I Once Heard
3. They Say
Friday, July 18, 2008
Being interrupted is not the end of the world, but for someone who uses a lot of effort just to speak up in the first place, it's like being shoved back down. Sometimes it's like no one really listens, anyway.
And in some ways, isn't that true? How often do people really listen to each other? It always seems like everyone is just waiting to say their own piece. I mean, I'm not perfect, I'm guilty of that, as well. But it's all the more discouraging to speak up when you know no one's really interested in what you have to say.
Speaking one on one with someone is different. Unless you let the other person just go off on their own monologue, you have no choice but to speak - and chances are the other person would rather a dialogue than a monologue anyway. But once you get to groups of people, it's way too easy to just hide behind everyone else. You can rely on other people to keep the conversation going and you really don't have to contribute at all. Except that's awful. You want to contribute - otherwise, what's the point in you even being there? And you want so badly to be noticed, but you think way too hard about speaking up and then the moment for speaking slips away.
So is the key to being outgoing not to think?
I hate being shy, I hate being quiet, because really - I'm not that quiet. Ask people who've been with me at times when I'm just being myself. I know how to talk, I know how to be silly, I know how to be myself. I'm smart, I have opinions, and I've spoken my mind before. It's just that it's so hard for that side of me to come out sometimes.
I wish I knew the trick to getting over this. I detest being so painfully shy. No one will ever know me or think twice about me. It's like I'm digging my own way into a life of invisibility. I want to get out. I just don't know how.
When the sun comes up to rise
It means it's time for bed
And though the world is waking up
I'd like to rest my head.
I know it's sort of backwards
But there's nothing I can do
I like to stay up all night long
While G-chatting with you!
If you don't like my schedule
Don't share such things with me
You do not have to follow it
But let me please be free
I'll eat lunch when it's dinner
I'll eat breakfast when it's noon
Supper is a midnight snack--
I run my own saloon
So go ahead, sleep when it's night
And stay awake all day
I'll do precisely what I like
That's all I have to say.
Work work work all day
But playing all night long
Is how I like to spend my time
And so I sing this song
I color in the sunset using
I toss some glitter to the sky
So stars do not get faint
I like to play the nighttime games
Sit at the twilight bar
Ride on the midnight carousel
Strum evening's guitar
I like to chase the flitting moths
Catch lightening bugs by hand
Build castles using Sandman's dust
Explore the shadowland
But when the sun begins to rise
The dark sky fades to red
All nighttime friends go home at once
It's time to go to bed.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
SJ and D2 were excited by all the candy.
Erachet was too, but she was something else. She was curious. She walked over to the plastic containers lining the walls filled with m&ms. Each container had a different color of m&ms in it and, more importantly, each container had a big, red lever attached to it.
"Hmmm," wondered the ever-curious Erachet. "I wonder what would happen if I just...pulled...?"
She reached out and pulled on the lever attached to the container filled with red m&ms.
TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP!
Out fell scores and scores of m&ms onto the floor!
Those gross m&ms from the floor cost Erachet $1.25.
And that, boys and girls, is why you should never pull levers if you don't know what they do, especially in candy shops.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Well, there's not much I actually want to say. A whole lot has happened since then. We've sort of started a literary journal at Stern. The English department both fell apart and started to grow in major ways. And I know I've grown a lot as a person since then.
I think one of the main things I've learned over the course of this year, and some of that directly in connection with the events of last summer and with who Dr. Schwebel was as a person, is how not to be afraid to talk to people. It's still something I'm working really hard to get over, but I've become closer with more people this year than I have since my year in Israel. Life is short. You really never know what's going to happen, as morbid as that sounds, and, really, life is way too short to spend time being afraid. Believe me, I'm preaching this, but I'm still learning it, too. I'm learning it in a big way. Even with other things...like driving. Dr. Schwebel's accident only increased my fear of driving into pure terror, but yet this was also the year that I first drove on the highway by myself.
I think we should all just appreciate so much the friends and family we have because we're all super, super lucky to have people around us who care about us and love us. And we shouldn't take for granted any good teachers we have because, I'm also discovering, those are rarer than they may seem, especially if they are both teachers and role models. Basically, realize and appreciate the people in your life who matter because it's those people who are helping you become the best you can be in all aspects of yourself.
For all the bloggers whose blogs I've read/been reading: thanks for inspiring (and entertaining :P) me.
And for all the good friends I've made (or become closer with) this year, I love you guys. And thank you.