Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Main Character

In some ways, all people see themselves as the main characters of their own story. You are the focus of your own life while everyone else is a supporting character. Everything that happens to you is most important to you, not to anyone else involved. You see things primarily through your own eyes, not through the eyes of others. You are your own main character.

This is the middle ground. It can, of course, go to either extreme. The first extreme is both obvious and common. Sometimes, someone is so wrapped up in herself that she forgets the importance of everyone around her. The other side, though, is when someone is so focused on other people - on the supporting characters - that she forgets she is her own protagonist. FOMO...Fear Of Missing Out...where does that even come from? Missing out from what, exactly? If you are the focus of your own life, you should never be missing out from anything! Right? If it didn't happen to you, it isn't part of your storyline. Other people can miss out from events in your life, but you can't. After all, it's your life; it's your story.

And then there are different kind of stories. There are the kind where the supporting characters are extremely involved in the storyline. They form close relationships with the main character (aka - you) and help her through whatever obstacles come her way. But then there are the kind of stories where the main character has to learn things on her own. She has to deal with situations using her own reason, intellect, cleverness, and strength. Sometimes the main character can't receive any help at all. Sometimes, only minimal help. Sometimes, certain stories are so focused on the main character, any other characters are only mentioned in passing. But what a lonely, difficult trial that must be for the main character. And yet what better way to measure her own strength?

And, sometimes, I like to abandon this entire life-is-a-story theory and just live it instead of thinking too much. Otherwise I might get a headache.

Top Ten Highlights Of The Week

1. Baking cookies with D2 (or, rather, eating D2's freshly baked cookies) and bringing them to the security guards downstairs

2. Beating SJ in Boggle :)

3. Writing bad poetry with SJ and the Apple

4. Our wild west poetry teacher looking for a board marker, not finding one, and muttering, "Heck!"

5. Our poetry teacher going around the room asking us our names and why we are taking the class. When my turn came around I said, "I'm Erachet, I'm an English Lit. major, and...I've done a lot of creative writing on my own."
"Really?" he asked, interested. "What sort of writing?"
"Well, mostly short stories but also some poetry. And, er, a lot of just...random blurbs."
"Well, that's poetry, too, you know!" my teacher exclaimed.
"Er, uh, well, they're more like beginnings or middles to random short stories," I explained hesitantly.
"Oh," he said, now looking at me as though I was a bit slow. "Those are called drafts."
Then a bunch of people laughed.
"Oh," I said. "Yeah. I write drafts."

6. Beginning a whole new year of adventurizing with SJ!

7. Beginning a new school year as the Apple's roommate :)

8. Getting five pages from my lit. and philosophy teacher about how to write a one page response (BRING IT!)

9. My 18th Century Satire class taught by my Gothic Novel teacher from last semester - and the funky book we're gonna read later called Tristram Shandy. It sounds sooooo....bizarrely cool.

10. School Books Buying: Survival Of The Fittest. It's a dog eats dog world out there in Barnes and Noble...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In Your Own Words

I love school. :)

(Feel free to comment in your own words)

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Just-In-Casers

There is a certain class of people who are always looking to the future. They acquired excellent planning skills while growing up and are experts at thinking ahead.

They are known as the Just-In-Casers.

Just-In-Casers rarely like to commit to things. They much prefer to keep their options open. In fact, they hardly ever do much at all just in case something comes up later.

They don't like to buy things just in case they find them on sale somewhere else.

They don't like to wear their favorite pieces of clothing just in case they might want to wear them later in the week.

They don't like to fill their schedule just in case something comes up that they really want to do.

And, most of all, they don't like becoming fleishig just in case they want to eat ice cream later on.

This last one is very important. According to some stringent opinions, it is better to starve all afternoon and stay dairy for the possibility of ice cream at night than to eat meat and not be able to be open to the prospect of ice cream at all. Some are more lenient, however, and say that if you know you will still be awake six hours later, it is okay to eat meat. Just as long as you know you can still have ice cream sometime before you go to bed. If one waits only three hours, these restrictions need not apply and he/she can eat meat whenever he/she is hungry. Such are the rules of the Just-In-Casers.

If you are a Just-In-Caser, I'd suggest becoming lactose intolerant. Then you'll never have any of these ice cream issues. :)

For the rest of us, we must pray for decent parve ice cream.

Two Interesting Tidbits

1. I am currently dorming in the best apartment EVER.

2. Apparently, if you conduct a google blog search, this blog comes up as number 11 for "shadchan." And I don't even write about dating! (It's the Stick to the Shidduch Quo post - but still!!!)

That will be all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beginnings

I always love beginnings. They're a chance to start over. Any mistakes from last year - that was last year. That's over. Now it's time to start new, to start fresh. They're another opportunity to build on previous friendships...to develop new ones...to try being organized again...to build up your GPA...

Back to school is probably my most favorite time of the year. Besides, it's exciting to start something new. And I'm so excited to be with my friends again.

I guess when you're in school, the year starts whenever school starts - not in January like for the rest of the population.

I'm so ready to start a new year. And a new year for me means a new year for everything about me. A new year of blogging, for instance. My blog is rather hard to define, I've realized. It's not about anything...it's just about everything. But that's okay. It's about me. It's about what goes through my head. It's about life through the eyes of a 21 (almost 22) year old Orthodox Jewish girl. It's about interesting things that happen to me, issues I think about, and whatever strikes my fancy. And I like it that way. I think it makes me seem more three dimensional, if a bit of a hodgepodge.

So I don't know what this year will bring. I have no idea what I'll be blogging about. I can't predict what sort of experiences I'll be having or what thoughts will be preying on my mind. But I'm excited to find out.

I hope whoever's reading this is ready (and will stick around) for whatever kind of ride the school year 2008-2009 will bring. :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

G-chekle And Hide

For any of you who don't know me in person, I'm just letting you know now, I'm pretty shy. If I ever do meet any of you in person and don't talk to you for a while, it's not because I don't want to. It's just because I can't bring myself to.

The funny thing is, however, I'm not really shy at all when it comes to talking on the internet. Okay, I shouldn't say I'm not at all, but there's a significant difference.

So what is it about the internet that makes it possible for me to have this double persona? Why is it that gchatting on the internet is not as frightening as speaking to someone in person?

Case in point: today was the JBlogger convention in Israel. I was in the chatroom for a while and had no problem at all saying whatever was on my mind. If that chat room had been an actual room with everyone talking in real life, I would have been hiding in a corner and completely forgotten about.

So,

A. How does one overcome such a weakness of character?

B. What is really so different about gchatting and speaking in real life that I should be so shy of one and so much less so of the other?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On Bullies

It is a terrible thing to feel bullied. It's like every ounce of your own self-worth is yanked out and stomped on by someone else. That shouldn't be allowed. It's even more terrifying when the offender is more than twice your age, too.

And it's hard to see other people be bullied and know that there's nothing you can do about it.

The whole thing makes me wonder how people put up with others like that (a lot of them don't).

But, mostly, I'm just trying to get through the day without feeling too stupid by the end of it. I spent all morning being made to feel like an incompetent idiot.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Calling All English Majors!

I don't usually post one RIGHT after the other like I'm doing just now, but this was too good to pass up.

Bad4 noted a disproportionate number of English majors in the blogosphere. So I just want to give a shout out to everyone who is an English major - or who is an honorary English-major-wanna-be.

ENGLISH MAJORS ARE THE BEST.

Also, SJ commented over the weekend that I post more often than anyone she knows. I was debating whether or not to feel self-conscious about this, but then I decided, y'know? It's my blog and if I have a lot to say, well, I can't help that! I don't speak enough in person so I guess I'm just drawn to writing. And no one has to read it if they don't wanna, you know? And now I know I'm gonna get yelled at by someone about being apologetic and disclaimering on my own blog, but...! Hmmm.

The Power Of Chocolate

This makes me jealous, but in a good way.

For me, I think the part of the BBT/SerandEz shabbaton that stood out the most was when Jameel was giving out cow chocolate.

I know that sounds rather odd. There I was on a Shabbaton all about inspiration and integration and I got the most affected by chocolate?!

I just remember standing there and Jameel holding out the chocolate bag. I held one of the little bars in my hand and when I took a bite, my mouth immediately filled with the sweetness of Israel. I'm not exaggerating. To fight it, I said rather dryly to the Apple (I think), "you know we can also get these in New York, right?"

But it wasn't about the chocolate, of course. It was about biting into something that came from Israel. It was about connecting with Israel in the smallest of ways. It was about holding something that was exposed to the Israeli air. It was about breathing in the fresh air of Israel as best I could through that tiny bar of chocolate.

It was about culminating a Shabbaton about integration and inspiration and, really, Jewish unity through growing closer to the Torah, with the ultimate uniting factor - coming together one day to keep the Torah as one, single nation in one land: the land of Israel. Our land.

Okay, so that uniting factor comes with a lot of controversy and debate. But it is controversy and debate over a single issue which drives so many Jews - how to handle the State of Israel? We are involved in a shared debate, even if people are on different sides.

When we pray, we all face the same place - Jerusalem. At the end of the day, throughout all our differences, it is Israel - it is Jerusalem - which brings us together. Have you ever been to the Kotel and not seen people from all different Jewish paths? My point exactly.

All this really hit home when I was eating that chocolate. It made me want to go to Israel so badly. I almost started to cry.

I can't even begin to express how much I miss being in that country. I know I'm not ready to make aliyah just yet, but every time someone else does, I can't help but feel a pang of jealousy. They're doing it, I say. They're living my dream. I just want to know when it'll be my turn.

P.S. Also, I just love chocolate. If anyone wants to donate some chocolate to the author of this blog, it would be most appreciated (my favorite kind is the crackling-candy cow chocolate, just by the way)! Besides, you never know what eating chocolate might inspire next! :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On Advice And Aliyah

There has been a lot of talk recently in the JBlogosphere on the topic of aliyah. Along with that talk, naturally, has come a lot of advice. Even off the JBlogosphere (actually, mostly off the JBlogosphere), I've heard a lot of advice from different people about how to go about making aliyah and, at a certain point, it can get very confusing. Everyone seems to be saying different things. And some of it isn't just advice. Sometimes, these are outright declarations (this happens often when you do Bnei Akiva, go to Moshava, go to Harova, etc). There are a lot of different people exclaiming different variations of, "the best time to make aliyah is ___ (fill in the blank)." Usually, because that's what worked for them. Makes sense, no?

Just the fact that, over the years, I've heard such different variations of "the best time to make aliyah" statement proves that there is no one best time. Every person is different. Every person has different struggles, different challenges, and different needs. Every person is looking for something different. Every person can cope with different things at different levels and at different times.

I've had friends who stayed in Israel after our shana b'aretz and made aliyah then. And they're doing great. I have friends who left college in the middle to make aliyah. They're also doing great. I have friends with plans to make aliyah right after they graduate college (real plans, not up-in-the-air plans). And I have friends who plan on making aliyah sometime in the (hopefully) near future but don't know when yet. I also know families from my community who we are very good friends with who are trying out aliyah right now. They have older kids but they're all into it and excited by it.

When I was little, my best friend moved to Israel with her family. We were both six and her older brother was seven. And they are in love with Israel. It worked out so wonderfully for them, and for all the families from my community who moved during those years (there are a whole bunch).

I've had (and have) friends in Bar Ilan, in other smaller colleges, in the army, doing Sheirut Le'umi...

I have friends who made aliyah and who have family living in Israel and I have friends who don't have as many friends and family in Israel, but things are still working out for them. And they're not just squeaking by. They are all ecstatic over having made aliyah and are waiting for me to join them.

My own grandfather made aliyah only a little over ten years ago (11 year ago this summer, I think).

Of course, it was challenging for all these people. Every single one of them had to go through times that were difficult - but that doesn't mean it was the "wrong" time for them to go. They worked through those times (or are still working through them) because their drive for living in the land of Israel, in our homeland, is strong enough to see them through. They embrace each challenge with the confidence, love, and dedication needed to succeed.

There is never going to be a time during our galus when it will be easy to make aliyah. It's always going to be hard. We just can't be afraid of it being hard. Yes, there are times that are better than other times, but that depends on each person. Any time to make aliyah is the "right" time as long as it is right for the person actually making aliyah.

I'm not trying to be overly idealistic, by the way. I am well aware that there are plenty of people who try to make aliyah and end up having to come back. But just because something didn't work out for one person at a particular time or in a particular situation doesn't mean it can't work out for a different person. The wrong time for one person is not necessarily the wrong time for you. And, on the flip side, the right time for one person is not necessarily the right time for you, either. Believe me, I've felt plenty of pressure to move to Israel once all my friends started doing it on their own (as in, not with their families). It was something I had to overcome (and sometimes I still struggle with it). It was the right time for them and they're doing well, but as for me - I needed to come back to New York for a few more years. And I'm glad I did. But they didn't have to (clearly) and they're glad they didn't.

I haven't made aliyah yet, but I know enough people who have to know this: although, in many respects, moving to Israel is a shared experience among all olim, there is also a huge element of aliyah that is personal, individual, and unique.

I think the best advice I've gotten so far about aliyah (it's actually a compilation of advice from a whole bunch of different people) is to make sure that you are ready. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but so many people get sucked into, "everyone is making aliyah now, I should, too" or "I was told this is the best time to make aliyah so that's when I'm going - I don't want to go at the wrong time!" etc. etc. etc.

I know, it isn't all idealism and sunshine and Kotel visits. You have to be ready in all different aspects - financially, mentally, emotionally, with a plan of some sort...but again, each of these things is so individual. No one can really say when the best time in any of these aspects is except you and what you feel comfortable with.

I hope we all make it there at the right time and with much success.

Am Yisrael b'Eretz Yisrael al pi Torat Yisrael.

Struggle

Sometimes, blogging is a struggle. I have so much to say, but often feel incapable of expressing it. And I start to feel like every post of mine has to be perfect, you know? It's like the curse of the perfectionist. And I often wonder who out there is really listening, anyway. I feel this need to write, to share myself and my opinions with the world because I want to be heard. Who doesn't want to be heard? Who doesn't want to feel like they can make a difference, even on a small level? Who doesn't want to feel like what they say matters? But that desire to be heard also comes with a lot of stage fright and fear. Who would want to listen to me? What do I have to say that hasn't been said a thousand times before? Why would people care about what I think? I'm just a random little nobody with no credentials for having my opinions on any matter actually mean anything. And what if people lose respect for me because of something I say or something I don't know? I'm not even talking about risky opinion type things. Even just regular stuff. It's so much safer to remain quiet and listen to everyone else than to speak up or write something and risk regretting it.

But...I want to write.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Shaken Up

I am alone in an office, sitting behind my desk and typing something up. An old woman comes to the doorway and just stands there, watching. I glance up at her every so often but she doesn't say anything. She doesn't ask to see anyone. She just stands there. It starts to make me a little uncomfortable.

"Er, can I help you?" I ask, slightly timid.

She gets very agitated.

"I think I'm dying."

Her voice quivers dangerously and then she starts to break down. I open my mouth to respond and then quickly close it again, at a loss.

"Do you...do you want to speak to someone?" I offer stupidly, indicating the HR office next to me. I don't know what else I'm supposed to do.

She nods. She looks so pathetic, like she'll just melt into a puddle of soggy tears. The HR woman is in a meeting, so I tell the old lady she can sit in my office and wait.

The woman continues to cry.

"I think I'm dying," she whimpers. "I'm scared."

I stare at her.

"Uh...well..."

I trail off, feeling like a complete idiot. But I don't know how to comfort her. She's a complete stranger to me.

"I'm sick," she goes on, sniffling. "Everything hurts. It's all bottled in my head. I need to speak to my family. They don't come visit me anymore. I'm all alone. The social worker won't speak to me."

"Er, do you have any friends here?" I venture to ask.

She cries some more.

"Not very many. It hurts me to talk."

"Oh."

Oh?! All you can say is oh?!

"Well."

Ugh! Think of something more helpful to say!

"I'm...I'm sorry."

Well, at least that's better than 'oh.'

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Balance Beam

One of my favorite events in the women's Olympic gymnastics is the balance beam (my other favorite is floor exercises). I was watching it for a little while last night and noticed how the gymnasts were great when it came to the really hard stuff, but they kept messing up the easier moves. One even fell off just trying to get onto the beam. The commentator was saying how, when it comes to the balance beam, the most important thing is to believe in yourself. He said as soon as you have doubts, that's when you mess up doing things that you really know how to do and that you've done thousands of times before.

It's always so frustrating to know you can do things but your nerves hold you back. With the balance beam, it's completely obvious how damaging nerves can be. In a lot of ways, there's not much you can do about it. Feeling nervous is natural and normal. But on the other hand, it's a great skill to be able to push those nerves aside and not let them hold you back.

Even on the floor exercises, each gymnast from the American team stepped out of bounds - even Shawn Johnson who is a world champion at that particular challenge. The commentator said about one of the girls (Alicia something-or-other) who actually fell while competing, that she seemed so afraid of stepping out of bounds, she ended up causing herself to lose her balance and fall just so she wouldn't step out.

Fears like that are the kinds which hold us back. We may not all be gymnasts, we may not all know how to perform on a balance beam, but the skills needed on the balance beam are the same needed in life. Determination, confidence, and trust.

And, oh yeah, go Team America!

(And Israel, of course, but I haven't seen Israel compete in anything yet)

Make it onto the Wheaties box!

World Record!

So I'm sitting here watching the Olympics and wondering...

Basically every swim race I've seen tonight has included a whole bunch of world record breaking.

Does it cheapen the world record to have it so easily broken time after time after time?

Y'know something? I feel left out. Everyone else is breaking world records - why can't I?

Erachet! Broken the world record yet again! Hurrah!

Not On The Same Page

(This text-message conversation took place in the middle of Tisha b'Av while I was looking for one of my favorite books to read)

Me: Did I lend you To Kill A Mockingbird to bring to camp?
Mavis (my brother): No u didnt give me any dvds
Me: Lol! It's a book.
Mavis: O

(It also happens to be a movie, but shhhh. And I don't own the movie, anyway)

By the way, anyone who reads this blog and has not yet read To Kill A Mockingbird or doesn't remember it at all - READ IT. That's your summer reading homework from Erachet - and I hear a lot of people thought Erachet was "teacher" scrambled. Well, I suppose it is, but that's not what I meant when I made the name Erachet. :) But I'm still giving y'all summer reading! It's a smooth, easy read and is probably one of the best books ever written.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Here In Machane

So I decided I want to write about Bnei Akiva and Camp Moshava. Although I no longer do Bnei Akiva, Moshava has been a huge part of my childhood and really helped shape who I am today. It gave me an incredible foundation in my love for Israel and my passion for Jewish unity. I know a lot of people just write it off as a Zionist cult (hey, even us Moshavaniks do), and in a lot of ways, it really is, but there is so much more to it than that. I'm not saying Moshava is for everyone. But it is different from any other camp and in a really, truly beautiful way. I think this is going to take a lot more than just one post, but we shall see how it goes. I suppose I'll begin with my first summer there.

When I was in fourth grade, my best friend (we'll call her Dot) asked me if I wanted to go to sleepaway camp with her. Now, I was one of those kids who was very happy to run around in the dirt barefoot, climb trees, crawl under bushes, and generally be one with nature. I had always wanted to go hiking, I had always wanted to go on a campout, and I loved the idea of going to a sleepaway camp. So, of course, I immediately said yes.

I had no idea which sleepaway camp we were going to. I had barely heard of any. I didn't know the difference between all those 'M' camps, as everyone likes to call them. Mesorah, Morasha, Moshava? What were they? They all blurred together for me into one entity: camp. So when I found out we were going to Moshava, it meant absolutely nothing to me. Bnei Akiva I for sure had never heard of.

I was nervous, of course. It would be my first extended period away from home and that was scary. But I would be with Dot and I was too excited to spend energy on being homesick. The bus stop for camp was at Central, in Queens (I actually had no idea that it was Central until years later when I applied there for high school and ended up going to the Moshava bus stop for my interview). The way it worked for the Long Island kids was there were two buses from Queens - one direct to camp and one that stopped in Monsey along the way. Dot and I were always, without fail, on the Monsey bus. The consequences of being on the Monsey bus were high. The trip was longer, of course, and at least one or two of the Monsey kids were always missing so we'd have to wait ages until we could actually leave and go to camp. And that meant we got to camp late. Getting to camp late meant one, crucial thing: last pick for beds. Dot and I hadn't understood this our first year, of course, but it was something we quickly learned.

Pulling into camp (finally) was intimidating. There was a long dirt road which climbed a steep hill and then landed us right in the middle of a big, grassy field (which I later learned was called the Main Migrash). Surrounding the bus were a lot of big, older people in brightly colored shirts holding brightly colored signs with Hebrew letters on them whose significance I did not understand. Everyone was screaming and shouting and cheering and singing in one, big cacophonous uproar. And me, as a little nine-year-old first-timer, well...I was pretty terrified. Getting off the bus that first time was like plunging into a multi-colored neon monster.

I stuck close to Dot as we were quickly swept up by one section of the monster holding a sign with a big letter Hey on it. "What are your names?" asked a very smiley man. I froze, the question suddenly extremely complicated. I seem to have left my entire identity back at the bus stop in Queens. Finally, I managed a very frightened, "E-Erachet."

"Dot," said Dot.

We were told we were now in Eidah Hey and belonged to bunk G-12.

We quickly learned a few things about this strange new place called Moshava. We were not part of divisions. We were part of Eidot. The Eidot did not exactly go in alphabetical order, either. They went Eidah Hey (going into fourth and fifth), Eidah Aleph (going into sixth), Eidah Bet (going into seventh), Eidah Gimmel (going into eighth), and Eidah Daled (going into ninth). Machal was going into tenth, but we didn't learn about Machal until later.

And we were not campers. We were chanichot (the boys were chanichim). We had madrichot and lived in tzrifim (bunks). We ate at the chadar ochel, not the dining room. No one ever called it the dining room. We had peulot, not activities, and they were called things like melechet yad and nagarut (rather than arts and crafts or woodworking). If we didn't feel well, we went to the Marp, which was a nickname for the Mirpa'ah (infirmary? never!). We swam in the breicha (pool). There was girls' migrash and boys' migrash - and main migrash, of course. No such thing as "field" or "campus." We had shekem, not canteen. And, on top of it all, there was the Rosh Eidah (not division head) and the Rosh Moshava. If you needed the Rosh Mosh or the director of camp for anything - or even your Rosh Eidah - you went to the RML. It took us more than one summer to learn what RML stood for (Rosh Mosh Lishka [office] - and actually, for a while that first summer a bunch of us really thought it was "aramel," and we had no clue what "aramel" was supposed to mean).

Announcements went like this, "Hakshivu na, hakshivu na, kol hamachane - Erachet, na lageshet la RML." I never understood why "kol hamachane" had to pay attention when they wanted one person to come to the RML, but there you have it.

And that was my first introduction to the world of Moshava, Hebrish, and, well, Zionism.

And that's all I have the energy to write about today. Besides, this post is long enough as it is. I hope it was enjoyable enough for people to want to read more (don't worry, I'll get to the real B"A and Zionism stuff later, I just want this to be a true representation of my experience at Mosh, not just the bare bones of what Bnei Akiva is all about).

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Many Faces of Erachet

Sometime on Friday or Motzei Shabbos, this blog reached 10,000 hits. Yay! But for a while, it was stuck on 9999, and while that's a very cool looking number, it just isn't the same as 10,000! So that's when I decided it needed a little pursuading. So I ran to the nearest phonebooth, slipped inside, spun around, and re-emerged as...

Rockachet!

That's right - shy, quiet blogger by day, rocker by night!

(This all happened in an alternate universe where it wasn't the nine days)

With my electric guitar, I jammed this song (the tune is whatever you'd like it to be :P it's modern art, ya know):

So many blogs out there
They have so many hits
I want to join their ranks
But my blog's in the pits
It's just not big enough
So what am I to do?
I guess I'll count smaller
And then my numbers grew!

Here I am
Feelin' fine
Stuck on nine nine ninety-nine
Almost there
It's not fair
Listen to my hit-count prayer!
Just one more
I'm so poor
Send one hit-count through my door!
What a show
I'm aglow
Let my hit-count grow and grow!

I wait all night and day
Refresh Sitemeter's page
For that one hit to come
'For I die of old age
But no one's stoppin' by
So what am I to do?
I guess I'll daven hard
I'm a JBloggin' Jew!

Here I am
Feelin' fine
Stuck on nine nine ninety-nine
Almost there
It's not fair
Listen to my hit-count prayer!
Just one more
I'm so poor
Send one hit-count through my door!
What a show
I'm aglow
Let my hit-count grow and grow!

I want ten thousand hits
What's wrong with my request?
Is it too much to ask?
I'm blogging at my best
I've been so good so far
No controversy here
So nine nine ninety-nine
You've naught at all to fear!

Just one more!
One more hit!
One more visitor my way!
Hachnasat
Orchim is
All I'm asking for today!
I'll give you
All my thanks
When I'm climbin' in the ranks!
Then I'll be
More than fine
Free from nine nine ninety-nine!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fire

(I wrote this in honor of Tisha b'Av. I sort of had this flash of emotion as I was putting my shoes on before going to shul to hear Eicha. I wanted to write this down afterwards before I lost it. The sad thing is, intense feeling like this will probably have all melted away by the time I wake up tomorrow, and then it will be just like any other Tisha b'Av - a lot more empty than it should be. I don't know why I suddenly felt so strongly tonight, but I'm glad I did, in a weird way. Seeing everyone in shul sitting on the floor helped, too. Also, I hope this isn't too intense for anyone. It was sort of intense for me, but I needed to write it and I felt it was powerful enough to post. At least, it was powerful for me. I can't say it will be for anyone else. But if it helps anyone at all, even in the tiniest way, relate to what today is all about, then I guess that's a good thing.)

Fire
~ a stream-of-consciousness story~

I am a tiny, insignificant speck. All around me is darkness. Swirling, swirling. Echoing screams of the past rush by, but they're not really there. But I feel the heat. I feel the fire. I feel it.

The fire.

It quivers. It sparks. It erupts in brutal flames. The flames - intensity in its purest form. Red. Orange. Yellow. Orange. Red. They all dance together - a rambunctious dance, a provocative dance, a dance of profanity as they desecrate everything holy. I feel anger - indignant anger - well up as the flames roll and laugh, cackle and crackle and lick at the very foundation of life and light and good things. This is the fire of Darkness. This is the smog and fog and smoke that we choke on. Choke and cough and sputter until our eyes run with sooty tears. These are the unconstrained flames that wriggle and twist - they twist at my soul. And I cry. I cry and cry and cry. Because it hurts! It hurts to be yanked away from the warmth and light and closeness of God! It hurts to be thrown down, to be cast aside, to be pushed away! It stings to be exiled, to yearn for that love which you know you'll have to try so much harder to feel. And I want to be comforted, I need to be comforted - but there is no comfort. Is it possible to be comforted for this plight? Is it possible?

And I know that this - this which I feel - is only an echo of what was once felt. Only a tiny, infinitesimal echo - because how can I really know? How can I really understand? Me, who has never known such holiness, who has never been so close to God, who has never heard the singing of the Levi'im and who has never understood what it was like to see someone bring a korban? Me, of the Diaspora. Me, who has lived my entire life in exile, never knowing what it was like not to be in exile.

So I bury my face and shiver at the thought that the pain I feel now is happiness compared to the pain felt then. This scares me. An eerie coldness grips my soul and envelops my entire being, because here I am, a 21st century American Jewish girl, and I think I understand pain and sadness and anguish. And it terrifies me - that my feeble shadow of pain is only that. A shadow. That there was a time when people suffered so intensely. And that time was real. And I can't fathom such a thing. And that's why it scares me. That such a thing could have existed at all.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Transition

It's raining outside and I sit here in my house in New York, USA, thinking about how soon it will be Shabbos. The funny thing is that the onset of Shabbos also means Tisha b'Av is almost here.

It's a weird dichotomy, having Shabbos and Tisha b'Av right next to each other. It's almost like the transition from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha'Atzmaut, only backwards. Shabbos is a day where we're not supposed to show signs of mourning. We're supposed to be b'simcha - having three meals and wine, etc. We're not allowed to fast on Shabbos. Shabbos trumps all fast days except Yom Kippur (and Yom Kippur is not a sad day or a day of mourning). And yet as soon as Shabbos ends, we go immediately into Tisha b'Av.

I think transition plays a huge role in Judaism. We are constantly transitioning between different levels of kedusha, different kinds of relationships with God, kodesh to chol, chol to kodesh, celebration to mourning, mourning to celebration...

We have to be able to cope with all these transitions. We have sad times, we have happy times, and often they're one right after the other. Not so long after Tisha b'Av, we have Tu b'Av, which is a much happier day.

Transitions like these keep us active participants in our religion and in our relationship with God. Constant change means we have to constantly be focusing our mindset on different emotions. And a transition like going from Shabbos straight into Tisha b'Av really brings out the stark difference between the two. Shabbos - a day of three meals, lechem mishna, kiddush, singing. Tisha b'Av - a day of fasting, mourning, kinos. And maybe it'll make Tisha b'Av even more real, because we'll still have the taste of Shabbos lingering - but gone - while we step into such a sad day. And it'll be much easier to feel the sadness of Tisha b'Av because of that.

It's hard to mourn over something we've never experienced. But going from Shabbos to Tisha b'Av might help the imagination and stir up feelings of real mourning over an intense relationship with God that we once had.

And hopefully the full geulah will come soon so that by next year, we won't be able to say we don't know what it feels like to have a Beis Hamikdash.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Well...I DO like those mint girl scout cookies...

Lady At Work (I don't think she's even Jewish): Are you single?
Me: Er...yes?
LAW: How old are you?
Me: Uh...21?
LAW: Oh, good! I have a great guy for you! Don't go anywhere - I know you're only a temp but - trust me. He's 22, a boy scout, loves the Grateful Dead - just, trust me. Don't go anywhere!
Me: ....?!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Freeze And Justify

A week ago, I started working as an all-around office assistant (helping out in admissions, HR, finance, anyone else who asks) in a Nursing Home not far from where I live. I spend so much of my time in people's offices (or, starting today, in the basement) that I don't often really see the elderly people who live in the home. Today, though, I had an unusual experience.

I was sitting at the computer typing up something for someone when an old black woman shuffled in. She looked at me a moment, I looked at her, and then she invited herself to sit down on a chair in the room - supposedly waiting to see the man who works in the office next door (he's the head of something-or-other).

Almost immediately, the woman started babbling about her bank account and how somebody (I have no idea who) is paying her money at very tiny increments at a time so that she won't run away (I think that's what she said) but she insisted it would only cause her to spend her money wisely. She repeated this story to me...I can't even count how many times. Each time she sounded like she was going on to another story, it would always come back to that one.

I wasn't able to get a word in edgewise, so at a certain point I sort of ignored her and continued the typing I had to do. That's when she said to me sharply, "you're not listening!"

I snapped hurriedly back to attention, afraid I would get in trouble for treating her rudely or something. And that's when I really got a good look at her. She was...well, to be blunt, she wasn't very pretty to look at. The first thought that came to mind was a troll. She looked exactly like one. And her mouth was all wrong - she was missing nearly all her teeth and the four she did have were huge and stuck out over her upper lip when she spoke. And when she laughed, it was this long cackle - really, just the way you'd imagine a troll laughing. The whole picture was somewhat grotesque but I couldn't tear my eyes away, even though I wanted to. It was like I was stuck there staring. And it didn't make me feel superior. I wasn't feeling cocky or obnoxious with my own youth. No, what I felt was sad.

It made me even more sad to see another employee of the Nursing Home come in for a few minutes to wait for someone and to nod her head patronizingly at the old woman. And the woman just babbled on, oblivious to the fact that no one really cared to listen to her and that everyone who passed by nodded to me knowingly, as though they were saying, "ah, lucky you. She's a crazy one, alright." All I could think was...this woman - this troll-like woman who also reminded me distinctly of how I imagined the old witch in the Hansel and Gretel story - she was a sane person once. She once had all her teeth. Her skin was once smooth and her hair was once not thinning. She once had a family who loved her. She once had a boyfriend who thought she was beautiful - who married her, had children with her, built a life with her.

Where did all that go? It's like they all got sucked up in a black hole. It's like her past life is a black hole.

How could someone else who seemed to be somewhere in her 30s nod and smile patronizingly at this woman who lived so much longer and experienced so much more? And yet...somehow...was now so...so...crazy? Can you imagine the tragedy of losing your own mind? Can you imagine a normal, smart, beautiful, fun, put-together, with-it person one day being disfigured, alone, somewhat crazy, and babbling about bank accounts to a strange, clueless girl working in the office?

I tried to imagine what this woman's life must have been like years and years ago. I tried to imagine her young and thriving, at the brink of starting her life in the adult world - an adventure! Right?

And I slipped away. I froze time and completely slipped away and watched from the outside a world of both beauty and horror, where people were once so alive and then ended up so...not.

And I saw - there is history in the old. Rich, rich history. But of the few residents I've seen in this Nursing Home...that history seems lost in a new life of gentle exercise, time in the TV room, scheduled meals, wheelchairs, patronizing nurses, and senseless babble.

And why is it that I somewhat fear the elderly people who have kind of lost their sanity? Why do I find it scary when they babble to themselves or start talking about nonsense things? It shouldn't be scary, should it? It's horribly, horribly sad.

Maybe what I'm scared of is not these specific elderly people themselves. Maybe what I'm scared of is what happened to them - how life seems to have bailed on them and given them up. Maybe I'm scared of the idea that a person can have led such a rich life and then still end up like...well, like the old woman who sat in that chair today going on and on and on about her bank account. Or like the strange old man who sometimes staggers in and mutters a pathetic request for money. Insane. Disfigured. Completely dependent on people who patronize you. And there isn't any choice in the matter, either.

Sometimes we live in a cruel world. People can be cruel. Life can be cruel. It's cruel for a person with so much history, experience, love, loss, and life-wisdom to their name to be reduced to the emptiness that some of these elderly people have become. It's cruel that the young patronize the old, when it is we who have so much still to learn. And it is cruel that the old, who have so much they could teach, can't teach because they've lost their minds.

And in that mostly empty office today sat two clueless creatures. One - an old, crazy lady whose head has been emptied of all she once knew and held onto. Two - a nervous young girl made to feel even more nervous and young by the weird old person commanding her attention. One was near the end of her life, the other was really just starting hers. And neither of them seemed to understand very much about what life throws us - the first because she once knew and lost it, the second because she has yet to learn.

The world sometimes seems to be very upside down.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Worried About Flipping Out In ISRAEL?!

Check out what they're eating in Camp Mesorah, NY!


(Disclaimer: I know, I know, you're not supposed to disclaim on your own post. But just so no one gets offended - this is a JOKE. Also, I took this picture last Sunday on visiting day)

English Major?

Erachet: I wanna derive equations
Bad4: Good. So, if i give you the following equation: A(t) = (εdCd + εs1Cs + εs2Cs)b Where A(t) stands for UV absorbance with respect to t (temperature) and epsilon-d stands for the extinction coefficienct of the duplex strands. Cd is unknown Epsilon-s stands for the extinction coefficient of the single MO strand Cs is unknown Epsilon-s2 stands for th extinction coefficient of single DNA strand Cs again is unknown b = 1 and I give you all the epsilons for the given temperature of, say, 35 degrees celsius can you find Cs and Cd for me?
Erachet: er maybe?
Bad4: It's theoretically simple. Define the two variable in relation to each other and plug in. I think.
Erachet: okay
what are the epsilons?
Bad4: the funny e-shaped things.
Erachet: no, I know THAT
you said you would give me them
Bad4: They stand for extinction coefficient
oh, right. hold on: I'm going to email it to you. I wrote it all down, but I discovered that two of the epsilons are inaccurate. Theoretically, in terms of deriving the equations, it doesn't matter. But I'd like to get them right before I proceed because I'm a bit OCD like that.
Erachet: okay :)
...I'll get back to you after I eat some pizza bagels