Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bribing God

Awhile back, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine. In it, she pointed out that we were both single, and she had a plan to fix this. The plan?
To spend some time regularly studying the laws of Lashon Hara, pledging to spend two hours a day not speaking Lashon Hara, in hopes that this would be a segulah to get us married. Then, as a group, the group devotes two weeks to devoting the merit of this learning to that person.

My reaction?

Wait, I'm supposed to try to manipulate my Creator through promising to do something I should be doing already? No, thank you.

Now, I think the whole learning the halachot of Lashon Hara is a great idea. It is something I plan to start doing.
The promise? Too difficult to make a promise about unless I make this promise between the hours of 3:00 through to 5:00 a.m.

Giving tzedaka is a time honored method for bribing God. But this? This makes me sad. Both because it seems to speak of an attitude where God can be bribed and because it seems as though my friend is really desperate about her single state.

Now, however, we're about to hit Tisha b'Av. I think that these Halachot, and those of dealing with others should be learned. Not, because we should try to manipulate or bribe the one who is our Father and King (Dad, I'll do the dishes for a month if I can just...) but because if we cannot treat each other well, then what is the point of this fasting? 

Amos: 5: 21 I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Yea, though ye offer me burnt-offerings and your meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs; and let Me not hear the melody of thy psalteries. 24 But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Monday, July 9, 2012

In defense of camping

So you can all understand why I say: this stuff is awesome! Specific experiences for another post.

Camping is one of the highlights of my summer. I love getting out, even with ticks and bears and other guests. I have to admit that it is true, some stuff can go wrong. Look out for hazards in any dangerous place.  Like pigeons, muggers, street singers, other cars, rogue bicyclists and bad pizza.  Now that you've been warned about the hazards, onto the fun stuff!

Having the chance to really get out and away from the city into the forest or by the ocean, breathing real air, enjoying the sun (with sunscreen) and getting a good look at the world around you is amazing. In the forest, you can look for flowers, mushrooms and raspberries, climb trees, look for songbirds and other critters.

By the ocean, look for beach grasses, beach plums and roses, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, sea stars, terns, gulls, willetts, splash through tidepools and build sandcastles.

Out in the more grassy areas, look for butterflies and bumblebees, field sparrows, wrens, larks, and little critters. By a lake? Dragonflies, blueberries, some fish, and at twilight look for deer and other animals. I once saw a pheasant!

Always, always look up! That's where you'll see the hawks and falcons, crows and vultures who seem to soar higher than Incarus.  You can see crows lurking, sparrows gossiping, seagulls looking for something to eat. Try to catch a hawk soaring, or the way the falcon glories in its flight. See if you can spot a crane or heron, standing still as still. Maybe an egret, if you're lucky. There's so much to explore and enjoy.

For instance, stars. Down in your suburb or city, you can see a few if you're lucky. Go out to the forest or by a lake one night, and stake out a clearing. Come back an hour after sunset (with a flashlight).
Turn off the flashlight. Look up. Lie on your back on the ground. You'll see so much more than the little dipper and Orion's belt.  It'll look like someone tipped a whole bucket of diamonds across the sky. Absolutely beautiful.

Listen to what's going on around you. You can hear so many different birdsongs that blend together in a kind of orchestra. So the forest sounds more classical and the ocean is more of a punk rock band. The lake is an in betweener, reminding me of the big band jazz orchestras. Forests have the trees for woodwinds, and more songbirds as the brass, while little animals play percussion. The brash sounds of seabirds and waves crashing on the beach are the jazz band, while the lake has the low lapping of its waters, and the harsh calls of the ducks and mockery of the crows. Look around. Look up. Listen.

Smells are stale in people centers. You get smells you'd never find in the choking hot fumes of your city, or the harsh exhaust of suburbia traffic. There's the fresh, salty tang of sea air, the cool freshness of a forest with the lush undertones of its undergrowth. You can scent the ripening green liveliness of a marsh, and the cool nuances of lake or river. Everything seems so much more alive.

Lounge around the campsite itself. Your space is fairly private because there are trees and shrubs separating you from your neighbor in the good campsites. (How goodly are your tents...) There's shade, and space to set up your chairs. A lot of them offer nature hikes, where you can walk with a ranger who will teach you exactly what it is you're looking at.

As far as the bugs go? Crouch down and take a proper look at one sometime. Hashem made some rare wonders. Look past the butterflies. Beetles come in so many colors!Sparrow, don't they bite?
Bite back!

Take a minute to stop going eww, and take a closer look instead. I just saw a beetle in the grass with the weirdest looking antennae. Its carapace was brown with a softly mottled pattern. So cool and the pattern on its back would make a beautiful scarf.
No, I can't stand cockroaches.
Why do you ask? ;)

There's something deeply healing about taking time out in the wonders God created. Stay inside? You'll miss it. Nature is both God's work of art and the ultimate playground. Go play.

- Sparrow

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I just feel it, man

I recently ran across an article on Masculine Jew's blog, and then the comment by Frum Single Female, which got me thinking.

Let's take the mitzvah of davening. You have two people, Reuven and Shimon.

Reuven says, "I love davening! It's one of the best ways to connect with Hashem and feel His presence. I know what all of the words mean. It's a fantastic mitzvah! What's that? Minyan today? Well, I really want to come. I want to daven and it means so much to me. But somehow I just never get to it. But I love davening."

Shimon says, "Well, I don't know what everything means. I just show up three times a day for minyan and daven."

Or take another example. You have two friends, Rachel and Leah.

You really care about Rachel. She's such an amazing person. But you only found out last week that she had a new baby a month ago. It's hard to keep in touch when you're far away, but you really care about her.
Then, Leah. You're carpooling with Leah so you get to hear about her life every day. Sometimes you call her up, just to check up on her. You wouldn't say she's your best friend, but you spend so much time with her.
But you adore your friend Rachel, you really do.

To some extent, I can understand this prioritization of feeling over action. Why? It allows us to separate the sinner from the sin. But at what point does the man who steals every day or make a living stealing get called a thief? Even though he really wishes he could get a job. Even though his parents trained him to be a thief and his uncle deeply hurt him.

Are we defined by our desires or our behavior? Who is responsible for these actions?  Which matters more, feeling or action? Which shows more clearly at what level you're at? What demonstrates your character more clearly?

 - Sparrow

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Club: Catcher in the Rye and As a Driven Leaf

Credit for this post goes to Altie. When she asked me to start a book club, I immediately remembered the first book I had to read for high school English class.

"Catcher in the Rye." This is for everyone who had to suffer along with me. 

Acher (Elisha ben Avuya) and Holden Caulfield. Or, as I like to think about it, "As a Driven Leaf" is the Jewish version of "Catcher in the "Rye." In both books, you have whiny, adolescent-type protagonists searching for inner meaning and truth while slowly exploding the world around them in a kvetchy, semi-random self-destructive way.
In case you can't tell, I've never liked either protagonist.  All that whining! Blech.

So why review? It's the books I don't like which are the most fun to write about.

Book Club: Persuasion and A Civil Campaign

Why? Well, ZP asked for a review of Persuasion by Jane Austen. I wanted to tie it into a book called A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold. They actually have a fair amount to say to each other. I'm sorry it took so long for me to type this, but I read quickly and write slowly.

Here is the wikipedia for Persuasion. If you want full plot and summary and stuff, click there.Here is the wikipeida for A Civil Campaign. Go there for plot and spoilers.

Why Persuasion? Two reasons.
 I like Jane Austen and this is one of my more favorite ones. ZP suggested it. Suggestions for future reviews will definitely be considered.

Why A Civil Campaign? ACC, written by Lois McMaster Bujold,  is a sci-fi opera novel, billed as "A Comedy of Biology and Manners." It's like Jane Austen at PG 13 with heartbreak, mad science, get rich quick schemes, political intrigue, bad dates, weddings, explosions and it's hilarious.  ACC is #12 in a series and one of the best of that series. It isn't hard sci-fi. If you're looking for that, read Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Gordon R. Dickson, Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony...

Now, these books can be read in any order - I did - this was the first one I read and then I just had to read the rest. It's that good. If you can though, please read in order. You'll get so much more out of them. I laughed and cried and made my little sister listen to quotes I pulled out of the book. Go read.

I just hope I can tackle them without giving too much away.

Persuasion is one of Jane Austen's more interesting novels. It stars an older heroine who is being given a second chance at love with a fellow she broke up with when much younger because of her aunt's telling her it was a bad idea.  What else? The heroine, Anne, is an awesome person, but not very good looking anymore. Her family is pretty much useless. Well meaning, but not very nice people.

In ACC, "Despite all his power, Lord Miles Vorkosigan can't win the hand of the beautiful Vor widow, Ekaterin Vorsoisson, who is violently allergic to marriage as a result of her first exposure. But as Miles has learned from his career in the galactic covert ops, subterfuge is always an option. So he devises a cunning plan." (Goodreads). Let me put it this way: "General Romeo Vorkosigan, the one man strike force" (lifted straight from the book).

Now, what do these books have to say to each other?

Well, firstly, they're about older characters who are falling in love. Most of the novels I've seen (with a few exceptions) star young twenty-somethings. Anne, heroine of Persuasion, is twenty-seven. Now, for those of you who are saying: get real! I've gotta say: in 19th century England.
So picture an unmarried girl of twenty-seven in a Chassidic or very right wing Orthodox community. Not only that, but as an unmarried girl she can't really be independent. Anne is staying with various relatives as a poor relation. Hero, on the other hand, is a rich captain in the navy. 

In ACC, the hero, Miles is thirty nine and the heroine, Ekaterin is about that age also. Miles is a veteran of past relationships (All's fair in love and war...) and Ekaterin is the survivor of an abusive marriage with a nine year old boy, staying with her relatives as a poor relation. Miles is the oldest son of an aristocratic family. They first met three months ago and during that book Ekaterin's first husband died, mourned by very few individuals.

It starts there...

What else? Persuasion raises issues about being married and why do you get married and what you look for in someone that you're getting married to. For instance, is it better to marry someone who's stubborn and opinionated or someone who's flexible? Why do you marry? Do you marry to become independent, for money, position, deep and lasting affection? What is love, anyway?

ACC raises questions about marriage and mistakes. Is a marriage ever a mistake? If we'd met earlier, could we have gotten married then? What makes a good marriage? How do you figure it out? How do you get kids involved? Does age affect anything? What do you gain from past relationships? How do you handle baggage? What defines marriage? Not only that, but it also examines some really fascinating gender roles.

What I find really interesting is that both books revolve around courtship and the process of discovering and admitting to love. What really drives the first part of each book is dishonesty or misunderstanding between the courter and courted. What opens up the resolution? A letter of apology. Honesty between the hero and heroine. The hero's ability to stop lying to himself and the young lady. The heroine's ability to forgive and overlook old hurts and misunderstandings.  A fantastic cast of supporting characters and subplots.

At the heart of both books? Honesty, forgiveness, trust, laughter, and love. Enjoy!

Any other recommendations?

- Sparrow

Monday, June 11, 2012

You have the right to...

Remain silent? Nah, it's a blog! You have every right to comment. In fact, I really, truly, deeply, Jewish star my heart and hope to fly you do!

You have every right to think. In fact, I hope you're using at least 12% of that gray matter.

More than that, you have every right to read and learn and search for information.

This past shabbat was a study in culture shock and in information. I went to shalosh seudot in a Satmar community.   The point, though, is that family and myself wound up talking with this nice Satmar family about the Internet Asifa.  Yep, we wound up on opposite sides of the argument. I think we managed to connect with the analogy of clothes.

If a store is selling some clothes that are objectionable, do you completely avoid it? No, you have to be able to tell which clothes are to be worn and which are not. Similar to the internet. You have to be your own filter. If you rely on the filter of others, you will just lose out on some really good information that the filter screens out by mistake.

Even more than this, books. "Where they have burned books, they ultimately will also burn people." (Heinrich Heine). Forget the burning.
Where they have banned books, they ultimately will also ban people. And it's a short step and a slippery slope from the banning to the burning. Look at the Rambam.

Now, it's fine if you want to say: this book is no good, and it has things no good person should be reading about and I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole!
But once you start to say: this book is no good, and no good person should read it, so how dare you read it!
You can get: This book is evil and we should completely prevent others from reading it!

 For those who say, "well, what about in school? Should kids in school be reading books like this?" I have to say, maaaaybe. It depends on the mission statement of the school. It depends on the background of the kids. It depends on the parents of the kids. ZP recently brought home to me that teachers aren't usually able to teach what they'd like.

 Now, ZP mentioned the other week in a comment, " The important thing is if a topic is being introduced, it needs to be presented and addressed properly. I am all about encouraging questioning and critical thinking, but answers need to be provided for."

Here's the problem, though. It really is only a short step from banning books to banning people. Some of the brightest apikorsim I've met are the ones who got kicked out of the yeshiva for asking questions. Now, as far as I know, those minds are lost to Halacha. And that's a crying shame.

If you're a teacher please, please, please don't shut down the kids asking questions you don't like. Ask to talk to them about it after class if you don't want it in the classroom, but don't shut them down. You may be shutting them down from being religious.

Another problem? When you try to say something doesn't exist because you find the content offensive, it just keeps popping up more and more strongly. The forbidden fruit tastes sweetest. Not only that, but blocking others from access just leads to rebellion.

So what happens if the answers reached aren't the ones you were trying to teach? What do you do then?

What do you do if your child is reading something very inappropriate? What if your child is trying to take that book out of the library? What if they're on an inappropriate website? What if they're saying something on a blog?

 What do you do?  Why?

- Sparrow

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games

Bet you haven't seen those three together yet, huh? If I've lost the bet, oh well.

I just finished the first book of Hunger Games. Yep, I know, way behind. I'm hunting for the next two but they've been checked out. I actually think all three works have something to say to each other. That all three mark how our generation has grown up and speak to different issues.

Harry Potter was us hitting adolescence, Twilight marks us hitting romance and Hunger Games? Finally growing up and looking back at the world.

Harry Potter, great series and captured the imaginations of children (and children at heart) everywhere. It's not the best written Young Adult novel I've ever met to deal with the themes it tackles, but is really gripping. Why?
 It deals with growing up,and moving on, and just not fitting into the world you're born into. Harry Potter, as much as it's about a boy and his two friends having adventures and defeating He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named is about us, too. It's about friends, and it's cool to be a smart chick, and self-sacrifice and finding magic not in words or in spells, but in the people around you. It's also about taking some really complicated issues and boiling them down to a simple conflict of good vs. evil, then building them back up again so we can face them. It's about issues and questions and and learning. Most of all, it's about wonder.
Why is Snape so many people's favorite character? Why does Draco Malfoy only get really interesting in the last two books? Because they aren't simply "evil" characters, they're finally being developed.
Why do you think the new My Little Pony is such a runaway success?

Twilight? Twilight is about the scary, unforgiving and too-memorable first romance you had. I read Twilight. I have a hate/love/AARGH! relationship with those books. (Another post, if anyone cares) Why has Twilight grabbed onto adolescentistas? One reason is because it takes romance and packages it without sex.
Our generation of young women, and young men, has grown up too aware of these areas. I think this has been one way of demanding the loss of the knowledge. This is a world where the hero desperately desires the heroine but will not act on it until after they're married no matter how much the heroine wants him to do so.
What does that sound like to you?
Yay for metaphors.

Now, the Hunger Games. Why am I not really bothered about books two and three? I think book one stands on its own as a complete story and doesn't need sequels.  This book isn't, really, about Twue Love, but about the idea of love and what shows love.  I think one reason this book has gripped so many is because it deals with a lot of issues USA youths have had to tackle.
1. Being in one of the wealthiest lands and having it all handed to them - while a good chunk of the rest of the world suffers dire poverty, and yes, hunger.
2. Having their issues marketed for entertainment on reality tv or elsewhere. For instance, marketing your own issues on blogs to attract readers. (Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa...)
3. Having the one resource everyone covets: youth.  Most americans and particularly american women, are hungry to stay in their twenties forever. In some ways, it's nightmarish how entertainment and advertisements (particularly cosmetics) capitalize on this fact.
4. Celebrities are as much a product of their PR team as they are actually themselves.

So, we're looking at a young adult reading public that's been captivated by good vs evil, twue love, and massive societal issues. I think we're growing up.  What do you guys think? I'm up for criticism, discussion and debate.

Now, who's up for some really adult reading? Y'know, the kind of stuff every mature adult reads? That's right people, you've guessed it: DC comics 52, "Our Bodies, Our Souls" by Rebbetzin Heller and Starfist.
Summer break, I'm reading fun stuff.

- Sparrow

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wealth in the desert

I have a soft spot for this parshah because it was my bat-mitzvah parsha. My dad taught me to lain and I lained the parshah and haftorah at my local women's tefillah. (Not minyan!) I think I still remember my first aliyah by heart.

A pretty decent chunk of this parsha is taken up by the different camps and flags of each trip.
A short refresher:

North: Asher, DAN, Naftali
West: Benjamin, EPHRAIM, Menasheh
East: Issachar, JUDAH,  Zevulun
South: Gad, REUBEN, Shimon
Center: Levi and the Mishkan. The different families of Levi had different areas of the mishkan.

 For a chart, please look here.

Something interesting about this? Besides the fact that the descendants of Rachel are all together and the Mishkan is equally accessible to all tribes, look at the East. The tribe of Judah is flanked by the tribes of Issachar and Zevulun. Zevulun, the tribe of merchants who used their wealth to support the learning of the tribe of Issachar, which then produced many outstanding scholars. The tribe of kingship is flanked by both physical and spiritual wealth.  Most of us are descended from Judah.

Looking at this,  I'd say that those from Judah need to balance time spent earning both physical and spiritual wealth. Keep in mind, when Jacob blessed his children, he blessed Zevulun before Issachar. In other words, prioritizing that which allows you to learn and supports that learning over the learning itself.  Physical wealth and resources are meant to be the foundation that lets you pursue learning. Trying to acquire just one kind of wealth leaves you unbalanced.

What about those from Levi? Should they then be only committed to the service of Hashem? Does this analogy apply to them too?

Good question. I'm not completely sure. Offhand, I'd have to say that when the service of Hashem is completely there and the temple is rebuilt, then they should be devoted just to that service. In the meantime, though, Levi and Judah live together.

What about the other tribes? For example, the Bnai Menasheh?

Also a good question. Again, I'm not completely sure. I don't think that the Bnai Menasheh have adopted a system which means they  focus completely on learning at the expense of earning an income.

One of the things that makes me most sad about losing the ten tribes is losing the strengths specific to each tribe. (Another post)
Please remember: who is wealthy? He who is happy with his lot. (Pirkei Avot: 4: 1).

Since this was my bat-mitzvah parsha, I'll leave you all with a bracha: may you accumulate both kinds of wealth, while valuing each appropriately!

- Sparrow

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Right now, trying to figure out being a friend.

Can an adult man and adult woman be friends? Even if one of them is married? If they're both married? To other people? Just friends? Does this get in the way of a marital relationship?

I'm currently struggling with this issue. No, the answer isn't obvious. See, as much as I'm usually closer with my gal friends then guy friends, I'm used to talking with people of both genders. Do I stop being close with my guy friend who is engaged? Do I assume that these friendships only last until marriage?

From what I can tell, most of the time it works because I don't dress provocatively and I keep shomer negiah. My guy friends don't get hugs. If they get huffy, then I tell them they have cooties. ;)

Still, what do you guys think? Is this possible? Has it ever worked for you? Would you be annoyed if your spouse had close friends of the other gender? Why?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Internet: a plea for common sense

This is where I get out my ten foot pole and inch gingerly towards the quicksand. All good? Still here?
Time to pull on the asbestos gloves.

Today the topic which I'm about to touch is the Citifield Asifa. I think the counter-rally is really its own post.   This started out as a post about how stupid this all is, and how this isn't a good way to handle the situation (like burning your hand on a stove and then decreeing that all cooking should be done by microwave). Wouldn't education be better? For instance, teaching people about website evaluation and stuff like that?

Then I had a conversation with my dad. Dad is one of the smartest people I know and one of the kindest. (Really. This is a man who can explain why the sky is blue, do most household repairs and maintenance and is courteous to everyone)

Dad pointed out a few things. However much we all enjoy and use the internet, using the internet can become an addiction. If you don't believe me, look up the studies. I haven't seen anything good come out of an addiction to anything. Even Torah.  An internet addiction, though, isn't like being an alcoholic. Alcoholics might be "dry drunks" as long as they don't drink, but as long as they don't drink, they're ok. Not great, but ok. This is more like gluttony. You might be hugely overweight, but you still have to eat. It's a lot harder to control yourself and give yourself a tiny portion of something you really want then to avoid it completely. (Dad's analogy)

So, I have a solution that might work better than a filter for people who want such a gadget. Get rid of your wi-fi, ethernet or high speed internet completely. Use a modem connection instead.

Why? Several reasons.

1. The minute you try to log on, everyone will know you're online. Modems create a ridiculous amount of noise when getting online. You can't sneak onto the internet.

2. Things run sl-o-o-o-wly. Some image heavy sites don't load right. This means that, unless you want to read a paperback novel in the time it takes to, for example, check all your blogs, you have to prioritize which sites you use.  If image heavy sites, or sites with videos take forever to load, then you're going to want to check your e-mail or something in the hour or so which you have to be online.
(Ok, it takes me about an hour and a half to read a paperback. Still!)

3. I speak from experience. For most of my life, my house has had a modem connection. It's really annoying to stay online if it takes forever to get anything done.

Night all,


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Moving Day

I'm currently in the middle of moving off campus back to my parents' house for the summer. This is proving to be a very frustrating process. Here are seven things I've learned about moving.

1. My sister  and Dad are awesome. Sis is willing to help lift, carry, (four flights of stairs!) and help me out. Similarly, thanks Dad - willing to drive out and assist until ridiculous hours of the morning. Thanks Mom - you fed me when we stumbled back in the house at 2:30 am.  Yay for comfort food.

2. How did I get this much stuff?
Do my books spawn? True. My books are eating my room. (Fantasy, Sci Fi, Classics, Historical, Reference, Sefarim....)
Are my socks divorcing? Yep, and refusing to speak to their former zivug.
How did I end up with a violin? I don't even play the violin.  Oh, right. After breaking up with my last boyfriend I thought that getting a violin and learning to play would be much cooler than retail therapy. Then I realized I have to shlep a violin home too.

3. I'm waiting for some item to break. Since nothing has broken yet, I'm worried.
Please Gd, don't let this violin break before I even get the chance to play it!

4. In the dorm, I got used to having my own room. I had the amazing good luck to get a single this past year. I don't know what I did to deserve it, but am very grateful.
I have to share a room again now. I'm out of practice. >.<

5. I judge young men by their willingness to help me carry big, unwieldy objects. Let me explain: I'm tiny. Tiny girl carrying big box should get helped. If you, as a young man, walk past me and don't offer to help, I dismiss you as a gentlemen. I will turn down your offer because I can manage on my own, thanks. I do, though, note your willingness to offer. I'm short, not invisible. ;)

6. Never, never leave packing to the last minute again.  Pack in haste, organize at leisure.

7. Given my sudden allergy attack, I must be allergic to moving.  ;)

Night all,


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Feeling frisky? Feeling shomer? There's an app for that

So, at first I was wondering what to touch on from this week's parsha. So many topics I could pick from. So many buttons I could press. Let's see: being gay, intermarriage, conversion to Judaism, Yom Kippur, drunkenness, monetary honesty, being holy, sexual no-nos, sexual abuse, niddah, grudges and forgiveness. Just goes on.

Then I saw this article online.* Quick summary: A bill has been passed in Tennessee**  allowing parents to sue teachers for “promoting or condoning ‘gateway sexual activity’ by students.” Detractors are arguing that this "gateway activity" could lead to things as dangerous as holding hands, hugging and cuddling.
Who knows? Mixed dancing?!

The writer of the article on The Frisky website is mocking the bill, for leading to such dangerous activities as this, and scoffing at the possibility that holding hands and such might lead to anything more.

Just in time for the parsha on shomer negiah. This is where I pick up my asbestos gloves.

I've been both shomer and non-shomer in relationships. Current status: shomer & will stay that way until marriage. My journey may be the subject of another post. I do have two stories to share with you.

This is reminding me very much of a date I went on with a rather cute guy last year.  He had a rough time in yeshiva growing up because he was the sort to ask questions and became a bit of a troublemaker after one of the rabbis behaved somewhat inappropriately with him. Now, no longer frum. (Can we call him RC? Rather Cute? Good)
RC: Why do you keep shomer?  I was told that the reason you shouldn't keep shomer was demons. Yeah, demons. Can you believe that?
Me: When I didn't keep shomer, I found that the people I met wore the masks of demons.
This pretty much sums up my attitude in a nutshell.

Today, was another adventure in I-am-shomer-land. One girl at my college is hashkafically farther to the right than myself. How much farther?
Orthodox vs. Modern Orthodox. (Given the guys she tried to set me up with, I'm tempted to name her "Orthoditz." But that would be cruel)
After she tried to set me up*** I said: That's really nice of you, but you need to check if the boy keeps shomer negiah or not.
Her: Really?
Me:  Um, yeah.
Her: *HUG*
Me: uh, thanks.
Her: *HUG*
Me: ...(I start patting her gently on the back)
Her: *HUG*
Me: I'm glad you appreciate it?
Her: *HUG*
Me: .... (more patting gently on the back) (This is getting awkward)
Her: *HUG* (clearly I'm the only one who feels awkward)
Me: I like you too? Not that way? (really awkward?)
Her: *HUG* (Just me then)
Me: Oooook then. (more patting) (starting to feel slightly terrified)
Her: *HUG*
Helpless to resist this tactile force of nature, I keep standing there like I've been turned to stone. After five minutes she steps back, grasps my arms and says warmly, "I am soooo proud of you!"
I feel soooo Neve. Right now.
And I didn't even go to Neve.
No offense to Neve. They do wonderful things. Still, can't help but feel slightly frightened of people who try to mikarev me.

If you want to find reasons to be shomer negiah, they're there. I'll be happy to share some that are more than: there is an argument over whether or not this is a mitzvah d'orayta and do you really want to mess with that?****
If you want to find reasons not to be shomer negiah, they exist as well. I do not believe in them, will not endorse them, and so won't share them. However, there are reasons. 

I am not here to tell you what to do. I am here to say what I'm thinking, and what my thoughts are about the choices I see being made. But your choices are your own to make. They always will be.

This is my thought on the parsha. I think that this is why Acharei Moth and Kedoshim are joined together.
Whatever you decide, however you choose, please remember:
Be holy,  because, in the end, you answer to Gd.

* Here are links to the relevant articles

Tenissee? Tennis see? See Tennis? Tennis the Menace?

My shidduch adventures might almost be worth publishing. Be patient!
If I don't get distracted I may put up stories soon.

If you really want my reasoning, I can write another post. I'm just not sure that what I have to add to the argument hasn't been said already.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's the end of the year as we know it!

School's out! Ok, not really. I do still have a few classes to wrap up. Most importantly,  I'm done with all of my final projects.  I have free time once again.
Now what on earth do I do with it?

I started this blog in the middle of finals while looking for a way to procrastinate. (Bright, yes) I started looking for Jewish blogs and started finding everybody. I plan to keep reading and I'm hoping to keep this going now that I'm just about done with my spring semester.
Here are seven things I've learned from my first year of grad school. 

1. I started out thinking: I'm all grown up! I'm an adult now. Yep, totally an adult.
Mom, hey Mom, watch me be all grown up! Abba, look at what a big girl I am.
I'm not that far away, right? Can I still come home?  
Stuff I've learned: The older I get and the more I learn, the more my parents seem to already know.
(I would NOT have said this as an undergrad.)

2. I realized how much time I have. More exactly, I realized how much time I don't have and how much time I waste. Time I spend on blogs? This is valuable. Really, I'm learning so much and I'm just getting to know everyone. Can't I read one more post? Please? I read really fast...After I write that essay? Oh, ok then.
I've finally learned time management skills, and how (not) to procrastinate. I've turned into a consistent "A" student for the first time since second grade.
Stuff I've learned: Doing things at the last minute means that I leave important stuff out by mistake. Like a bibliography. ;)

3. I started out trying to end up in bed at midnight every night. Hah!
Two am means a good night's sleep. Over this past year, I've started waking up for Shacharit every single morning (except that one day when I accidentally set my alarm for 7:30 PM. Oops).  Except for Shabbat when I can't set an alarm clock and end up waking up in time for: Rabbi's speech.
Stuff I've learned: If you're the only girl consistently up for shacharit, then you make a lot of friends at breakfast.
More Stuff I've learned: I know I'm an adult when I want an afternoon nap. ;)

4. I started out trying to do everything this year.
Nope. I'm a grad student and I work part time. I hope my friends will still be there come summer and I'm available to hang out again.
Stuff I've learned: Shabbat is when I get to hang out and talk with friends.
More stuff I've learned: Saturday nights are for...sleeping!

5. I started out trying to avoid boys and shidduchim this year. Not that I'm not interested, just didn't want the hassle when I was trying to figure out grad school. I didn't renew my SYAS subscription (subject of another post). I didn't ask my friends to set me up. I wasn't seeing anybody. Yeah. I did wind up seeing somebody and it didn't work out.
Stuff I've learned: If a boy is interested, he really will ask you out.
More stuff I've learned: If I spend two hours on the phone talking with boy every night, I will be in bed at 5 am....and up at 7:30 am. Workload is no joke.
Still more stuff I've learned: If a person who keeps shomer negiah goes out with somebody who doesn't keep shomer negiah - expect lots of frustration from both ends.

6. I started out thinking of myself as an independent person.
My friends influence me more than I like to think possible. It's not just that I'm judged by the people with whom I surround myself, it's also that I pick up quirks from them as well.
Example? As an undergrad, I rented a house with three other girls. All of them struggle with depression, one copes with bipolar and another has ADD. I wound up seeing a shrink and getting diagnosed with depression co-morbid with anxiety. Which I don't have.
This disappeared once I limited with most of them. I'm doing well now, no meds, managing all my own stuff (which I was doing anyway) and am, in general, much healthier.
Stuff I've learned: Insanity really is contagious! So are smiles. And pillow fights.

7. I started out thinking that a grad school degree guarantees me a job.
This was the hardest one to realize.  As you may have guessed, I'm currently a bit nervous about my job prospects when I graduate. Not only that, but in today's economy, the only thing a degree guarantees is thousand-dollar wallpaper. Do your research before you pick your major (and grad school!)
Stuff I've learned: Kavannah in davening!  (Dear Gd, please get me a good job...)

To leave on a high note, here are some funny things I overheard in class:
"When in high school, if I'd put half the work into my studies as I did into avoiding the school dress code, I would have been an honors student!"

"Now that it's vacation, I'm sure that many of you are tired and want to catch up on sex."
(I'm sure the professor meant to say "sleep")

"I order you to think inquisitively!"

Night All,


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lose Five Pounds in Five Minutes

How to look taller, slimmer and prettier with a few simple tweaks (for girls).

1. Dancer's posture.
Spine straight, tummy tucked in, shoulders back and head held high. You instantly look more graceful, more confident, slimmer and taller. Ask a ballerina or bellydancer to show you. If not, practice walking with a book on your head.

2. A bra that fits perfectly.
Get measured in a store that sells quality bras, buy one, and wear whenever you want to feel pretty. Get re-measured every six months. Wash it very carefully.
You will instantly look as though you've lost a few pounds.

3. Smile!
You instantly look 1000x as beautiful. There's nothing like a real smile to make your face light up.

There are a few other wardrobe tricks, which I would like to cover in future posts. For now: stand up straight, wear what fits, and smile at the world.
I'll be smiling back at ya'.

Night All,