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,