Monday, January 30, 2006

Hakodosh Boruch Hu - Anachnu Ohavim Oscha

I got back from the wedding exhausted. I went back to my married friends' apartment in Silver Spring, and, anticipating a dreadful day coming up, I got ready for bed as soon as possible, so that I could be up for my 3 AM alarm. Preparing for my early flight, I repacked my bag, Mapquested the route to the airport, and even checked in for my flight before jumping into bed, moves that would prove crucial the next day.

The sleep wasn't so great, despite the creature comforts of the bed. Having skipped the post wedding shower, I was covered in wedding juice, and I woke up at all hours of the night covered in fresh sweat. At one point, lying awake in bed, I finally glanced up at the clock, dismayed to see it read 1 AM - my precious hours of available sleep fading fast before I'd be back in front of my desk in Chicago.

Rolling and turning, I alternated between quick dreams and pondering the little amount of sleep I'd have in me the next day. After turning over and staring at the ceiling one too many times, I took another look towards the clock. 5:05 AM. 5:05 AM??? I overslept. I missed my flight. What was I going to do? I was going to be stuck in Washington DC all morning during the busiest day of the month at work. What was I going to tell my boss?

5:05 AM? Wait. My flight wasn't until 6 AM. I hadn't missed it yet. The plane was still at the airport. I was going to make it. I hopped out of bed, ran to the bathroom, changed into my work-clothes, and shoved my dirty laundry into the outside pocket of my hanging bag. I was ready to go, it was only 5:10, I still had a shot. I wasn't excited about skipping my morning shower, but surely I should worry about getting to Chicago first, and worry about getting that wedding off of me and being proper for work later, right?

I was out the door and went straight down to my rental car, throwing the suitcase in the passenger seat. I flipped through the armrest, the backseat, and the glove compartment for my Mapquest directions, before finding them on the sun visor. I took a minute to focus on understanding the route, figuring it better to start slow rather than drive in circles later. I reversed out of the spot, and saved the first two steps of the directions by taking a quick shortcut that I improvised.

The drive which Mapquest listed as 39 minutes would proceed in similarly miraculous fashion. Considering I had gotten lost on the Mapquest directions leaving the airport, I can't say how little faith I had in the piece of paper I carried in my left hand as I steered with the right. I focused on each next step on my directions, trying to go fast enough to make my flight, but slow enough to simultaneously read the map and stay in one lane.

Some of the turns were poorly marked, some not at all. But using the mileage between the steps, I was able to nail every turn, and I was making good time, if only I wouldn't blow it with some turn onto a highway to nowhere. I zipped along, finally reaching an area where the path to the airport was clearly marked. Pulling under the "Welcome to Reagan - Washington National Airport" at 5:35, I'll admit to having a grin on my face.

With my boarding card already in hand, all I had to do was get to the gate before the plane took off. I could do it. I screeched to a halt at the after hours car rental return, and jumped down an elevator to a waiting terminal shuttle. It was there waiting for passengers. I hopped on, and waited. We finally left the garage at 5:43. Not a big deal - I hadn't even checked in on the way to Washington until 15 minutes before departure - and I already had my boarding pass!

But I swear this bus driver couldn't go more than 5 mph. I quickly learned that I was in the last terminal, a painful distance away, since it took this driver two minutes to drive the thousand feet between stops, and another minute to wait for passengers to board (Board? At 6:00? There were no flights departing yet, let alone arriving!). We finally pulled up to my terminal at 5:53.

I hustled to the security checkpoint, but realizing that I didn't know which gate I was leaving from, hustled back to the departure monitor, to make sure that I would at least go through the right gate. There was no wait at security, and now it was just the distance between me and the gate holding me back. I hustled off at a slow sprint, suitcase in tow, as I sprinted the final distance. As I huffed passed the rest rooms, an airline employee coming my direction, stops and turns to me.

"Mr. Goldman?"


"You missed your flight. We put you on the next one."

And right there my hopes were crushed. I was upset. But I realized from the start that I wasn't angry at my situation or looking for somebody to fault. I was mad solely at the lost opportunity to have the best almost missed my flight story ever. "The 55-Minute Cinderalla Takeoff." It wasn't to be. Now I was just another bum who had overslept and missed his flight.

After taking a deep breath and staring at my plane sitting on the other side of the window, I went to the departures board to find out when this next flight would leave. I was relieved to see that it was at 7 AM, arriving at 8 AM, in plenty of time to get to work. I would not have to find an excuse to tell my boss as to why I was going to have to spend the day in Washington DC, so my neck was clean. Considering they announced 8,000 layoffs today, that was quite fortuitous. The time? 5:58 AM.

So in the end, I had to daven at work, but otherwise my schedule continued without missing a beat. I recognized from the start that make it or not, it was all in Gd's hands. Even more so, I realized that who knows how this played into the Larger plan. What could have happened had I made the earlier flight? Who knows what danger I might have been saved from, and who knows what my inconvenience might have been punishment for?

Most importantly, I learned that a shower in the bathroom sink at Reagan Airport does not in any way make up for the full body cleansing required after a wedding party. And I think every body around me learned that lesson as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


One of the first feelings I had when I got to Israel was the inability to cry. I guess technically this would be a lack of feelings. I don't know why I noticed this - it wasn't like I was trying to cry. But I felt a swelling of emotion as I thought of my trip, and distinctly recall an inability to stir it any further. As I headed on my first vacation since starting to work 14 months ago, as I arrived at the Kotel, as I sat singing with my Yeshiva, as I visited the cemetery - such an overwhelming sense of powerful moments, but yet I was untouched.

This isn't a new phenomenon for me. I'm not sure if it's because I think too much instead of just letting myself feel. Nor am I sure, I guess, why it is that I think I should cry. Perhaps it's just an assumption I have from watching too much television. But no matter how much I attempt to tune in or tune out, it seems like the tears are just beyond my reach.

Unrelated (I think), the next observation I had was the tremendous difficulty posed to those studying in Jerusalem, especially during tourist season. While I had this same issue when I was studying there full time, it was even more acute when I was the tourist. Aside from the poor role modeling I did from taking the current students away from their studies, I was drawn away from my own attempts to dedicate some time to personal growth by the rush of American youth swarming the city's destinations. How could I sit quietly in the Beis Medrash when my peers were visiting the Kotel, shopping in Meah Shearim, and eating on Ben Yehuda or Emek Refaim?

Especially considering that many of these kids were friends that I hadn't seen in awhile. Or girls, a gender that I haven't seen in awhile. I wasn't sure which was the greater lost opportunity. At least at the time. As one blog commentator once put it, there is nothing more intriguing to a Yeshiva Bachur than the words "skirt" and "seminary." I guess I should be glad that at least in one measure I am still a Yeshiva Bachur. I really don't know how anyone can avoid the temptation of so many distractions. I guess once you do get over it, though, you've definitely reached a very high level.

I did have an interesting Sem Story (no, nothing to do with Elisheva- just a funny story involving two sem girls). Skipping the part about what I was doing talking to them, I had casually mentioned that one of the numerous ways that Yeshiva guys keep entertained is by playing a little game called "Name the Seminary." Pretty self-explanatory, just simple people-watching and stereotyping. So of course the girls get all excited and want me to guess where they went to seminary, like I was reading their future or something. Trust me, the game isn't really that exciting to outsiders. So anyways, I guessed where they went, and did a terrible job. That's not the purpose of the story. I guessed that one of the girls went to a school that, lets just say, doesn't have a stellar reputation. Why I didn't lie, I'm not sure. But I'm an honest guy, so I went with my gut, and threw out the name of this party school. So, um, the girl was insulted. (Her friend thought it was hysterical, though!)

My point is this - if you look a certain way, people make judgments, right or wrong. While you shouldn't dress a certain way just to please people, I do think that how you choose to present yourself does play a very real affect on you, in a "self-fulfilling prophecy" sort of way. So while others shouldn't go around judging you based on how you dress (other than those playing "Name the Seminary"), I do think that we have to be honest about what we are conveying about ourselves. We can use this in a positive or a negative manner. If we dress like role models above us, people who we want to be like, we will be more conscious about deserving that status. And if we dress like role models below us, we may achieve that status as well. So while my failure in "Name the Seminary" might not have accurately portrayed this girl's present, it may have betrayed her future. I'm not talking about people who dress outside the box, just the values that are exposed in our external appearance.

Finally, I'll be flying to Silver Spring for a wedding tomorrow. The bad news is that this means that I'll be away from Blogland for the rest of the weekend. The good news is that if anyone is in DC, we can meet up in the Real World. (David, I tried calling your cell, but I must have an old number. Give me a call in the morning.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cold Flight

One of the great things about flying to Israel is that the whole experience is just one potential blog post after another.

On my flight over, I had my long time prayers answered. I was actually seated next to the attractive frum girl I saw boarding on my flight. This reminded me of a number of issues recently addressed in the comments section of Semgirl's Blog, whether the frum world would be better off if guys and girls just went up to each other and initiated conversation. I'll ignore my opinion for the moment, and just present the case study. Sitting next to this girl for a few hours, I tried to initiate conversation three
times, but was given cold looks each time. I finally resigned to shmoozing with the Yeshivish guy across the aisle, who gave me more warmth.

I don't know if this girl was just too frum to talk to me. Or maybe she was worried that other people would see her talking to me. Or maybe she thought I would think it untoward to be spoken to by a single girl (of course, I was addressing her...). Or maybe she thought I was a murderous stalker. But how can we even speak about whether boys and girls should let down the barriers a little bit, if this girl wouldn't even take advantage of the opportunity given her?

For the record, this girl had tons of makeup on, and wasn't exactly dressed "frumpy." In my mind that at least means that she wants attention. I wasn't hitting on this girl, so it wasn't like there was any pressure. It was just the friendly banter of two people trapped in a small space for a long time.

Was I wrong? Or did she just not know how to deal with the situation?

Further, on my return flight, I was stuck at a European airport for a few hours on a layover with (B"H) a young frum girl from my flight. I approached her at one point, but she didn't invite me to sit down, so instead the only two frum people in this airport sat on opposite ends of the terminal. Now I could have been more direct. And maybe I just need better ice-breaking lines (I guess, "do you know what gate we're leaving from" doesn't say "let's shmooze"). I do believe that these casual interactions are very harmless and can have healthy effects- aside from learning how to deal with the opposite gender, you never know who might be right for each other - people have friends!

So if there is a reason to take advantage of informal co-ed interaction, how are we actually supposed to implement it with so many unspoken barriers in place?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I still have a lot to say following my trip, and I'm not sure how I can squeeze it all in without seeming forced. Unfortunately, I think I will have to discuss multiple subjects in each post, and may write more often than usual in order to catch up. I'm not a spiritual person, I'm very grounded. So my head being in the clouds is weird, and I have to get used to that as well. I just hope that I get used to living in the clouds, rather than the clouds blowing away. I hope my long Shemona Esrei is here to stay.

One of the awkward issues that arose in Israel was the number of friends who told me that they read my blog - and thought it was weird. Or rather, that I was weird. I'm comfortable with them having their opinion, I'm not going to hide myself from anyone. I say what I want to, what I believe, and I'm not ashamed. (Although I did think of one thing that finally made me consider whether I could discuss it, or whether anonymity would have been the only way to let totally loose. Still an unresolved matter at this point.)

One of the most surprising adjustments coming back is my almost unnatural fear of the internet. I'm not from Lakewood, but I know why it was banned. All day at work today, I feared coming home to the internet, fearful for how I might misuse it. I carefully timed my schedule, so that I'd be online for the least possible time. It'll definitely cut into blogging, but I don't want to waste time. I don't want to fall into the same old traps. I'm looking to start a night seder now, and pretty much anything that will keep me away from the computer and myself.

When I arrived in Israel, I was "read" four different girls in my first 5 hours there. I'm not sure what about my vacation said "I'm a dating machine," but it was nice that they thought of me at least. I went out with two girls, but I'm not sure if it was a good idea. It was a distraction from my learning for the week, and it didn't give me much more focus than on a random dating weekend in New York. Sometimes I think I should only go out with people that have been carefully screened, but other times I feel like I should just leave myself open to whatever Gd's plan may be. I want to get married. But I haven't found anyone interesting yet. Perhaps I'm not mature yet. Or don't know exactly what I'm looking for yet. I could "connect" with anyone, but I'm still picky. I don't want to wake up annoyed in ten years from having married a small minded woman. I'm just looking for frum, open minded, out of the box, willing to follow the truth wherever it is, even if it flies in the face of "normalcy," low maintenance, easygoing, good sense of humor, relates well to all types of people, good looking, middos, and ambition - this is what I usually find lacking. I have no problem with women being stay at homes or teachers, but at least be passionate about it, not just heading there by default. Have some scope beyond self and family to building the world at large.

I get the feeling that I didn't accomplish what I wanted with this post. But perhaps I did, as I think I'll be ready to address actual topics tomorrow. I apologize if my writing is disorganized, offensive, or cryptic, but I want to get off the computer as soon as possible.

Monday, January 23, 2006

For Better or Worse - I'm Back

No, I didn't disappear and get a "real" life. I haven't turned my back on the blog world. For those that noticed, I just got back from a week and a half in Jerusalem. Yes, without access to anything more than basic email. I have so much to say, and I'm not sure how I will say it all, without wearing down your attention.

Without going off into too many tangents (ie, the numerous idealogical issues I considered on my trip), here is the quick update. I spent my time in Yeshiva, split between studying and socializing (hey, I'm honest). I am ready to make a siyum, I went out with some girls, and met some great guys. I have tons of pictures, and hopefully memories that sunk in.

I prayed at the Kotel for many people, including many blog friends as well. I used a simple formula - that each one should discover the role Gd has in mind for them, succeed in fulfilling it, and find happiness in their destiny.

And now I'm back. I don't know what that means, practically or emotionally. I'm back at home and back at work. I have tried to catch up on reading other blogs, although it's overwhelming. I will take things as they come, and try and keep as much of Jerusalem here- as much as I can, as long as I can. I'm not good at describing the intangible, but all I can say is the incredible emptiness I feel now is amazing. The vacuum of purpose is so overpowering, my yetzer hora is in paradise.

And so the struggle begins again.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Stirring the Soul

I apologize for my weekend absence. I enjoyed a wonderful weekend in Memphis, TN for a wedding. Between Graceland, Beale Street, and the Stax Museum of Soul Music, I really got the 24 hour tour of this musical city. I myself don't really enjoy listening to music that much, but I was still struck by how serious a role music plays in the cultural fabric down there.

On a related note, with all the attention being given to the "emerging" trend of Jewish music videos (a la Lipa and David Lavon), I thought it was important to take a step back and acknowledge what I consider the inspirational granddaddy of all Jewish music videos. Many of you may already have seen this, but you can never really have too much.

(Warning: May not be suitable for those with taste)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Full Year of Insanity

January 6th - a day that will live in infamy. Exactly one year ago, I revived this blog, taking it from a simple school project to a significant measure of my self-expression. 150 posts later, I've past the trial phase, the exhaustion phase, the addiction phase, and all the other ups and downs that cut off many bloggers prematurely.

I entered the blogosphere approximately three years ago, as a pure spectator on the smorgasbord of Jewish life that was Protocols. Like that sites ultimate passing, I too left the blogosphere. However, after Googling somebody one day, I rediscovered our old class blogs. I don't know what struck me, but I decided to see what I could make of it. I figured blogging would be a great outlet for my writing. I've always enjoyed writing, and I've always enjoyed observing, and I've always enjoyed critical analysis. And so it was, I began posting, but it was two months before I received even one comment (Not that it would have done anything - I didn't even know how to view them at the time).

But something happened one day. I received a comment from Semgirl. I didn't know who Semgirl was, and I didn't know how she had found my blog. But I eventually clicked through her profile into a whole world of Frum blogs. I became a silent reader, enjoying both the candid moments of anonymous lives, as well as the spirited debates that often raged in the comment sections.

Eventually, I journeyed into the world of adding my comments to the experiences of others, and this in turn brought many other readers into my own. Even before I learned the professional art of attention whoring, I slowly began to create two-way relationships - learning the personalities of other bloggers, as we reciprocally peered into each other's innermost thoughts.

And it is that relationship that embodies my blogging motivation nowadays. With all the benefits of expression aside, the blogosphere has truly evolved into a community for me. It's not hard to see that I gravitate towards bloggers with similar interests, albeit from very different backgrounds. And so on this first anniversary, I want to thank you, not for merely dignifying my blog with your presence, put for your friendship. May we share many more years getting to know each other (and may we meet in person)!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Discriminating Taste

I learned something new at shul. I discriminate. I hope not outwardly, but I do in my heart. There is this Sefardi guy who is very, very dark, and, well, not so attractive. But I saw him sitting with all the "Movers and Shakers" laughing up a storm. And all I could think of was, what's he doing with them?

And then I realized why I should be ashamed. Not because I wasn't giving him the opportunity to stand on his own merits. Because I was trying to avoid standing on my own merits! The underlying message of his acceptance was, "people do succeed because of ability, and aren't held back by such intangible factors as discrimination." But if he succeeded in the face of such odds, than why haven't I?

It's comfortable believing that I've been held back by the illogical likes, dislikes, and other whims of man. But if he overcame them, then I should have as well! And it's my own failure that keeps me wanting to believe in discrimination. So if I discriminate against him as well, then I can assure that the system of discrimination is kept alive and well, preserving a much more comfortable facade for my own failure.

Guys Have Feelings Too

There are some emails you just can't send. But that doesn't mean you can't blog them...

There are all different kinds of friends.

No matter where time has taken us, every time I think of you a lump forms in my throat. I promised myself that I wouldn't make you cry, I'd cut out the sentimental emails. I know our relationship had a lot to do with shidduchim, but it was more than just setting each other up- you were the kind of best friend that I could trust, open up to, feel comfortable with. I wish a professional "shadchan" relationship wasn't the only avenue for keeping our relationship open.

But that doesn't mean that I don't have feelings that I wish I could express. Truth be told, I remember very little of the relationship that we had. But as the mind fades, the heart remains just as vibrant. We met a year and a half ago, and probably haven't seen each other for almost a year. You'd think you wouldn't mean anything to me, or at least would have faded into distant memories. But every time I hear your name, see you online, my breath deepens, my chest swells. Even hearing about your simchas brings tears to my eyes.

Your chosson must know you're special. If I feel the way I do, I can only imagine how close you two must feel. I know in our community there is no room for a continued friendship. I don't understand why.

But despite the vacuum I feel today, I'd never give up the friendship we had and everything I gained from you. Whenever I hear about you, I will always cry inside. Always keep in touch.

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