Thursday, April 27, 2006


I'm going to apologize for this not-so-thought-out post. I'm really just trying to bury my last post. It was whipping up too many passions, which was the last thing I intended when I wrote it.

Just three quick thoughts -

1) After returning from studying in Israel, I carried Shekels in my wallet, so that I would always have money to get a ride from the airport to my Yeshiva on my next trip, whenever it might be. I replaced the cash after each trip for the first few years. But after 7 years, I now have a Metrocard where the Shekels used to be, ostensibly for the same reason from LaGuardia to YU. Where did I go wrong?

2) Why do frum families have so many kids? I'm familiar with the law of P'eru U'revu, be fruitful and multiply, but the Halacha only calls for one son and one daughter to fulfill this. Obviously more would be valued, if they can be properly raised. But I wonder where the benchmark of 6, 9, and 12+ kids in a family was set. 100 years ago did they have so many kids? And if they did was it because they figured some wouldn't make it to adulthood? Nowadays we don't have those fears to such a degree. Are we just trying to bolster our numbers? Does Halacha really value quantity over quality? Or do our communal standards deviate from Halachic ideals. Please note - this topic is not meant for BlogBlond. BB, please disregard this topic, and address the next.

3) Why is chocolate so yummy? Why is it that an entire day can change with one scrumptious piece? Why is life like a box of chocolates?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Immodest vs. Indecent

Most people like to wear clothes. Not all, but most. But why is it that people who would wear a skimpy bikini on the beach hesitate to open their front door when wearing just an undershirt?

People don't seem to mind going around undressed, they just want to make sure they are appropriately undressed. Of course, in the Frum world, the concept of Tznius, modesty, plays a role in how much/how little we wear. It seems though that people have trouble differentiating between laws of modesty, which define how much a person should be covered in any situation, and the norms of decency, which dictate what a person feels comfortable wearing in various situations.

Tznius is about a person's relationship with Gd, from the verse, "Walk modestly with your Gd." Like any commandment, some follow it, while others don't. My main issue is with those who feel that Tznius must be guarded for other's sake, i.e. a girl who throws on a skirt because she is going to be seeing a Frum guy she knows. I have no problem with her choosing not to follow the laws of Tznius between herself and Gd, but what is accomplished by her covering up for me? Does she think I've never seen a woman in pants before?

That's the modesty side of the debate. Now for the decency side. I have recently encountered a phenemenon in the Frum world called the Shabbos robe. For those of you who know what that is, sorry for being so slow in catching on. For those of you who don't know what a Shabbos robe is, picture a bath robe with a zipper on the front instead of a belt. And a flower sewn on to the waist. Think of a Muumuu with some sparkles and velvet.

A Shabbos robe enables the lady (or ladies) of the house to attend to official functions, like the Shabbos meal table, in comfortable clothing, a compromise if you will between pajamas and a suit. Apparently, some head for Shabbos strolls in their quasi-formalwear as well.

But it seems strange to me that while the men of the house torment themselves in black hatitude in 90 degree heat, the women are lounging in glorified nightgowns. In my mind, Frumkeit calls for a high level of decency. We don't answer our front doors wearing wife beaters. This is the part of dress where we are sensitive to how we appear in front of others. And it has less to do with showing skin than with showing others that you're ready. Being fully dressed is a sign of readiness, preparedness to tackle challenges and live up to your potential. You wear a suit to work and you wear your sweat suit to the gym because you're optimized for succeeding at those tasks. And Frumkeit is all about being ready for our purpose. Women are not excluded from this higher purpose.

So why will a Frum women answer the door in a robe, but not in her sweat suit?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why is this Night?

During my first year in Israel, our Yeshiva took a tour of the Kotel tunnels guided by Esther Schlisser. She's a native Yerushalmi who is very passionate about the importance of the land. She relayed a Medrash to our group which describes Gd holding a cup, filled almost to the brim with tears. It is this special cup, Esther relayed, that will ultimately bring the redemption of the Jewish people. When the cup is finally overflowed with just a few last tears of the Jewish people longing for their Redeemer, Moshiach's hand will be forced.

What is the magical secret of this cup? To me what was so poignant about this Medrash was specifically that it wasn't esoteric. Moshiach isn't waiting for a collision of the cosmos, and he isn't waiting for a miraculous feat of spiritual accomplishment. He's just waiting for somebody to care. Just one. One person to cry out of a real understanding of what Moshiach is.

But crying doesn't come easy. I mean, we can cry over many things, but to cry for something selfless, that's unique. But very attainable. It just requires being able to tap one's inner emotions using one's intellect. Difficult for the one who reasons away faith, and difficult for the one who feels away all rationales, but just one step removed from everybody. We just have to cry.

During the Passover Seder, we dip numerous items in salt water, ostensibly to remind us of the tears suffered by the Jews enslaved in ancient Egypt. But the Seder night, we are told, isn't just a history lesson, but a night of living renewal. We are each commanded to taste the freedom of redemption from Egypt, but also slavery's bitter tears. It's not enough to tell the story, but each one of us must put ourselves into the storyline.

The secret to becoming first-hand participants in the story of Passover? To allow our senses, emotions, and intellect to unite. So too if we want to merit the ultimate redemption, all we are called upon is to make it real. One tear is all it takes.

May we merit to bring the Passover offering this year in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. A Chag Kasher V'Sameach to everyone! In accordance with the tradition of avoiding unnecessary writing during the Holiday, I will plan on returning after Pesach, unless of course I come upon some inspiring words to share!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Oy Vey, Bubbaleh!

Why do Jewish mothers worry? Is there some 614th commandment that I never studied? What part of the Jewish religion encourages or at least incubates neurotic behavior and guilt complexes?

This has nothing to do with the stresses of this time of year, but it's strange, because I think this stereotype is evident across the spectrum of Jewish identity in a way that isn't seen amongst non-Jewish mothers. Sure, you can tell me about the history of anti-semitism, and very real fears, but is there a reason those anxieties should persist in America? At what point does a defensive mechanism actually self-asphxiate? Perhaps it steps from our hyper-awareness of living in the shadows of an omnipotent Gd? But even most observant Jews aren't that religious.

How many Jewish men look for non-Jewish women because they want to live life carefree, without looking behind their backs every minute? How many inferiority complexes will it take for us to reevaluate the pyschological health of our culture? And what will it take to get my mom to stop nagging me about taking out the garbage?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

All Alone

This post is going to be like a Dvar Torah. I'm going to take two unrelated ideas and tie them together, not because they naturally relate, but because I wouldn't have enough to say unless I bring up two small points. And it'll sound a whole lot more professional if I make it sound like one fancy idea.

Some may have noticed my recent absence. In fact, it has been my longest time without posting since restarting my blog 14 months ago, I believe. While I have been busy/travelling, I will admit that mostly I haven't written because I haven't had any inspiration to write. Not that I haven't had ideas. I just haven't wanted to sit down and write. Truthfully, I've noticed a quiet all around the J-blogosphere. I'm not sure if I'm suffering from the same seasonal disorder as the rest of the bloggers, or the general silence is de-motivating me. Either way, I have definitely felt isolated recently, with the near freeze of blog activity coinciding with the general lack of anything interesting going on in my life.

On the other hand, at the dinner I attended last week, numerous individuals whom I know from real life mentioned that they've been keeping up with my life through my blog (although apparently as lurkers). This was very refreshing, seeing that my writing has kept me connected to friends from different parts of my life. So blogging should be breaking that loneliness, bringing new blog friends and old real friends into the same mix.

Now let me define loneliness, lest anyone start fearing depression, or, worse, absolute loser. Rabbi JB Soloveitchik wrote about a concept of loneliness endemic to the human race. In fact, he wrote a book about it, called The Lonely Man of Faith. I'm not a philosopher, nor a book reviewer, so I make no claims as to the accuracy of my interpretation. But the basic premise is that all humankind suffers from a certain feeling of isolation in this world as a result of its vastness. We all face this tension in some way. Some turn to social outlets, attempting to connect to other people to feel less alone, whether this be a spouse, a chavrusa, or a drinking buddy. But Rabbi Soloveitchik proposes that the only true connection that can remove us from the isolation is that with our Creator.

With that background, I hope that this blog serves more of the latter purpose. My lack of writing shouldn't increase the loneliness, but rather represents only part of the channel through which I connect with my Creator on a daily basis. Hopefully, I'll be inspired with more words more often to keep all you along for the ride as well.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?