Monday, February 28, 2005

Hegel's Hashkafa (or Growing Through Adversity)

"Do you believe in changing yourself or are you one of those tiresome people who prefer to stagnate?"

So, I finally finished my long, arduous Hegel reading and while I'm sure my loyal readers would be totally interested in hearing me recount all the important philosophical points he makes, I just wanted to mention something in the reading that I found really interesting. (You can find Torah in the most unusual places if you look hard enough and have the right mindset.)

Hegel talks about the Spirit (don't ask and I won't tell) that needs to develop over time and he says that as soon as there exists no opposition, the Spirit cannot develop any further and there is death; where there is no adversity there is no growth. I think that statement really rings true. Growing requires a continuous questioning and seeking of truth. Adversity forces one to think about his convictions and where he stands and then to move from there and grow and seek further truths and knowledge and religious ideals. It is hardship more than anything else that forces us as Jews to delve deeper into Torah and the meaning of life and our service of Hashem and to become better, stronger people. And that is the purpose of life.

The Un-Blog

So, apparently this is not an actual blog. Just thought you might like to know...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

In Defense of Secular College

As I sit here in my dim, dank dorm room reading "Courts, Judges, & Politics" (yes, it is as boring as it sounds), I feel a need to defend secular college - partially due to some blog comments I've seen and partially due to some recent discussions (and partially due to an intense need to procrastinate).

I love Columbia but I also realize that the fact that I'm happy with my choice does not make it a good choice. I fully recognize that life is not a choose-your-own-adventure novel where you can figure out what would happen based on different choices and then flip the pages back and re-do it if the outcome wasn't desired. So, I don't know where I would be had I gone to Stern or made some other decision that did not involve a four year stint at this fine institution of higher education, but I don't think that I would be where I am religiously - not even close.

I came back from seminary not incredibly impressed with the experience; it was a little bit more to the right than I expected, a little less academic than I expected, and all-in-all not what I had gone to Israel for. And while the way of life that I glimpsed seemed nice, I figured what I had in my more "modern" background would serve me just as well; I was ok with where I'd been religiously and intended to stay there.

Or so I thought. My first year of college was a learning experience for me (and I'm not referring to the illustrious Core Curriculum). Let's just say that Modern Orthodox Jews on a college campus act pretty much the same as the other students on said campus. And it was only after witnessing that behavior that I realized that Modern Orthodoxy was not exactly where my heart lay.

But it took secular college to show me that. It took being exposed to the "real world" and all that that entails to send me running back to an Orthodoxy that remains true to Torah values. I don't know that I would have come to those realizations and changed my religious beliefs had I not come to a secular university. And while I can't say that everyone belongs in a secular college, I truly do believe it is the right place for certain Orthodox Jews, myself included.


On Hicktowns and Handprints II

“Side by side or miles apart, dear friends are always close to the heart.”

I am back from the Hicktown where my friends live; I had a wonderful weekend and was very sad to leave them, but they are still close to my heart. Really, really close.

Ok, so I'm getting a lil mushy on you - that happens when I'm reminded of just how much I miss my friends and how good it is to be with them, and how much I'd rather be shopping with them or talking with them or laughing with them than reading Hegel which is what I'm about to do. Oh well.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

On Hicktowns and Handprints

"So much of me is made of what I've learned from you, you'll be with me like a handprint on my heart."

I'm off to see my friends - who have indeed left handprints on my heart - who live in a hicktown (read: not NY) and so, will be out of commission for a few days. Don't miss me too much...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

My Drug of Choice

"There is too much blood in my caffeine system."

Four cups of caffeine (what liquid carried the caffeine is completely irrelevant) and I am still tired - not a good sign...

If we ban marijuana, I say we ban caffeine too. Well, not really, but...

Bizarre or Beautiful?

If you found a watch in the desert would you assume it had just evolved or that it had been made by a man? Sure, it's possible that the particles just randomly combined together to produce a fully-functioning watch, but...

There was an article in the NY Times Magazine this past week, titled "Unintelligent Design," that basically challenged this proposition. "While there is much that is marvelous in nature, there is also much that is flawed, sloppy and downright bizarre," concludes the author, who then goes on to say that intelligent design seems like a fairly foolish idea. I thought it was kinda funny because it's all just a mindset; I look at the world, believe everything is here for a purpose, and therefore find purpose in what's here; the author looks at the world, sees things that don't make sense to him, and assumes it's all folly.

I guess it all depends on where you're coming from.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Maybe I Should Switch to Stern

No, not really.

I love my secular college. Really I do. And I honestly think I have benefited even religiously from my stint here. However, every now and then I'm reminded of the benefits of going to Stern. Suffice it to say that writing a paper about whether prostitution should be criminalized is one of those instances for me. Somehow I'm not quite sure this is what I would be writing about at Stern and I want no part of writing about this or spending tons of time in my art appreciation class studying churches or reading the New Testament in some of my core classes.

I am happy with where I'm at right now, but sometimes it's good to get a reminder about what I'm missing; just because this place has some good things to offer certainly doesn't mean it's all good and maybe I need to write a paper about shtus every now and then to make sure I realize that.

It's Not Always About You

Warning: This is about as politically incorrect as I get.

There is a girl in one of my classes. The class is basically a survey course on Western philosophy, the girl is smart and studious. Sounds fine, right? Well... The girl is also African American, no biggie. (Columbia may not be the most diverse place on this planet but this is no surprise.) This otherwise nice and intelligent girl does something I cannot stand: she insists on making EVERYTHING we read about slavery and oppression. Now, I understand that these issues may be a big deal for her and I don't think there's anything wrong with discussing them, but quite frankly Kant and Hume didn't care all that much about slavery and that's not what they're about. And it's frustrating to me that instead of studying the theory as a whole, she ends up focusing on a small issue and missing the point; seeing the trees and not the forest, if you will.

End of politically incorrect part.

Though I do wonder if we as Jews often do the same thing. We focus on news and elections and politics and current events and only say, "Is this good for us?" "Is this good for Israel?" And while clearly I value certain things above others, I do wonder if this myopia is healthy for us in general and specifically for public opinion about Jews.

Backwards and in High Heels

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but she did it backwards and in high heels."

Maybe, but she probably didn't do nothing in four-inch stilettos on cobblestones in the snow, because if she did her feet would probably have been sore for as long as mine have been sore.

The Addict

You know you're addicted when you figure there is something in your fridge that can serve as dinner but you go out of your way to buy coffee because you're almost out... Not that I speak from experience or anything.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bashing, Bashing Everywhere

So, apparently I wasn't the only one slightly irked by Bill Keller's bashing of the blogosphere on Saturday night. The Spectator's online article about the event has 77 comments at last count. (Just to keep this in perspective, the last time the Spec's Web site had anywhere near this number of comments was when one of the sports columnists wrote an article bashing Dartmouth and the entire Dartmouth community responded.)

Unfortunately, though, it has turned into a bash-the-NY Times-and mass media-fest instead. Now, I don't think the mainstream media is perfect (and for the record, neither does Keller who said so in the same controversial speech - c'mon Mr. Keller you know you want to give me a job), but I think they do a very good job and I don't think they're quite as biased as anyone would have you believe. Any news source anywhere is going to be biased because we all - journalists included - see the world through the lenses of our own experiences. Every effort should be made to avoid that, but it's going to happen and I think most intelligent people who read the newspapers know that. And I don't think bashing the media is any fairer or more mature than bashing blogs.

The Flip-Side of the Cap

From a frum boy in my class: "Doing drugs is a bonding experience."

Now, I know he said it partially tongue-in-cheek and I have no clue what his real beliefs are but did a frum boy really need to say such a thing?

Although he does wear a baseball cap to class so maybe nobody could tell he's frum. Hmmm. Guys wearing baseball caps instead of yarmulkas in a place like Columbia has always irked me, but maybe this is the flip-side of the coin; when frum boys do something stupid they can't make a chilul Hashem because it's not obvious they're Jewish. Hmmm.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Emunat Chachamim - Just Do It

Just a reminder brought to you by Rav Nissel: Emunat chachamim - it's important! Really, really important!

I won't repeat the whole shiur (as if I were coherent enough to do so if I so desired...), but basically Rav Nissel's point was that it is absolutely inherent to our Judaism to be able to distinguish between scientific knowledge (which is a good thing, but ultimately just projection) and between Torah (which is absolute truth), and also to be able to distinguish between regular Rabbis and Gedolei Yisroel. Gedolei Yisroel are our conduit to the depths of Torah and we cannot lose sight of the utter greatness of their knowledge.

Wow did I need to hear that!

On Hot Plates and Torah-True Judaism

Picture this: about 200 women crowded into a room - some college students, some young married women, some older women, some with covered hair and shiny engagement rings, some with just simple bands and kerchiefs, some with hair uncovered completely - all ready to hear a halacha shiur and change their daily practices based on what they hear in the next hour.

I just came back from Rabbi Willig's shiur at Midreshet Yom Rishon and that was exactly the scenario. I was sitting across from three older married women who had their fingers crossed practically the whole time hoping against hope that Rabbi Willig would not deem their methods of heating up food on shabbos assur, and there was an audible sigh of relief in the room when warming drawers and hot plates were decreed acceptable. It was a little funny to watch these women so excited about hot trays and hear all these nitty-gritty questions about gravy and microwave-cooked food, etc. But really, it was beautiful. It was beautiful to see women who cared so much about halacha to come to a shiur at 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday and it was beautiful to see the fact that they really were willing to change their practices to comply with halacha.

I can only hope that someday when I'm married with a family, I will be so enthusiastic and dedicated to Torah and halacha.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Just to Clear the Record, Mr. Keller

I just came back from a speech given by Bill Keller, the executive editor of THE paper. I know it's not perfect but I do absolutely love the NY Times. The speech was all fun and games - he made fun of Bush, Republicans, Harvard, college students desperate for jobs (specifically jobs at his paper), college students desperate for alcohol... It was beautiful. Except that he spent most of the speech basically ranting about blogs and how now anyone with a computer can claim he's a journalist, and how that is currently posing a threat for "real" journalists. (Though l'havdil I would never compare the illustrious times to the slightly less lauded YU Commentator, a similar sentiment was expressed in The Commentator a couple of months ago.)

So just to clear the record for when I submit my unimpressive resume to the best paper ever at some point in the distant future (or at some point in my dreams), this is not journalism. If you are in fact looking for news, I would direct you to the Times, or even some other favorites. I am not pretending to be a journalist. This is my life and these posts are my rants, opinions, boring information. Take it or leave it.

Michlala Poster Girl?

I was recently talking to someone about Michlala and mentioned that while I did not love my seminary while I was there, in retrospect it was literally the best thing that ever happened to me. To which she responded that I should be my seminary's poster girl, which I kinda thought was funny; I'm probably not exactly the ideal of what Michlala would like of its graduates (I'm in a secular college after all).

But at the same time, I did mean what I said. Seminary was really, really the best thing that ever happened to me ... even if I didn't think so at the time. (For more about my love of sem, look here.)

One of my friends told me that she hated her shana bet with a passion, and explained that "it's hard to grow." It's true: changing what you believe in, questioning who you are, those are not easy things to do and I did do them in Israel despite my recalcitrance (look, it's an SAT word!) to any sort of growth. And I couldn't be happier about the fact that I did.

Maybe I could be Michlala's poster girl after all...

Friday, February 18, 2005

Majorities Need Not Apply

Warning: this is a rant, and when I rant I am not completely rational...
I am a Jewish American white girl and so not a minority in this lovely city nor in the institution of higher education I attend. I am also a Democrat and proud of it BUT I am absolutely sick and tired of seeing job offers and internship programs only for minorities. I need a job too! Do only minorities need good intenships to put on their resumes? Do only minorities need to make money this summer? I don't get it.These are not programs geared toward specific ethnic or cultural groups, they are merely run-of-the-mill programs that essentially say, "majorities need not apply," and that is not OK even with little old liberal me.


"So, imagine I'm president - because we all know how many short Jewish presidents this country is going to elect."
-My professor

Well, I guess I'll just have to go find another job...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Why I Am Not a Computers Major

A reader who shall remain nameless (because I have so many readers at this point) has suggested that I work on my profile. I will, but I am slightly tired out from changing all the colors on my template. Now, for someone who does not know very much about computers and certainly does not know how to read code, that was quite a task. So if you don't like how my blog looks, don't tell me - consider yourself warned.

Power Corrupts

So, some of my friends have had blogs for quite some time (though some are now defunct), and I kinda liked the ability to post comments without having to think up original and/or interesting things to say, but now the tables are turned and I have to say the interesting things (or bore my non-existent readers to death). Though, I almost like this newfound power...

The Time Has Come

I have arrived.