Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ham on Matzah and Other Stories of Secular Jews

Ok, not to sound elitist or anything, but why would anyone think she has to keep Passover and not eat bread but think it's ok to eat the cheeseburger - so long as it doesn't have bread?

And I'm not kidding about the ham on matzah either - someone told me her father does it.

And these are not the only incidents I've had of people who I know don't keep kosher or shabbos or anything remotely related to Judaism that feel a need to refrain from bread on Pesach (and the need to go to shul on Yom Kippur probably).

What does that mean? Is it an extention of the Haskalah, but now insted of being a Jew at home and a mentsch outside you're a Jew twice a year and a goy the rest? I just don't get it! I'm not saying it's bad to do mitzvot or bad not to be perfect or any of that, but why do you think you can disregard all the commandments except two? I don't think that Judaism is an all-or-nothing deal; if it were we'd all be in trouble, but I also think Judaism is about more than matzah and white non-leather sneakers.

The American Dream Minus the Kids

A conversation:
"Do you want to have kids?"
"Well, theoretically yes, but I'm not sure I see that fitting into my life ever."
"Maybe but I don't want to actually bear children, I'd just adopt."
"I guess, but I'd love to have twins so I only hafta suffer pregnancy once, get two kids, and am done with the whole deal."

Okay, now I understand college students are not so gung-ho on having kids because they're not at that stage yet. But are these the future parents of America? I will tell you that these people are all smart, ambitious, talented Ivy League students. They are also all female. (The one male asked, responded by saying, "of course, I want kids.") I don't know if I want to draw the gender distinction here, nor if I want to draw the you can't have a carreer and kids line either.

All I know is it's pretty sad that none of these female college students see having kids as anywhere near a priority. They don't want to build families, they want to build carreers. They don't want kids, they want multi-million dollar homes and cars and prestigious jobs. They want the American Dream minus the kids, and I'm not so sure that's a good thing - for anyone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Shallow Thoughts of the Day

My mind is literally mush. Blame it on three day yom tov, blame it on the fact that I will be living on matzah and coffee for the next four days as those are the only kosher l'Pesach things I own, blame it on upcoming finals, heck, blame it on whatever you want, it's reality. And so, I present to you my not-so-deep thoughts of the day, because deep thoughts are on hiatus from my mind:

-If you are a guy, do not wear light pink pants. If you insist on wearing light pink pants, do not wear them with green sneakers.

-Liberation is just another form of repression. (This would be a deep Foucaultian thought, except that I'm just regurgitating, not actually understanding anything that was said in my three hour class this morning.)

-Do not throw flaming pieces of paper down an air shaft. If you do, you may get in trouble, and even if you don't get in trouble, it's just plain stupid.

-Professors should grade students based on their ability to make a cogent argument, and not on whether or not they agree with the argument. And if a prof is going to grade based on whether he likes the argument, he should at least finish reading the argument and make sure he understands it before he gives it a bad grade.

-College students complain too much. We have it pretty good. Get over yourselves and be happy! And under no circumstances should you send an angry e-mail to a student-run daily newspaper complaining that the crossword is blurry. If you have time to do a crossword puzzle, you have too much time on your hands. You should not be spending $42,000 a year on an education to do crossword puzzles instead of listening in class.

-You can have too much pink flowery stuff. Do not forget that when re-decorating your house or your kids will make fun of you forever. And pink grout is just a bad idea.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Who, Who, Who Let the Jews Out?

God. (I'm sure you've all seen this by now, but it is funny.)

Just wishing y'all a happy, healthy Pesach.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What? It's Pesach Already?

Forget the here-come-Pesach blues, I have the here-come-finals blues.

Which would be fine except that because of all the schoolwork I have, Pesach kinda gets lost in the shuffle somewhere. And all of a sudden I'm going to be sitting at a seder without anything to add. I mean, I can expound on pharmacuetical prices and campaign finance reform and the Supreme Court decision in NY Times v. Sullivan, but that's about it.

Have I actually looked at a hagada, opened up a sefer, even searched for Divrei Torah online? Nope. I haven't had time, I lament. I think the one most frustrating part about going to a secular college (and maybe real life in general, but I haven't gotten there yet) is not that you have to miss class for yom tov, it's that you have to miss out on yom tov for class. Of course, I don't go to class on yom tov, but my schoolwork does affect my ability to fully appreciate yom tov.

Somehow, Pesach gets lost in the shuffle of school, and that's not the way it's supposed to be.

Hard-Core Addict

That's coffee addict.

You know you're an addict when your father buys you a coffee-maker for Pesach for the three days you'll be in your dorm. And when you find kosher l'Pesach diet coke and get excited.

I think it's time for detox. After finals.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bring Them Home, Bring Them Home!

"Another siren wails,
Just an ordinary day.
Was it anyone i know?
How can life go on this way?"

Today, I went to a rally for the Israeli soldiers missing in action. It's something I haven't done in a while - got to any sort of pro-Israel rally. In fact, I haven't been to any real pro-Israel event since high school. I went to a typical Modern Orthxodox high school (pro-Israel/Zionist/live music on Yom Ha'atzmaut), and we were always doing something for Israel. Always. But I've kinda lost my connection to Israel activism; not my connection to Israel or my support for Israel, just this activist thing. And I'm not really sure why.

But as chants of "Bring them home! Bring them home!" filled my ears and the smell of sweat that always seems to go with these events filled the air and people started getting hoarse, I got kind of nostaligiac for that activism - that we can change the world if only we try attitude, that we are the answer feeling, that we have a voice and we're gonna use it till you listen activism.

I don't think it's that I've lost all optimism or that I've lost my belief in grass-roots efforts and it's certainly not that I don't believe in the cause, but something is lost, something about me is changed. Because for the first time in a long time I watched all those people who feel so passionately, and for the first time ever I saw all those people cheering and rallying and wanting so badly to make a difference, to bring the MIA's home, and honestly, I didn't feel anything.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Life Is, Well, Complicated

"Because getting your dreams, it's strange but it seems, is a little, well, complicated."

Deep thought of the day: Life doesn't always turn out how you want it to. Sometimes you have to just have a good cry and then move on.

I know, I know, I'm being cryptic, but this is my blog, so deal with it. And come on, I do sound like a sagely philosophy student who has been writing papers for too long, don't I? C'mon admit it.

(And yes, I will probably eventually quote the entire Wicked soundtrack. Sue me.)

My Fave Dvar Torah (And Don't Call Me a Nerd for Having One)

This week's parsha is Acharei Mot, and since my all time favorite dvar Torah applies (and since if I don't take a break from paper-writing my brain might explode), I'll share it with y'all (all 4 of you, though that might be an inflated number). And I know, I know, most normal people don't have a favorite dvar Torah, but c'mon give it (and me) a chance!

The next few parshiot are, sequentially:
Acharei Mot

This list can be interpreted as follows: If one says acharei mot (after death) kedoshim t'hiyu (we will be holy), emor (say to him) 'behar Sinai (on Mount Sinai) bechukotai (Hashem’s rules were given).' Sorry - this does lose something in the translation (and the transliteration).

It’s very easy to look at the Torah and say that these rules and commandments are holy and spiritual and cannot be meant for this ordinary physical world. But the response to that is that Hashem gave the Torah on Har Sinai, on this physical earth. The Torah is full of ultimately spiritual tasks, but it is meant for this physical world. Mitzvoth cannot just be put off to some time or place when we will be holier and more ready to do them more easily. The Mitzvoth, the Torah were meant to be done in the physical world.

Nuff said. For now, at least.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Room of Whose Own?

“A woman must have ... a room of her own...”

For as long as I can remember I shared a bedroom with my sister who is four years my junior. We shared lots of good and bad memories in that pink bedrom with the two canopy beds. I watched her cry probably as many times as she watched me cry, but we also laughed together, joked together, grew together.

We've shared more than one room over the years, but it was always the two of us. Sometimes we hated each other's guts and sometimes we were the best of friends. I can remember the time I convinced her I was an alien and the time we sketched each other's outlines onto the walls with magic markers (you don't want to know how old we were when we did that). I cannot remember all the times we talked together into the wee hours of the morning or all the conversations that we had.

But as of tomorrow, when my family returns home after having some work done in our house, we will no longer be roommates anymore. I am away at college and am getting placed in some random room with an extra bed (that is really only slightly exagerated), she is moving up in the world and will finally have a room of her own.

I am happy for her, happy that we are moving back home. And I know that as of now my time at home is limited to school vacations, holidays, and little else. But still, part of me is really sad to see us part. Perhaps, we parted long ago when I went to Israel and then college and effectively moved out. Perhaps, in a greater sense we never will really part. But I will not be able to easily and slyly "borrow" her clothing when she is not around, I will not feel the need to yell at her when she's on the phone at 3 a.m. and I want to sleep (imagine that!), and I will not be there to offer my advice, to tell over my day, to listen to her, to laugh, to cry, to sing, to dance, to fight, to share.

Depths of Depravity: College and the Religious Void

Well, maybe it's not quite that bad, but then again maybe it is:

  • The sun comes out (beautiful!) and the clothing comes off (ugh! I mean, do people not look in the mirror and realize that there is very little chance that the flab hanging out of their super low cut jeans and lack of top is going to be attractive?)

  • Ham on matzah - very sacreligious.

  • What do you answer when you're asked how one would appear more Jewish so as to fool one's boyfriend's parents?

Holding Out for a Hero

[Ed. Note: I wrote this post a while ago and didn't post it for a few reasons: I didn't (and still don't) want my blog to be about dating and marriage just because I'm a young frum girl. I also felt like there were some things that were too personal to share on my blog. And most of all, I didn't want to sound bitter. I am not bitter. But today I will be going to my third engagement party in so many weeks, and it almost feels like "I can safely say that I'm the only one in the whole entire Orthodox community my age not enagaged or dating now." Well, not really. But to make a long story short(er), I decided to put up this post. That does not mean I am depressed or unhappy or dying to walk down an aisle in a big poofy white dress tomorrow.]

"In other words, just from waiting around for that plain little band of gold a person can develop a cold."

Someone I know asked me recently, "so, when are you getting married?" To which I responded, "when I find the right guy." Now this is going to be a rant because I'm a lil frustrated. I understand the frum world's emphasis on marriage; we're a very family-centric religion and I'm ok with that. Really. And I do want to find the right guy to spend the rest of my life with and build a family with him.

But God is in control, people. You cannot decide it is time to get married and then magically find your Prince Charming and live happily ever after. You just can't. That's not the way the world works. And you know what? If God wants you to get married when you're 35, then unfortunately you're going to have to wait. And I cannot stand this sense of "oh, you're 20, you must be desperately seeking Mr. Right."

I will find Mr. Right when God introduces us.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Christians Get Here-Come-Pesach Blues

Well, you would too if you were doing Pesach cleaning (which maybe some of you are).

So, I walked into my suite which looked slightly cleaner than usual (read: not absolutely, sickeningly disgusting) and found a note on the table, which said:

"Dear Eli7's Suite,
[ed. note: Fine, so it didn't actually say that, but I'm not telling you where I live.]
We hope you enjoy your newly cleaned suite.
Courtesy of the Intervasrsity Christian Fellowship."

There was some more, including a New Testament quote, but that was basically the gist of the letter. A letter which I find particularly funny because this means that that a Christian group essentialy cleaned my suite for Pesach. Odd.

Choose One: Your Knee or a Stranger's Life

Imagine that you have $20,000 in savings. You also have a damaged knee that forces you to walk with a limp, makes it difficult for you to climb stairs, and prevents you from engaging in any sport or athletic activity that requires mobility. There are two and only two ways in which you can spend your savings. The first is to have knee surgery that would restore your knee to full, normal functioning. The second is to donate your savings to a charitable organization. The organization supports destitute people, and your donation would enable it to save the life of one person who would otherwise starve to death.

Must you, as a matter of justice, donate your savings to save another person’s life?

This is one of the choices for my last paper in a class I'm taking. I think it's a really hard question (hence I am not choosing to write on it). Today, one of the girls in my class basically said that she thinks no one in his right mind would donate the money. Of course, she said, you worry about your own comfort over the life of someone else.

Now, I don't know what I would answer to the question, and I certainly don't know what I would do were I in the situation. (Though some would argue that if the average Columbia student donated his tuition money, he could probably save a life or two.) But I would like to say that it wouldn't be quite so obvious to me, that life - even someone else's - is more important than comfort, and that I at the very least recognize the moral dilemma involved.

But maybe this question makes it too easy. The question frames an issue that could come up every day if we cared enough to think about it: how much money do we spend on things that are not really necessary? How much money could we really donate to help save people's lives? Do you really need to buy the name-brand toilet paper? Is your new pair of shabbos shoes worth someone's life?

And where do we draw that line?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

"One question haunts and hurts
Too much, too much to mention:
Was I really seeking good
Or just seeking attention?
Is that all good deeds are
When looked at with an ice-cold eye?"

There is nothing more frustrating than giving a significant amount of time and/or energy to do something good and then not being able to do it.

On Monday I tried to give blood; my iron was too low. Today, I went back and my iron was high enough. I waited an hour and a half. They stuck me. I got nauseous. I'm okay, so no harm done. Except for the fact that I'm really frustrated. Here I was all ready to do a great, selfless act, and then I couldn't do it. So, not only do I end up not feeling so well and wasting time which I could have used to get some of my piles of work done (yeah right), I can't even say it was worth it. I didn't actually do anything worthwhile.

I'm not so upset that somebody who needs blood is not getting it, I'm so upset that I couldn't give it. Maybe it's just because giving blood is an indirect act to begin with, so you never truly see its effects. Maybe. But shouldn't I care more about the person who needs blood who is not getting it than I care about the fact that I'm a little dizzy and that I didn't earn my free t-shirt? Well, shouldn't I?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks at Them

This from a NY Times article, The Man Date: "Simply defined a man date is two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports."

The article notes that women have long since understood this need for emotional support and bonding with people of your own species, umm, i mean gender. "Women understand this instinctively, which is why there is no female equivalent to the awkward man date; straight women have long met for dinner or a movie without a second thought."

Like, duh.

Even if you believe in co-ed socializing (on which I refuse to comment at this time) of course you sometimes want to hang out with a friend of the same sex as you, why should that be weird? And of course it wouldn't be weird. Unless you were a boy. And since we all know boys are stupid...

(Note: Just because I think boys are stupid - and I fully subscribe to said theory - does not mean I don't want to marry one someday. It just means they're stupid. I can accept that. Can you?)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Happily Ever After? I Don't Think So

"Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting a middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity."

We spend so much of our lives obsessed with reaching the next level - whatever that level may be. We spend so much time worrying about getting to the point where we can live happily ever after, that we forget that there is no happily ever after. There is no riding-off-into-the-sunset happiness. There is just life, and life is not perfect nor is it easy. Life requires hard work and challenges and struggling. And in order to survive, you have to get a little dirty, break a nail or two, shed a tear. And if you make it and have become a better person for it, then you have succeeded. But that still doesn't mean you get to live happily ever after; it just means you're ready for the next challenge.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Highest Form of Shopping: Buying Shoes

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world."

That would be shoes in plural. Because this quasi-JAP cannot resist the warm weather and Old Navy's two for $5 flip flop deal. Times two. That would be four pairs of flip flops in one trip to Old Navy. I would try to defend myself by arguing that they're pretty and now I can color coordinate with all my shirts and headbands, but somehow I'm not sure how great a defense that would be. So sue me. I'll have to buy a new pair of shoes for court...

(My new favorite Web site. Well, not quite. But almost.)

Longing for High School? Well, Not Quite...

Since I've been back from Israel (two years already!) and have been in a high-pressure, secular environment, my learning has been very different.

I do still maintain chavrusot/s on a semi-regular basis, and I love maintaining them and learning with the various people I learn with and keeping that bit of Torah in my life. But I really only learn in English now and generally learn either halacha or some sort of philosophical/mussar type sefer. I do that because I feel if I don't have that much time to learn, I want to get the most out of my learning. And if that means learning in English so as not to spend half the time breaking my teeth over Hebrew I don't quite understand, then it's worth it. And if that means learning what I will either get the most inspiration from or the most practical useful knowledge from, then that is what I'm going to do.

I mention this because today I was helping my sister with her Chumash paper. So we were learning Hebrew mepharshim in Chumash (hence the fact that it is called a Chumash paper...) and I really enjoyed it. I kind of forgot how enjoyable it is to learn like that. (I guess you never realize how good you had it till it's gone, or "I believe you don't know what you've got until you say goodbye," v'hamayvin ya'vin.)

I certainly never thought I'd say this when I was in high school, but I really do miss that learning. I miss spending half a day studying limudei kodesh, writing papers on the shvatim instead of tyranny of the majority, struggling over Hebrew instead of Nietzche. I miss it. (Not enough to have any interest in going back to high school, mind you. I'm not that crazy.)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Destination Israel?

"The holy city
A part of
a part of the city’s legacy.
O Jerusalem, I have not
Forgotten thee"

I've only been to Israel once - for the ten months of seminary I attended in between high school and college. I had never been there before and haven't been there since. So, to me, Israel is spiritual growth, it's beautiful and awe-inspiring and brimming with Godliness. To me, Israel is about internal struggle and outward religious growth, about yearning and searching, and finding truth. Israel holds an incredibly special place in my heart.

I've been offered a possible oppurtunity to go to Israel for a few weeks this summer, but I am apprehensive about returning. The program I would be on is not particularly religious and is focused on politics and media, not on spirituality. True, I would be in the holiest of holy lands. True, I have so wanted to travel back to Israel.

But I'm afraid this will ruin Israel for me. I'm afraid it will remove the magic that shrouds Israel in my mind. I'm afraid it will make Israel just like any other place.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Shall We Dance?

A recent conversation with a friend:

Friend: So, I'm in a bar and I see these guys I used to hang out with. Do you have any idea what it's like to see the first guy you ever slow-danced with years later?

Me: Umm, no.

And I'm glad I don't. I think I'll just leave it at that and let y'all interpret this one as you wish.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Friend Worth Wearing Seafoam Green for: Priceless

There's an old Mastercard commercial that goes something like this:

You see a girl obviously on her way to a wedding, dressed in a seafoam green dress with matching shoes and accessories. The text reads: "Seafoam green dress: $150, seafoam green dyed-to-match shoes: $80, manicure: $12, hair appointment: $45, friend worth wearing seafoam green for: priceless."

Though I do think it was a particularly well-done commercial, this post is not an advertisement for Mastercard or their marketing group, it is my way of wishing mazal tov to a friend who just got engaged. A friend who is very much worth wearing seafom green for (though she is not requesting that I do so). A friend who is in fact priceless.

Mazal Tov!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"President Bollinger Cancels Barnard"

This was the headline on an April Fool's addition of a student-run publication on Columbia's campus (a publication which I do not reccomend that you read). I thought it was hillarious.

Now, maybe that's because I go to Columbia and maybe it's because I really don't see much of a purpose in Barnard since Columbia has been co-ed for over 20 years (which is admittedly a paltry amount of time, but that's a different discussion), but I also did talk to at least one Barnard girl who agreed that it was funny. I did, however, find myself in a very long discussion with another Barnard girl about whether or not said article was offensive. I maintain that it's funny, she says it's not.

Though I admit that as a Columbia student I spend a fair amount of time making fun of Barnard, the question raised in our discussion ran at least a little deeper: the Barnard girl suggested that we shouldn't make fun of anything. That doing so is offensive and insults people and is just wrong.

I maintain that life is hard and sometimes we just have to step back and laugh at the sorry state of affairs we find ourselves in. It's only healthy. And, for my part, I think the proposed cancellation of Barnard is hillarious.

Friday, April 01, 2005

It's Coming...

"Springtime in the city
Always such relief from the winter freeze...

Can you believe what a year it's been
Are you still the same?
Has your opinion changed?"

I love the warm weather!!