Monday, October 31, 2005

Well, Gee, Thanks for the Good News

Nothing like being told by your university's president that your degree is going to be worthless in the job market and that too many people go to law school for the wrong reasons and end up miserable at 35.

Excellent. I'm in a good mood now.

Eight to One Is Not a Great Ratio

So, a man has been nominated to take the seat of the first woman on the Supreme Court, and part of me is disappointed. I mean, if the judge was going to be a conservative whose values I dislike, couldn't it at least be a she? Couldn't the nomination celebrate diversity? The heights women have climbed to?

But at the same time, I think that attitude is unfair. I don't believe in affirmative action and I don't believe people should get a job based on race, ethnicity, or gender. A Supreme Court Justice should be nominated based on his or her ability to do the best job, and if that person was male, then so be it.

But the question still remains: the Court's make-up, assuming approval of Alito, will be eight men and one woman. Are there really eight qualified males to every qualified female for this position? Are women lagging behind? And if they are, why?

Is it a collective choice of women everywhere that they would rather not be Supreme Court Justices or, despite all our liberal-speak, is it truly still a man's world?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Drawing Strength From People Who Had to Miss More Than Just Class for Their Judaism

So, I have a TON of work to do, a to do list that is far, far too long, and a whole bunch of really important things coming up really soon. Why, you ask, am I even near my computer, let alone blogging? Because if I don't let off a little bit of steam, I think I will explode.

It's a hard year to be a frum Jew in secular college. Not only am I missing the equivalent of two straight weeks of classes, spread out over a month (if that makes any sense), but it is also midterms season. And many of my summer applications are due November 1.

Let's just say I've had better days. So, not only am I stressed out to begin with, but yom tov becomes a nuisance instead of a good time to spend with family and reach for higher spiritual realms.

But remember all those stories we always hear of our great-grandparents who came to American and had to get a new job EVERY week when they didn't show up to work on Shabbos? And remember how those people weren't worried about grades and great summer experiences, but basic subsistence and the strength to hold on to a Torah lifestyle in this new, strange country?

If they could manage to hold on to their Judaism and faith in Hashem in times that were far harder than my Freedom of Speech and Press midterm, than I think I can have the sanity and strength to get through this not-so-easy time. Good luck to everyone else going through the same.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Summer? Wasn't That Just Yesterday?

It is still warm outside. I can still wear flip flops. I have not unpacked my winter coat or boots or sweaters. We're still on daylight savings time. Succot is coming up.

So, I'm applying for summer jobs why??

Saturday, October 15, 2005

My Car Named Jesus

My sis: The car died.
Me: Uh oh. Is there any way that it might become undead [my Ivy League education kicks in] uhh, i mean ressurected?
My sis: Then we could call the car Jesus.
Me: It did need a name, after all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Traversing Spiritual Realms in a Physical World

In just a few hours, we'll all be in shul in some semblance of white clothing and unfashionable non-leather shoes at the very start of the 25-hour fast-and-pray marathon that is Yom Kippur. It is the day of the Jewish year when we reach the peak of spirituality, when we are compared to angels, when we have little contact with the physical world. It is a day to utilize spirituality alone, to be as close to God as possible.

But we are not spiritual beings. Yom Kippur is an important day; it enables us to scale certain spiritual heights and to reconnect to Hashem on a certain level. It enables us to refresh ourselves on a religious plane. But we cannot live as angels. We need to eat and drink and wear leather shoes (ok, fine, you can argue with that one, but I have a very pretty pair of new shoes which just happens to be leather sitting in my room, and I would argue that I NEED to wear them). We need to act and interact in a physical world.

So what then do we do with this spiritual peak of Yom Kippur? Is that it? Do we sin in the physical world all year long and then do teshuva on a spiritual realm for a single day and return to the dark depths of physicality?

No. The entire set-up of the holidays this month (that set-up that is oh-so-frustrating to a college student who is missing lots of class) is designed to bring that spiritual peak of Yom Kippur into the physical realm of the rest of our lives, so that instead of coming out of the holiest day of the year with a clean slate just to be sullied once again, we have the ability to grow in our observance and dedication to Hashem throughout the year and through our physical world.

First, we have Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year where we are raised above the physical and are wholly spiritual.

Then, Succot, a holiday where we eat and drink, but are removed from our daily physical lives and instead live in huts outside of our homes.

Then, Shemini Atzeret, a yom tov still with all the specialness that entails, but back in the comfort of our houses (and outside of the rainy cold weather that invariably begins as soon as we move into our succot). We are still enveloped by the spirituality of the holidays, but now we are one step closer to our daily lives.

Then, isru chag, the day after yom tov. We are fully moved back into everyday life, but there is still an element of spirituality associated with the day.

And then, we move to the month of Cheshvan - a month devoid of any holidays, a month that is totally mundane. But that's the point. Now that we've had the spiritual moment of Yom Kippur and the calendar has helped us integrate that into our daily lives, we have a full month of daily life to accomplish just that.

So, as we fast and pray and traverse those high spiritual realms this Yom Kipppur, my wish for all of us is that we are able to bring that spirituality back with us into our every-day lives, so that we can continue to grow throughout the upcoming year.

Gmar ketiva v'chatima tova.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Baruch Dayan Emet

It's the aseret yimei teshuva, and just in case I wasn't sure what the gravity of this time period is - and let's face it, it is a hard thing to get - I was reminded last night.

A casual acquaintance of my family's, somebody I don't see very often but saw recently, died very suddenly. Baruch dayan emet.

She was in her mid-40s, last time I saw her she was dancing at a wedding, she was working on a degree, she has kids my age. And now she's gone. How does that happen? How can that happen?

Well, folks, it can happen to any one of us, and God is deciding right now whether or not it will. It's the aseret yimei teshuva, Yom Kippur is fast approaching. We only have a few more days to plead for our lives, to plead for all the good things, to beg God to give us another year.

Go do some teshuva.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Coloring on walls is fun.

The sad part is that this is not the first time I have rediscovered said principle in the past two years. I'm 21-years-old, I go to an Ivy League college, I am going to be a lawyer one day soon. I look like a mature young adult. Really. So why do I find myself reverting back to nursery school practices?

Because it's fun. It's a bonding experience. And it is way more exciting than my human rights reading.

Don't Be So Open-Minded That Your Brains Fall Out

I know this is supposed to be funny and all and it even is. Ok granted, having creationists preaching to you from the inside of a dinosaur is a lil strange, but what about the author who believes in evolution saying that hearing such talk was more surprising than being told that her parents are aliens.

Who are the closed-minded ones now?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Excursions Outside the Bubble: Are They Good for Me?

I take part in an extra curricular activity at school that means I directly interact with non-Jews and non-practicing Jews for prolonged periods of time at random times of late night and early morning at varied levels of sanity and inebriation.

And I love what I do. I love it even when I'm still up at 5 a.m. and even when I've spent the last10 hours worrying about commas and prepositions and nitty-gritty grammar stuff. And though I won't admit it often, I think I love being part of a world that is not my Orthodox bubble.

What do I love about it?

Partially, I just like being outside of the same group of people with the same values and the same discussions and the same experiences and the same clothing. Of course I love Orthodox Judiasm and its practice and I love being part of that straight-brown-haired-Gap-skirt-wearing-short-shtark-girl crowd. (At least I hope I'm part of that crowd.) But there is something I like about being that same short, brown-haired girl in the Gap skirt amongst a somewhat taller, often blonder, and always more diverse crowd.

Maybe it's just that I like to be different. Maybe I like to carry my pride in my religion outside of the confines of that community. Maybe I like to glimpse at what's on the other side every now and then so I return to my community refreshed by the values and beliefs it holds so dear. Because no matter how many long nights I spend with these people and no matter how many of them I call my friends, they will never be my community.

It's a funny place I stand with them; they are my friends, but only to a certain point, we can share nights and laughs and gripes, but not food, we share some political values, but not true beliefs.

And I wonder what this has done for me. I like to know that I can value people for who they are, for their ambition and integrity, if not for their belief systems. I like to spend time with people who are smart and dedicated and motivated, and who motivate me.

But there's this nagging thought of, is this the place where I belong? Even if nobody would ever come in drunk again and if no guy would ever try to high-five me again, is it a place where I grow religiously?

I'd like to say it is, that I come back from these brushes with the "other side" a stronger, more committed Jew. I'd like to say I gain clarity from seeing people who do not have such strong beliefs. I'd lke to say that every now and then (once a week, to be precise) I need a little breather from the sometimes-stifling community of frum Jews.

All I know is that I can say this: while workng on this project, I see people who are heart and soul dedicated and committed to something, who will give up sleep and grades and social life to make this thing happen and happen right. If only I could put that much zeal into my avodat Hashem, I would be a far, far better Jew than I am.

But is that lesson enough to warrant being there? For now, I'd like to say yes, and I'd like to believe that's the truth.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I'll Be Dipping That Apple in Honey

Just wanted to wish y'all a happy new year filled with blessings and answered tefilot and all things good.

Am off to finish packing and class and home and yom tov (which will entail missing more classes than I'd like to think about, but it will be worth it in every way).

Remember, this could be the year for [fill in the blank]. I hope everyone has a good davening and a meaningful Rosh Hashana and a good year. Amen.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A Life Term Means a Life Term

"No law means no law."
(Bonus points if you know where this quote is from and what it's referring to.)

Now, I may be a liberal and all that, but I'm also a big believer in words having a real meaning and a real impact. So, believe it or not, I'm not incredibly disturbed by this Times article which points to a new phenomenon: that many people sentenced to life in prison are actually staying in prison for, well, life.

Imagine that!