Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On Fine Lines, Midrash, and The Red Tent

I'm used to a specific type of Torah learning. A type of learning where you respect the teacher and grant him or her every courtesy. A type of learning that is very much based in the actual text and that uses mepharshim but not personal opinions or theories to explore the issue further. A type of learning that treats every word in the Chumash with care because every word is divine and that while not afraid to say that people sinned, is also very careful to not jump to negative conclusions about the tzadikim of past generations. A type of learning that does not even a little bit resemble literary analysis.

I'm not saying that's the only way to learn Torah. I'm not saying that I've never felt frustrated with such an approach. I'm just saying that Torah is divine and the people in the Torah and the people who teach Torah should be treated with respect. That doesn't mean they can't do wrong, it just means they deserve respect. And there's a very fine line between trying to understand what's happening in the text and simply making things up. A very fine line.

Somebody told me that she read an interview with Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent, in which Diamant basically said that midrash was just the rabbis making up what happened, so her book was essentially her midrash. Midrash is not just rabbis making stuff up, and we do not have the right to just make up what happened in the Torah and see if it sells.

That's not to say we don't have an obligation to try to understand what happened in Tanach and to learn from it. Of course we do. But we can do that without trampling on Torah, the people who explained it for us, and the people who teach it to us. End rant.

And I'm Gonna Be a Rocket Scientist With That English Degree

Person 1: So, what are you majoring in?
Person 2: I'm pre-med.
Person 1: What can you do with that once you graduate?
Person 2: Umm, go to med school.
Person 1: Oh.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bad Cat, Bad Cat: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come for You?

OK, full disclosure: I do not like animals and pets. I especially do not like cats. (I really, really don't like the fact that my family now owns a cat, but that's a story for a different day.) But even so, this article baffles me.

I mean, bad, bad cat attacks six real live human beings, and the cat has advocates? From other states? What's wrong with this picture?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Summer Reading List

I'm feeling relatively inadequate after finding this list of 1,001 books you should read before you die (or die trying) and realizing that I've read a pathetic 50 of them, give or take. So below is my list of books I'd like to read this summer and books that should be on your list if you haven't read them yet.

Books that I would like to read this summer:

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo
  • Rabbit Angsrom: The Four Novels by John Updike
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Books that should be on your summer reading list if you haven't read them yet:

  • The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Get an Internship, Sue for Discrimination, Get Rich Quick

Friday afternoon, my office:

Me: I hafta leave soon, did you get to look at what I was working on?
Co-Worker1: Oh sorry, no. [Sarcastically] But I'm sure whatever you have to do is much more important than staying here and working on it.
Me: [Feigned righteous indignation] It's my religion!
Co-Worker2: You know, you could sue for religious discrimination right there.
Co-Worker3: I know a good lawyer.

It's a new version of the "get rich on your internship and never have to hold a real job" plan. I sorta like it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Big City Dreamin': New York, New York!

"I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps
To find I'm king of the hill, top of the heap ...
If I can make it there
I'll make it anywhere"

I miss New York, land of the minions of kosher restaurants and 24-hour supermarkets. Filthy city that makes no apologies for itself. City that truly never sleeps, filled with people who seemingly never sleep. Dirty looks given to awestruck tourists who dilly-dally instead of moving briskly down the street. Land of awful driving, insane honking, and a public transportation system that's everywhere you want to be (for a flat fare that doesn't require swiping when you get out).

I miss the huge city that I'm only beginning to learn my way around and that I have not even come close to taking advantage of. That place where I have almost learned to feel confident in myself.

I miss that small college campus on the brink of Harlem where I have learned to love so many things I never thought I would and where I have done so many things I never thought I'd have the guts to do. I miss 5 a.m. Shabbat grocery shopping, 3 a.m. Trivial Pursuit, and sleeping to noon before 2 p.m. class. The sacred selfishness of knowing you have no responsibilities to anyone but yourself.

I miss seeing black hats and shtreimels rushing to minyan amid the suited lawyers rushing to work and the jeans- and flip-flops-clad students with nowhere to rush to. The diversity of a place where anything truly goes and where people don't have to be afraid to be themselves. A place where you sometimes wonder if fear even exists.

I miss the only truly big city. One of the only places where I can feel at home. The place where I am most proud of and confident in myself. The place that has taught me to have delusions of grandeur.

Obscurity Through the Writer's Block

"And you can't fight the tears that ain't coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
And you bleed just to know you're alive"

There are a million things I want to write about and yet I can't seem to formulate any thoughts into words. I've been on emotional overload for awhile and have wanted more than anything else to post, but alas I have chosen sleep instead. And now I'm staring at my screen, not knowing what I want to write and not knowing how to write it. Writer's block, I suppose. I'll try anyway.

Have you ever wanted to hurt someone--not to hurt them but just to tell them that you're hurting? And yet, you know that they know and that you're hurting them anyway by being your selfish self. And yet no matter how hard you try, you can't see past your own hurt. Someone told me recently that "we're human and just doing our best to get through this." Did you ever feel like being human isn't enough, that it's a lousy excuse? Do you ever feel like your life is a self-fulfilling prophecy and that the thing you want most is to prove yourself wrong?

This summer, I've sold out in at least two ways. There's a Columbia Facebook group that is called something like "F-- selling my soul, at least I got a good price." It's about i-banking, but I feel like I should join anyway. Though, I'm not so sure I got a good price. Have I stopped believing in ideals, in doing what's right solely because I know it's right? Have I gotten old enough to care more about the ends than the means? Is 21 old enough to get that cynical?

I give up on trusting people, on trying to compromise and make things easier for others. Why does that always end up leaving me with the short end of the stick? I try to give in, trust the untrustworthy because they seem so sincere this time, only to end up with all my belongings in a dirty heap on my front lawn, pleading with an unsympathetic listener.

Am I hopelessly naive to think I can change things and make the world better? Maybe it's true that no good deed that goes unpunished. Maybe you can't help people who won't help themselves no matter how hard you try and no matter how many people they're hurting on the way. Sometimes I feel like I should sell my soul just so I wouldn't care so much.

Sometimes I feel like I'm so old and I should have a way better idea of exactly what I'm doing and how I'm going to get there. Heck, my friends are getting married and having babies and I'm just lolling around, taking my time in school, pretending that I can take my time and that I never really have to make up my mind about anything.

And sometimes I feel like I'm so young and I have no idea how I ended up where I am and why and whether I should be here. I feel like running on home, donning my yeshiva uniform, and going back to first grade where reading is enough to get by and the social circles, while cruel, are at least contained.

My brain doesn't make any sense anymore. It tells me to feel things I don't want to feel and doesn't let me feel what I want to feel. It doesn't let me think clearly and doesn't let me make the decisions I know I want to make. And it leaves me a confused heap of a soulless person.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Overheard in DC: Conservative Drivel

An overheard discussion on immigration:

Person 1: Why don't we trade Mexico--we'll give them the liberals and they can give us guest workers.
Person 2: Yeah, but that would be cruel to Mexico.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Culture Shock

"They got engaged after only dating for six months! Man, that's not for me. I mean I've only been dating for two and half years, that's nothing. There's totally no pressure for marriage yet."

In Which Eli7 Figures Out Her Life ... Or Not

There's a year-old almost mint-condition LSAT book sitting on my bookshelf in my dorm room in DC.

My journalism internship (that's the most info you're getting because much as exposing all, being fired, and writing a best-selling book sounds good on paper...) has in the past three days had me dreading the question, "So, do you want to go into journalism?"

And really since I fell in love with Columbia as a freshman, ahem first-year, I've wanted to stay in school forever and get a Ph.D.

But I've wanted to be lawyer since 9th grade mock trial. OK, so maybe it's not the best idea in the world to make a career choice based on what you wanted when you were in high school especially if that decision was based on a fantasy-world extra curricular. Right.

But honestly, the study of law appeals to me. I know, I know, everyone tells me I'm not going to like law school, but a certain university president once said that "law school is the best educational experience you can get" and I believe him. But I don't know if I'll like the practice of law. Problematic, huh?

And much as I would love to get a Ph.D., a, I don't think I'll get into grad school, and b, really that's a lot of years not making money for a piece of paper that won't make you any money. And I've said for a long time that I don't want to go into academia, but maybe my place is in the ivory tower (which is, incidentally, the name of the dorm I am currently sitting in, stupid GW).

And one day I'm going to need to make money. Maybe that day isn't today. Or tomorrow. But I don't really have seven years to get a degree that I won't be able to put to practical use. At least I hope I don't have seven years to do that. But I also don't want to choose a job for the money if I don't love it? But is that selfish?

And I love editing, with a passion I have for few other things. But could I do it for my whole life? Am I cut out for it? Am I good enough? Will I get burned out (because, let's face it, there are only so many years you can spend fixing other people's grammar mistakes before you become a bitter, bitter person)?

I'm the sort of person who likes to plan out her life and follow those plans to a tee, work toward those goals and succeed. But I don't want to follow those plans if my interests have changed. But I don't know if my interests have really changed or what I want to do or what I'll enjoy doing or what will make me happy.

Or if I'm just really afraid of taking the LSATs.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Welcome to Summer (Have Coffee, Will Travel)

Proud of my packing abilites (let's just say I managed to fit my entire summer into bags I could--almost--carry), sore from shlepping my bags yesterday, tired from a day of filling out forms, excited about my job (which will not involve anymore forms to be filled out), dreading the coming humidity (the swamp that is DC), and prepared for all with my mini coffemaker.

DC, I have arrived.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Deep Thoughts: The More-Fun-Than-Packing Edition

So, in my pursuit of avoiding packing and the accompanying decisions between flip flops and a coffeemaker, clothing and hangers to hang said clothing on, I bring you the not-so-deep thoughts I've been thinking:

  • Do not wear heels if you are going to be spending more time walking between shuls on Shavuot than sitting in any one shul. Even if the point of wearing the heels was that you didn't want to ruin your flats in the rain. You will get blisters.
  • Deciding to do major cooking two hours before Shavuot is probably not the best idea. (But just in case you're wondering, I make a mean lasagna and I can grill chicken on a George Foreman. Multi-talented.)
  • I missed music so, so much. My iPod is totally charged and ready for that four-and-a-half-hour bus ride. I'm almost excited for the bus. Almost.
  • I own a lot of stuff. A really lot of stuff. I mean, how much do you really need for an eight week stint in DC? Not so much. Right? Right.