Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mommy Would Be Proud

Happymaking break-fast food! (My portion, anyway.) And as you can see there were two extra blintzes so that ruined the prettiness effect, but ah well... Other people are making various meals for themselves- lasagna, tomato sauce and pasta, soup, etc.

Olly & Lightman: Tisha B'Av Edition

My friend Lightman leins brilliantly. He and my father are the only two people I can consistently trust to lein beautifully, their knowledge of dikduk and language supreme.

Thus, when Lightman told me he'd be at Rimon aka The Mordechai T. Mezrich Center for Jewish Learning in New Jersey for Tisha B'Av and asked if I wanted to come, I knew that I had to do so. And so we went off to this little community tucked away in the middle of nowhere. (That journey included subways, trains, the fact that there is no evolutionary function to the hiccup and so forth...)

And while on the one hand the whole experience was beautiful due to the fact that Lightman chants Eicha with such feeling, the other part that made it brilliant were the pure people who assembled there. Many of these people are highly intelligent, sporting PhDs and other such distinguished titles, but they are learning and growing in their Judaism (so that Lightman and I might know more than they in some areas.) Despite this, it was their total dedication to the words and the way they absorbed the lesson of the kind of people we must strive to be in order to combat sinat chinam that moved me. These are people who actually care about these words and ideas; their Tisha B'Av is one where they do mourn the Temple. And when they come out to hear Lightman, it is not as a matter of course, but due to the fact that they have specifically cleared their schedules in order to "sit shiva for the Temple" as one man put it- in simple and beautiful language.

I've always thought of sitting shiva in terms of people. When it comes to Temples, I've thought about mourning the loss of it or the impact it could have on the world- but those simple words never occurred to me. The man saw the loss of the Temple as similar to the loss of a person; in the same way we mourn the dead person, so we must mourn the Temple. To him, the Temple had been personified; it was worthy of that kind of sadness. (This reminded me very much of the Baal Shem Tov story of the simple man who prayed for God to 'atzar/ otzer' the heavens, where the word actually means 'stop' but the man meant it as 'squeeze' like you squeeze the grapes...that God should squeeze the rain from the heavens.)

Would that I could attain what they have.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guess I Can't Sleep Through The Night Anymore

It must be entertaining to watch your fractured daughter walk around trying to make sense of everything. Every day I fight out what I must think as opposed to what I would think if You didn't exist. Take away my religion and I get to be a good person - someone who includes everybody, who is kind to everybody, who doesn't have to see people as those struggling with sin. But at the same time, I believe You exist. That is the only reason I do anything- because I believe You exist. If I didn't, why in the world would I refrain from the seductively beautiful inclusive belief that calls to me? Lost and insecure, you found me.

People find it odd that I'm fractured into Chana the American Citizen and Chana the Orthodox Jew and they're not the same person. Well, they can't be. There's everything I personally believe and then there is what I must believe since I must surrender to You. I don't believe that the government has any right to act in a paternalistic fashion and define what a marriage is or is not. If there's a separation of church and state, that ought to actually exist in truth, not just in name. So if they gave me a ballot asking if we should legalize gay marriage, I'd say yes in a heartbeat. This is aside from the fact that I think everyone should be treated equally to begin with. I'm an LGBTQ ally in disguise, with a little problem called that's forbidden to me...because I'm Orthodox.

Guess there are some people who are one or the other. Either they are a Jew or not. I can't be that way. There are two worlds and they are both equally alluring. In fact, if anything, it's the other world that I prefer. Except then there's You. There's my belief in You and your law. Do you think I like trying to explain laws I would prefer not to believe in to a class of people who think I'm crazy because of it? And worse, do you think I like failing? Then I feel like I've failed You. You're the only one I'd do it for, and I haven't even done a convincing job for You. Worse, I've offered people misconceptions in the name of my religion. I'm the token Jew and I haven't even done a good job representing You. And in a strange, irrational twist, just to flavor everything else, that's what makes me feel sad.

So I wake up exhausted and go to bed exhausted and I resent this line You make me walk, and I hate having to shelve my own ideas and thoughts in order to accept Yours, and damn it, I would prefer to be anything but the way you want me, but that's the way it goes, isn't it? That's the way it goes and I haven't got a choice. I don't understand the law and I certainly can't love it the way other people do (you made me far too emotionally responsive for that to be the case) but I do respect it; therein you have my service.

I Am A Highly Unpopular Person Currently

The thing they used to say about me is: I may have no brains, but I do have guts.

Guess it's still true.

The thing that cracks me up is that I'm unpopular in Jewish circles for being kind to transsexuals and unpopular in the non-Jewish ones for not believing in theories of gender performance. I'm damned in both circles and it's f--ing ridiculous. Bloody hell; God has a freaking entertaining sense of humor.

Guess that's the way it goes...after all, the quote is: "I'm a leader because I'm too stupid to be a coward."

But that's the way it always goes.

One amazing conversation, however-

me: Are you kidding? My opinions are highly unpopular
Girl from class: but at least people are responding it means that u make them think))
me: Well, that is true at least. You are so positive! Hurrah for positive ____. That makes me happy
GFC: u a so funny))
me: Why? I'm totally serious. You're looking at this very positively
GFC: u mare some resonance its good
me: I'm seeing it as, "Oh, dear- my class hates me." GFC's like- but at least you make them think! Huzzah
GFC: not everyone
i see u as a courageous young lady who is not inside the religious shell and who is able to speak up and to look at two completely diifferent worlds... u must be proud of ureself and u have an articulated message, u are not like yes i agree with u and with u and with that guy as well, so everybody must love me for that)))
me: Thanks so much for the really kind words- I really appeciate what you have to say.
And it makes me feel slightly better, which is great! So thanks. Yeah, no- I figure it is more important to say what you think even if it is not popular
GFC: EXACTLY!!!!! ure like a gay person yourself )) i hope u know what i wanna say
me: Hahaha! Yeah, I guess in my own way - that makes sense. I'm "different/ abnormal" in the opposite direction
GFC: ye)))thats what i ment
its a freedom of speech, they wont stone u))

In short, I am now gay (for the record, I love gay people). Praise the Lord.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Death Warrant, Part 2

(Jordan, this is just your day!)


In response to a condescending post suggesting my opinion was based on lack of knowledge/ confusion, I wrote back:

I thought I should clarify: I know the supposed distinction between sex and gender. I know that sex refers to the sex one is born (biological sex characteristics) while gender is seen as being a social construct that refers to the way one acts and the attributes one adopts. I am not getting the two confused due to a lack of knowledge. I simply don't agree with this perspective. I do not think that gender is fluid; I do not think we should strive to make it fluid, and believe that sex and gender are and ought to be exactly the same thing. The sex that I was born (female) with female organs, anatomy etc embodies the gender that I am as well since I do not believe gender is a social construct.

Indeed, as I mentioned, I think the idea of "performing gender" is ridiculous. We are born human, are we not? Or is humanity too a social construct? Can I "perform humanity" or "perform animality?" Can I choose to perform as a dog tomorrow? To me, the concept is foolish and arbitrary. In the same way that we are born human and are born with sex characteristics that identify us as male or female, I believe that we are born with a gender that matches those sex characteristics. I do think a female has a natural affinity toward nurturing, caring, being emotional, sensitive and sweet; I think this is innate. The fact that the tribes in New Guinea were different in terms of hunter-gatherer/ coquettish roles is immaterial. All that demonstrates is that it is *possible* to change up one's role. That doesn't mean it is natural to do so. The assumption the researcher made is that because she saw the natives in those roles, that meant gender was societally constructed. How does that follow? People rebel against their nature all the time. Some of those tribes were cannabilistic! If I choose to be a cannibal, does that mean that eating food as opposed to people is a social construct? I think not. I believe that humans are born with some innate sense of right and wrong, morals, etc (just as I believe they are born with a gender that is the same as their sex characteristics.) That some choose to rebel against that innate sense of right and wrong and/or to rebel aginst their innate sense of self does not persuade me that the idea of gender as a whole (or right and wrong or morality) is all a societal construct. In the same way that I have no desire to adopt cannabilism, I have no desire to attempt to actively work to change my innate characteristics as a female over for learned supposedly male characteristics. One can learn anything, at that rate. I can crawl on the floor, bark like a dog, and eat raw meat. Does that mean humanity is a societal construct? No, I don't think so, and I will not have become a dog.

Or to put it another way:

Rav Simcha Zissel records an incid ent in the life of the Rambam (Maimonides, a noted Judaic scholar). A group of wise men approached him and told him that they could change the nature of a cat, training it to be as gracious and polite and as giving as a human being, making the cat into a servile butler. The Rambam argued that it was impossible to change the nature of a cat.

The group of 'wise men' set about for weeks and weeks to train a cat. They trained it to walk on its hind legs. They dressed the cat up in a little suit. It was trained that when people came into the room the cat would escort them to their seats. In fact, the cat acted just like a butler. They further trained the cat to hold a little cup and to serve the people when they got to their seats. They invited the Rambam to show him their accomplishment and to prove to him that it is possible to train an animal to be just like a human being.

The cat greeted the Rambam and guided him to his seat. When the Rambam got to his seat he removed a box from his pocket. In the box was a little mouse. He dropped the mouse on the floor. The cat suddenly forgot that it was a butler and scampered after the mouse. The Rambam turned to the wise men and said, "A cat is a cat and will always be a cat."

Similarly, a male is a male and will always be male; a female is a female and will always be female. The fact that you can *learn* differently does not change the innate qualities you possess from birth. When I am born, gender is ascribed to me. I have female sex characteristics; I am female. I can "learn" male behaviors, if you like, just as the cat did (or the tribes in New Guineau) but that will not change what I truly am and the essence of me.

Crinkle Cookies!

Jordan likes these so I made them in his honor.

And yes, I sprinkled the extra confectioner's sugar on top.

Huzzah crinkle cookies!


Every day I pray for: Rocket Man & The Flower Princess, The Girl From Philly and BlueJew. This is aside from my family and extended family (adopted relatives, etc). I love you all very, very much. I just thought you should know.

And The Girl From Philly & BlueJew- God does love you and care for you, even though it feels like He hates you. I can attest to this for you are so beautiful He could not possibly not love you. Why does He do this to you, then? I wish I had the answers. I would like the answer for myself, too. I don't know. But I do know, absolutely, that He loves you.

I Signed My Death Warrant Today

Jordan would get a kick out of this. This is the question we were asked to respond to for my Sex & Gender Roles class, and as you can see, I did so...



In what ways do you perform gender? Is this a process that you are actively aware of, or does it happen on a more instinctive level? Who do you perform for and why?

Your response should be at least two paragraphs long, and must be posted online by 11:59 PM, Tuesday, July 28. Feel free to comment on and inquire about your fellow classmates' responses.


chana - Jul 27, 2009 11:13 PM - Remove

I take issue with the question. I do not feel that I *perform* gender. I *am* a gender. I am female. Resoundingly, perfectly, happily, gladly female. And since I believe in the biological determinism approach, I think that being female is something that comes with its attendant qualities and character traits and I am quite glad of all of them.

I think the premise of a gender-neutral society is entirely flawed. Why would I want to live in a world where gender is interchangeable? "Hello," I would say. "My name is Olivia and I am Neutral. I am Gender Neutral. Neither boy nor girl, male or female- I am Nothing. I can choose to *perform* as whichever gender I please." To me, that does not seem like an ideal to strive for; indeed, it seems like an utterly nonsensical state of affairs! It takes away the very qualities that make me who I am and substitutes nothing, a poor in-between place- for them. I think that one can respect the fact that genders ought to be treated equally without resorting to the idea that gender is entirely socially constructed and therefore ought to be destroyed (or made a choice.) Males and females ought to both be given the right to vote, earn the same wages, be awarded the same promotions, etc, but this does *not* mean that they are utterly interchangeable and have exactly the same skill sets, abilities, forms of thinking or modes of behavior. The two are unrelated. One can live in an equal and fair society without resorting to the model that gender ought to be abolished.

Certainly a large part of my attitude is informed by my religion. The religious structures have differing roles for men and women. They are different- not unequal. Indeed, the attempt to promote egalitarianism as a way to "equalize" men and women is somewhat ridiculous as it misses the point of understanding that these roles exist to complement the natural character traits afforded to men and women. (Aside from the fact that men and women themselves are meant to complement one another, not be interchangeable with one another!) An example of such appears in Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's description of his mother and father and the role they had in instructing him in the Torah. This appears in 'The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik' by Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, Volume 2.


People are mistaken in thinking that there is only one masorah, and only one masorah community, the community of the fathers. It is not true. We have two masorot, two traditions, two communities, two shalshalot ha-kabbalah [chains of tradition]- the masorah community of the fathers and that of the mothers. "Thus shalt thou say to the House of Jacob [=the women] and tell the children of Israel [=the men]" [Exodus 19:3], "Hear, my son, the instruction of thy father [musar avikha], and forsake not the teaching of thy mother [torah imekha]" [Proverbs 1:8], counseled the old king. What is the difference between these two masorot, these two traditions? What is the distinction between musar avikha and torat imekha? Let us explore what one learns from one's father and what one learns from one's mother.

From one's father one learns how to read a text- the Bible or the Talmud, how to comprehend, how to analyze, how to conceptualize, how to classify, how to infer, how to apply, etc. One also learns what to do and what not to do, what is morally right and what is morally wrong. Father teaches son the discipline of thought as well as the discipline of action. Father's tradition is an intellectual-moral one. That is why it is identified with musar, the biblical term for discipline.

What is torat imekha? What kind of a Torah does the mother pass on? I admit that I am not able to define precisely the masoretic role of a mother. Only by circumscription may I hope to explain it. Permit me to draw upon my own experiences. I used to have long conversations with my mother. In fact, they were monologues rather than a dialogue. She talked and I "happened" to overhear. What did she talk about? I must use a halakhic term in order to answer this question. She spoke of inyana-deyoma [the affairs of the day]. I used to watch her arranging the house in honor of a holiday. I used to see her recite prayers. I used to watch her recite the sidra [weekly Torah portion] every Friday night; I still remember the nostalgic tune. I learned much from her.

Most of all I learned that Judaism expresses itself not only in formal compliance with the law but also in a living experience. She taught me that there is flavor, a scent, and a warmth to mitzvot. I learned from her the most important thing in life- to feel the presence of the Almighty and the gentle pressure of His hand resting upon my frail shoulders. Without her teachings, which quite often were transmitted to me in silence, I would have grown up a soulless being, dry and insensitive.

The laws of Shabbat, for instance, were passed on to me by my father; they are part of musar avikha. The Shabbat as a living entity, as a queen, was revealed to me by my mother ;it is a part of torat imekha. The fathers knew much about the Shabbat; the mothers lived the Shabat, experienced her presence, and perceived her beauty and splendor.

The fathers taught generations how to observe the Shabbat; the mothers taught generations how to greet the Shabbat and how to enjoy her twenty-four hour presence.

~pages 182-183


There's more, but I figured I would cut it short there. The mother passes on Torah Judaism through living it, imbuing it with emotion, spirituality and passion. The father is more practical and pragmatic; he gives over the law but not necessarily the flavor that describes it. These different roles complement the different personalities of man and woman. At the beginning of time, at the beginning of the Bible, the first woman is termed 'Eim Kol Chai' in Hebrew, which means 'Mother of All Living.' She is a mother in the literal sense and in the figurative sense; she gives life and continues to give life. Where men are told to nurture the earth and conquer it, women are the ones who nurture and care for future children, watching over them.

This does not *limit* women to these roles. I think each man and woman/ husband and wife could have a conversation and discuss whom they wished to take on certain roles within the class. If the father wishes to stay home and watch the children, well and good! But a woman has a predilection and affinity for that role because of who and what she is, her essence, her soul, and her function as *mother,* the one who carries children in her womb. That women and men have very specific roles is a *beautiful* thing; it allows us differences and differences are good. There is no equality in a gender-neutral society; that is a deadened society where we have eliminated differences because they frighten us. These differences are real; they certainly exist. Anatomical differences, differences in temperament, physique- all of these things are real. And I believe that it *cheapens* men and women to eliminate these differences and strive for a gender-neutral society.

Once again, I do not *perform* as female. I AM female. I was born female, I am biologically female, and my character traits and personality are those that embody female attributes. It is *as a female* that I am meant to create myself and fulfill my role in this world. I firmly believe this and think the fact that we believe gender can be "performed" because it is external to us and exists in some no-man's-land outside ourselves is foolish. Men and women are fundamentally different- the anatomy we share is just the beginning of that difference. I think we should revel in those differences, accept them and strive to develop ourselves in accordance to them, not fight them or wish we were other than we are.

Whence comes this desire to claim that we are *not* different, that we are totally interchangeable? That is what I do not understand. I think only the woman who feels that she is not empowered *as* a woman would wish to strive to present herself as male or achieving masculine attributes. Why else would anyone strive for this? What is the gain; where is the benefit? What does one achieve by denying oneself? I think that this claim that gender is socially constructed is simply a desire to achieve control over that which one cannot control. I believe people crave to control their environment, circumstances, self, etc as much as possible. Indeed, it can be a very comforting feeling to believe that one can *choose* one's gender or how one performs one's gender. But I do not think that is the truth. It is, if anything, a pretty lie that grants one the illusion of control where it does not exist. To me, the idea of 'performing the male gender' is as ludicrous as 'performing being a dog.' I am not a dog and I am not a male; I cannot *choose* to be or to perform what I am not. It is intrinsically not me. Thus, I am female- nothing more and nothing less. I am, was, will be and can only be- female. And rather than limiting me, this is something I see as fulfilling me in every way.

Monday, July 27, 2009

David & Saul: Rebellious Sons

There are two common rules regarding crime and punishment in Tanakh. They are as follows:

1. Ma'asei avos siman l'banim - The actions of the fathers are an example to their sons (or in other words, the past predicts the future)

2. Tzadik gozer v'Hashem m'kayem - A righteous man decrees and God fulfills His words (examples: Yaakov cursing whoever stole the Terafim with death, and therefore Rachel died/ Eli stating that if Shmuel withholds any information, he will be cursed)

Most powerful of all (and inclusive of the other rules), there is the idea of middah keneged middah- a person is punished in the manner that he offended. Thus, for example, the ten plagues that the Egyptians suffered each counter a particular type of affliction or suffering that they caused the Jews.

Now, here's an idea I had after watching Kings (I love that show and am sorry it was cancelled.) Why was David punished by having both Adonijah and Absalom rebel against him and attempt to take the monarchy for themselves?

I believe this is meant to be middah-keneged-middah for the fact that Jonathan also rebelled against his father and took the monarchy from him, so to speak.

Now, you will ask me, what do I mean? After all, Jonathan didn't attempt to steal the reign from King Saul, did he?

You're quite right. Jonathan never tried to rule in place of King Saul. However, he did aid in his friend's attempt to rule in King Saul's place. In effect, Jonathan joined sides with David (when it came to protecting him, warning him and helping him) and thus helped David to take the monarchy from King Saul. Therefore, from King Saul's perspective, Jonathan rebelled against him. More than that, he aided a usurper in taking the throne.

There is no place that demonstrates this more clearly than Samuel I 20: 30-31.

ל וַיִּחַר-אַף שָׁאוּל, בִּיהוֹנָתָן, וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, בֶּן-נַעֲוַת הַמַּרְדּוּת: הֲלוֹא יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-בֹחֵר אַתָּה לְבֶן-יִשַׁי, לְבָשְׁתְּךָ, וּלְבֹשֶׁת עֶרְוַת אִמֶּךָ. 30 Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him: 'Thou son of perverse rebellion, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own shame, and unto the shame of thy mother's nakedness?

לא כִּי כָל-הַיָּמִים, אֲשֶׁר בֶּן-יִשַׁי חַי עַל-הָאֲדָמָה, לֹא תִכּוֹן, אַתָּה וּמַלְכוּתֶךָ; וְעַתָּה, שְׁלַח וְקַח אֹתוֹ אֵלַי--כִּי בֶן-מָוֶת, הוּא. {ס} 31 For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the earth, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he deserveth to die.'

David's conversation with Jonathan and the matter of the arrows are juxtaposed with the scene regarding the priests of Nov. David demands bread and water of the priests and also takes the sword of Goliath; due to this, the entire city is destroyed. Saul kills them all. This is considered as a sin that David committed. (See Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews, Volume 2: "All these sufferings did not suffice to atone for David's sin. God once said to him: "How much longer shall this sin be hidden in thy hand and remain unatoned? On thy account the priestly city of Nob was destroyed, (109) on thy account Doeg the Edomite was cast out of the communion of the pious, and on thy account Saul and his three sons were slain. What dost thou desire now--that thy house should perish, or that thou thyself shouldst be delivered into the hands of thine enemies?" David chose the latter doom. ")

Why is David's conversation with Jonathan juxtaposed to the sin he commits in seeking help from the priests of Nov? I think this juxtaposition is meant to imply that David's involvement of Jonathan was also a sin. That David was chosen by God to rule no one can deny. And it is clear that Jonathan defended David to his father and loved David like his own soul. But in that particular scene David came seeking Jonathan and made a request of him that he ought not to have made. If David suspected King Saul, he ought to have fled him without waiting for signs and arrows. He should not have involved Jonathan, Saul's son. He should not have used son against father.

ד וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוֹנָתָן, אֶל-דָּוִד: מַה-תֹּאמַר נַפְשְׁךָ, וְאֶעֱשֶׂה-לָּךְ. {פ} 4 Then said Jonathan unto David: 'What doth thy soul desire, that I should do it for thee?' {P}

ה וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל-יְהוֹנָתָן, הִנֵּה-חֹדֶשׁ מָחָר, וְאָנֹכִי יָשֹׁב-אֵשֵׁב עִם-הַמֶּלֶךְ, לֶאֱכוֹל; וְשִׁלַּחְתַּנִי וְנִסְתַּרְתִּי בַשָּׂדֶה, עַד הָעֶרֶב הַשְּׁלִשִׁית. 5 And David said unto Jonathan: 'Behold, to-morrow is the new moon, when I should sit with the king to eat; so let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even.

David should not have allowed Jonathan to side with him against his own father. He ought to have found a different way to save himself- just as he ought to have found a different way to survive, without involving the priests of Nob. Because David did use son against father, he was punished by having his own sons rebel against him. Thus he learned and experienced for himself the bitter pain he had caused King Saul- even though it was not deliberate. If God is so harsh with tzadikim that he fulfills their words even when that causes them pain (think Rachel's death after Jacob's curse), how much the more so would he be harsh with David, who could and should have spared King Saul the pain of watching his own flesh-and-blood support his rival.

(P.S. Obviously I am aware there is a distinction between David, who was chosen by God to rule, and Adonijah/ Absalom, who were not, but I think that even so, the pesukim wish to show us that we must be incredibly careful regarding family relationships and must try not to sunder them.)

Breakfast for Dinner

Or as Dana dubbed it, Brinner.

It's fun to mix it up a bit. Plus, it reminds me of Midnight Madness. Huzzah Midnight Madness.

Life Lesson: Say something authoritatively enough and no one will question you. Also, do not apologize for your religion if you believe that it is true. (That one I learned from the Rav but saw put into practice by Jordan.) A statement only those who have explained homosexuality within the context of Orthodox Judaism to a class full of people who disagree with you can utter. Sometimes bravery lies in the tongue as opposed to the sword.

That Class I Said I Would Give

Hello everyone who said they were interested in attending a class/ lecture I would give on Tanakh!

Could you please email me? I'd like to put together a listserv of people so that:

1. I could figure out which day of the week would serve everyone best
2. I can figure out which room in Furst/ YU I will hijack in order to give said class (or perhaps I shall just hold it in my apartment- we shall see- as it depends on the number of people)


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hot Chocolate Surprise!

Over Shabbat I was perusing various cookbooks and came across the following recipe in Ellen's(one of my apartment mates) Kosher By Design: Short on Time.

Intriguing, I thought. Every time I go to Cafe K or Shallots or various other places I pay anywhere from $10-15 for that dessert. Could I make it myself? If I could, then there was no need to get these desserts at those restaraunts anymore, now was there?

Well, thought I, I have the little ramekins (so thoughtfully provided by my mother), so why not try?

And guess what? I made perfectly beautiful hot chocolate surprise cakes- and they are parve! The only thing I would have needed to set them off would have been parve confectioner's sugar and chocolate syrup. Then I could have drizzled the syrup, sprinkled the confectioner's sugar, placed a little flower on the side and voila- professional, pretty dessert!

Here they are:

And this is how it looks when you eat it:

Yum yum yum. If I only had a ballroom, the parties I could throw!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Templar Does Not Believe

When he who does naught but pretend speaks to she who believes genuinely and wholeheartedly, it serves to make him blacker- or perhaps merely sadder- in her eyes.


"Sayest thou this to one of my people?" answered Rebecca. "Bethink thee---"

"Answer me not," said the Templar, "by urging the difference of our creeds; within our secret conclaves we hold these nursery tales in derision. Think not we long remained blind to the idiotical folly of our founders, who forswore every delight of life for the pleasure of dying martyrs by hunger, by thirst, and by pestilence, and by the swords of savages, while they vainly strove to defend a barren desert, valuable only in the eyes of superstition. Our Order soon adopted bolder and wider views, and found out a better indemnification for our sacrifices. Our immense possessions in every kingdom of Europe, our high military fame, which brings within our circle the flower of chivalry from every Christian clime---these are dedicated to ends of which our pious founders little dreamed, and which are equally concealed from such weak spirits as embrace our Order on the ancient principles, and whose superstition makes them our passive tools. But I will not further withdraw the veil of our mysteries. That bugle-sound announces something which may require my presence. Think on what I have said.---Farewell!---I do not say forgive me the violence I have threatened, for it was necessary to the display of thy character. Gold can be only known by the application of the touchstone. I will soon return, and hold further conference with thee."

~Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, Chapter 24

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Welcome The Sabbath Queen (Week 2)

Shabbat party for one includes Chicken Charlie:

Pasta with an awesome homemade sauce:

And pumpkin pie:

And here's my lovely Shabbat party, all set up:

Happy Chana.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Tonight we had a pizza party!

Slight mishap in that the sauce was more watery than I had anticipated, but it tasted good all the same. You can't see, but underneath these toppings there is a lovely crust (which I made from scratch. Why would anyone buy pizza dough/pizza if they have the time to make their own, fresh?)

I have decided cooking is just another form of creating art. (But edible art! Oooh, how I would love edible body glitter/ paint...ah well...) In other words, I'm totally The Girl With A Pearl Earring.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


It's the Nine Days, which means we have dairy parties. Tonight's form was a casserole:

Four hungry girls (as one did not partake) and the casserole was demolished. Here's a picture before it was completely consumed.

Yay dinner parties.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chana's Guide To How To Treat A Woman

Perhaps you went to Catholic school. Maybe it was an Orthodox Jewish school. It was single-sex, all male, and now you're nervous. You're about to go off to a coed college. Or perhaps you're going to begin the shidduch circuit. Thing is, you don't know how to speak to those of the female sex. How should you act around girls? Can you act the same way as you do with your buddies? What do women like? What don't they like? I've decided to compile a list of helpful tools, ideas, thoughts and other information that will hopefully allow you to navigate the complicated world of treating women well when you're not used to being around them.

1. Not All Women Are the Same

This point cannot be overstated. Popular books are generally made by pointing to extremes. "Girls like pink and boys like blue." Girls are emotional, sweet, feminine, retiring and shy whereas boys are loud, extroverted, outgoing and so forth. No. Everybody is an individual. There are girls who are loud, excitable, outgoing and fun. There are girls that are shy. There are girls who love rock-climbing, girls who love Starbucks, and girls who like nothing better than wandering around town in moccasins. There are all sorts of girls. So don't fall into the trap of assuming that "men are like this and women are like this." It's not the case. Each person and each female is different; she will like different things. Maybe she loves sports, maybe she excels at paintball, and maybe she's a computer geek. Women aren't the same, nor are they interchangeable. Also, if she's Jewish, each woman will have a different relationship to their Judaism. Some will love their religion; some will be conflicted about it. Some will have had bad experiences with Judaism. There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to people.

2. Manners/ Courtesy

What are manners? They're falling out of fashion. Manners can mean all sorts of things; it's up to you as to how far you want to take them. Manners means: saying please and thank you, not throwing a tantrum because your date is late, not tapping the floor or table irritably, not being rude to anybody's parents, practicing forbearance and discretion. They may also mean: holding the door open for a girl, paying for her meal, asking her what she would like to eat or drink, being considerate and thinking about her comfort. If you are planning to take a girl somewhere (say, rock-climbing), you should warn her in advance so she doesn't wear high heels. There are some women who won't want you to hold doors or for them, pull out their chairs, etc, but it's always better to be safe as opposed to sorry. To be mannerly is to demonstrate consideration. Think about what is convenient for her, not only you. Think about what she likes to do, not only what your favorite hangout spots are. (And ask her! Let her have input as to where you go together.) Don't insult her and don't be too blunt with her. Even if you would tease your fellow male compatriots about how messy or roughed up they look, you don't want to tell a girl (unless you're good friends with her and this is her personality) that she "looks messy," "unkempt" or otherwise "not put together." Even if she herself tells this to you, she is usually looking to be contradicted. Many women are insecure about their looks; kindly refrain from making their self-esteem plummet further.

3. Ask Her About Herself

How do you get to know a person? Generally through knowing their stories. So talk to the girl. Ask her conventional questions (what's your name, where are you from, what are your hobbies, what do you do with your time, etc) and then branch out a bit. If you need ideas of what you could potentially ask, check out the book of "If." This will ensure that your conversation does not lag. But much more important than the questions you are asking is the fact that you are listening to the answers. Everybody wants someone to listen to them. So ask the girl questions to which you actually want to know the answers. Did you ever undergo a personal struggle that changed your life? What did it entail?/ What character traits do you value in a person?/ If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Obviously, the questions should be in line with your personality. You can be pragmatic, playful, etc, whatever is you. Don't ask contrived questions when you don't really want to know the answer. And you should be prepared to answer the questions that you are asking her (otherwise it is not really fair.)

4. You Can (And Should) Have Opinions

Guess what? Women don't need to be coddled. They don't need you to agree with everything they say. If your viewpoint differs from theirs, great! The only thing you need to do when explaining your opinion is to do so respectfully. Offer proof, keep your voice level (and preferably low- shouting is never good) and demonstrate your disagreement persuasively as opposed to authoritatively. Disagreement can be a subject of discussion; your female friend will be interested in hearing (and responding) to your points. Give your opinions but listen to what she has to say with regard to them/ to rebut them.

5. Don't Break Your Word

Your male friends expect you to be reliable, trustworthy and bankable. You're the sort of person who will be loyal. You'll support them. You'll see them through whatever happens. You should do the same when it comes to females. Don't promise anything unless you will keep your word. Don't say that you will be somewhere at a certain time and then show up 20 minutes late (and if you know you will be late and cannot fix the situation, call ahead to let her know.) If you're unsure as to whether you will follow through on something, tell the truth and say that. Absolutely the worst thing you can do is promise someone that you will do something, then renege on that promise. Your word represents your honor; why would you want to besmirch that? Once you do, it'll be extremely hard to trust you again, and any friendship or relationship relies upon the element of trust.

6. Be Sweet

What does it mean to be sweet? It means to do little things for people you care about. People like to know that you care about them and haven't forgotten them. Maybe that means you take the time to call your friend up and chat with her every so often. Maybe you write her a nice email or send her a card in the mail. Maybe you buy her her favorite flowers and surprise her with them. Do something unexpected, something that shows you care. It can be small (a little box of Godiva chocolates, a pass to an ice-skating rink, a poem that you wrote, an excursion somewhere novel.) The idea is that you thought about her. When you take the time to think about someone, they appreciate it.

7. Be Clear/ Tell the Truth

Be clear and direct but not aggressive. Don't use loaded and accusatory language- "You are such a ____", "You can never _____." Express your feelings. Don't project feelings onto others. Say "I don't really feel this is working out" as opposed to "You're such a brat; I never want to go out with you again." You can be clear without being insulting, aggressive or otherwise offensive. Being clear means there is no room to finagle or lead anybody on. Yes or no. Good or bad. Clear offers closure (whether it's clarity in an argument, a friendship, a relationship, etc.) And no matter what you may think, you are not doing someone a kindness by extending the time that you date them/ go out with them if you know that it is not going to work out. Don't lead people on or string them along; it hurts them. Being clear might hurt for a little while; leading people on hurts much worse. Also, if you don't have a lot of money to spend on taking the girl out and want to arrange some activities that allow you to do things for free (going to Central Park, the museum on certain days, etc) and she's suggesting more expensive options, be clear about what is within your budget (although without shaming her. It's possible she wasn't thinking along those lines). There is no reason for someone to be ashamed to tell the truth.

8. Respect Her, Even When She's Not Around

All true friendships and relationships arise through mutual respect. What this means is that you cannot tell funny or embarrasing stories about this person behind her back. To you it may be a funny story; to her it can be hurtful. Don't backtalk her, swear in front of her (unless she doesn't mind or gives you permission- but it's nice to ask first) or make her feel inferior to others. If you're telling her that she doesn't dress modestly enough, isn't pretty enough or is stupid, it's you that comes off as the jerk. Every human being is entitled to dignity and respect. How would you treat your wife? Would you tell about your intimate interactions with her to your male compatriots? I would hope not. Even if this girl is just your friend or your date, respect her as you would your wife. And even if she doesn't seem to particularly care as to whether you do or not, it's better for you to be the kind of person who respects others. Learning to be careful of others' feelings, not to tell others' secrets, not to shame others or humiliate them, not to make fun of them, etc is good training for you if no one else. And equally as important, respect her intelligence. Women have minds. They know quite a lot. Quite possibly they know more than you. If you're walking out of your single-sex school with the mentality that you are smarter than women just because you are male, have you got another thing coming your way... If you view women as nothing but sex objects or members of the secondary sex (who exist to make your life better and more comfortable, but not in and of themselves), then you're automatically disrespecting them.

9. It's Not All About Sex

Coming from an all-guys school, you're probably sexually repressed. All right, that's normal. But that doesn't mean that the first thing you should think when you see a woman is whether or not she's attractive and whether or not you can turn her into your conquest. She may not want to be your conquest, aside from which women are not objects or booty. They are not your possessions. They are people, living, breathing, thinking people with complex emotions, thoughts and reasons for being who they are. It's your job to get to know them as a person and perhaps as a friend. You can have platonic friendships; it's invaluable to have members of the opposite sex as your friend. They can afford you a view of life, the world and the bigger picture that you won't necessarily have on your own (due to their different experiences and different gender within the context of the world and/or religion.) Sex is one aspect to cross-gender relationships, but it is not the aspect and it should not be the only thing on your mind when you see a member of the opposite gender.

10. Be Yourself

You don't have to put on a show. You don't have to fake it. As long as you are a considerate, decent person, she'll be interested in hearing what you have to say and what you are about. Trying to fit whatever her expectations are is stupid and pointless because a) you have no idea what her expectations are, really, since you can't get inside her head and b) you wouldn't want to end up married to someone who thinks you are something you are not. If you are not actually a nice person, aren't considerate and are rude by nature, you might want to consider changing yourself (but actively working to change and improve yourself, not disguise these tendencies). People will want to get to know you, meaning you with all your flaws, weaknesses and good traits. She wants to know what you're about, no matter how open-minded or close-minded you may be. Hopefully both she and you will not be judgemental of one another (and if you're dating, will consider one another in light of how compatible this person will or will not be for you as opposed to whether or not they are a good or worthy individual). But if one or the other person is judgmental, well and good! All the more reason to be happy you didn't end up with someone who dismissed you just because you didn't wear a black hat. Don't fake being a different person in her presence. Be yourself, be who you are, and hopefully you can begin a long and happy friendship/ relationship.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Serpent & Mankind

At the beginning of time we have a dialogue between man and the serpent. For an absolutely brilliant rendition of what that dialogue entails, please read Rabbi David Fohrman's The Beast that Crouches at the Door.

The serpent appears on the scene and speaks to the woman:

א וְהַנָּחָשׁ, הָיָה עָרוּם, מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה, אַף כִּי-אָמַר אֱלֹהִים, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן. 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman: 'Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'

Eventually the serpent is cursed for his part in mankind reaching for the forbidden:

יד וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶל-הַנָּחָשׁ, כִּי עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת, אָרוּר אַתָּה מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה, וּמִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה; עַל-גְּחֹנְךָ תֵלֵךְ, וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל-יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ. 14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent: 'Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.

טו וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית, בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ: הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ, וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב. {ס} 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.' {S}

Now, the verse here that is important is 3:15, the one you see above. God expressly states that He shall place enmity between the serpent and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.

Isaiah 11 is a chapter wholly dedicated to the depiction of the world in Messianic times. There is one verse that is particularly fascinating:

ח וְשִׁעֲשַׁע יוֹנֵק, עַל-חֻר פָּתֶן; וְעַל מְאוּרַת צִפְעוֹנִי, גָּמוּל יָדוֹ הָדָה. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk's den.

The hallmark of Messianic times is an undoing, or perhaps a rectification, of the sin of Adam & Eve. Where formerly there was to be enmity between man and the snake, specifically woman's seed (thus, her children) and the serpent, now even a suckling babe shall play with serpents.

To me, Isaiah 11:8 suggests a culmination. The changes in the natural order of the universe begin with 11:6, where "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." In addition, "the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox."

I believe that this symbolizes a return to the time of Eden. In Eden, man was very much the master of the animals (even as the little child shall be in the time of the Messiah) while the animals themselves were presumably herbivores. The very nature of animals was changed after the Flood. Once the animals stepped foot on the ground, they became carnivores, hunting one another. Only then was man given permission to eat of their meat as well.

Thus, Isaiah 11, which depicts the Messiah, in truth depicts a return to Eden. In Eden, there had been no enmity betwixt animals, man himself was clearly their master, yet the serpent changed all this and thus enmity was placed between him and the children of man. As depicted in Isaiah, during the time of Messiah animals shall be herbivores, follow the lead of man, and the snake will become a plaything for a child (as opposed to being crushed under the child's foot.)

Let's Take A Poll

If I were to give a lecture/ teach a class somewhere in Washington Heights, would you come?

What would you like the topic of the lecture to entail? (Options: Tanakh, Sex & Gender Roles- I could teach you my class, Classical Sociological Theory, English Literature, English Literature and Tanakh, etc.) And if you wanted it to be a longer series/ class, what would you like it to be a class on?

Just figured I should see if there is any interest in this.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Twilight & Women's Rights: Demythologizing The Stalky My Little Pony With Fangs

Any self-respecting girl will tell you she wants to slap Bella Swan across the face, hard.

They will also laugh uproariously at hearing Edward Cullen described as " vampire that glitters like diamonds in the sunlight to attract prey — sorta like a stalky My Little Pony with fangs."

Here is an excellent link that discusses Twilight and women's rights. (Thank you to Emily from my Sex & Gender Roles class at Hunter College.) Here is the link to the actual blogpost by the creator of the mash-up below (where he discusses sexism, women's rights, feminism and the various ways in which Twilight is an insult to women.)

Here is a brilliant mash-up between Twilight and "Buffy The Vampire Slayer." Utterly hilarious.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Welcome The Shabbat Queen

I woke up at 8:00 AM. Many trips to various stores (Key Food, Dan's Supermarket), dish-washings and other frantic dances later, I have prepared my portion of our apartment's Shabbat!


Broccoli Quiche (2):

Cranapple Crunch:

Oven-Roasted Vegetables:

Pepper Steak With Awesome Sauce Served on Linguini (Garnished With Cilantro):

Other apartment-mates prepared: Rice, Cholent, Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce, Gefilte Fish (for Shalashudos), Egg Salad (also Shalashudos), Salad, Green Beans.

It's going to be such a party!

I'll tell you...I feel like I actually did welcome the Shabbat Queen. ;-) It's not Shabbos if you haven't prepared at all, you know? At least not for the kids who hail from Chicago.

Have a wonderful Shabbat!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Spoiler Alert. Don't read further if you don't wish to read spoilers.

Two words to describe Warner Brothers' adaptation of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:" Disappointing and dissatisfying.

Best parts: Slugworth was brilliantly cast. Every scene with Malfoy in it is utterly fantastic. Tom Felton brings raw emotion to the fore. You're crying for him in the scene when he is sobbing by the bathrooms. All the humorous/cute interactions between Ron and Harry are great, too. And Luna is always amazing.

Worst parts: The two most climactic scenes were poorly done. Dumbledore is supposed to be sobbing out apologies to the sister he killed, and instead he says nary a word. It is also Dumbledore who freezes Harry in place so that he is immobile (which affords Harry a much better view for one). He doesn't just command him to stand there. There should have been a focus on the killing blast, on Dumbledore's toppling off the tower, the subsequent madness and confusion, a stronger duel between Harry and just falls short of what that scene could have been. What happened to Snape declaring he wasn't truly a coward? What about the intensity of that scene? It all went to hell.

Jay Is A Genius And I Love Him

All I ever wanted was to see you smiling.
~"All I Ever Wanted" by Basshunter

There is a long and saddening saga of the intrepid tale of Time Warner & The Router of Doom, but to sum it up in short:

1. The Man from Time Warner (he had dreadlocks) came to our house and supposedly set up our router-modem.

2. It did not work. That router was an example of epic PHAIL mode.

3. All the single ladies who lived in the Exciting Apartment of Great Happenings called Time Warner, pleaded with them, and sobbed on the phone. The Time Warner gurus, including a man named for a female character in an Ayn Rand novel, deigned to come to our house once again. They connected their faulty router to Chana's exciting working router, then told us we needed to go get a modem.

4. Dana went off to get a modem in the Time Warner Place Without Bathrooms. It is Without Bathrooms because people are unhappy and unsatisfied and camp out there with their complaints and only leave when their physical needs make them do so. In any case, Dana survived the Store Without Bathrooms, returned with a modem, and nothing worked. All had been shot to hell.

5. We all called Time Warner and everyone told us different things. The man I talked to (whose name was Ira), said that my router and the modem were not "talking" to each other and we needed them to talk to one another. Unhappy, I called my father, who, exasperated, said: "I don't do networking. Why don't you call up one of your YU network gurus to do it for you?"

6. I came up with the amazing thought that I did not have a YU network guru. However, I did have an amazing anonymous blog commentator whom we shall call Jay. And if I emailed him, perhaps he would help me. So I emailed him by latching on to someone else's network (with permission) for a little while, he called me, and completely from memory (he didn't have a router in front of him or anything) gave me an hour of his time, walked me through the process of re-setting and setting up my router, and joked all the while. When he called, the first thing he said was "Tech Support" (he happens to have a gorgeous voice) and he made me smile. And despite my frustration, he refused to admit defeat but figured everything out based on what I was telling him. He fixed my Internet connection. Yes, you heard right. This complete stranger gave me an hour of his time, if not more and totally outclassed Netgear and Time Warner tech support. And he did it while joking, dealing with my complete ignorance, and making me feel at ease. He was sweet and kind and brilliant about the whole thing. And I completely love him. Because he did the impossible- he fixed our Internet connection! And why? And why, I ask you?

Well, that's where my epigraph comes in. The only reason he did it is because "all I ever wanted was to see you smiling." He wanted to make me smile, help someone out, and be a kind person. He practiced incredible chesed towards me when he doesn't even know me just to be a good, friendly and sweet person. After he fixed the Internet I did a happy dance all around my apartment. And then I explained to my roommates about how he had made the router and modem talk to each other.

Their stares of confusion and then bursts of ridiculous laughter warm the cockles of my heart. "Who's on top?" was the question asked...for who knew inanimate objects could have conversations? Perhaps, in lieu of 'All The Single Ladies,' we should have called my wireless connection 'Lilith' due to the Alphabet of Ben Sira version of her assuming a particular position...anyway, this has become rather raunchy for computers.

The point of this post is: Jay is a Genius. He is awesome. I love him. I owe him. So this is my expression of thanks and gratitude and saying that he is a freaking awesome person and he gives me hope in people! Because anyone willing to give up an hour of his time to help a complete stranger is a good guy. Girls, you can start the queue now. He's single...I doubt for long. *smirk*


The Tasty Confection That Leaves You A Happy Carnivore.

(AKA: Food I Could Eat 24/7)

I totally love pastry.

Monday, July 13, 2009

King Saul: The Man Whom God Touched

The question that generally perplexes readers is: how did King Saul become a man totally obsessed with hunting David, overcome by melancholia, totally ruled by his desire to be King?

Well, in order to understand what happened when the spirit of God left King Saul and was replaced by a spirit of evil, one must first realize that King Saul became King Saul because of that spirit of God.

To understand this, one should look at the verses in Ezekiel 36: 26-27.

כו וְנָתַתִּי לָכֶם לֵב חָדָשׁ, וְרוּחַ חֲדָשָׁה אֶתֵּן בְּקִרְבְּכֶם; וַהֲסִרֹתִי אֶת-לֵב הָאֶבֶן, מִבְּשַׂרְכֶם, וְנָתַתִּי לָכֶם, לֵב בָּשָׂר. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.

כז וְאֶת-רוּחִי, אֶתֵּן בְּקִרְבְּכֶם; וְעָשִׂיתִי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-בְּחֻקַּי תֵּלֵכוּ, וּמִשְׁפָּטַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם. 27 And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them.

The implication here is that when God replaces the heart of stone with a heart of flesh and puts a new spirit within us that will enable us to walk in His statutes, keep His laws and otherwise fulfill them.

You know who had a new heart given to him, and a new spirit?

King Saul did. Except that was before he became King. Indeed, the implication is that in order for him to become King he needed a different spirit and heart to be given to him. And once these things were taken from him, he was no longer capable of being king.

Take a look at the Book of Samuel I, Chapter 10.

Samuel predicts:

ו וְצָלְחָה עָלֶיךָ רוּחַ יְהוָה, וְהִתְנַבִּיתָ עִמָּם; וְנֶהְפַּכְתָּ, לְאִישׁ אַחֵר. 6 And the spirit of the LORD will come mightily upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.

But not only does the spirit of God come upon Saul and transform him into another man; he is actually given another heart.

ט וְהָיָה, כְּהַפְנֹתוֹ שִׁכְמוֹ לָלֶכֶת מֵעִם שְׁמוּאֵל, וַיַּהֲפָךְ-לוֹ אֱלֹהִים, לֵב אַחֵר; וַיָּבֹאוּ כָּל-הָאֹתוֹת הָאֵלֶּה, בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא. {ס} 9 And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. {S}

In both of these cases the word used is la'hafoch- to transform, to change. God literally changed Saul in order to make him the kind of man who could rule and be King. When God removed this from Saul, He truly removed the qualities that made him king. He left behind the man Saul originally had been and worse, hounded him through an evil spirit so that he was driven by melancholy and his lust for David's blood.

In contrast, David needed no such change in order to rule. From the onset, God informs Samuel that David is the right candidate for the kingdom: "Anoint him, for this is he." David is not touched by God; he does not become another person and is not given another heart. Perhaps this is the reason the Davidic dynasty lasts forever. Saul's dynasty was a gift of God; it required changing the man and giving him tools he did not originally have. David's dynasty was his by right; he forged himself (even at the times that he failed, he admitted guilt and pressed on) and the monarchy was not dependant upon God's giving him a different heart or spirit.

This brings to mind the proverb regarding the two types of love, one dependant upon external factors and one independant of them. Tamar and Amnon's love, once satiated, turned to hatred. David and Jonathan's lasts forever. The monarchy of Saul was dependant upon the spirit of God and the different heart that was given to him. Once removed, that monarchy fell. The monarchy of David is independant of gifts or changes, thus it lasts for eternity.

So when Ezekiel predicts that God shall give us a new heart and a new spirit, we should pray that it should be a lasting gift of a heart and spirit, and that God never has cause to remove these gifts from us.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Madness of King Silas

In the latest episode of Kings, "Javelin," King Silas (based on the biblical Saul) alongside Jonathan framed David for treason. Silas wants to keep the rule for himself, or at the least, pass it to his son Jonathan. He wants to kill David. This scene depicts King Silas' descent into revenge, blood-lust and madness. It's very powerful. It's from 39:44-onward here. I warn you again that if you are not familiar with the actual book of Samuel, it's not the best idea to watch this modernized version; there are many deviations. The scene makes you cry for King Saul...


Silas: Captain David Shepherd, you have stood before this court protesting your innocence. Now, having heard the weight of evidence against you and knowing the penalty of guilt, how do you plead?

David: Guilty. [gasp from audience] I stand before you prepared to elaborate on my crimes.

Jonathan: Stop talking, David.

Silas: You’re out of order, Major.

David: I’m guilty.

Jonathan: [He can't bear this sham anymore.] No, he’s not!

Silas: The prosecution will stand down.

Jonathan: I can’t go along with this anymore. This was all a setup. David Shepherd was framed. He’s not a traitor. [pause for effect] I am. Silas is.

Silas: Silence!

Jonathan: There’s been silence for too long. I am guilty. But not moreso than my father, who colluded to have David found a traitor when he is anything but.

Silas: Shut. Up.

Jonathan: King Silas framed this entire case, coerced witnesses, faked evidence, convinced me to lie against David. But I see now that David is a better man than the rest of us. Innocent, deserving respect!

Silas: [furious] What do you know about respect- you never had it. You’ve never given it!

Jonathan: He’s innocent; it’s over!

Silas: He’s admitted guilt!

Jonathan: You’re no king.

Silas: And you’re no prince, you faggot! [gasp from audience, hurt look on Jonathan’s face] Guards! Arrest Major Benjamin now. David Shepherd, you are guilty of treason. [he is watching his monarchy slip away] Take him away! Take him away!

David: You lied- to everyone-

Silas: You’re a traitor. [raving] You’re both traitors! [He is utterly mad.] You’re all traitors!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Beauty & the Beast

Nothing better than pre-Shabbat painting.

As Clopin asks, "Who is the monster and who is the man?"

And Belle answers "C'etait moi ... c'etait moi le monstre, ma Bete."

It is a long journey towards expiation, isn't it?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Blue Nails, Omelettes & Hispanic Men

Firstly, for Daddy, here are the blue nails:

Secondly, I broke my fast on a beautiful omelette! Huzzah omelettes.

Thirdly, I love Hispanic people. All the people in Washington Heights, which means Dominican Republic people, are incredibly chivalrous and sweet. Every time I've walked to my building carrying packages, people have opened the door for me, taken my groceries from me, helped me move things, and otherwise been absolutely wonderful. Hurrah for wonderful Hispanic men! You are my heroes. If only more Jewish men took lessons in chivalry from you. Seriously, you are freaking awesome wonderful people, O' Hispanic men who hold doors, take my bags, open locks, offer to lend me keys and push elevator buttons on my behalf.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Olly & Gina, AKA I Am My Mother's Clone

So today I went to get my nails done. (They've been painted a beautiful, rich navy blue.) My manicurist was a Chinese lady named Gina. During the course of our discussion, she asked me why I live here.

Me: I'm here to study Bible.
Gina: (alarmed) But you can get married?
Me: (thinking - what? Then it dawns on me.) Yes, yes, I can get married. I'm not a nun.
Gina: (sighs in relief) You know, in China, we saved the Jews when no one else wanted to take them.
Me: Yes?
Gina: Yes, in Shanghai.
Me: (thinking- of course. Chana, you idiot) Right, the Mir Yeshiva.
Gina: There's a book. Shanghai's Diary or the Diary from Shanghai- you should read it.

In any case, I then stopped by Key Food and bought everything to make a cabbage soup (except for the one ingredient they didn't have.) And my cabbage soup rocks. In short, I am my mother's clone. Future Husband, you should be extremely happy about this. Not only will you not starve, but you're going to be spoiled. *smirk*

Here's my beautiful cabbage soup on the stove:

And here it is in a bowl:

Happy Chana. *insert happy Chana dance*


And for the record, I only botched one perfectly manicured blue nail throughout the course of chopping vegetables, washing dishes, sauteeing onions and meat, etc. I am good. *smile*

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Olly & Dana: The Bookcase Edition

Dana, she of the glorious body, incredible compassion, crazy kindness, and amazing can-do-it-ness, built me a bookcase today. You see, Dana is the sort of person you want to be stranded on a desert island with. She's capable, efficient, hilarious, and her sense of humor makes sure you always feel at ease. She's lived life and dealt with everything that it's sent her way and somehow has managed to come out on top. She's humble, clever, and loves to learn. A dedicated Jew who served in the IDF, plays streetball with the guys and takes no s--t from anybody, she is fun, tough, and the kind of person you definitely want to have in your court. I generally feel like I've died and gone to heaven when I wake up in the morning and realize I have the privilege to be living with Dana.

Here's the bookcase:

Dana, I freaking love you. Thank you for being utterly fabulous and giving up your morning to screw pegs into sideboards and hammer cardboard backings into walls and otherwise totally rock.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Fairy Queen

A story

The princess looked at the man who knelt on the floor. His hands were held out in supplication; his eyes seemed anguished.

"I thought if I didn't speak the words, that meant I could cause the feeling to disappear," she explained with a graceful wave of her hand. "But it is not so. My anger will not die. For I am angry, yes, angry by how shabbily you treated me. I am a princess, a daughter of kings! My blood will tell. Long have I cast aside my royal heritage but today it is mine; I have made it mine. For you to hurt a daughter of kings is unforgivable, inexcusable. I guarded my tongue lest I tell you of the anger that burned within me. I thought that with time it would become subdued. But that is not the case. I am angered by your cowardice; I will not suffer your excuses."

He bore her words in silence. He knew she was right.

"By rights I ought to ruin you both," she sneered. "But it gives me no pleasure to hurt another. Instead, I have given you a more powerful doom. Your every breath shall be one taken in shame; your sustenance given you ragged around the edges. God Himself did not wish to have His children eat of the bread of shame. That is why He allowed us a way to earn His favor. But you have no such ability. The gift I have given you is the gift of your life and in truth, you are not deserving. Every day you will recognize that fact. Every morsel of food that touches your mouth, every time you look at her, you will realize that this is a gift that I have given you. I! For I have chosen not to take my revenge, not to destroy you utterly. I could; I have that power. More, I have that will. There are times that my blood screams within me to do it. But I do not heed it; I do not listen. Do you want to know why?" She gave a sly, seductive smile. "It is simple. This way, I have you for life. You are always in my debt. You are mine, utterly mine. When you awaken, you will remember I gave you life. When you sleep, you will realize the peace in which you live was a blessing bestowed by me. Should I ever wish it, I could tear it from you in an instant. You are sure of me, but you should not be. I am not predictable, a fickle mortal like the rest of you. I am the fairy queen, daughter of kings!"

Her words shook the palace. The pillars swayed under the onslaught of her voice, terrible in its calm.

"It is the worst thing that can happen to a man, for him to eat of the bread of shame. I am angry with you and I have punished you. You are always mine; everything that you have is mine. I have given you this life, refrained from destroying it, refrained from taking what I could so easily have had. In this way I slake my thirst for your blood. For there is a part of me that feels scorned and hurt, and that is the part that urges me to claw out your eyes. But I shall not give in to such a petty urge. I have a far more valuable gift- it is the knowledge that you must live with, that your every day is mine. I have the power to undo your entire life should I so wish it. You know, after all, that the fairy queens are not merciful? La belle dame sans merci," she laughed.

He was silent. He heard her and did not believe her. Perhaps she thought this was the reason that she had spared him and the woman he had dared to love, the woman who was not her. He knew better. There was a mercy that flowed within her, a kindness she could not admit.

"I am torturing you," she continued. "Perhaps you do not feel it now, but you will. Your every breath is in my hands. I have the power to destroy you, always and entirely. Shall you ever be truly at ease knowing that I have that ability? Bread of shame," she stated again, her face twisting into a wry smile. "Bread of shame, bread of shame. Your every breath shall be taken undeserving. You deserve nothing from me; you hurt me past all endurance. Consider well! A mortal dared hurt the fairy queen. As for your excuses, I care nothing for them. You should have found a way. Or you should have let me go earlier, when first I requested it. You should not have held me hostage, prisoner of your words and your looks when you never intended to honor the implicit promise in your statements. Oh!" she exclaimed airily, "I know you denied that promise. But that was with your lips. Your actions spoke a different story. You gave me cause to hope that you should never have given me. You should have been strong enough to cut me loose. But then, why do I expect a mere mortal to be stronger than a fairy queen?" She laughed at herself. "Perhaps it is because I wish it, because I shall never belong to anyone unless they are stronger, far stronger than I myself am..."

He touched his forehead to the floor, prostrating himself before her. The gesture meant nothing. "Rise," she bade him, and he did. "Listen," she informed him. "I forgive you everything. I forgive you completely. But my forgiveness does not mean I am not angry. It is not the fact that you love her that angers me. It is the fact that you were not stronger than me, to allow me to go my own way and set me free before you would leave me. You owed me that. The majority of your life I give you happily and freely. But there shall be days, and you will not forget them, when I am angry, and on those days you shall remember that you draw your every breath through my grace and through the promise of my silence. I have told her nothing of what passed between us, nor shall she ever know. You shall be haunted by the bread of shame, and in this way will I exact my payment."

Her nostrils flared and she turned away. It was a dismissal. He left in silence.

"There," she spoke to herself. "Are you satisfied? Has the dark part of you had its fill? You have showed him how you rule him, now leave him be! Allow him his happiness."

"I shall allow him his happiness," the darkness inside of her responded, "but he should learn to be wary of the fairies. He should not treat them so shabbily; he should honor their requests. I have taught him a lesson he shall not soon forget."

"What is so wrong with the fact that a mortal man fell in love with one of his own kind? She is a beautiful mortal girl. Why don't you leave them in peace?"

"It is not the fact that she is mortal that concerns me. It is the fact that he pledged himself to me and broke the pledge. It is the fact that he should have let me go, not fascinated me with words and dancing sentences that caused me to entwine myself with his destiny. It is true that his words did not mislead me, but his actions, his actions! I have a right to express my anger."

"To express it, yes, but to curse him?"

"I did not curse him. I stated a fact. His every breath shall be an undeserving breath; he owes me his life."

"And does that give you so much pleasure?"

"You know it doesn't!" her better self stated, pain flooding the words. "But I must appease you, I must appease you somehow. Your anger and outrage and what is worse, the fact that you have crumbled all to pieces makes it imperative. You consistently question yourself. Was I not beautiful enough, was I too forward, was I too strong...why must you make everything that is you into a fault? He was the one who could not love a fairy. He was a mortal man who strove for more, and at the very last, he would not reach for it. And it's not as though you would forgo your own immortality."

"Of course not!" she stated imperiously.

"In that case, why not leave what is done as done, and leave all this mourning and anger far behind you?"

"It is impossible," she stated. "It is the way it was done. It is..." she trailed off, unable to find the words. "It is the way I feel like such a fool. A member of my race, a queen at that, ought never to be made to feel like a fool. It is a potent cure for any pretensions she might have. What is left are pieces, pieces of nothingness, and of them I am supposed to recreate myself and make myself strong, powerful, a fairy queen!" She laughed bitterly. "It is impossible."

"It is not impossible," her mind answered. "You are a fairy queen. You have always refused to see it. But it is there. You are radiant, shining, beautiful. What is one mortal more or less? It is you, your essence, that fascinates and charms."

"Lies, all lies," she said despondently. "I could not keep even one thing that was precious to me. I was not radiant or shining or beautiful enough to do that. How can I claim to be a queen?"

"Listen," her other self begged her, urging her away from the path that led to imminent destruction. "If your cloak were to be torn from you, if God Himself were to turn against you, if your own children denied you, you would still be a queen. You were born a queen; you shall always be a queen. You are royal. You are regal. You are beautiful, and whether you feel yourself to be one or not, you are an example. Rise up, don royalty, and walk before the golden scepter."

The ghost of a smile flitted across her face. "You do not know what you are asking of me."

"Of course I know," her sadder self responded. "I never ask anything easy of you. Ignore the ways in which you feel torn to pieces and arise; you shall recreate yourself anew. A chameleon, you are always shifting, changing colors and creating new portraits of yourself. You are always a vision, dynamic, never stagnant. Become someone new, someone whom this mortal has not touched."

"He has changed my very core," she argued.

"Then use it," her other self urged. "Use it and triumph. Dress yourself in silk and leather, don the most beautiful of your ornaments and adorn yourself. Walk into the gloom and pay no attention to anything but your own nobility. You are a daughter of kings, the fairy queen herself. Press onward. For whether you will admit to it or no, there is more than one who exists to be touched by your grace and favored by your smile. You cannot fail them."

"I am worthless," her darker self whispered, and she believed it fully.

"It may be so," she answered herself, "but all that God requires is that you try."

Slowly, painfully, the fairy rose to her feet. She took the diadem of silver frost and lilies-of-the-valley and placed it on her brow. She smiled into the mirror.

"I am better than this," she thought. "I am better than this."

And while it was true that there was a part of her that lusted for him always to know that he lived at her behest and died at her behest, she nullified it, cancelled it out for a moment and smiling, sent him pleasant thoughts of his beloved, the mortal maiden who swirled within his mind. She took the poison from her mind and buried it. Was she angry still? Yes, she was angry. The anger was rooted very deep. But that anger should not hurt the innocent. And in a way, they were all innocents, caught within a fairy tale spun at the beginning of the web of time.

She blew him a kiss; it drifted through her mirror and touched his head. Gone were her terrifying threats and demands regarding the bread of shame. It was as though the conversation had never happened. There was a part of her that needed that; the darkness within her called for his blood. But there was no need for him to know. She blessed him, for it was true that despite everything, she was a fairy queen, and thus did what mortals could not. And so her blessings wreathed around him and granted him peace, and there was no need for him to know of the ugly war that waged within her heart. That was her battle and hers alone.

And so, when she looked into her mirror, she saw a face that was clean, pure, serene. Perhaps it was the face of a worthless woman, as her mind often told her. And then again, perhaps it was the face of a fairy queen.

The Chicken Soup Medley

I once told my friend I couldn't get married till I had mastered the laws of niddah, knew how to cook, drive and put contacts into my eyes. My friend argued with me. "Niddah, contacts, cooking and driving does not take that long," he stated, "and technically you could get married without knowing how to put contacts on or drive yet and the super-cooking skills you are looking for."

"I know how to make toast," I dryly responded. "Surely my future husband doesn't want to live on toast for the rest of his life?"

My friend informed me that he was certain my future husband would not mind living on toast. I laughed.

However, to my fabulous repertoire of toast, omelettes, casseroles and quiches I can add the following triumph...chicken soup! Matza ball soup, really. I made it myself from scratch and it tastes awesome. So take that. Chana can cook if she wants to. Alas, my friend would probably roll his eyes and say, "Why is that a surprise? Of course you can do anything if you want to."

Here's my beautiful chicken soup on the stove:

And here's my platter of matza balls:

And here's a tasty bowl of soup all ready to eat:

And now I have made chicken soup and I am happy. Hurrah!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Olly & The Raggedys, The Little Old Lady and Scarsdale Cousins

As you may or may not know, the Raggedys are extremely kind people. When I needed a place to stay, they let me live in their apartment for a week and a half. Their adorable children made sure I felt welcome by ensuring that my door was covered in beautiful pictures and posters declaring the fact that I should feel myself to be at home.

How many people do you know who would simply allow a homeless child into their apartment for a week and a half? Yet the Raggedys did it without complaint; they smiled and had fun with it and made sure that I had a party of a time. There was storytelling, crepes for breakfast, pancakes, homemade pizza, "your name is melting," discovering the Food Network and an extremely exciting visit to the Bronx Zoo (I had never been there before) during my time there.

The animal I saw at the zoo which I most enjoyed is called a tapir. As RaggedyDad noted, the tapir looks sad, and its skin looks as though it feels like velvet. Its sadness, velvety skin and softly-padding footsteps combined made it something that I would enjoy communing with.

The Raggedys ensured that whether it was zucchini muffins, chocolate cake or interesting types of tea, I lacked for nothing. They are incredibly kind, considerate people and I thank them so much for the unbelievable chesed they practiced towards me.

To ensure that I would lack for no entertainment, The Little Old Lady was happy to allow me to come along with her upon her expedition to the American Girl Doll Place on 5th and 49th. Such a lot of fuss and nonsense about a mere doll I have never seen, but it was vastly entertaining. See, The Little Old Lady had brought in a doll to be fixed, and what do you know, but there's actually a doll hospital there!

So we brought our doll to the doctor. He actually had us take off her outfit and put her in a little pink hospital gown and wheelchair. Then he amicably posed for this picture.

After he wheeled away the doll, The Little Old Lady informed me that upstairs there is actually a cafe in which little girls can have tea with their dolls while eating food themselves. To me, this seemed utterly ridiculous (I sensibly had all sorts of imaginary delights with my doll- which was not an American Girl doll, heaven forfend- at home.) Anyway, here's what the cafe looks like:

I should mention that I had chosen to accompany The Little Old Lady after visiting Pearl Paint. This meant I was carrying an incredibly bulky package of canvases around and my bag ripped. We tried to ask a lady at the front for an American Girl Doll bag but she told us we had to purchase something in order to get one. The fact that The Little Old Lady had already paid for the doll (I named it 'Serena') to be fixed and thus ought to get a bag escaped her. Refusing to take no for an answer, The Little Old Lady insisted that I ask the Doll Doctor for a bag. He very nicely gave me one, and thus I could carry my canvases. Hurrah!

After leaving American Girl Doll Place, it began raining. Thus, to escape the rain and to eat lunch, we ducked into Cafe K, which has an incredibly pretty way of serving its Gran Torino (hot chocolate with a chocolate bar melted inside.)

After our lovely meal of pancakes and muffins, we walked back to Penn Station where The Little Old Lady went home and I headed off to Scarsdale and my amazing Scarsdale cousins! They had made a barbecue for me, which was fantastic, and intriguingly Yechiel's friend (his name is John) came over in order to do a presentation as part of his summer job. Yechiel's friend is advertising a company called Cutco. Cutco makes knives.

In an absolutely fascinating display, John demonstrated the advantages of Cutco's knives over other knives. For one thing, Cutco's knives have wonderfully comfortable handles. Their rivets are made of silver instead of brass (which is what most knives are made of) and thus bacteria and other mold does not form therein (brass expands and contracts with exposure to heat and cold, so when you put it in your dishwasher, your knives suffer.) Also, there is a Forever guarantee where your knives are supposed to literally last you forever- and all sharpening is free. You send them in, they're sharpened and are sent back to you. But the coolest part of the presentation was when John demonstrated how incredibly sharp the knives are. For example, here's John cutting a penny with a pair of Cutco scissors:

Cutco is not sold in regular stores like Williams-Sonoma. That's because the company sells directly to the customer. If it were to sell through kitchen stores and other outlets, the price would be forbidding. By selling directly to customers, Cutco does well and the customer does well. It's a perfect situation. If you're interested in having someone come out and do a presentation for you (all kinds of nifty things occur during the presentation, including a change- you take out your sharpest knife and try to cut through rope, then watch Cutco knives cut through rope like butter...) let me know; I'll hook you up.

In any case, Yechiel (who is heading off to the IDF soon) and the rest of the Scarsdale Cousins rented a U-Haul in order to transport everything I own to Washington Heights. Here he is driving the contraption (I sat beside him, and thus, I can now say that I have ridden in a U-Haul. Hurrah!) It was super nice of him to give up his Friday to shlep boxes and make sure I could move into my place.

After driving all the way to my apartment, Yechiel & Co set me up and ensured that everything was perfect. Here are some shots of my beautiful apartment! Thanks so much to the incredibly amazing Scarsdale Cousins.

And here was the setup for breakfast this morning (homemade pancakes!)

I have been truly blessed to know such fantastic people. Thank you so much to everybody who has been kind to me. I really love you all.