Saturday, December 31, 2011
This year I turn...23.
Here's my formal invitation
You and me go masquerading
Lose ourselves in this charade and
Is this love we're imitating?
Do we want what we've got?
If not I say so what
Here's my formal invitation
Let's go, let's go masquerading
Last year's entertainment can be found here.
The rules, as always, require you to devise an anonymous handle for yourself (comment under an assumed name, not your real one and not that of your blog), create a costume and offer me a gift. The gift does not have to be tangible. Your costumes and gifts should be creative and expressive of various aspects of your personality. You are welcomed, of course, to my party. In the style of "Sleep No More," scenes are being acted out all around you - whether of a guilt-wracked Macbeth, a mad Lady Macbeth or a ghostly Banquo is up to you. As you wander through my many rooms, your faces concealed, what madness or pleasure do you find? As always, the choice is yours.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three evils in it: idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed . . . But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that during the time it stood people occupied themselves with Torah, with observance of precepts, and with the practice of charity? Because during the time it stood, hatred without rightful cause prevailed. This is to teach you that hatred without rightful cause is deemed as grave as all the three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed together.
I watched this clip of what is going on in Beit Shemesh. It made me cry.
I thought: Is it not obvious that this is Sinat Chinam in action? And then I thought: Of course not. Everyone thinks they have a reason for why they can and should hate others. They think their reason is the Torah. Imagine! According to them, the Torah says they should spit on seven-year-old girls, and that this is not Sinat Chinam. In fact, according to one person in the video, they are the victims- they are the ones who others hate baselessly.
Sinat Chinam destroyed our second Temple.
Who is to say whether it will destroy our State? If you truly believe the State of Israel is Reishit Tzmichat Geulateinu, then you know that it is God-given. What God gives, He can take away. He enabled the Babylonians to destroy our Beit HaMikdash and he can enable others to do away with the State.
And so it makes me sad when someone in that video calls out that no rules apply to them, only Torah and mitzvot. It's when people forget that Torah calls upon them to fulfill the Mitzvot Ben Adam L'Chaveiro that Sinat Chinam is able to insidiously enter our lives.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
- Whatever the origin or cause of homosexual orientation, many individuals believe that for most people this orientation cannot be changed. Others believe that for most people it is a matter of free will. Similarly, while some mental health professionals and rabbis in the community strongly believe in the efficacy of “change therapies”, most of the mental health community, many rabbis, and most people with a homosexual orientation feel that some of these therapies are either ineffective or potentially damaging psychologically for many patients.
We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject
therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
It bothers me that this editor claims she isn't publishing controversy for the sake of controversy, when there's clearly no other reason to publish this piece of crap.
Crap where some idiot says that rabbis permit condoms but not birth control pills and also posits that birth control pills can abort babies. (This woman has no grip on reality- or science for that matter.)
If you want to talk about this issue, note that it already has been talked about. (Again, the Beacon does absolutely no research.) Read "The Halakhic Parameters of Delaying Procreation" by Rabbi Moshe Kahn. Then, if you have something to add, or a play to write- do so.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Oh, please. I wrote an entire series on sexuality in "The Observer."
- This Too is Torah and I Must Learn
- The Jewish Perspective on Sexuality
- Interview on Sexuality in the Modern-Orthodox Community
- Jews and Sexuality in the Modern-Day World
- Jewish Sexual Education and the Lack Thereof
- Tzelem: Life Values & Intimacy Education
But don't tell me that YU is pulling its funding from a student newspaper just because someone dared to mention the word 'sex.' They're pulling funding because the Beacon published a piece without any redeeming qualities that creates a certain negative perception about YU, and YU'll be damned if they pay money to have their own dependents working against them.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Sunday, November 06, 2011
Saturday, November 05, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I'm not gonna give up (what),
I'm not gon' stop (what),
I'm gonna work harder (what),
I will survive (what),
Keep on survivin' (what),
I'm a survivor (what),
I'm not gonna give up (what),
I'm not gon' stop (what),
I'm gonna work harder (what),
I'm a survivor (what),
I'm gonna make it (what),
I will survive (what),
Keep on survivin' (what).
Monday, October 10, 2011
As others saw---I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I lov'd, I loved alone.
Then---in my childhood---in the dawn
Of a most stormy life---was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold---
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by---
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
Sunday, October 09, 2011
Monday, October 03, 2011
"When you eat a walnut, you must use a tablecloth," says Manuela, removing from her old shopping bag a little hamper made of light wood in which some almond tuiles are nestled among curls of carmine tissue paper. I make coffee that we shall not drink, but its wafting odor delights us both, and in silence we sip a cup of green tea as we nibble on our tuiles.
Just as I am a permanent traitor to my archetype, so is Manuela: to the Portugese cleaning woman she is a felon oblivious of her condition. This girl from Faro, born under a fig tree after seven siblings and before six more, forced in childhood to work the fields and scarcely out of it to marry a mason and take the road of exile, mother of four children who are French by birthright but whom society looks upon as thoroughly Portugese- this girl from Faro, as I was saying, who wears the requisite black support stockings and a kerchief on her head, is an aristocrat. An authentic one, of the kind whose entitlement you cannot contest: it is etched onto her very heart, it mocks titles and people with handles to their names. What is an aristocrat? A woman who is never sullied by vulgarity although she may be surrounded by it.
On Sundays, the vulgarity of her in-laws, who with their loud laughter muffle the pain of being born weak and without prospects; the vulgarity of an environment as bleakly desolate as the neon lights of the factory where the men go each morning, like sinners returning to hell; then, the vulgarity of her employers who for all their money, cannot hide their own baseness and who speak to her the way they would a mangy dog covered with oozing bold patches. But you should have witnessed Manuela offering to me, as if I were a queen, the fruit of her prowess in haute patisserie to fully appreciate the grace that inhabits this woman. Yes, as if I were a queen. When Manuela arrives, my loge is transformed into a palace, and a picnic between two pariahs becomes the feast of two monarchs. Like a storyteller transforming life into a shimmering river where trouble and boredom vanish far below the water, Manuela metamorphoses our existence into a warm and joyful epic.
-The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, pages 31-31
(Thanks to Marc Fein for making me read this.)
Sunday, October 02, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Clearly a bride after my own heart.
My plan: The next time someone I know gets married (and I attend the wedding), me and my girls are going to have to do a Jai Ho rendition at her wedding. Who wants to learn this dance with me? It's gonna rock.
His is the call, ours the paraphrase; His is the creation, ours a reflection. He is not an object to be comprehended, a thesis to be endorsed; neither the sum of all that is (facts) nor a digest of all that ought to be (ideals). He is the ultimate subject.
The trembling sense for the hereness of God is the assumption of our being accountable to Him. God-awareness is not an act of God being known to man; it is the awareness of man's being known by God. In thinking about Him we are thought by him.
~God in Search of Man by Abraham Joshua Heschel, pages 159-160
Saturday, September 10, 2011
I didn't know what they were. What were the Twin Towers? And where were they? I thought they were some random buildings in the middle of nowhere.
But then Tzipporah in my class came to school announcing that the Twin Towers had fallen. She had seen it on Good Morning, America or some such show. At that time we still thought it was a mistake one of the pilots had made. We didn't know it was a terrorist attack. Later on, we were all called to an assembly in school where we were told of the news and we said Tehillim together.
Everyone was really worried. I don't remember for sure, but I think school was dismissed early. We thought that the Sears Tower might be hit next. Chicago's a big enough city to be on the list.
I remember my mother telling me that all the nurses just congregated around the televisions in the nurses' station and they watched, horrified. Tears streamed down their cheeks and they didn't even know they were crying.
I remember my father, grim. I remember all of us sitting donwnstairs in the basement watching television on a weekday (which never happened). We watched the planes hit the buildings again and again. We called all our relatives in New York. One of my aunts slept in her office building and the other one walked across one of the Bridges along with throngs of others.
We gave thanks that none of the people we loved had died, and we mourned with America about the loss of everyone who had. We hung a big American flag on our window and we watched the multitude of flags and bumper stickers. We saw our world come together, people sharing with each other like they never had before.
We saw love.
I remember the pain, the sadness and the horror. But I most of all remember how we came together, how the world united and people truly cared about one another. And I remember thinking it was sad that it took a tragedy to unite us. But that I was glad we were united, even so.
I remember we couldn't tour the White House on our 8th grade trip because they closed it due to fear of terrorists. And that lots of other places were also closed off. And that parents hadn't even been sure they wanted us to go on that trip, but acquiesced, in the end.
It was scary and huge and hard to comprehend. It was hard to grasp the enormity of it. But in 11th grade, when I was on Summer at YU, they took us to ground zero instead of to an amusement park. And we all grumbled because we would rather be having fun. But we got why it was important to be there. And I looked at that hole, that massive void in the earth, and I saw it gaping open and ugly and that was the first time it seemed real to me, where the earth had shook and moved and this ugliness was there for real. And I was shaken.
And then I thought: we must somehow fix this.
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
On the morning before Yom Kippur, I immersed myself for the last time as a married woman. Unlike all of the previous immersions where I was alone with G-d and the mikveh lady, this one was during the day, and in the company of G-d and all of my closest woman friends. Unlike all previous times at the local mikveh, this time it was at a beautiful lake. And most importantly, unlike the times when I rose from the mikveh thinking that now he had permission to hit and rape me, this last time I rose to feel freer and cleaner and happier than I ever had before. And this time I said so aloud, to myself, to my dear friends, and to G-d.
Throughout my marriage, I read books about family purity and even showed my husband the books that the rebbitzin loaned me. I wanted these laws to help our marriage, to bring us closer to each other during both phases of the month. But the nature of our marriage never allowed for that. Our marriage was based on control and fear, and even the most beautiful rituals of Judaism couldn’t change that to a focus of love and mutual respect.
The books I read all talked about how a couple gets closer when they live part of each month as man and wife and the other part of the month as brother and sister. Much as I tried, this never happened in our marriage. Instead, he just controlled me or abused me differently during the two phases of each month. When I was in niddah he constantly reminded me how difficult it was for him to go so long without sex. He woke me during the night to tell me he couldn’t sleep and couldn’t work because he was so horny. When I offered to sleep in a different room, he said that it wouldn’t help because it was about sex and not about me. (It tool me years to understand that statement.) During niddah he controlled my telephone access, my money, and friendships. But he never hurt me physically. At least not until the last few months of the marriage.
The other phase of the month was the physical phase, the time when I did not have permission to say no to sex, especially since it was my “fault” that we didn’t have relations during my niddah. It was a time of physical intimidation, and often of physical attack. It had only a bit of the physical closeness I had been hoping for. It’s hard to make love to someone you fear, hard to sort loving touch from painful touch when it’s the same hands providing both, sometimes at the same time.
When I separated from my husband with the intent to divorce, I asked my rabbi when I could stop attending mikveh, when I could stop counting days and keeping different sets of panties for different times of the month. He told me he would find out, and that I should continue my usual practice in the meantime. This lasted about a very long month, but as I neared my mikveh date in the second month of separation, I decided to plan my last immersion, and to use it as a time to mark for myself the end of my marriage long before the civil divorce or the get were even in sight. When I told the rabbi of my plans, he agreed that this could be my last mikveh.
And so, on the Sunday morning before Yom Kippur I brought a minyan of women with me to the banks of a nearby lake. The ten of us sat under trees and read poetry, and some of our own reflections on the mitzvoth of shalom bayit, family purity, and pikuach nefesh. A dear friend sang, “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair.” We cried and we laughed and then I removed my hat and dress and went into the water in a bathing suit. I removed the suit under water and immersed in the traditional manner, using the traditional blessing. Even though I was immersing for new reason --- I wanted the continuity, I wanted it to have some of the same elements of all my previous immersions.
When I came out of the water it was with the intention that no one would ever have permission to abuse my body again. I finished dressing, but did not put my hat back on my head. Then my friends joined me in saying shehechiyanu for the beginning of my new life without my husband. We ate chocolates, we hugged, and then went back to my old home and to the place where I’d been staying for five weeks, and we began to move my belongings into my new apartment. Kol Nidre was that evening and I have never before felt so prepared for the day of atonement. I was beginning to make teshuvah to myself and I felt that I was at one with the world and with my G-d. I began the process of making tshuvah with my own body and with the traditions of Jewish marriage.
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Monday, September 05, 2011
Sunday, September 04, 2011
The best way to describe Echoes of Eden is like a loom. Strung with colorful thread, the Lady of Shallot “weaves by night and day/ a magic web with colours gay.” And Rabbi Kahn does the same. Taking his sources from a variety of places, including but not limited to rabbinic, kabbalistic and Chasidic sources, Rabbi Kahn creates a shimmering, beautiful tapestry shot through with his incredible creativity. While he addresses conventional questions: Why did Noah send out the raven and then the dove? Why was Jacob given the name Israel but then the text continues to refer to him by both names? Why is it necessary to know that the sons bought shoes with the money they received for selling Joseph? – his answers are anything but ordinary.
Rabbi Kahn dissects the text, analyzing each word and noting parallels to various other verses. His is an exercise in parshanut, the study of interpretation. Echoes of Eden is filled with the fruits of literary techniques such as metaphor, parallel, symbolism and analogy. But what struck me the most in Rabbi Kahn’s rendering is his deep understanding of psychology when it comes to comprehending the characters in Genesis.
One such example occurs by the sale of Joseph by his brothers. Amos 2:6 mentions the selling of “the righteous one for silver, and the poor man for a pair of shoes.” Midrash Tanhuma to Vayeishev explains that the money from the sale of Joseph was used by the brothers to purchase shoes. Rabbi Kahn mentions that shoes are seen as significant in Judaism; when Moses approaches the burning bush he is told to take off his shoes, while when the Hebrews are told to prepare to leave Egypt, they must don their shoes. But there is one halakhic section of the Torah where shoes are particularly relevant, and this is when “a man refuses to marry his deceased brother’s childless wife” (Kahn 265). A central part of the ritual of halitzah, mentioned in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 involves the removal of a man’s shoe.
In a breathtaking connection, Rabbi Kahn refers to the episode of Judah, his sons and Tamar. Judah tells his son Onan to marry Tamar in order to “raise up seed to your brother” in Genesis 38:8. But Onan is not interested in doing this; instead he does not act properly with Tamar and does not create a child to continue his brother’s name. Rabbi Kahn sees this narrative as part and parcel of the former midrash. Tragically, Judah’s children “learned a lesson in fraternal relations and responsibilities from their father. They learned that their brother is not their concern; a pair of shoes is preferable to a brother” (Kahn 268). To Rabbi Kahn, it is not a coincidence that during the process of halitzah “the rejected widow is instructed to remove a shoe from the indifferent brother’s foot. When he fails to recognize his brother’s holiness and the sanctity of the family he is charged to preserve, his shoe is removed as a reminder of that holiness (as it was for Moshe) or as a symbol of his callousness (as when the brothers purchased shoes with ‘blood money’)” (Kahn 268).
The portion concerning Joseph and the wife of Potiphar has often been compared to that of Judah and Tamar. But this is the first time that I have ever seen anyone suggest that the outcome of a certain behavior (buying shoes with the money gained by selling Joseph) demonstrated an attitude that the children picked up on (that a pair of shoes is more important than a brother or continuing his legacy). This is a very clever and innovative understanding of the text, but more importantly, it is a psychological one. Although it seems clear that Judah did not mean to set a precedent with his actions regarding Joseph, his children learned from his behavior nonetheless.
Echoes of Eden is a fascinating, captivating work. It combines multiple threads of Torah tradition to create a multicolored royal cloth. Whether you purchase it to serve as a weekly Shabbat table companion or to read at once, it is sure to be a rewarding experience.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Nuclear man is the man who realizes that his creative powers hold the potential for self-destruction. He sees that in this nuclear age vast new industrial complexes enable man to produce in one hour that which he labored over for years in the past, but he also realizes that these same industries have disturbed the ecological balance and, through air and noise pollution, have contaminated his own milieu. He drives in cars, listens to the radio and watches TV, but has lost his ability to understand the workings of the instruments he uses. He sees such an abundance of material commodities around him that scarcity no longer motivates his life, but at the same time he is groping for a direction and asking for meaning and purpose. In all this he suffers from the inevitable knowledge that his time is a time in which it has become possible for man to destroy not only life but also the possibility of rebirth, not only man but also mankind, not only periods of existence but also history itself. For nuclear man the future has become the only option.~The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society by Henri Nouwen, pages 6-7
“My parents weren’t crazy-strict religious people. I won’t hit people on the head with a Bible, but I live by example and just try to be the best guy I can be. I have morals, and if it’s something that I feel like is crossing the line, then I’m not afraid to stand up. If you don’t stand up for something, then you’ll never stand up for anything. I just feel like that’s just what I had to do.”
Just wanted to say how impressive that is. A 20-year-old kid walking away from the Western all-American dream. The contrast between this kid and Esther Petrack (just for choosing to be on ANTM, nothing else) is striking.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
But then it occurred to me one day that this olive oil was made especially to light Chanukah Menorahs.
Which means it might have added ingredients to make stuff burn like for example...lighter fluid?
But don't worry! I did not react with fear or woe! Only excitement!
Tis Heshy & Chana- and WE CAN EAT LIGHTER FLUID AND NOT DIE.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
In one of the Kinnot we say, we mention that nobody could persuade God to have mercy upon the Jews until He came to our foremother Rachel. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob- none of them could change God's mind. But when it came to Rachel, God threw out the scale of measurement and justice.
I realized today the reason why.
It is because I am a magician.
I have the power to imbue objects with holiness and also to imbue them with impurity.
My actions directly impact and affect my own fate and possibly even the fate of others.
I can uplift sparks that have fallen to earth.
And to accomplish these things, I must live a rigorously defined and delineated life, in which my diet, dress, habits, thoughts and desires are strictly controlled.
I am one of the chosen, one of those born with the gift of magic. Is it Lily's fault that it was she and not Petunia who was allowed access to Hogwarts? Should Lily then apologize for being chosen? I think not.
It is a gift, but like all gifts, its use is disciplined. Its cost is high. And its power is astonishing.
When we teach our children and they recoil at being told they are Jews and chosen and therefore must obey the laws of the Torah, let us frame it a different way.
Let us tell them they are wizards and witches and therefore must listen to Dumbledore. At least if they wish to have any hope of defeating Voldemort. And they must trust in him, no matter how maligned he may be.
They will be challenged along the way. But that is how it should be.
Only in overcoming oneself (for Harry, dying when he wishes to live) does one achieve greatness.
Your path is the path of justice and also of salvation.
When you are born into this world, the question is...will you rise to the occasion?
Will you be a magician- or not?
Too many throw away their gift, overcome by the long, hard years it takes to master it, the rigorous control and discipline, the difficult tests, the arduous work. They determine that the cultivation of their gift is not worth the effort. They have not yet met the Alannas of the world.
Be an Alanna. Nurture your gift.