Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Talking Donkey

A memory

Once, at Templars, we had a Yom Iyun or were on a Shabbaton/Retreat. There, we were forced to attend mandatory lectures that would "strengthen our emunah" and "help us with our bitachon." We were rotating classrooms; each Rabbi or teacher had a limited amount of time to speak to us, and then we would move on to the next station.

In one classroom, the Rabbi was supposedly demonstrating the benefits of Judaism over any other religion. The discussion, of course, descended into chaos.

"Jesus," one girl sneered. "I mean, who would believe in that? That some random guy died and then was resurrected in front of like, eleven people? We got the Torah in front of 600,000!" She looks very pleased with herself.

"Yeah, and I heard that Mohmammed got the Koran by riding on a flying donkey," one girl said disgustedly, amazed by the poor idiots who would believe anything.

Unable to restrain myself, I angrily thrust my hand in the air and not waiting to be called on, stated, "Yes, and we believe in a talking donkey. A talking donkey that sees angels. How exactly," and here my voice was poisonous, "is that better?"

That shut them all up for a minute.

It was beautiful.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Eight Things Meme

Tnspr569 tagged me in the following meme: please list eight things about yourself, then tag eight people and inform them that they have been tagged.

1. If I had to sum my life in books, it would be:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest + The Fountainhead + The Promise + Halakhic Man= Chana

(There are attributes/ characters in each of those books with whom I identify, and more importantly, whose lives and experiences have been mine.)

2. I eat broccoli (well, broccoli quiche, but...)

3. My history teacher once told me that the people he finds most frustrating are those who “mail it in, are going through the motions, don’t care deeply and passionately about something." I agree with him.

4. I do not know how to swallow pills

5. I am afraid of dying (the process and the pain involved) but not of death itself. I am most afraid of dying before I have finished what I have set out to do.

6. I love chocolate ice cream, ice-skating, beautiful cards (and I prefer Papyrus to Hallmark) and bookstores

7. My favorite movies of all time are Ordinary People and A Beautiful Mind. There are others that I find thought-provoking or inspiring, but those are the ones that mean the most to me.

8. I am intensely amused by the number of people who thought I was one kind of person because of reading this blog, and who, upon meeting me, were astonished to find that I was not whatever they had imagined me to be. I am also astonished by the number of opportunities this blog has brought me (and that ranges from those that are college-related to the opportunity to get into seminary with minimal effort- simply because I had written a blogpost.) You are all very kind.

I tag SJ, Erachet, The Apple, Fudge, Scraps, Sweet Rose, Ezzie and Jameel.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Fool, The Madman and The Idiot

One of the most interesting archetypes in literature is that of the fool. The fool or the court jester is considered an idiot, a child, someone who is there only to entertain. His manner of entertainment can range from pure wit to slapstick and burlesque. Of course, due to his position in court and the fact that everyone dismisses him, the fool has been awarded a key place in literary works. He has become wise. Hence the tradition of "the wise fool," the one who understands the inner workings of people, the plots and intrigues that revolve around the king. The best example of the wise fool is the one in Shakespeare's King Lear. The fool is the one who sees the truth and who tells it over to King Lear (in one of the most fascinating interpretations, the Fool is actually Cordelia, this because Cordelia and the Fool are never onstage at the same time. I think that's an extremely creative reading.) He need not be afraid to speak for all his words can as well be dismissed as nonsense.

In literature, fools make excellent spies, assassins and detectives. Fools are dismissed by the nobility/ aristocracy and their words are considered unimportant. This is excellent, because it means that everyone underestimates the fool. An underestimated character is always fascinating; he's the one who will spring surprises upon everyone else as they look on, nonplussed.

But it is not only the fool who has a magnificent cover for his actions. The madman and the idiot (or simpleton) are also perfect disguises for one who is hiding a keen and active wit. No one pays attention to the ramblings of madmen. And the idiot is a simpleton who cannot even care for himself; surely he is no threat to anyone. You all studied Hamlet in high school. I am sure your teachers amply discussed Hamlet's madness or lack thereof with you. Madness is an excellent way to ensure that nobody takes you seriously; perhaps others even pity you and once again, underestimate you. And when it comes to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, who can forget McMurphy, who, after being told that he is probably feigning psychosis to escape the work farm, spreads his hands wide and grins, "Now, do I look like a sane man, Doc?"

Why do I bring this up now? Well, because I enjoy connecting motifs and themes to the Bible, and there is an obvious connection here. Welcome to David's feigned madness! (I love this part of Tanakh.)
    יב וַיֹּאמְרוּ עַבְדֵי אָכִישׁ, אֵלָיו, הֲלוֹא-זֶה דָוִד, מֶלֶךְ הָאָרֶץ; הֲלוֹא לָזֶה, יַעֲנוּ בַמְּחֹלוֹת לֵאמֹר, הִכָּה שָׁאוּל בַּאֲלָפָו, וְדָוִד בְּרִבְבֹתָו.

    12 And the servants of Achish said unto him: 'Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying: Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?'

    יג וַיָּשֶׂם דָּוִד אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, בִּלְבָבוֹ; וַיִּרָא מְאֹד, מִפְּנֵי אָכִישׁ מֶלֶךְ-גַּת.
    13 And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

    יד וַיְשַׁנּוֹ אֶת-טַעְמוֹ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם, וַיִּתְהֹלֵל בְּיָדָם; וַיְתָו עַל-דַּלְתוֹת הַשַּׁעַר, וַיּוֹרֶד רִירוֹ אֶל-זְקָנוֹ. {ס}

    14 And he changed his demeanour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. {S}

    טו וַיֹּאמֶר אָכִישׁ, אֶל-עֲבָדָיו: הִנֵּה תִרְאוּ אִישׁ מִשְׁתַּגֵּעַ, לָמָּה תָּבִיאוּ אֹתוֹ אֵלָי.

    15 Then said Achish unto his servants: 'Lo, when ye see a man that is mad, wherefore do ye bring him to me?

    טז חֲסַר מְשֻׁגָּעִים, אָנִי, כִּי-הֲבֵאתֶם אֶת-זֶה, לְהִשְׁתַּגֵּעַ עָלָי; הֲזֶה, יָבוֹא אֶל-בֵּיתִי. {פ}

    16 Do I lack madmen, that ye have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?' {P}

    א וַיֵּלֶךְ דָּוִד מִשָּׁם, וַיִּמָּלֵט אֶל-מְעָרַת עֲדֻלָּם; וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶחָיו וְכָל-בֵּית אָבִיו, וַיֵּרְדוּ אֵלָיו שָׁמָּה.

    1 David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him.

    ~Samuel I, Chapter 21: 13-16 and Chapter 22:1
This is a brilliant section, of course, and yet another reason that I love King David. His ingenuity and resourcefulness are quite wonderful (and I particularly like the idea that God creates everything in this world for a reason. King David questioned madness, the creation of the spider and one more thing, which I now forget, but all of these creations came to his aid in his time of need.)

But what I most enjoy is seeing contemporary authors make use of biblical ideas. This is precisely what Mindy L. Klasky does in The Glasswrights' Apprentice:

    Rani knew, as all the people of the City did, that Halaravilli had been the death of his mother. She had succumbed to childbed fever before the prince was one week old. The birth had been difficult for both mother and son. Halaravilli was widely rumored to be slow, and more than a little odd. According to loudly whispered tales, he had not spoken until his fifth birthday. Everyone in the City knew that the prince had never crawled- he went directly from sitting to staggering about the nursery on toddling legs, despite his nurses' best efforts to force him to his knees, to make him progress like a normal child.


    Halaravilli looked up quizzically. "Speaking to me? Speaking to me?" The prince descanted his words in a chant. "Only a Touched would be named Hal. Only a Touched or a god. Speaking to me, speaking to me, a Touched or a god."

Now compare:
    "What are you saying then? Why are you talking to me normally? What happened to your chanting?"

    He pinned her with his dark, shrewd eyes. "I don't need to play those games with you."

    "What games?"

    "And you don't need to play games with me," he chided. "I know that you're the First Pilgrim, and you've clearly been selected by the Brotherhood of Justice."

    "You know what the snakes mean!" Rani hissed despite herself, and Halaravilli nodded.

    "Aye, or at least I know enough to fear them, among all the rival powers in my father's kingdom." When Rain merely stared without comprehension, Hal smiled. "I know to fear the power, and I know to fear my brother. I know to fear the snakes, and I know to fear the fox."

    "Stop it!"

    Hal favored her with a twisted grin, but he fell silent. "I know that a chanting idiot is no threat to traitors who would murder all who stand in their way."

    "Do you realize what you're saying?"

Now, I certainly don't think that Mindy L. Klasky deliberately decided to model Prince Hal on King David. I do not think she chose to put a royal prince in a position where he must hide and pretend to be mad in order to save his life from traitors and the intrigues of court in order to imitate the biblical king. But I find it interesting that she has written a character in the tradition of both the wise fool that has always existed in literature and the heir to the crown/ member of royalty who is in danger. She seems to have combined the literary tradition with the biblical tradition and it is that amalgam that fascinates me.

Indeed, it would be quite interesting to track the development of the wise fool/ madman/ idiot through the ages. We could incorporate so many works of literature, everything from King Lear to Hamlet to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to Robin Hobb's books (The Farseer Trilogy, The Tawny Man) to The Glasswright's Apprentice. And many more, I am certain.

A man must be "wise enough to play the fool." (Twelfth Night, Act 3, Scene 1)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For Dustfinger

    "Fire. So different in this world and the other one. How good it would be to hear its crackling voice again at last, and to be able to answer. Dustfinger collected some of the dry wood lying among the trees, with wax-flowers and thyme rambling over it. He carefully unwrapped the fire-elves' stolen honey from the leaves that kept it moist and supple and put a tiny morsel in his mouth. How scared he had been the first time he tasted the honey! Scared that his precious booty would burn his tongue forever and he would lose his voice. But that fear had proved groundless. The honey did burn your mouth like red-hot coals, but the pain passed away- and if you bore it long enough, then afterward you could speak to fire, even with a mere human tongue. The effect of a tiny piece lasted for five or six months, sometimes almost a year. Just a soft whisper in the language of the flames, a snap of your fingers, and sparks would leap crackling from dry wood, damp wood, even stone."

    ~Inkspell, page 56

Dustfinger is the child of flames.

Dustfinger, my Dustfinger, my sister, is a girl who is wholly made of fire. Her soul is of fire, her attributes are those of fire; in all things she resembles my mother. She is passionate, bold, a leader and a giver, someone who feels things deeply and who cannot hide behind lies.

She is beautiful. She has long auburn curls that frame her heart-shaped face; even her hair is made of fire. Almond-shaped eyes of a chocolate brown, long black lashes that rest against the supple skin, her skin itself a toasted brown, a darker color because in her all that is Sephardi resides. She has my mother's fire and my mother's flair; the drama, the passion and the strength that is our household displays itself in her.

Dustfinger is a leader. She rallies others to her cause, has the ability to make them join her, listen to her when she speaks. She is outgoing, highly extroverted, a social butterfly. She is The Boss. It is not I who gives the orders in my house; you will not find me doing dishes or folding laundry or otherwise aiding in the common cause. No, I will be in my room, caught within my web of dreams, reading a book or writing or perhaps brooding in my tragical way when I will hear Dustfinger over the intercom informing me that, " need to get downstairs right now." At this point I sigh, put away the book, and pound down the stairs, ready and waiting to obey orders.

Dustfinger is the practical one. She is pragmatic, strong, very much rooted in this world. This is not to say that she does not have flights of fancy, that she is not a strong reader and writer. She is; her forte is dialogue. She's excellent at bringing characters to life. But she is much more aware of her surroundings; she is here, very much a part of this material world. Dustfinger is the one who will live the joy of life, who is to be found outdoors, riding her bike or trekking across Chicago with her friends. She is always surrounded by friends, always the center of attention, laughing or smiling or otherwise popular. She is always on the phone. These phone conversations have become a subject of much awe in this house; none of us were aware it was possible to talk to so many people within one night. But Dustfinger manages it.

She has all the qualities I do not have, and she has them in abundance. Dustfinger is extremely considerate. She is extremely caring, extremely giving; her personality is the chesed personality, the kind that is very involved with communal affairs and with the troubles of others. I focus on individuals; Dustfinger focuses on groups or communities. I jealously guard my time; she makes time for everyone. I have never seen her turn down an opportunity to help someone else. My sister does things thoughtlessly, simply because they will bring another pleasure. I have often seen her in the kitchen whipping up one of her baked goods; she does it out of pleasure, for her friend's birthday or for the family, eager to help, not needing praise. Dustfinger makes muffins, cakes, cookies and more and does so with much enjoyment; she does not begrudge anything to anyone.

That is perhaps her key quality- that she does not begrudge her effort or her time. I can imitate her but it will not be the same; I will not have that effortless joy, that ability to truly love to make others happy. This comes naturally to her. Dustfinger emanates good will and desire; she is fun, interesting, amusing and otherwise engaging. She is talkative and empathetic. Dustfinger feels for her friends on a very deep level; she will defend them to the bitter end. She is loyal. If you have earned her trust or her loyalty, you should consider yourself lucky. She will always defend you; she will not allow others to hurt you. Dustfinger does not allow people to hurt one another in front of her; she is their protector.

Dustfinger is in a very interesting position at this time of her life. Our situations are reversed. I went to Templars and had an awful time there, switched to North Shore and was truly happy. She, quite differently, is now in a Jewish high school that is extremely modern. Because she is such a genuine person, my sister is unable to comprehend the phony society that is her high school. She is Holden Caulfield amongst the liars, albeit a far wiser and prettier version. Upset by her classmates' indifference to religion and pursuit of all things material, Dustfinger gravitates towards religious trappings. She likes black hats. She likes kneesocks. She likes long skirts and shaitels and the style of fashion that one might refer to as "funky frum." She dresses in a manner that demonstrates her allegiance to this cause. This earns her some teasing by unkind members of the class. But Dustfinger is strong and she is a leader and she wants to demonstrate in some tangible way her difference, her allegiance and this is the way she chooses to do it.

I won't pretend I like this. I don't like it at all. I see no reason for her to adopt these practices, this strange idealization of the black hat or her preference for Jewish music over secular but most of all I disagree with her understanding of herself. Dustfinger is more easily influenced than I am. She considers this a cause for concern and rigidly guards herself from misdeed. I think that it is a part of her personality and can be channeled to do a great deal of good. So long as she knows her limits, I think she ought to trust herself. She, however, does not feel she can.

We have fought about this. We've fought bitterly, angrily; we've exchanged harsh words and called each other names. Much of this is because of my own experience in an institute that valued the trappings that Dustfinger values. I do not like to see her do it. But more than that, I did not understand her. That was until my father threw a phrase at me: "One man's conformity is another man's rebellion."

That stopped me in my tracks. I had to think about it for a while. He was right, of course. I was upset with Dustfinger because it appeared as though she wanted to join the ranks of conformists I had fought so hard to escape. But within the confines of her high school, Dustfinger is not a conformist, rather, she is a rebel. What she truly respects is the religiosity behind the symbols she chooses, the commitment to God and to the Torah. Dustfinger respects what is genuine. She would never act in a condescending manner toward a person who does not practice Judaism in the same way that she does; she does not look down on someone who wears pants or otherwise differs from her. She does not force her opinions down other peoples' throats. She is simply confused by the divide between the way her classmates act and the way they are supposed to act, the fact that they are taught halakha but simply choose to ignore it if it does not suit them. This does not sit well with Dustfinger. She acts as she was taught.

Dustfinger trusts more than I do. Her relationship to God is modeled on such trust. Dustfinger does not need sources when it comes to religion; at least she does not crave them at this time. I live for sources; I need texts; I need to think through everything, to understand, to read books and find out the meanings. Dustfinger is not interested in this. Her relationship to God is purely emotional, felt rather than understood. I have characteristically looked down on this; I feel that all things must be examined and explored. It is hard for me to realize that not everyone is wired the same way, that what is best for me is not the same as what is best for her. I need to do my exploring. She does not.

Dustfinger is smart. We are smart in different ways. Dustfinger's strength lies in creativity; she is an extremely creative and artistic individual who dedicates a lot of time and effort to all her projects. I look at what she has made and can never conceive of how she thought it up. She had to represent a juror from Twelve Angry Men; she literally created a juror's stand out of a styrofoam base, took the trouble to color and paint it, to form a minute gavel, to cut out small pieces of paper and write the different phrases her juror had spoken onto them, to make use of toothpicks and other assorted objects. She invested this project with everything she had. She always does. I look forward to Dustfinger's projects and papers because I know they will be unique, different, decidedly creative.

She is also able to live in both worlds. She goes to a coed school, learns Gemara and Mishnayot, wears knee socks and long skirts, and to top it all off, watches Grey's Anatomy. She also has an odd affinity for TV shows that I don't find so appealing; she enjoys Supernanny, for instance, and American Inventor. This makes sense once you consider her personality; she's the boss and decidedly maternal and empathetic, so of course she would be intrigued by the ways different people parent and how Supernanny fixes them up. American Inventor speaks to her creative soul; she's fascinated by the strange and odd creations that others dream up. In great tones of glee she'll inform me of the latest invention; she finds them all fascinating.

She is compelling. People like her. She does not lack for friends, although many of them are from outside of school. Like me, she is sensitive, and especially given the way she has decided to act and dress at her school, she invites comments that are cruel. She does not like them but she has decided not to change to suit others, will not buy the Tiffany's necklace just because everyone else has one. In her own way, she is just as stubborn as I am.

She is also, I might add, learning. She revises initial judgments, has realized that not everyone at high school is phony or fake. She's met several people whom she recognizes as being kindred spirits, people who might not dress or act like her but who have the same respect for religion and for Judaism, and these people, too, are her friends.

She plays the piano divinely. This is to be expected, a soul that is so attuned to fire, passion and all that is felt ought to be able to connect with music. Her playing is not only technically proficient; it is alive. She lives through the music; she makes it speak. When I came home from Stern, one of the first things I heard when I stepped through the door was the sound of her music as she played at the baby grand in the living room. I had forgotten how beautiful it sounds. At her school, she earned great acclaim at the talent show when she performed in front of the entire student body.

She loves animals. Dustfinger has a deep affinity for horses, whom she finds utterly beautiful. She also loves dogs and wishes we had a pet. For a time, she thought she might be a veterinarian when she grew up. Dustfinger is able to connect with creatures on a truly amazing level; she loves them in the way you might love a human. She understands what it is like for someone to lose a pet; she grieves just as another might grieve for someone who lived and spoke and breathed. Dustfinger is one with the world and all that is in it; she loves and loves indiscriminately.

She puts up with me. We yell, we shout, we argue, then we make up and we're friends again. Not only does she tolerate me, but she defends me. She won't let anyone hurt me, as evidenced here.
    Dustfinger said...
    Just who do you think you are, Anonymous 2:27?!?!How DARE you insult my sister that way! How DARE you insult her at all! You know NOTHING about her. Maybe you know what she went through, but that's not all of it. I can't believe you wrote what you did. I hope everything you said backfires- onto yourself.
I can imagine what she'd look like saying that to someone. She'd be magnificent. Flaming and beautiful, her hair caught by a wind, her fists caught as though she'd like to hurt someone, her tone high with anger and indignation on my behalf. I couldn't believe it when I read it. Here is Dustfinger, the one who I've fought and insulted and whom half the time I must frustrate to no end (due to my messy room and so on) and she is fighting for me and what is more, does not mind demonstrating her love for me on a public forum.

Dustfinger is leaving this Sunday for Israel. She is going on a program where she will be touring and experiencing Israel over the summer (also different from me, who had the chance to attend Michlelet and chose to go to Summer at YU. That was, incidentally, the best decision I could have made.)

She is going to love it. Dustfinger was made for grit and dirt, for the outdoors, for hiking and the summer sun and Israel and friendships.

I am going to miss her.

But the real reason I am writing this now is because I will miss her birthday on July 22nd and I just wanted to wish her the happiest birthday in the world. A birthday in Israel will be fabulous, I know.

So Happy Early Birthday, Dustfinger!

You'll make an amazing fifteen-year-old.

You will make it through all your trials, I know. I have complete faith in you.

"The honey did burn your mouth like red-hot coals, but the pain passed away- and if you bore it long enough, then afterward you could speak to fire, even with a mere human tongue."

You are Dustfinger, after all. You will bear it and you will become who you were meant to be, the fire-speaker, the one whose words have meaning.

I love you to pieces, even when we fight (you know that.)

Have the most amazing time in Israel.
You deserve it.

Parenting: A Poll

I would appreciate your voting in this poll. If you feel like giving a more detailed explanation of your answer in the comments, I would be immensely interested. You may prefer to remain anonymous.

Thank you.

Learning to See

She introduced herself to me four times before I noticed her.
I didn't pay enough attention to her.
She was the one who reached out to me.
I started out the year yelling at him.
And I initially misjudged him.

So, what have I learned this year?

That I am quick to judge.
That I don't see people the first time around.

That I've needed a lot of second chances.

And that I've gotten them.

But I don't want to have to rely on the second chances.
And I'd like to be kinder the first time.

I am supposed to be compassionate; there I was dismissive.
I am supposed to listen; there I just walked on.

Now, they pursued me and I thank them for it.

But how long will it take until I learn to see?
And how long before I simply don't judge?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How do you define loyalty?

All right. The majority of you listed loyalty or being loyal as an essential characteristic for a friend. Now I am curious- what does it mean to be loyal?

I don't want a dictionary definition; I'd like, in your own words (with examples or situational evidence as you so choose) a definition of loyalty.

How do you define loyalty? What makes people loyal? And loyal to whom- to you, to a cause, to what?


Monday, June 25, 2007


This is insanity, but it makes for a good story.

Hey, I'm not a dumpster-diving kind of girl. But if that's your thing, we're cool. I mean, if you enjoy getting covered in smut and filth to fish out some broken lamp covered in the remnants of Saturday night's Kentucky Fried Chicken in order to save the environment, good for you.

God knows I wish I could have been there, if only to take pictures. And to meet the janitor who walked off with an iPod. That is one lucky guy.

What Qualities Do You Look For in a Friend?

What qualities do you look for in a friend?

Another way to phrase this question: which quality or character trait do you value or respect most?

Alternatively, which quality or character trait do you hate most or respect least?

If you need it, here's a list of character traits.

If you like, you can make an ordered list, as in quality 1 is most important, quality 2 is second-most, and so on and so forth.

Please don't read the comments until you've thought of your own answer to this question.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My Messy Room

My sister, who is wonderful and perfect and not messy at all (unlike me, who has been given various titles which we won't repeat) decided to clean my room.

She informed me that she found:

  • chanukah candles
  • a staple in your jewelry box
  • tons of change in places you won't believe
  • your old black dying slippers from ages ago
  • a pillow case snug in between your sheets
  • 2 Christmas bags (those were probably from your buddies, but they have no place in your room)
  • 2 gross unwashed cups on your desk
  • a dried up gluestick
  • a nail scissors in a cup of unsharpened pencils (in my defense, I probably had to cut something very small and forgot to return these to their proper place)
  • an I Owe You from Daddy for $2.25
  • a random dirty knob from one of your drawers probably
  • 2 sweatshirt strings that probably came out during the wash (red and navy)
  • your Hi-Q game and box (on opposite sides of the room amazingly)
  • a shirt on your chair (do I want to know if that's been sitting there for more than a week?!? answer: no, it has not)
  • *shaking in fury* the really expensive ring Daddy bought you from Israel on the FLOOR!!!! underneath your stupid labtop on the floor!!!!!!
  • tal's little blue chamishei chumshei torah book Daddy gave him
  • an unopened Harry Potter bookmark in one of your Carson's Pirie Scott boxes in your closet with one of your turtlenecks (I was neatly folding them)

It was her opinion that this would make a good post.

In my defense, I do keep my room relatively clean. I do. There's a difference between clean and messy. I am clean. I am also messy... don't worry, roommate of next year, I won't be messy at Stern, though. Really I won't. I'll be good.

On another note, my sister composed a eulogy for me over Shabbat:

"Chana was a very nice girl. She made all her friends over the Internet. When she died, nobody attended her funeral because there was no blogpost about it."

Yes. Well.

Do enjoy.

Aaron's Flaw

While in shul today, I stumbled across this verse:

"Aaron shall be gathered unto his people; for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the waters of Meribah" (Numbers 20: 24).

Turning to the Hebrew text, I noted that the word used for "you" is מְרִיתֶם -plural! It is not merely Moses, then; Aaron is also considered to have sinned and rebelled against God in the matter of the rock!

Puzzled, I considered why this would be.

I advanced an explanation for the problem:
    Aaron is a man who is twice placed in a situation where he is supposed to stop something, prevent a chain of events. He is supposed to stand out, to speak up, to halt events before they proceed further and become problematic. The first situation is that of the Golden Calf. The people approached Aaron with their desire to build and serve a deity. Aaron, perplexed, realized that they could not be reasoned with; he saw what happened to Hur, whom they killed. He therefore decided to stall them, to stave off their desire. "Ask your wives for gold," he pleaded with them, thinking that women would be loath to give up their precious baubles. He did not count upon their dedication to the project, upon the fact that these men would tear the earrings from their own earlobes and throw them upon the pile, so desperate were they for a god, an image, a form whom they could understand and worship. Aaron, helpless, had to do as they desired when confronted with his realized request. He threw the gold into the fire and a calf was formed; he then created a kind of worship and ceremonies for it- or for God through it.

    When Moses returns, he is furious with Aaron, utterly horrified. "What did this people do to you, that you have brought a great sin upon them?" he challenges angrily (Exodus 32:21). He is deeply disturbed by Aaron's behavior in the face of this chain of events. It becomes obvious that Aaron's actions were incorrect, no matter how logical they seemed at the time. Aaron was supposed to have spoken up, to have taken action, to have tried to stop the people no matter the price, even if he too would have been stoned to death. Aaron failed in this duty.

    Now Aaron is placed in the same position. Moses is supposed to speak to the rock, not strike it. But Moses decides to strike the rock, and what is more, to strike it twice. Aaron stands by and does nothing. He is supposed to stop him, to prevent his action, again he is supposed to take some kind of action. But he does not. He has failed once more.
This was the explanation I initially advanced, but upon closer inquiry I realized that it was incorrect. Why? Look to these verses (and notice the parts I have bolded):
    ו וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן מִפְּנֵי הַקָּהָל, אֶל-פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, וַיִּפְּלוּ, עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם; וַיֵּרָא כְבוֹד-יְהוָה, אֲלֵיהֶם. {פ}
    6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tent of meeting, and fell upon their faces; and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. {P}

    ז וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר.
    7 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:

    ח קַח אֶת-הַמַּטֶּה, וְהַקְהֵל אֶת-הָעֵדָה אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל-הַסֶּלַע לְעֵינֵיהֶם, וְנָתַן מֵימָיו; וְהוֹצֵאתָ לָהֶם מַיִם מִן-הַסֶּלַע, וְהִשְׁקִיתָ אֶת-הָעֵדָה וְאֶת-בְּעִירָם.
    8 'Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye [plural] unto the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water; and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their cattle drink.'

    ~Numbers 20: 6-8
This is very strange! God appears to both Moses and Aaron yet when he gives the pivotal command, the command that Moses and Aaron are to speak to the rock, not hit it, he only speaks to Moses.

This means that it is only Moses who received this communication from God, only Moses who knew that he was supposed to speak to the rock. He was supposed to repeat this over to Aaron (this is obvious because of the word "v'dibartem" which is plural; both Moses and Aaron had to speak to the rock.) But did he? The text does not say. From simply reading the text, we must assume that Aaron did not know that Moses was supposed to speak to the rock rather than hit it.

Therefore, Aaron cannot be held culpable for failing to stop Moses from hitting the rock.

But my explanation still stands- only differently. Why was Aaron guilty?

Aaron was guilty because he did not react to Moses' words.

Aaron had been placed in a position where he was supposed to act, to respond, to stop the people from committing a grave sin. He did act, but incorrectly. He aided them in this sin, thinking that he was limiting the damage. Aaron believed himself to be responsible for the sin of the Golden Calf; for the rest of his life, he strove to make up the damage.

    For ever since Aaron had become aware that through the construction of the Golden Calf he had brought about the transgression of Israel, it was his endeavor through the following course of life to atone for his sin. He would go from house to house, and whenever he found one who did not know how to recite his Shema', he taught him the Shema'; if one did not know how to pray he taught him how to pray; and if he found one who was not capable of penetrating into the study of the Torah, he initiated him into it. [634] He did not, however, consider his task restricted 'to establishing peace between God and man,' but strove to establish peace between the learned and the ignorant Israelites, among the scholars themselves, among the ignorant, and between man and wife. [635] Hence the people loved him very dearly, and rejoiced when they believed he had now attained a higher rank than Moses. (Legends of the Jews, "Preparing Aaron for his Impending Death," page 740)
How, then, could Aaron remain silent when he heard Moses refer to his brethren, his people as הַמֹּרִים - fools and rebels? He was the peacemaker! This was the way in which he strove to atone for his sin, his sin of inaction, or rather, of improper action!

And yet, when placed in the same situation, Aaron did not act. Once again he allowed events to take their course. Once again he did not truly intervene... He did not respond to Moses' words, did not defend the people as he ought to have done. If Aaron had truly understood the flaw, the problem with his actions when it came to the Golden Calf, he would not have remained silent. He would have spoken up; he would have argued with Moses, told him that he could not refer to the people in this manner.

The Midrash in the Yalkut Shimoni, TShS"D states that Moses was perturbed and questioned God: "I am guilty, but how is Aharon?" It seemed similar to a situation where a creditor comes to collect a debt and collects it, not only from the one who owes but also from his neighbor!

But Aaron did not defend himself. He remained silent. Silence is an attribute of Aaron, silence after the death of his sons, silence when he ought to have spoken, to have defended his people, a kind of silence, even, in the face of a people who desire to create an image that has been expressly forbidden them. Aaron accepted his punishment because he knew what had caused it; his eloquent silence is an admission of guilt.

You are correct, he seems to say. I ought to have acted. I ought to have acted then, to prevent the sin of the Golden Calf. I ought to have acted now, to prevent Moses from speaking ill of the Jews. I did not act. I thought that I had overcome this problem; I saw myself as peacemaker, the man who spoke to all and tried to help them. But in that decisive moment, I was not the peacemaker. I was only the bystander, caught once again in an untenable situation, faced once again with a choice- and again, I chose incorrectly.

This, then, is Aaron's fatal flaw: the failure to act. The failure to speak. The failure to stand up and oppose the will of an entire people, the failure to be a Joshua or Caleb. Or in contrast, the failure to oppose his own brother, the people's leader...Why is Aaron punished so harshly? Why does he deserve death? Because this was his second chance, this his chance to atone for his former sin. Aaron was supposed to prevent a sin, the angry words that Moses spoke. At the least, he was supposed to rebuke him, to challenge his assertion, to defend the people. But he remained silent...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Jewish Out of Towner's Guide BLOG (please read)

Dear Everyone,

The wonderful thing about the Jewish community is that we all link together and join up with one another. I have therefore decided it would be fantastic if we were to create a blog, as a group, called The Jewish Out of Towner's Guide or JOOT Guide, for short. And therefore I have created this blog.

All those comments you left on my New York post will not go to waste. Instead, we will have to establish some rules.

I would absolutely love to invite people to join this blog (and soon will.) If you write about a particular community, here are the rules:

  • You have to be positive. (You can say that a community is for a certain group of people, but you can't put it down. You can say "This is an Ultra-Orthodox community/ This is a Modern Orthodox community, etc" but you cannot get into issues of exclusivity or claiming the inhabitants are all loonies.)

  • Stipulate to the facts. Provide factual information, not opinions (unless the opinions are positive ones.) If you don't think the Yated is worth someone's time, you don't say that. Simply describe the Yated: The Yated is an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish publication put out in __________.

  • You have to live in the community in order to write about it (I don't want someone from Milwaukee writing about Chicago. Even if he has friends in Chicago.)

  • There can only be one post about the community. I don’t want five posts about Kew Garden Hills. There can be one post about Kew Garden Hills and if several different people want to edit/ add to it, that is fine. Perhaps they can even confer before doing so.

  • You are responsible for your post. If something changes/ a store closes, you are responsible to edit your post and keep it up to date.

  • I am the final editor.

You should include, but are not limited to:

IF DOING AN ENTIRE CITY: Communities within that city

  • Community
  • Shuls
  • Schools
  • Jewish Publications
  • Jewish Bookstores
  • Programs
  • Appliances
  • Chesed
  • Kosher Stores
  • Bakeries
  • Restaurants
  • Stores/ Malls
  • Tourist Attractions/ Things to Do

People have also recommended that I include:

  • Mikvahs
  • Hotels
Please stay within this format so that all the posts are consistent. If I had a way of making a form, I would, but I don’t.

I want as wide a range as possible. If you’re from Israel and want to write about a particular place, please do so. If you’re from Russia and want to write about a particular place, please do that, too. Any country. Anywhere. Wherever there are Jewish communities.

If you want to remain anonymous, THAT IS FINE. Either create a different blogger account or email me your submission and I will post it for you.

The purpose of this website will be to provide easy networking for the Jewish community. I should just be able to look down the sidebar, click on a link and find out everything I might want to know if I’m visiting/ moving to a community.

Yes, this is going to be time-consuming. And if you write a guide, you’ll have to put in that effort. But if this works out as I’d like it to, the results could be wonderful.

Thank you very much.

If you want to be added to this blog, email me at thecoruscation @ Or comment to this post.

(P.S. My dad needs to know about Dallas, Texas as soon as possible. Jewish communities there? Hotels? Anyone who knows, please tell me.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Out-of-Towner's Guide to Jewish Chicago

Welcome to Chicago!

I am sure you've heard about us warm Midwesterners. All the kind, pleasant things they say are true: people in Chicago are warm, giving, caring folks who are very involved in chesed and very open to newcomers. If you're coming here for a visit or interested in staying long-term, you've picked the best of places. Good job!

There are already three excellent guides to Chicago.

1. The Chicago Jewish News' Guide to Jewish Chicago

2. The Chicago Rabbinical Council's Guide to Jewish Chicago

3. The JUF's Guide to Jewish Living in Chicago

Why, then, have I determined that another guide is necessary?

Oh, well, the more the merrier...

More particularly, those guides are simply lists of places and addresses while I can theoretically add to that- detail is always exciting, yes? So let's begin!



There are three major Jewish communities in Chicago. They are:

  • West Rogers Park
  • Skokie
  • Peterson Park

There are smaller communities in Buffalo Grove, Highland Park and other suburbs (Lincolnwood, Northbrook), but for the purpose of this guide we shall focus on the main three.

How to differentiate between these three communities? Why, that's easy!

It all has to do with jackets.

A man davening in a Skokie shul will not feel it necessary to wear a jacket during prayer, a man davening in West Roger's Park would wear a jacket and a man davening in Peterson Park would wear a jacket and a black hat.

The Modern Orthodox reside in Skokie. The Modern Orthodox to Orthodox reside in West Roger's Park. The Orthodox to Ultra-Orthodox reside in Peterson Park. So it all works out nicely and everyone's happy.

There is a strong Lubavitch presence in Chicago, incidentally.


There are many synagogues in Chicago. For a full list of Orthodox synagogues, I suggest you look here. For a list of minyanim and times, look here.

I will list the shuls I know best.

In West Roger's Park:

Sha'arei Tzedek
2832 W. Touhy Ave. Chicago, IL 60645
Rabbi Reuven Gross
President Mitch Rose
Phone: (773) 274-2223

Sha'arei Tzedek features a warm and vibrant community made up of young adults and their children, including many Ba'alei Teshuva. At the moment, the shul is under construction, so it is not as pretty as it could be and if aesthetics are important to you, you will not like it. Rabbi Reuven Gross is a kind, learned man who is well-spoken and articulate. His speeches on Sabbath afternoon (after Torah reading) are always interesting and well-prepared; he is very good at connecting with everyone in the audience, no matter their background. The shul does have a kiddush with goodies and treats from Breadsmith and cholent made by Mrs. Gross (it's quite tasty.) There are children's programs in the back room. There are classes and shiurim offered as well.

aka Atereth Yehoshua
2913-15 W. Touhy Ave.
Chicago, IL 60645
Rabbi Yehoshua H. Eichenstein
Phone: (773) 764-1382

Yes, this shul is officially called Atereth Yehoshua. Be warned, nobody calls it that. It is "Eichenstein's." If you say you are going to Ateres Yehoshua, people will be confused. This shul features a davening that is nussach Sephard. It is also exciting because the Rabbi does not speak very often (and people enjoy not having to endure long speeches.) There is a kiddush here as well, featuring goodies from a different bakery; I'm not sure which one. Children's programs take place upstairs. This shul features many middle-aged or older folks, though there is definitely a younger component as well.

Congregation Adas Yeshurun Anshe Kanesses Israel
3050 W. Touhy Ave.
Chicago, IL 60645
Rabbi Zev Cohen
President Chaim Suss
Phone: (773) 465-2288
Fax: (773) 465-1920

This shul is simply known as "Yeshurun." This is a mixed crowd-you've got everyone from Modern Orthodox to Agudah; here's where you'll find the largest social scene (this may simply be because it's the largest building, hence able to accomodate the most people.) Having recently moved to a new building, Yeshurun is the most beautiful out of all the shuls on Touhy. There is a large mahogany balustrade and balcony; the women remain on top while the men are below. Everything is decorated very beautifully. Rabbi Zev Cohen is known for his fiery, passionate speeches and his characteristic use of the word "Rabbosai." There are children's programs. There is a kiddush. I affectionately call this shul the "Kiddush Shul" because on Friday nights, the Rabbi makes kiddush up on the bimah and all the little children get to go up and drink out of little cups. I was always very excited to go to "The Kiddush Shul" with my father. (Nussach Ashkenaz)

Congregation Ezras Israel Mechitza Minyan
7001 N. California
Chicago, IL 60645
Rabbi Douglas Zelden
Executive Director Evelyn Levin
President Robert D. Manewith
Phone: (773) 764-8320
Fax: (773) 764-7438

If you're a person who cares about aesthetics, you will very much enjoy Ezras Israel's Mechitza Minyan. This shul has beautiful stained-glass windows and an absolutely gorgeous mechitza. The people are warm and welcoming. The service is explained in both Hebrew and English; someone regularly announces which page everyone is on. When they take out the Torah, they make a large circle and walk through the women's section as well, thus allowing the women to kiss the Torah. Rabbi Doug Zelden is an extremely likeable man, very friendly, very welcoming, the kind of person who notices you if you are new. His speeches are always short, clever, and explained in a way that everyone can understand (translation of Hebrew terms and the like.) The reason this minyan is referred to as the Mechitza Minyan is because there is an upstairs one with older congregants that is traditional and where they use a microphone/ there is no mechitza. There is a kiddush (often with a truly exceptional shiur given by Dr. Julian Ungar.) One note: The shul does not make use of Artscroll siddurim but instead works with the older (possibly Birnbaum) siddurim. (Nussach Ashkenaz)

Congregation K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park
2800 W. North Shore
Chicago, IL 60645
Rabbi Leonard Matanky
Co-Presidents Neal Stein & Dr. Yigal Yahav
Phone: (773) 761-4000
Fax: (773) 761-4959

K.I.N.S is an acronym for Knesset Israel Nusach Sefard (even though they daven nussach Ashkenaz.) KINS is a Modern Orthodox shul that boasts truly stunning aesthetics. The interior of the shul features even more gorgeous stained-glass windows and plush seats and an elevated bimah at the front. The most important aspect of this shul is its Zionism. This is the Zionistic shul in Chicago; speeches given by Rabbi Leonard Matanky are definitely going to be pro-Israel and many of them will have a political slant. They say the prayer for the welfare of the State and for the soldiers in the army. The davening is nussach Ashkenaz except for the fact that they say the daily "Yom" after Shemoneh Esrei, the Sephardi approach. KINS also features a large social hall; sometimes people hold weddings there. It is a comparatively large shul in Chicago; also a place with many dedicated congregants and a definite "scene" (there are lots of young people here.) There is a kiddush (and children's programs, I believe.)

In Skokie

Young Israel of Skokie
3740 W. Dempster
Skokie, IL 60076
Rabbi Gershon Schaffel
President Jeffry Bernstein
Phone: (847) 329-0990

This is a Modern Orthodox, Zionistic shul in Skokie. They say the prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel/ the soldiers. A close-knit group of people who are very kind and welcoming, really fine individuals. Rabbi Gershon Schaffel's speeches are excellent. He has lately decided to give a Parshanut course and disguise it as a Shabbos speech. It's working quite well. Each month, he chooses a great scholar (he's also going in historical order)- this month it's Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. He gives some background on the scholar, interesting tidbits and pieces of information, then proceeds to learn something connected to the parsha. (He prints off sheets before Shabbos and gives them to the congregants.) He has fantastic insights into the scholar's chosen mode and method of commentary. It's a really good way of keeping people focused and coming back for more. The shul has a delicious kiddush and children's programs upstairs. (Nussach Ashkenaz)

Skokie Kollel
3732 W. Dempster
Skokie, IL 60076
Rabbi Aron Rosenberg
(847) 674-7959

The Skokie Kollel has clever Shabbat services. They finish very quickly because they avoid all unnecessary speeches. They then have a sit-down kiddush (the women help put out the different salads, brownies, etc), men and women are seated separately. That is when the Rabbi speaks- when everyone is comfortable and listening because they're not hungry. It's a nice system. Since they are the Kollel, they obviously offer many different services (shiurim and the like.) On Shabbos, the Kollel has more of the Orthodox crowd (rather than Modern Orthodox) and the people who attend come with their families (rather than being predominantly teenagers or older couples.) They are very welcoming, however, and very accomodating. (Nussach Ashkenaz)

Or Torah
3800 W. Dempster Skokie, IL 60076
Rabbi Harvey Well
President Dr. Joseph Gluck
Phone: (847) 679-3645
Fax:(847) 679-3665

Or Torah is the quintessential Modern Orthodox, Zionistic shul in Skokie. They say the prayer for the welfare of Israel/ the army. A very large shul, similar to KINS, in fact, this is the "scene" in Skokie. This is where all the teenagers and younger people congregate. Very spacious rooms and davening halls; there are two minyanim on Shabbos. One is earlier in the morning; the other, which is the main one, starts at 9. There are long benches rather than separate seats. Rabbi Harvey Well's speeches are also often political in nature, Zionistic and the like. There are children's programs and a large kiddush. At the moment, because Rabbi Harvey Well is retiring, they are auditioning Rabbis. (Nussach Ashkenaz)


There are a lot of schools. Elementary schools are listed here.
High schools are listed here.

The most common elementary schools for a Chicago child to attend:

1. Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School- If you are Modern Orthodox, Zionistic and don't mind people who will wear pants/ won't cover their hair, this is the school. The only elementary school in Chicago to have a Chidon HaTanach (International Bible Contest) program. The academics are very good; unfortunately children miss out on Talmud in favor of Tanakh. Classes are coed. Dresscode but no uniforms. Has a Keshet program.

2. Arie Crown Hebrew Day School- If you are Orthodox to Modern Orthodox and optionally Zionistic, this is the school for you. Classes are separate- there's a part of the school (upstairs) just for girls. There's another part of the school (downstairs) that's just for boys. Uniforms for the girls (plaid skirts, oxford or polo shirts, kneesocks) and dresscode for the boys. Has a Keshet program.

3. Yeshiva Tiferet Tzvi/ Beis Yaakov- These are two separate schools, both created and founded by the Agudah. These schools are for Ultra-Orthodox people. Yeshiva Tiferet Tzvi is for boys and Beis Yaakov is for girls. Obviously, there are uniforms/ a dress code. Library books are censored (there are parts that are blacked out.)

4. Veitzener Cheder- This is male-only. Teaches boys in Yiddish. Strong Jewish studies.

5. Cheder Lubavitch- Also teaches Yiddish. Separate schools for boys and girls.

For high schools, I suggest that you contact someone other than me.

If you need information- legitimately- about the high schools in Chicago, you can email me.

There is a Jewish college in Chicago. For guys, it's the Hebrew Theological College. For girls, it's the Anne M. Blitstein Institute (TI). It's got a different clientele than Stern- the girls who go to TI are generally more to the right. I highly recommend any class taught by Rabbi Shmuel Kurtz if you're interested in enrolling in a night course. The man is brilliant and I love him.


Chicago Jewish News (I love Joseph Aaron's articles.)

Likutei Pshatim (put out by the HTC folks, in shuls everywhere)

Acheinu- THIS IS ESSENTIAL. If you come to Chicago, you must, and I cannot repeat this enough, own the Acheinu. This is the phonebook for everyone Jewish in Chicago (well, who chooses to be listed.) It also contains the phone numbers for every single store/ restaraunt/ handyman/ private business/ shop. You want the Acheinu. (You can get it in a physical format or can download it to a PDA.)

Acheinu Weekly Bulletin

Also, make sure you get signed up with "the Yeshiva's" Purim Shalach Manos service. It's Skokie Yeshiva. (More about that in a different post of mine.)


See here for the complete list.

The largest one/ the one everyone goes to in order to buy books and sefarim for school is Rosenblum's.

Rosenblum's World of Judaica
2906 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 262-1700
(773) 262-1930


The JCC, or Jewish Community Center. The Bernard Horwich JCC is amazing. They even have separate workout rooms now!

There's NCSY/ Bnei Akiva/ SNIF in Chicago, but I'm not the one to ask about the particulars.

APPLIANCES (Washing Machines/ Computers/ Ovens/ Etc)

There's your typical Best Buy/ Office Max/ Costco/ Office Depot/ Home Depot/ Menards. But Chicago bosts an extra-special amazing store with much cheaper prices than the rest. That is ABT. They have amazing customer service; the store itself is one of the coolest places ever (they have a Home Theater section where you can sit in massage chairs and watch whichever movie is playing, a tank full of fish and a globe revolving in water- kids are transfixed with wonder) and you will love it. Buy all your appliances at ABT.

1200 Milwaukee Ave
Glenview, IL 60025
(847) 967-8830


The Ark
6450 N. California
Chicago, IL 60645
(773) 973-1000
Fax: (773) 973-4362

There are many gemachs as well; I simply don't know the addresses or names.

KOSHER STORES (Supermarkets/ Delis/ Fish)

Chicago boasts many kosher stores. Here are the ones you want to know about:

Hungarian Kosher Foods
Kosher: Stores & Delis
4020 W. Oakton Skokie, IL 60076
Phone: (847) 674-8008
Fax: (847) 674-6256
CRC supervision.
Hours: Sun. 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Mon.-Thurs. 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Shabbat.

Hungarian is the one-stop-kosher-shop. This store only sells kosher products and it carries everything you could possibly want or need (cold cuts, wines, aluminum foil containers, cereal, milk, lox.)

Jewel Osco (Kosher)
2485 W. Howard
Evanston, IL 60202
Tel: 847-328-9791
Cuisine: Meat Dept. Fish, Deli-take-out
Supervision: OU

Yes, we have a kosher Jewel Osco. And I mean really kosher. So kosher that they've got a Jewel bakery that bakes kosher bread, pies, donuts and cakes. They've got a kosher deli. They've even got a Chinese take-out restaraunt situated there, Tein Li Chow. Grocery shopping was never so fun. (And of course, everything is at normal prices because Jewel Osco is a regular store rather than a specifically Jewish store.)

Kol Tuv
(Cert. By Mosdos Machzekei Hadas)
2938-40 W. Devon,
Chicago, IL

This is one of the smaller Jewish stores (with anything you'd find in your typical grocery store, though they carry more Jewish products than, for lack of a better word, secular.)

Kol Touhy
2923 W. Touhy
Chicago, IL 60645

Also one of the smaller Jewish stores (grocery store, see above.)

Romanian Kosher Sausage Co.
Kosher: Stores & Delis
7200 N. Clark Chicago, IL 60626
Phone: (773) 761-4141
Fax: (773) 761-9506
OU supervision.
Hours: Sun. 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; Mon.-Wed. 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs. 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Shabbat.

Romanian sells coldcuts! It's an awesome deli. We love it. Go to Romanian.

Good Morgan Fish
Kosher: Butchers-Fish
2948 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659
Phone: (773) 764-8115
CRC supervision. Hours: Sun. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Mon.-Thurs. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Shabbat.

Good Morgan's is also an eatery! Their fried fish sandwich is amazing. But the grilled fish sandwich isn't bad either. And I love their chowder.

Robert's Fish on Devon
Kosher: Butchers-Fish
2916 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659
Phone: (773) 761-3424
CRC supervision. Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m -5 p.m.; Fri. 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Shabbat and Sunday.

Anything else butcher/fish related, see here.
Anything else store related, see here.


Please see here.

Definitely the coolest one is the kosher Breadsmith.

3327 W. Dempster Skokie, IL 60076
Phone: (847) 673-5001
Fax: (847) 673-5502

Don't forget that Jewel Osco now makes cakes, too!


All the Dairy Restaurants listed here.
All the Meat Restaurants listed here.

I'll say a few quick words about them.


Bagel Country: A very good place to go with your family, not the place you want to go for a fancy date. Open, bustling, small tables or little booths. They have excellent pizza bagels and I've heard the tuna wrap is good, too. They also have an ice cream section which is pretty awesome. Relatively inexpensive.

B.B.'s Bagels: A quick stop-off for coffee or your morning routine. Food is good but the eatery is relatively small and faces the street. You can expect typical breakfast/lunch type foods, different kinds of eggs, sandwiches, wraps, pancakes. I recommend the pancakes- they are excellent. Relatively inexpensive.

Da'Nali's Cafe: They have the best deep-dish pizza in all of Chicago. A nice place to go with the family or on a moderately fancy date. They sometimes have entertainment (little bands or the like.) You have not lived until you have eaten Da'Nali's frenchfries. You will not forget them. (They're also conveniently located right next to Hungarian, so you can grocery-shop afterwards, if you're with your family.) Moderately expensive.

Dunkin' Donuts: There is a particular Dunkin' Donuts that is kosher in Chicago; not all of them are kosher. Your obvious Dunkin' Donuts; I don't need to explain.

Main Street Pizza and Ice Cream Parlor: They make excellent pizza. And I enjoy their ice cream, too. Good family place; you'll see friends hanging out here, too. Little tables or booths. Relatively inexpensive- potentially moderate.

Slice of Life: This is the fancy dairy restaurant in Chicago. Here you can get pastas and pizzas and all kinds of fancy dishes. Food is excellent; the service could be better. I love the French Onion soup, also enjoy the eggplant parmesan. Expensive.

Tel Aviv Kosher Pizza: Family place and/or friends hanging out here. Very relaxed place. The owners are very warm. Relatively inexpensive.

Malibu: Malibu just opened; it's right next to Ken's Diner. It has a summer beach theme (so there are interesting palm-tree lights everywhere, sand, blown-up boats and the like.) The food was good; they had some gig playing there on Saturday night. Not very many choices, so if you like variety, this isn't the place. Pretty much pizza and maybe one pasta dish. Relatively inexpensive.


Great Chicago: This is just like Ken's Diner except it's not as well-known. The theme features Native Americans. They have a sukkah over Sukkos (so you can eat there.) They're your typical fast-food place- burgers, chicken nuggets, different types of chicken, cold cuts, etc. Nice place, great hangout for family or friends. Relatively inexpensive.

Hy Life Bistro: Fancy place- this is the meat section of Slice of Life. I've only been there once and it was pretty decent, not incredibly amazing. This is the place you go if you want to treat someone to something special, it's a night out with the family or you're taking someone on a date. Expensive.

Ken's Diner: And this is the best-known restaurant in all of Chicago. It's a grease-joint, fast-food just like Great Chicago. The theme is different, though- they've got old posters and they have it decorated like in fifties-style with old booths and all. Candy dispensers and a little alcove make it fun; there are televisions there that are always showing sports. The people who work there are chummy and amusing. Burgers, chicken nuggets, sub sandwiches. Great place to hang out with friends; they also have an excellent veggie burger. Good family place, too. Relatively inexpensive.

Shallots: This is the fanciest, most expensive restaurant in all of Chicago. The food is delicious. I got to go there for my birthday (see this post-it has pictures of the food)! Gorgeous restaurant, wonderful ambience, excellent steaks and awesome desserts. Famous for "The Black Hat" dessert. Very expensive.

Taboun Grill: Excellent Israeli food, definitely different. Kubeh, schwarma, very spicy food- Meditteranean atmosphere. The restaurant is generally crowded, so there's not so much privacy, but other than that it's a really nice place. Family/ friends/ date.

Tein Li Chow: Chinese takeout (not sit-down)- really good, far better than Eden Wok. *smiles* I love their potstickers.

STORES/ MALLS (Clothing, Accessories, Jewelery)

Lincolnwood Town Center
3333 West Touhy Avenue
Lincolnwood, IL 60712
(847) 674-9220

Very good "walk-around" mall. Has a nice array of stores- Wet Seal, Carson Pirie Scott, Rave, Regis, a nails place, kosher ice cream booth, Claire's, Gap, Old Navy, Kohl's, Things Remembered...and more.

Old Orchard
66 Old Orchard Center
Skokie IL 60077
(847) 763-6800

This is the mall in Chicago. If you come to Chicago and don't stop by Old Orchard (now called Westfield Mall), you're missing the whole entire point. Firstly, it's huge. Every store you could possibly want is there. And of course they've got movie theaters, lots of places outdoors to sit and listen to the classical music, gorgeous fountains- it's basically amazing. Go to Old Orchard. Go now. There's definitely something for everyone, every age- everything from the Disney Store to Sharper Image to Brookstone to Abercrombie and Fitch. Obviously all the department stores- Lord and Taylor, Nordstroms, Macy's...oh, and just across the street there's a DSW Outlet. It's an outdoor mall, which makes it amazing in the summer- and beautiful in the winter, with all the Christmas decorations.

Northbrook Court
2171 Northbrook Court
Northbrook, IL 60062

This is an upscale indoor mall that has over 200 stores. Also has a beautiful fountain and has many different levels. It's gorgeous but just not as much fun as Old Orchard. This is the place to go if you crave variety or have to buy something very fancy.

Kayla's Blessing
2937 W Touhy Ave
Chicago, IL 60645
Phone: (773) 764 2770
Fax: (773) 764 2769

This is a store that caters to the Orthodox Jewish community. They offer fun, stylish tznius clothes. Danielle's (the owner's) collection changes; sometimes there are one-of-a-kind items there, sometimes the items are less unique. I have found some really gorgeous clothes there. The key is to stop by frequently; she changes it up often enough!

Itz You
2936 W Devon Avenue
Chicago IL 60659
Phone: (773) 465-5886

This is a store for the Ultra-Orthodox. She sells suits of many kinds; everything is supposedly from New York and fits a certain kind of person's style-not everyone's. It's an excellent store for long denim jean skirts. Also, there are some gorgeous Shabbos robes.

You can google Fox's; there are several different locations in Chicago. This is an excellent resource for a girl/ lady who is trying to find modest clothing here. Fox's carries a nice array of modest clothes.


Check out for an excellent list of attractions in Chicago.

Some that shouldn't be missed:

Adler Planetarium
1300 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

The Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, IL 60605-2496

The Museum of Science and Industry
57th Street and Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL
(773) 684-1414

Brookfield Zoo
First Avenue between Ogden Avenue and 31st Street
Brookfield, IL

Shedd Aquarium
John G. Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

Navy Pier
600 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-PIER
(800) 595-PIER

Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand Avenue •
Chicago, IL 60611
Box Office 312.595.5600 •
Administration 312.595.5656

Art Institute
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois, 60603-6404.


By the way, everything is easily accessible using the CTA or Pace.

You can get directions at Mapquest or Hopstop.

And Metromix is a great site to find out about Chicago attractions, as well (geared more towards adults.)

All right, folks.

I sure hope that helps.

Love from,

The Empath

There's a character in the book The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Ilse Witch who is both a seer and an empath.

An empath is someone who can feel other people's pain.

    She took a step forward. "An empath can give you peace you can find in no other way. Give me your hand."

    He did so without thinking, and she took it in her own. Her hands were soft and warm, and they barely enclosed his. She ran her fingers slowly over his palm and closed her eyes. "You are in such pain, Walker," she said. A tingling began that turned slowly to sleepy calm, then to a sudden, soaring euphoria. "You feel yourself beset on all sides, your chances slipping away from you, your burden almost too much to bear. You hate yourself for what you are because you believe it is wrong for you to be so. You conceal truths that will affect the lives of those who- "

    He jerked his hand free and stepped back, shocked at how easily she had penetrated his heart. Her eyes opened and lit on him anew. "I could free you of so much of your pain if you would let me," she whispered.

    "No," he replied. He felt himself naked and revealed in a way he didn't care for. "The pain is a reminder of who I am."

    ~pages 212-213
And then later-

    She bent to the Druid soundlessly. Like the shadow she so often seemed, she hovered over him, her hands placed carefully on the sides of his face, her slender form draped across his own.


    The strange dance between Druid and seer went on for a long time, a give and take of sudden motion and harsh response. She's taking the poison with its sickness and pain into herself, Bek realized at one point, watching her body knot and her face twist. She's absorbing what's killing him into herself. But won't it then kill her? How much stronger can she be than the Druid, this tiny frail creature? He felt helpless and frustrated watching her work. But he could do nothing.

    Then she collapsed to the floor so suddenly that both Bek and the Healer sprang to their feet to go to her.

She does die. She gives up her life so the Druid can live.

That is the romanticized portrait of the empath. Most of you know the empath from a work that is more familiar to you and that is One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. McMurphy is the absolute and total empath. He is, perhaps, the epitome of the empath. McMurphy doesn't need to stay with the patients in the mental hospital. He doesn't need to draw Chief Broom out of his shell. He gets cagey for a while, plays the game, but then the need of the other patients forces him to fight against the Nurse, to put his own life on the line, to fight a battle that he doesn't need to fight for himself but that he needs to fight for them. Because he feels their pain. Because they can't win against Big Nurse but he can- and when he does, he can free them.
    "No, you're right. That's not what drove you crazy. I wasn't giving my reason as the sole reason. Though I used to think one time, a few years ago, my turtleneck years, that society's chastising was the sole force that drove one along the road to crazy, but you've caused me to re-appraise my theory. There's something else that drives people, strong people like you, my friend, down that road.

    "Yeah? Not that I'm admitting that I'm down that road, but what is that something else?"

    "It is us." He swept his hand about him in a soft white circle and repeated, "Us." (258)
McMurphy "goes crazy," as it were, for their sake. He brings in the prostitutes, the liquor and the alcohol for their sake- the fishing expedition is for their sake- everything is for their sake.

And finally:

    We couldn't stop him because we were the ones making him do it. It wasn't the nurse that was forcing him, it was our need that was making him push himself slowly up from sitting, his big hands driving down on the leather chair arms, pushing him up, rising and standing like one of those moving picture zombies, obeying orders beamed at him from forty masters. It was us that had been making him go on for weeks, keeping him standing long after his feet and legs had given out, weeks of making him wink and grin and laugh and go on with his act long after his humor had been parched dry between two electrodes. (267)
McMurphy's not fighting the Big Nurse for himself. He's doing it for the others, he's leading a rebellion on their behalf, because they can't do it without him, they're too scared; they're put on guilt trips by the nurse, the same one who blames him for Cheswick's and Billy's deaths.

There are people in this world who are strong- who are able to be strong because of their parents, their upbringing and their community- or because of their personality. And they choose to dedicate that strength to those who don't have the opportunities they have, who don't have the ability to do the things they do, who can't fight the battles they fight. They dedicate their passion and their questions and their desire to the people who are unable to ask these questions.

They don't do this for themselves. They're the ones, you see, who have the most to lose, the ones that Big Nurse can tear down and ruin. Sometimes they give up, they give in; they get cagey for a while. Play the game, scrub the toilets. But after a while they see the need of those around them- people who are begging them, with their eyes and with their subjugated, obedient manner- and they come back. And they dedicate themselves to fight the hardest battle they'll ever fight, not for themselves, because in the winning they are going to die, but for the others who have the chance but who are too scared. The ones who, as Harding explains, think that they are rabbits.

McMurphy has the power, as Chief Broom says, to build men up and make them strong with his words. Just his words! And if his words alone can do so much, imagine his actions- that last fatal lunge at Big Nurse, tearing her gown open and trying to choke her to death. He does this for the others, not for himself- he does this to free them.

But he has no choice, really. Because he's attuned to their pain, to their eyes, to the way that Big Nurse tears them down and throws them on the ground and walks all over them. He sees how she beats them down and he knows that he has the power to stop it. The only problem is one of sacrifice- how much he will lose in going after her, in fighting for them.

And that is where the voluntary choice comes in. McMurphy could have left, you see. He had every opportunity to leave. But he stayed. He fought and he died but he won because the rest of them checked themselves out AMA and Chief Broom ran away.

There are people, and you may not know them, but they have been or are in the same position as McMurphy. These are people whom others rely upon; people look up to them with their bewildered, painstricken, questioning eyes and beg for them to help. McMurphy, you see, seems strong. He's the one who is able to swagger and laugh and thrust his hand through a pane of glass just to fight Big Nurse. He gathers all the men around him and sits in front of a TV watching a blank screen. He entertains everyone. He's amusing.

What you may not know is that McMurphy is not as strong as he seems, that every day he makes his choice again, every day he determines that he will fight this battle that will cost him dearly- and he will do it for them, because he can't stand to see the look in their eyes.

It would be a hell of a lot easier for McMurphy if he just didn't feel, if he just didn't care. If he'd get cagey or walk when he had the chance or swing on out of there with Candy the night after the party in the mental health facility.

But here's the thing: McMurphy does care. And once he chooses, he's committed; he's the wolf among the rabbits and he's going to do his damndest to free them all. He's the strong amongst the weak, the innocent amongst the guilty, the rebel amongst the obedient. He's fighting the Combine and they'll break him eventually- but not before he wins.

Never before he wins.