Monday, September 27, 2010

the daily grind

So there are those of you who particularly enjoy the lighthearted, humorous, happy version of me.

Luckily for you, that version is now going to exist as part of a Team Blog which will include the doings of myself and my fellow twenty-somethings who work at the OU.

The plan is to post at least once a day (on all the days I'm in the office/ have access to a computer) and in this way to give you a taste of my life and the Orthodox Union.

Please comment on those posts over at that location rather than at this blog.

Welcome to: Life at the OU

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In Which I Make History

So this past Shabbat my parents made a kiddush in honor of Heshy and myself. It was supposed to take place in the sukkah of Shaarei Tzedek. first there were two sukkot at the shul.

Then there was one.

And then there were none.

At which point they decided to make a Women's Kiddush (since we aren't obligated in Mitzvos Asei She'Hazeman Grama).

And I got to say Kiddush for everyone! And make history at my shul- because a woman said kiddush for all the women and drank from the cup. Very exciting. Hurrah!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Calling All Teenagers/ High-Schoolers

If you are currently attending an Orthodox Jewish high school (single sex or coed), please email me at OliviaNCSY@gmail to answer the following questions (you can do this totally anonymously and I don't plan to share the information with any adults, teachers or other authority figures):


a) what is your experience of Judaism at home/ role modelled by your parents?
b) what is your experience of Judaism at high school
c) what is your experience of Judaism elsewhere/ outside of school/ summer camps or trips etc
d) what is your experience of Judaism on NCSY/ JSU programs

Do you keep half-Shabbos or full-Shabbos (basically, do you text on Shabbos), do you eat out at non-kosher restaraunts (and if so, by yourself, with friends or with family), have you been on Miami spring break and if so how would you describe your religiosity there? Is your Judaism meaningful to you? Why or why not? What (if anything) would make you care about your Judaism?

Please also just tell me whether you attend a single-sex all boys school, a single-sex all girls school or a coed school. If you can tell me which state it's located in, that would also be helpful.

Feel free to use fake names/ be totally anonymous.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

And If You Offer Your Soul To The Hungry

There was one verse that stood out to me from yesterday's haftorah of Isaiah 57-58.

"And if you offer your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul; then your light will shine in the darkness and the deepest gloom will be like the noon."

In the Hebrew, it is 58:10.

וְתָפֵק לָרָעֵב נַפְשֶׁךָ, וְנֶפֶשׁ נַעֲנָה תַּשְׂבִּיעַ; וְזָרַח בַּחֹשֶׁךְ אוֹרֶךָ, וַאֲפֵלָתְךָ כַּצָּהֳרָיִם.

The reason this verse speaks to me so profoundly- and this is without looking at the elaborations, explanations or commentaries to the verse- is because of the words used. Note that it does not say that one should offer food to the hungry but rather one's soul. Many times people are hungry for compassion, kindness or spirituality and these are not hungers that can be sated by anything less than the giving of a soul- and I have given my soul. I felt that God was comforting me. "You may have your sins- but you have given your soul- and I have seen it- I have witnessed it- and the strength of that soul outweighs the darkness of those sins. So be still, my daughter, for I have not left you yet."

The fact that the man who said Birkat Kohanim sounded exactly like my grandfather - he spoke with the same Chassidish pronounciation- made me feel like I was being blessed by my grandfather from beyond the grave through an emissary, which is especially important given that this is just before my wedding.

And the fact that a little old lady who survived Birkenau and showed me the numbers on her arm blessed me adds to that power. It is my custom always to ask survivors, especially those who remained religious, for blessings for I feel they have a merit that no one else can possibly attain unless they were burned in fire and tortured by water as one of God's chosen within His crucible.

God was close to me as He always is; I felt Him and I saw Him- in the faces of all those assembled, gathered only to do Yizkor. It is very powerful to me that even though one may not be at all religious still one comes to pray for the dead, for one's mother and father. It bespeaks a deep and inseparable bond between the parent and the child, a love that extends beyond death.

This should come as no surprise because King Solomon states that it is so.

See Song of Songs 8:6.

שִׂימֵנִי כַחוֹתָם עַל-לִבֶּךָ, כַּחוֹתָם עַל-זְרוֹעֶךָ--כִּי-עַזָּה כַמָּוֶת אַהֲבָה, קָשָׁה כִשְׁאוֹל קִנְאָה: רְשָׁפֶיהָ--רִשְׁפֵּי, אֵשׁ שַׁלְהֶבֶתְיָה. 6

Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave; the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of the LORD.

Love is as strong as death; this is why so many express their love by coming to Yizkor.

There is something absolutely haunting about the wailing cry, 'El Malei Rachamim.' I imagine that cry and see bodies piled up in pits, mass graves in Europe and I shudder in awe. It amazes me that man clings to God when God has hurt him- in the shadow of the death camps, in the darkness of the night, when no one else answers, all that we have is His. Our bodies? Our souls? They do not belong to us. We do His will for He gave us life; we try our hardest to do as He desires.

The part that touches me the most in the Shemoneh Esrei that we say on Yom Kippur is this paragraph:

"My God, before I was formed I was unworthy, and now that I have been formed, it is as if I had not been formed. I am dust in my life and will surely be son in my death. Behold- before You I am like a vessel filled with shame and humiliation. May it be Your will, Hashem, my God and the God of my forefathers, that I may not sin again. And what I have sinned before You, may You wipe away with Your abundant mercy, but not through suffering or serious illness."

The plea and the desire not to sin again before God again are a mixture of sweet and sad to me. This is everyone's most fervent wish- but in order not to sin one must know what the sins are. In a world that is very confusing with many divergent opinions it is hard sometimes to know if what one does, longs for, feels or acts upon is a sin or if it is not.

What I wish of God is to grant me the clarity to discern the sins from the good deeds so that I will then be able to fulfill this desire of not sinning again.

And may He shine His countenance down upon me like the sun, and my light and His will mingle and I shall be both awed and happy, cupped as I am within His Palm.

Guardians at the Gate

I find that the song "Guardians at the Gate" by Audiomachine pretty aptly describes my life.

There's a lot of running, a lot of being scared, an all-along tempo raising me higher toward what I think is my breaking point, terror and a deep sense of urgency, that if I do not do this now I will never do it, and alongside all of this the knowledge that this is what I was born to do. I must run- I must be scared- I must go forward anyway- I was created for this.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Save The Date! - A Beautiful Mind: Jewish Approaches To Mental Health

Come one, come all! The Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society is hosting a conference on October 31, 2010 entitled "A Beautiful Mind: Jewish Approaches to Mental Health."

Does your child, spouse, relative or perhaps you yourself live with a mental illness? Even if not, are you curious about mental illness and instances of it within the Orthodox Jewish community? Are you interested in learning about:

-Suicide and Depression
-Addiction and Substance Abuse
-Eating Disorders
-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
-Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
-Bullying and Harrassing

Come learn about this unfortunately stigmatized topic and become a better, more aware, more sensitive person.

See you on October 31st!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Color Dependancy

Never underestimate my devotion to Gossip Girl: I woke up at 6:30 AM in order to watch last night's episode.

Some people would find this pathetic, but I prefer to think of myself as enlightened. You see, the majority of you are dependant upon actual drugs. You need your caffeine and coffee fix. Without those roasted brown beans creamed with milk and stirred happily within your mug, you morph into terrifying monsters.

As for me, I just have color dependancy.

What, you ask, does this mean?

Mainly that I need bright, happy colors to make my morning a good one. So I dress myself in bright colors, watch TV shows that sport bright colors ("Gossip Girl" and "America's Next Top Model") and shop at stores which sell bright merchandise. If it's magenta or orange, it's calling my name.

In this way, I am not chemically charged by brown beverages and need never lament the lack of them. I just need to focus on the large Gucci advertisement in Times Swuare or the shockingly flourescent shoes that the kindly lady is wearing in an ill-advised effort to seem fashionable.

And that's why it's worth it to wake up at 6:30 in the morning to see whether Chuck and Blair got back together.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Wedding Invitations!

My Hasid and I sent out our wedding invitations recently! Our motif/ theme/ monogram is as follows:As you might have imagined, our invitation incorporates our names (and my future last name- see if you can find the letter that starts it) and Beauty and the Beast. Our invitations were made by For You Custom Creations and their phone number is 847.404.5058. And they are absolutely gorgeous.

When Rashi Isn't Rashi

I love how I walk into Divrei HaYamim class and am happily informed, upon opening Divrei HaYamim, that the commentary that looks like Rashi and is entitled Rashi and quacks like Rashi is in fact not Rashi.

Huzzah for Pseudo-Rashi.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


My chatan has a soul that is worth more than rainbows of diamonds,
glittering gems scattered throughout an everlasting room.
To scale him in amethysts would be no merit;
he could not be ransomed for his weight in gold.
A flint kindles a light that fills
worlds, the shadows banished into nowhere.
If you are the flintbox and I am the light,
there shall be no more darkness, nor any night.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I am used to walking through darkness alone.
Figments of my imagination and shadows of fantasies
lurk painfully in corners of my mind.
They call out- I turn to them- I pity them. I offer them food.
But the beggar ladies in my dreams
are evil
and burn me.

I look at the burn marks on my arms;
the scars are circular and smooth.
I touch one. It smoulders. A half-forgotten mark
of a survival I do not care
to remember.

But then came a companion
whose compassion was bottomless
and whose care was absolute
and who would not be deterred
by beggar ladies or burns.

And he took my hand
and walked with me
and we found ourselves in Paradise.

I torched it
because I was scared.

He rebuilt it.

I am afraid of ecstasy
and pleasure to me is a trap
that leads to torture.

But that's why he starts slow
and we meander thoughtlessly
through groves of orange trees
and mangoes.

Your hands are smooth and they are soft;
they are scented with the scent of tangerines
but though it is good to eat and would afford me much wisdom,
I refrain from this type of knowledge.

The tree we plant will yield fruit
and you will dig me out of the grave.

In my gratitude, what can I offer you
except my soul? But you'll refuse it.
I must give it to you with love
or not at all.
You do not accept debts.
With you, life is a constant Jubilee.

A green shoot blossoms in my heart.
It catches fire, a holy spark
of divine reverence. It is a fire-flower.
Nurture it, for you have the bellows.

A gust of wind
and I will glow.
And in the flickering light
I'll hide my face.
Afraid of yours.
Afraid I'll die.

"Be not afraid of God, love,
for this burning bush is your very soul
and you need not hide from it."

I'll wake up in wonder.
You'll have known all along.

"How did you know?" I'll ask.
"It's simple," you'll say.
"Your soul speaks to me.
I adore you and I worship you
and one day, you will be at peace."

I haven't found it yet.
But I know my companion is expert
at walking through forests tangled with thorns.
And though they rip his skin and he bleeds,
he tears his shirt to bind my feet
so the cloth protects me from harm.

Wordless within me lies my feeling;
I am afraid lest it escape.
Suppressed, I can manage it; if I gave it life
it would overwhelm me. I contain it.
But he senses it; he knows
one day.

Running Up That Hill

'C'mon, baby, c'mon, c'mon, darling,
Let me steal this moment from you now.
C'mon, angel, c'mon, c'mon, darling,
Let's exchange the experience, oh...'

And if I only could,
Make a deal with God,
And get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems

-"Running Up That Hill" covered by Placebo


God took my grandmother from me this year.
God gave me my husband.

כ וַיָּקָם אִיּוֹב וַיִּקְרַע אֶת מְעִלוֹ, וַיָּגָז אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ; וַיִּפֹּל אַרְצָה, וַיִּשְׁתָּחוּ. 20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped;

כא וַיֹּאמֶר עָרֹם יָצָתִי מִבֶּטֶן אִמִּי, וְעָרֹם אָשׁוּב שָׁמָּה--יְהוָה נָתַן, וַיהוָה לָקָח; יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה, מְבֹרָךְ. 21 And he said; naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither; the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

~Job 1:20-21

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Unrequited Love

I watched a film recently and the following questions came to mind.

What would you do if you were a girl in love with a boy who was in love with a different girl?

Alternatively, what would you do if you were a boy in love with a girl who was in love with a different boy?

Let's assume the boy or girl you loved agreed to go out with you, maybe even consider you seriously, but they can't shake the fact that they are still in love with someone else.

What do you do then? Is that enough to live on? Suppose one day you go off and settle in Hollywood bliss- but you know your husband is still in love with a different woman, even if he also cares about you.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Tefillin, Bridegrooms, Deserts & Days of Awe

One of the things I always adored in Jewish liturgy is the passage men say when they lay tefillin. I only discovered it about a year ago (maybe less) and I think it's so divinely beautiful:

"And I will betroth you to me forever, and I will betroth you to me with righteousness, justice, kindness and mercy. I will betroth you to me with fidelity and you shall know God."

In Made in Heaven, page 50, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan writes:

When a man puts on tefillin, he winds the strap three times around his left middle finger and says, "I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in justice, love and kindness. I will betroth you to Me in faith, and you shall know God" (Hosea 2:21, 22). The strap is thus a renewal of the "marriage" between God and Israel, and it is therefore wound around the finger just like a wedding ring. Then, just as the strap binds man to God, the wedding ring binds the bridegroom to his bride.

I find that image so incredibly, deeply powerful. It's an image which is echoed in so many of the Rav's writings, as he consistently speaks of his romance with the Creator. I love the idea of the relationship between man & God as being that of a lover and beloved, a bride and bridegroom.

I was thinking, in fact, of a point that is often raised in Israel's favor by God. God tells Jeremiah to call through the streets that He remembers the kindness of Israel's youth, how they followed him into the desert, a land that had no food.

ב הָלֹךְ וְקָרָאתָ בְאָזְנֵי יְרוּשָׁלִַם לֵאמֹר, כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, זָכַרְתִּי לָךְ חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ, אַהֲבַת כְּלוּלֹתָיִךְ--לֶכְתֵּךְ אַחֲרַי בַּמִּדְבָּר, בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא זְרוּעָה. 2

Go, and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying: Thus saith the LORD: I remember for thee the affection of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.

The commentaries to this verse say that Israel here put her total trust in God; she followed Him even though the land was not sown and she did not know where she would get food to eat or water to drink from. She loved Him and this was enough for her.

I think the same relationship occurs by the bride and the bridegroom. Every marriage, even if one knows the other person well, allows for some uncertainty, so that one follows the other blindly, trusting to them and hoping that in the end all shall be well.

Betrothing oneself anew to God every morning is a re-commitment to Him and to loving Him for that day and a recognition, once again, that we shall follow Him into the desert despite their being no food, borne aloft simply by our love for Him.

It's very exciting because we are so close to the Birthday of the World, Rosh Hashana, the day that God created man, who then consistently chooses to bind himself to his Bridegroom. Rosh Hashana is like our anniversary; it's the day we came into being, the day that relationship between God and man was founded, the day we get to begin again. It's a joyous day- a holy day- such a happy day! We come happily to pray to the God who loves us and who formed us on this, the Birthday of the World.

"Hayom haras olam," was, since I was a little girl, my favorite part of the Mussaf Amidah. It made me very happy to think of the world having a birthday and of Hashem celebrating it with all of us present, of the way that we would go home to eat festive meals with pretty translucent honey-jars and have birthday parties in honor of creation. For me, birthdays were always so special- so it followed that the Birthday of the World was even more exciting!

And here we go again- we get to experience betrothals and birthdays anew in just a couple more days. Tis very happymaking.

Guide To A Jewish Wedding

I recently attended an (Orthodox) Jewish wedding and they handed out this wonderful guide that I figured would be useful to type up so that everyone could see exactly how a Jewish wedding progresses. Otherwise, it can be a bit confusing- what's the deal with the chuppah? And what's going to happen next? So behold: the guide to a Jewish wedding.

Kabbalat Panim

On the day of their wedding, the bride and groom are likened to a king and queen. They greet their guests in two different rooms. At the groom's reception, the ketubah (marriage contract) is signed, which outlines the obligations the groom takes upon himself in marrying the bride.


Family and friends dance with the groom as he enters the other room to see his bride. Upon reaching the bride, the groom places the veil over her face. This custom recalls the Biblical passage in which Rebecca covered her face with a veil upon seeing Isaac before their betrothal (Genesis 24:65).


The wedding ceremony takes place under the chuppah, or canopy, a symbol of the home that the couple will build together. The bride and groom are escorted to the chuppah by their parents. When the groom arrives, he puts on a kittel, a white garment symbolizing purity. The bride arrives after the groom, and she circles him seven times. The ceremony then consists of two distinct rituals that are separated by the reading of the ketubah.


The first ritual consists of the blessing over wine and a blessing praising God for the sanctity of marriage. In the presence of two witnesses, the groom recites "Behold you are consecrated to me with this ring in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel." He then places the ring on the bride's finger.


The marriage contract is read in the original Aramaic. It outlines the groom's responsibilities to provide his wife with food, shelter and clothing, and to be attentive to her emotional needs.


After the ketubah is read, the Sheva Brachot (the seven nuptial blessings) are recited over a second cup of wine. They acknowledge the Almighty for creating the universe and mankind, and they express hope for happiness, love and peace for the bride and groom. At the conclusion, the bride and groom drink the wine. The groom then shatters a glass with his foot, reminding us that even at moments of intense joy, we must remember the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (The Temple) in Jerusalem.


The bride and groom are danced away from the chuppah and escorted to a private room where they will spend the first few moments of their married life alone. This seclusion finalizes their marriage.

Dancing and Seudat Mitzvah

The wedding meal is then celebrated with a seudah, or festive meal. Following the meal, Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) is recited along with the same Sheva Brachot (seven nuptial blessings) that were recited under the chuppah.

If you are interested in making a Jewish wedding or learning more about the origins of the customs and rituals, there's a wonderful, warmly written, explanatory book by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan entitled Made in Heaven: A Jewish Wedding Guide. And of course, you could also ask me questions, if you feel more comfortable with that.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Magical Evening (Out Of A Film)

I just had the most amazing evening and it included drinking Cabernet Sauvignon out of crystal flutes on a grassy lawn under a star-studded sky alongside Heshy.

Thank you so much, Jeff!

The Quality Of Your Kugel

I had seen a copy of Binah Magazine lying around and had been curious about it so I asked Ma for a copy of it. This is an old issue and I haven't read the most recent issue yet, but let me just say that if the woman in this story marries this man, I think I will scream in frustrated rage.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 26 of "Pass Or Fail" by Sara Wiederblank as published in Volume 4, No. 195 on August 9, 2010.

"I'm sure you do. But I really want to hear your answer to my question."

"What girls do in school? They learn, they have discussions, they socialize, they have activities...I'm not really sure what you're asking."

"The thing is, shouldn't they be doing more home economics and cooking, and less of the heavy-duty inside-a-sefer type of stuff?"

Bracha gave him a look. "Oh, not you now," she said.

"What did I say?" he asked plaintively.

"I'm surprised at you," she said reprovingly. "I expect- and I get- that question from my struggling students and their parents. But you, someone who learns in yeshivah- do you really think the quality of your kugel is more important than your wife's knowledge of Torah?"

Eliezer thought a minute. "I'll be honest with you- lots of guys, like myself, care about how good the food is, but don't care very much about how much their wife knows about the Ramban's wife of hashgachah pratis. Do you think we're wrong?"

"How can I say you're wrong if that's how you feel? But I do think it's shallow. If a boy is going to be learning- even if he's not- and he's going to have children, who are going to need to be raised in the proper path- the best cook in the world won't do as good a job supporting him and raising them if she doesn't have a deeper understanding of how to be a good Jew. At least that's my opinion."

Eliezer smiled. "Mine too. In fact- if a girl is going to be supporting someone in learning- shouldn't she make her career plans accordingly? To show that it really matters to her?"

Bracha straightened up. "Are you referring to me?"

"I guess so," he shrugged. "It has crossed my mind to be concerned about the financial aspect of things. Since I am planning on learning for a while, you know."

"I have quite a tidy sum saved up from my time in accounting," Bracha told him tightly. "And I can return to that field at any time. I am extremely committed to keeping a husband in learning."

He had the good grace to look chagrined. "I must apologize," he said. "That was very rude of me- grilling you on your financial status. I didn't mean for it to come out exactly like it did. I just have been wondering what your plans were, and it came out poorly. I have no doubt you're committed. It just seems strange- leaving a great job like you had for teaching."

"I do draw a salary here too, you know," Bracha informed him, not quite ready to forgive and forget.

He laughed uproariously. "You call that pittance a salary?" he asked, reminding Bracha that he was familiar with the field- intimately so.

When he saw the look on her face, though, he broke off laughing immediately.

"I'm sorry. You'll think I have no idealism. I do, really. It's just that...I'm also a pretty practical guy. That's all. Now, this conversation is not heading exactly where I wanted it to head. The thing is..." he leaned forward.

"We're getting to a point, well, where we know...think seriously about what we're up to."


This piece infuriates me; it brings back all the reasons that I hate Bais Yaakov. Assumptions in this piece:

1. Girls' learning isn't important. They should just learn how to cook.

2. Rather than telling the man he is a COMPLETE IDIOT for saying that the quality of his kugel matters more than his wife's mind, the woman replies with the meek, "How can I say you're wrong if that's how you feel?" Let me tell you something! I, Chana, have no problem telling such a man that he is wrong and he's also a bleeping idiot and he can go to hell. At least, thank the Almighty God, Bracha tells him it's shallow.

3. This is just a critique of the story- one second Eliezer is saying that he thinks the quality of his kugel is more important than his wife's mind. All of a sudden, after a one-paragraph speech by her, he agrees with her opinion? What's up with that?

4. The avaricious entitlement of the Kollel approach, as demonstrated by the fact that he thinks it's fine to basically insinuate that this woman should leave her job teaching and go back to accounting simply because that way she'll be able to support their (assuming she marries him) prospective family better.

5. His insulting her ideals- "you call that pittance a salary?"

This man is a jerk and if this Bracha person ends up marrying him in the story I am going to scream. So someone who has read the rest of the piece, tell me, do I need to have a rage-fest or not?

Incidentally, the reason this bothers me so much is because all the impressionable young frum girls read this magazine and if the man ends up marrying the woman, they are going to come away with the impression that all the points I mentioned above (that girls should just learn to cook and make top-tier kugel and should get jobs that make more money so they can support their kollel-learning husbands) are correct and they should model themselves after this girl. Which is completely and utterly wrong and infuriating and I hate stupid men with their idiotic desire to have robotic Stepford Wives instead of people who actually think.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Broken Engagements

One of my best friends, Estee Goldschmidt, researched and wrote an article in The Jewish Press on "Broken Engagements, Shattered Hearts." And my lady of the radiance receives her public tribute as this blog is quoted.

A Happy God

Last night I had the great privilege and honor of attending a wedding that encompassed the union of a member of one of my favorite families to an incredibly lovely lady. The bride and the groom are both high achievers, clever and otherwise fantastic people.

Getting to that wedding was a whole adventure. It included a train-ride, a frantic dash, a bus to another bus and the bus-driver dropping us off half-a-mile away from the correct stop, another frantic dash only to arrive literally 2 minutes before the chuppah started. But we made it. As for my ride back, a couple was kind enough to drop me off by 59th Street Station and so I rode the 1 train home.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

I wanted to talk about the wedding. Because there was so much love and emotion in the air. It was simple and beautiful simultaneously. The groom was lucky enough to have his father, who is a Rav, as the mesader kiddushin. I think there's something so special about being able to have one's father act as person who ties the two of you together. But what I perhaps enjoyed most was the speech under the chuppah by one of the honored guests. He spoke about light and how the two people who were to be wed were so filled with light, even overflowing with light. I liked the image of light shining from the souls of the happy couple.

I also liked that after he broke the glass they paused and gave hugs to all of their family members under the chuppah. Only afterwards were they danced off to the yichud room.

There was something really wholesome about this wedding- you could see that it had been created without disagreement of any kind. In fact, the father of the groom spoke about what a pleasure it had been to work with his mechutanim to create the affair and how smoothly it had gone. I think the simplicity mixed with the redolent aroma of that fragrance from Gan Eden, the Besamim, was what I felt there. I also loved that the father of the groom wished his children the ability to create a miniature Gan Eden, a little paradise, in their house.

The father of the bride also spoke from his heart. It's rare to be at a wedding where people are not loading you up on pleasantries and flattering expressions but really saying what they mean. Short, sweet and real.

(I happen to love the couple's attitude in general. Earlier they had told me that they had a completely empty apartment at the moment- either it was with naught but a bed or they were hoping a bed would arrive before they had to move into it. I suppose as gifts arrive, they shall have unpacking frenzies! In any case, they seemed quite all right with this state of affairs. I'm a fan of people who are not excitable when it comes to these trivialities.)

And I was totally and entirely and truly happy at this wedding. And I felt like God saw everything and rejoiced. A happy God.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Tell Me What You Know. Tell Me What You've Gone And Done Now.

It's no surprise that I love Nickleback and specifically Chad. Lightman cannot stand the screeching sounds and raspy voices of the band but they make me happy.

Their album "Dark Horse" contains a song entitled Just to Get High which I seem not to have interpreted in its literal sense. Oh, I'm aware that in reality this song is about a drug addict but the chorus plays in my ears as strongly as a commandment from God. It fits the mood which we are in, that of the High Holy Days and specifically Rosh Hashana.

But I can still remember what his face looked like
When I found him in an alley in the middle of the night
Tell me what you know! Tell me what you've gone and done now!
Tell me what you know! Tell me what you've gone and done now!
Gonna do the trick, get it over with
You're better off
To take all that you've got and burn it on the spot
Just to get high-igh, igh, igh (high-igh, igh, igh)
Tell me what did, where you got a hit
Show me
What you really want, was it what you got
Circle in the drain, throw it all away
Just to get high-igh, igh, igh (high-igh, igh, igh)
High-igh, igh...oooooh

And to me, what the song really seems to be asking is: what did you do this year that was wrong? What sins do you have? Tell them to me- tell me what you've gone and done now- and tell me- did you get what you really wanted? Was it worth it? Was the pinprick of pleasure that lanced through your lips worth the pain that followed?

"Tell me what you know; tell me what you've gone and done now," entreats God. And think about it. Tell me, Chana, my child, "what you really want, was it what you got?"

And I love the beginning of the song as well:

He was my best friend; I tried to help him
But he traded everything, for suffering
And found himself alone
I watched the lying, turn into hiding
With scars on both his lips; his fingertips
Were melted to the bone

That image is deeply evocative to me. Yes, that can be the drug addict hidden in the alley, having chosen drugs over his health. But is it so different from the one who chooses sin over holiness? Or stagnation over growth?

He was my best friend; I tried to help him/ But he traded everything for suffering

I also admire the fact that the song presents this as a choice. We choose suffering. Not always, but often. If we can choose suffering, it suggests we can also choose life.

And that's what God says in Deuteronomy 30:

יט הַעִדֹתִי בָכֶם הַיּוֹם, אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ--הַחַיִּים וְהַמָּוֶת נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ, הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה; וּבָחַרְתָּ, בַּחַיִּים--לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה, אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶךָ. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;

כ לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקֹלוֹ וּלְדָבְקָה-בוֹ: כִּי הוּא חַיֶּיךָ, וְאֹרֶךְ יָמֶיךָ--לָשֶׁבֶת עַל-הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב, לָתֵת לָהֶם. {פ} 20 to love the LORD thy God, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave unto Him; for that is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. {P}

Did I choose suffering this past year? Will I choose it in the future?

And that voice, so commanding, sonorous in my ears: "Tell me what you know! Tell me what you gone and done now."