Saturday, October 28, 2006

No'ach: A rough sketch.

This is, in essence, what it looks like when I study Torah. Comments, short excerpts and things that catch me off guard that I pen for future examination. I'm trying to go throughout the year, keeping up with the Torah, it's commentary and haftarah readings. My text is Etz Hayim: torah and Commentary, which is a Conservative text. Additionally, I have a full Hebrew-text Tanakh and the Jewish Study Bible. So, basically, I've got my bases covered. Although I did not write remarks on last week's Parhsha (or dedicate nearly as much time to it), it's there. I haven't gotten to this week's haftarah reading, and I am saving that for tomorrow morning. So here you go, this is the thought pattern of Amand for the No'ach Torah portion (B'reishit 6:9-11:32).

+ 7:22 -- Was G-d concious of sparing the life of all marine animals? Why? All creatures on "dry land" are swept away in the flood, but not marine life. Curious ...

+ Amazing that locations in such early biblical and near Eastern stories can be pegged (8:4).

+ Olive branch is bitter? I had no clue ... but what irony, eh? The dove and the olive branch have come to symbol peace. We refer to leaders passing or sharing the olive branch, but how appropriate that it has a bitter taste, for all compromises tend to leave a bitter taste in one's mouth.

+ "The fear and the dread of you shall be upon all the beasts of the earth..." (9:2) -- Is this an attempt to quell the desire of humans to reach a higher eschelon of superiority? Is this meant to put humans in a position of power so that they don't seek to unseat G-d? The commentary suggests that this was in response to the human idea (when man was commanded to be vegetarian) that men could behave as animals. Thus by G-d differentiating the power and dietary restrictions ... man no longer could behave as animals, because they were "above" them. Interestingly, I'd have to disagree. Other commentators?

+ "I have set My bow in the clouds, and it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow apears in the clouds, I will remember My covenant between Me and you and every living creature among all flesh, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh." (9:13-15) -- (prayer for rainbows! ... keeping promises, recited after seeing a rainbow) Wow. I had no clue that there was content regarding rainbows in Torah. I almost feel cheated ... the magnificence has always been something I appreciated, but I had no idea that it was tied to a sort of convenant reminder with mankind. It almost makes the beautiful sight MORE magnificent. This also is curious re: when rainstorms produce no rainbow.

+ (10:2) -- Great grandson of Noah is named "Ashkenaz" ...? Does this have any bearing to the term "Ashkenazic" ...? The commentary suggests that the people of the Ashkenaz line were island people of Greece, etc., but says nothing about the common belief that Ashkenazic Jews are those descended of Eastern Europe, Germany, Poland, Austria, etc. In fact, if I'm not mistaken Greecian Jews were considered Sephardic, if anything, not Ashkenazic. I must investigate!

+ (10:8) -- How did Nimrod go from being the first man of might on Earth to being a name called of someone who is a complete idiot? Also, in commentary says he was the first to "misuse" his talents, killing first animals and then humans because of his bloodlust. Interesting and amusing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Peshat: The literal (as opposed to figurative) meaning, as discussed by Rashi.

We see comments like she “always knew he was a fiction, but believed in him anyway” (15) and “This is love, she thought, isn’t it? When you notice someone’s absence and hate that absence more than anything? More, even, than you love his presence?” (121) and “It was not the Jew, of course, who invented the love poem, but the other way around” (197). It seems like all the characters are searching desperately for this thing they neither understand nor know where to find. It’s as if going through the motions is enough.

--Me, March 7, Response paper on "Everything is Illuminated" for Jewish-American Fiction

I miss school. I miss it a lot. Reading through old papers and simple responses I wrote on small stories and entire books makes me miss my literature course -- the only literature class I took and enjoyed. I'm trying really hard to get through the spaces I'm in so I can turn the other way and work on getting back to school. I really am most pleasant with my head in a book or when I'm working on a 10-page paper on the Catholic Church's "fatherland" approach to Jews in the Holocaust. I. Love. to. Learn.


I've recently developed a 24/7 sour stomach and jaw pains. The jaw pains are a result of what has been said is TMJ by a doctor I visited up in Westminster. She suggested a dentist, and everyone I've told that to has suggested a chiropractor or sports physical therapist. I finally bought a mouthguard, which seems to have helped last night. The anti-inflammatories don't seem to be doing much, unfortunately. The earplugs I bought to drown out my roommates are sort of working. I'll get down on my knees in the morning and thank G-d when I live someplace that is devoid of creaky floors above my slumbering noggin.


I recently realized my newspaper gets copies of MOMENT magazine (which I love, though wish they cared more about the editing that they fail to pay attention to), so I scooped up a copy and am stoked to read the new issue. And in other news, I found this stellar site:

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Note, Part Deux

A note for the children who someday will call me "mother" and the grandchildren who will call me "bubbe," I can only hope. Part II

At Stapleton Elementary School in Joplin, Mo., where I went for K-5, there was something special about the cafeteria. Not only did the cafeteria serve as the multi-purpose room, stage for presentations and awards and as a, well, cafeteria, but there was something that editing a menu for elementary schools for the Extras section at my current job that sparked a memory. In the cafeteria, sometimes we'd have to sit boy-girl-boy-girl and sometimes we'd have to sit with our class. Other times, we'd sit all girls on one side and all boys on the other side. The rules changed daily, it seemed. I remember going to the large, box-like silver milk container to get chocolate milk from the red crates -- usually I went for the still-partially-frozen cartons. I'd proceed up to the lunch counter and they'd give us our helpings of this and that. Only after everyone was seated would they announce that there was enough for seconds -- but on a first-come, first-served basis. The most popular items seemed to be the miniature Mexipizzas. But what was so special about the cafeteria?

The traffic light. A real, genuine traffic light -- red, yellow, green.

Sometime in my later years at Stapleton, the principal installed a stoplight at the front of the cafeteria/gymnasium. During lunchtime, the lights would change, depending on the volume of the chattering children. When someone would start mixing their mashed potatoes with their pineapple tidbits, a table would roar with laughter from boys and squeals from girls with bows in their hair. The moment noise grew louder than a hush, the light would move from green to yellow, a sign that it was a little too loud and to quiet/settle down.

If things got really out of hand -- let's say someone decided to initiate a minor food fight or one of the boys was picking on one of the girls -- laughter would boom and girls would squeal louder. This usually meant that the cafeteria monitor would switch the stoplight to red, which meant (in plain terms) "shut the hell up." At the red light, a single whisper was asking to be sent to the principal's office or to have recess stripped away. After a few minutes of complete silence -- with the exception of clattering pots and pans from the lunch ladies and silverware scraping plastic trays -- the light would return to yellow and slowly work its way back to green. Usually by that time, though, it was time for recess.

Recess, of course, is a whole different story that includes the honeysuckles, the big tree at the far end of the playground, the four-square courts, the metal railroad cars/monkey bars and the big metal slide where a kid went down head-first (and cracked open his skull, of course, on the gravel and rocks below). I'll tell those stories eventually.

My Judaica blog also seems to be wanting to float into a log of sorts. Lately I seem to be having small chance memories of things I haven't thought about in ages. Autumn and wintertime do that, though. It's the scents of this time of year where you cloes your eyes and are transported to a completely different time and place where your feet were much smaller, hands quite tiny and your eyes were much wider. So that's where I'll head. Wherever the moment takes me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A tisket a tasket.

A note for the children who someday will call me "mother" and the grandchildren who will call me "bubbe," I can only hope.

I went grocery shopping today and in the produce section I stopped by the pears. On sale, 10 pounds for 10 dollars, I picked up three. And while handling the oddly-shaped fruits, I thought of my father. My father who used to cut slivers of his pears for my brothers and I. My fruit intake as a child consisted of pieces of pear my father would slice off, paper towel cupping the green fruit and short knife slicing pieces small enough and big enough for a child. I loved him more for each piece he gave me. He'd do the same with apples, but it's pears that remind me of my father.

It's the only produce that reminds me of anyone, really. Keep small things like these. They'll keep you smiling while handling fruit in the produce aisle thousands of miles from the people who helped you grow.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Send in the clowns?

I went to Starbucks to get a Carmel Apple Cider, which I was told was absolutely delicious and after having one yesterday see myself becoming addicted to, but they informed me that they were fresh out of apple juice. WTF? They could easily have jaunted across the street to the Yes! Organic Market and procured some, but no. So instead? I'm drinking a Coke. I don't even like soda. It burns my throat and makes me feel gross. But water just didn't sound right. (Sidenote: Thanks to those who have responded to my last post. In due time, in due time.)

And now, stolen from my good friend from the north, Beth:

Complete the Thought:

Never again in my life: will I allow myself to be torn down. Verbally or emotionally (hopefully physically is never something I'll step upon).

When I was five: I believe my family had recently moved to Joplin, Missouri, where we lived in a duplex on 33rd Street. I loved Barbies, of course, and dreamed that someday my brother would play house with me. He never did.

High School was: not as good as college, but one of the best four-year periods of my life. Most people have horrible middle school/high school experiences ... but I? I loved high school, though I wasn't "popular" or anything, I was involved in drama, choir, sports, math club, acadec, quiz bowl ... and my first love came in high school, and that's a memory of a person I cherish.

I will never forget: the summer that Andrew, Anthony and I spent so much time together, once driving to a small Nebraska town to visit a friend, where we watched figure-8 racing and a movie that freaked our friend's friends out. I still have the mix CD from the trip, too.

I once met: Topher Grace, Joshua Jackson and Gideon Yago. Okay, so they were merely in my presence, but Topher Grace did say some things one thing to me, such as "excuse me" (when he was standing in the aisle as I tried to pass). That's another experience I will never forgetting ... being in a swanky bar filled with no more than 30 people, 3 of which were the afformentioned stars. Actually, he was wearing a ballcap just like that when he was standing in front of me, which was why it took a few seconds for me to be like, "that's him!"

There’s this girl I know who: I wish would drop everything and go back to school and get her master's and PhD, because she's brilliant, driven and selling herself short.

By noon I’m usually: still in bed. When I'm not, I'm usually sitting ni frnot of my laptop watching crappy Danielle Steele movies on WE.

Last night I: worked till 10:30, went to SoHo until their internet crashed, went home and made eggs and waffles, got a stomach ache, talked to David until he was too tired and went to bed, watched some crappy TV and then read about 30 pages in "Extremly Loud and Incredibly Close" before turning off the light around 4:30 in the morning.

Next time I go to church: interesting. Church, you say? I guess my mother often says "did you go to Jewish church?" It isn't church. It's synagogue, temple, shul, house o' Jewish worship. Anyhow, the next time I go hopefully will be Saturday morning, G-d willing and sleep willing.

What worries me most is: that I won't end up in grad school and will regret it for the rest of my life.

When I turn my head right, I see: the entire Washington Post newsroom (the 5th floor, that is, which includes Metro, Financial, Foreign and National).

When I turn my head left, I see: Joe's, JoAnn's and Leslie's desks, the obiter desks and the construction going on to the east of the copy desk. They ripped out our coffee/food station, bastards.

You know I’m lying when: I fess up two seconds later. I have a hard time lying.

If I was a character written by Shakespeare I'd: probably have to ask David what character I should be. He's the Shakespeare whiz, not I. The only character I know well enough to even mention is Juliet, and I sure as heck am not her.

By this time, next year: who knows where I'll be and what I'll be doing. I can't really foresee anything right now except that I hope to still be with David and I hope to still be on the Right Coast.

A better name for me would be: Chaviva. It is in the blog name, it's my Hebrew name, and I like that it encompases the meaning of my birth name and Hebrew. That's probably why I chose it.

I have a hard time understanding: genocide. I'll leave it at that and speak at length at another time.

If I ever go back to school I’ll: focus on Judaic Studies for a master's and possibly PhD, specifically on history and more specifically on medieval Jewry (the thinkers and teachers).

You know I like you if: I can have a conversation with you while looking you in the eye at length.

Three people who bore me are: unnameable.

Take my advice, NEVER: drive 19 hours without any sleep and without stopping except for meals. Take your time on a roadtrip, okay?

My ideal breakfast is: scrambled eggs, homefries (the potato things, not hashbrowns), toast with jelly, a cup of milk and a cup of juice.

A song I love, but do not have is: Al Green's "Let's Stay Together"

If you visit my hometown, I suggest: going to Runza, Sher-E-Punjab, Bison Witches, and to go to Pioneer's Park and walk around UNL and downtown Lincoln.

Why won’t anyone: genuinely surprise me (I hate surprises, but long for them, I've never really been surprised ... I wait for it, I hope for it ... and nothing).

If you spend the night at my house, DO: not sleep on the floor. Really, please don't.

The world could do without: a lot of things. The first things that came to mind were GWBush, guns, fast food, soda, candy and war. But come on now. I really think the world could do without the notion or presence of "superiority."

I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: eat steak, roast beef, pot roast, bacon, sausage, ham or any similar products.

My favorite blonde is: John Wenz. Oh wait, this says "blonde," which implies a female. I don't think I have a favorite blonde.

Paperclips are more useful than: corpses. Have you seen the movie "Paperclips" ...?

San Diego means: Saint Diego? Je parles Francais!

Saturday, October 7, 2006

For Jews and non-Jews:

I spotted this illustration with an article I just read, and, without knowing what the article is, I'm curious what the random viewer thinks this illustration means. I'm not as visual of a person as I once was, but I think it's interesting to take an illustration or photograph out of context and see what the casual viewer/reader takes from it. So here it is (comment to tell me what you think it is in regards to, what it means, what it means to you):

Did I vanish?

No, I didn't vanish. I've been busy with work, Yom Kippur, being sick, getting well and analyzing my career/life path for the not-so-distant future. There's thoughts of grad school being tossed around this noggin (Baltimore Hebrew University, that is), in addition to all the other stuff that consumes me in all my free time. I figured it up that out of the 168 hours in the week, I have about 70 of those where I am neither sleeping nor working to just sit and be completely, absolutely worthless. So I purchased two books today.

1) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer: I checked this book out from UNL's library shortly after it was released, but with all my reading and efforts to finish my senior thesis and graduate, I didn't have time to read it. Thus I didn't really enjoy it, especially after getting through Everything is Illuminated -- possibly one of the best books I have ever read. It was absolutely magnificent, so getting into ELIC was sort of hard. Summary: It's about a little boy whose father dies in the WTC during 9/11, complete with mini "flip book" of man falling from the WTC (sort of horrifying).
2) Fabulous Small Jews by Joseph Epstein: I believe I read a review of this in Commentary magazine. It was either that or in one of my other Jewish rags. Summary: It's a collection of short stories by a man who has written for the New Yorker, Harper's, Atlantic Monthly and has a NYT bestseller called Snobbery.


Today was the start of Sukkot. I've decided that when I get married and have children I'll be building my own sukkah, no matter how wacky the neighbors think I am. Now what, you ask, is a sukkah? Well, this cute little Popsicle sukkah is the best example of a sukkah that I have for you. Sukkot means "booths" and is a festival of the booths in honor of the harvest. It's a four-sided little hut with three vertical walls and a ceiling that cannot be made solid, which means that you must be able to sit in the sukkah and peer into the heavens and see the stars. Some people use latticework to create the sukkah ceiling, then covering it with leaves. It's a 7 or 8 day holiday that includes lots of feasting and hanging out in the sukkah. I'm sort of glad I don't have a sukkah right now, though, as it's cold and rainy in D.C. -- definitely NOT sukkah weather unless you have a sukkah space heater and some umbrellas. The final day of sukkot is Shemini Atzeret and soon after is Simchat Torah -- a stellar holiday that finalizes the reading of the Torah for the year, which sends you back to Genesis to start all over again (Jews cycle through the whole Torah each year, though some Conservatives and Orthodox take 3 years to read the whole Torah -- that is, they read only PORTIONS of each Torah section and spend 3 years completely getting through the Torah, though they still celebrate the beginning-to-end of Simchat Torah).

Sukkot also includes the use of the Four Species -- lalav, hadass, etrog and araveh -- which are used during prayers and also adorn the sukkah (it's part of the whole harvest thing). Of course there's biblical precedence for this: "And you shall take for yourself on the first day the fruit of goodly (meaning of Hebrew uncertain, but modern Hebrew "citrus") trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook" (Lev. 23:40).

Essentially the holiday is a reminder of the travails and travels in the desert (for 40 gall darn years) before entering the land. You eat in the sukkah, call it home and hang out in thanks for G-d's protection during the wandering. Who WOULDN'T want a sukkah, eh?