Friday, October 31, 2008

A Bit of the Old, A Bit of the New!

During lunch yesterday I was graced by the presence of the New York Times at my table, so I picked it up and browsed (something I haven't done since I worked at a newspaper), and was lucky enough to happen upon a pretty exciting and possibly groundbreakingly awesome news story: "Find of Ancient City Could Alter Notions of Biblical David." The find?
"Overlooking the verdant Valley of Elah, where the Bible says David toppled Goliath, archeologists are unearthing a 3,000-year-old fortified city ..."
The site is five acres, and only a tiny portion of the area has been unearthed, meaning that there's still boatloads of research and digging to do. So far, there are some olive pits that have been found that have been carbon dated to between 1050 and 970 BCE -- a very controversial period in history during the supposed reign of David. Likewise, the writing on pottery appears in "so-called proto-Canaanite script and appears to be a letter or document in Hebrew." But we can't get too excited, I suppose. There's still a lot of the area that needs to be uncovered, and I'm tempted to book a ticket to go hop on that dig. The fascinating things about these digs is that they're used to sort of "validate" the "historical" evidence that we see in the Hebrew Bible. Can you imagine the potential for history-making finds in this dig?
On a completely and entirely unrelated note, I just wanted to mention that my favorite new artist -- Shoshannah Brombacher -- has a show opening at The Tea Lounge of her work, and it will run through the month of November. Her work has appeared on A Simple Jew 's blog,, and so many other places on the web. She has a flavor of Chagall, with a very ethereal, dreamy quality to her paintings ranging from music to the great Chassidic masters to modern Jewish celebrations. Can you guess what this painting is alluding to? I'll give you a hint: It's a classic parable involving Hillel and Shammai!

It is with that that I wish all a Shabbat Shalom -- may you have rest, peace, and good times with Torah, friends, family and G-d!

Chavi's Life in Fewer than 500 Words

Are you ready for a "roundup of the life of Chavi" post? Brace yourself, it's absolutely thrilling. (Oh, and a note? The hedgehog birthday note was for Mottel , so I hope he enjoyed it.)

At any rate, this is what happens when I spend days taking notes on all of the ways that Qohelet espouses on how to live/act to find happiness (via wisdom). Yes, I scribble and doodle. I think it's my way of thinking. Thought through random objects with random shapes with random shading.

I'm quite excited for this Shabbos, because it means I'm one week closer to the International Shabbaton in Crown Heights, NY next weekend. It will not only be my first time in Crown Heights, but it will once again be an observant Shabbos with hopefully like-minded people. But I'm also excited for this Shabbos because I got my lamp timers in the mail (thanks for the suggestion Susanne), and my lamps are all set up to turn on and turn off at specific times. The wonders of technology are magnificent, and they'll finally allow me to turn my lamps off without violating the Sabbath! Add to this I got some more scarves, a pair of (cheesily plaid) snow boots, not to mention a long jean skirt (man, I never thought I'd want another one of those) on the way, and I'm stoked.

And ... I'm seconds away from having the oomph to email a couple rabbis to discuss how I can go about proceeding with a conversion, as well. But that's taking some working up to. I figure I have some Orthodox references on my side who are willing to attest to my want, nay, need, for an Orthodox conversion in the near/not-so-distant future.

And lastly? (Man this is a big "ooo Orthodoxy post.") I hopped over to Nosh, the kosher dining facility for dinner tonight and was so glad I did -- cheese lasagna, garlic bread, strawberry shortcake, and a delicious Italian salad? Yum. I've also -- for the past week -- been completely solid on the separation of meat and dairy in my meals. I was holding out for so long on the chicken/milk, but it's become interesting and intriguing eating in the (non-kosher) cafeteria while attempting to eat things without dairy for meat meals and vice-a-versa. Now that I've realized how easy it is to get to Nosh, I'll probably venture there regularly. The kitchen staff are great, and aside from being short on the mashgiach and not being able to serve some meals, they're nice digs.

Most importantly? I'm pretty darn content with where I'm going.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A secret message.

Yes, these are hedgehogs, and yes, they are wishing you a happy (secular calendar) birthday. Yom huledet same'ach!

The Wisdom of the Letters

As an editor and lover of words, I tend to look at Tanakh and biblical texts with the eye of an editor. How do I do this? Qohelet, for example, from an editor's standpoint does not read as a fluid, singular piece of literature. Likewise, it doesn't read as a series of acts to compose a play. From an editor's standpoint, it can easily be separated into a variety of small, thematically similar poems or songs.

So today, in Hebrew class, when the professor brought up the Hebrew word for truth-- emet -- I was elated with the rabbis' take on the word. I give to you, the word for truth. Do you notice anything?
The careful reader will notice that the first letter is an aleph -- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The last letter in the word -- tet -- is the final letter in the Hebrew alphabet. And then you have the mem in the middle, which, interestingly enough, is the middle letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Beginning, middle, end, and we have truth. What does this mean? The rabbis explained this to say that truth is all encompassing. Truth, as such, should be sought out and espoused from beginning to end, throughout the middle, from point to point.

A beautiful little morsel, I think, worth considering. My intent? To read each Hebrew word with the care and delicacy of the rabbis so that perhaps I, a mere academic Jewess, can discover the details and wisdom in the letters.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Hat Tip to Another Blog.

The post-holiday days have left me feeling sort of tired. Luckily, there are those who are managing to turn out brilliant and thoughtful morsels of wisdom, and this means I get to share their words with the rest of the blogsophere.

This evening? It's a post by A Simple Jew aptly titled "Anticipating His Arrival Every Single Day? "

In this post, ASJ succinctly detailed his feelings about the coming of Moshiach and how he relates -- day to day -- to this idea, and how he davened day after day but never really connected. And then? He read something.
In this letter dated 13 Nissan 5593 (1833), Reb Nosson of Breslov instructed his son to attempt to remember what happened every day and not to regard anything that happened to him as trivial. He further explained that when Moshiach came that Moshiach would be able to reveal to him the meaning of every single thing that happened to him every day of his life.
For me, reading this, it's such a relief. It says to me that the very activities of the every day are significant, and every little piece of every little day means something. As such, those things in our everyday that seem to set us back or lift us up, Moshiach will explain such things -- it's such a personal touch to such a big, gigantic, ridiculously otherworldly concept that is even still very much beyond me. But it's posts like this that help me understand, just a little bit more, what to expect.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Domain Me!

You might have heard, you might not have, but I've purchased a couple domain names, and the one that now links to my blog is . Yes, I'm the proud owner of my unique moniker that when Googled will give you my Twitter, Facebook, Brightkite, Flickr, etc. And now? It's all mine!! (Along with, but not sure what I'm going to do with that yet.) I don't know how this will affect the actual blog, but I'm pretty sure will still get you here. If you run into any problems, though, please let me know.

So now, I'm going to try and find someone to do some type of digital caricature of me to plop on that couch up there, to sort of create the "Chaviva of the net," the one who surfs Web 2.0 as if it were a gentle, gentle wave. I'm going to tap my graphicy design friends, but if you want to give it a go, let me know. I'm picturing me, in a long skirt, sweater maybe, in a couch-sitting position. Is this idea silly? I'm not sure what the compensation will be. It'll fit the person who does it up, of course.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Haveil Havalim Day!

Every Sunday is like a gift waiting to explode. Why?

Because Hey Hey Hey Haveil Havalim! The newest edition -- #188 to be precise -- is up over on the What War Zone blog.

Light Up the Path Already, Will You?

Every night, I say the shema before going to bed.

And every night, I silently pray that my path, my strength to go in one direction over another, will be granted to me in my dreams by the hand or voice of G-d.

I have had recurring dreams of Hasidism, men in black hats and coats with white shirts speaking to me and teaching me, recently Hasidic people I know have appeared -- wisping by me while I stand, perplexed.

And then last night I awoke in horror in the middle of the night, checking my right leg, on the lower part, the entire space below my knee, wrapping around my leg, for the tattoo. The tattoo that appeared in my dream was huge, in an obscure shape of blacks and reds and it was hideous, but I got it anyway in the dream, not even thinking about it. And so when I woke up, I checked my leg, because the dream had been so vivid, and I was frustrated, but relieved nothing was there. And I went back to sleep, hoping for something.

People keep telling me that in our dreams we're spoken to. And I blogged about my claimed Psalm 16 before.

So every night, I silently pray that these things revealed to me in obscurity in my slumber will somehow be clear. I want to know what they mean, and every morning I wake up without feeling clarity I grow more and more weary.

Women in Judaism: Chin up!

I can't help but write about the topic of women in Judaism. Specifically, the reason I'm inclined to write is because several Jewish, woman bloggers have written in the past week about Simchat Torah being a man's holiday. You can find posts over at Ilana-Davita , Kosher Academic , as well as Raizy and Isramom. I'm sure there are an abundance of blogs on the net that share kvetches about the holiday while making an assessment about the situation of women in Orthodox Judaism, but these are all I have in the collection right now. Interestingly, last night at the rabbi's another dinner attendee (a male of the Conservative Jewish variety) and I got into a discussion about the topic of women in Orthodox Judaism, the mechitzah, Simchat Torah and so much more.

The posts are a lot about the division of men and women in Orthodox Judaism, how women don't get called for aliyot and how during Simchat Torah the women all sit around watching as the men and boys dance around in great joy. I'm summarizing here, but it's sort of the same kvetches that people have had for eons about Orthodoxy, and it's one thing that I've never really had a beef with -- and this is coming from someone who wasn't raised Jewish, who came through as a Reform convert. Maybe I'm naive and because I didn't grow up in Orthodox I don't have the beef that others do, but in my experience, the only way that I can truly feel a connection to G-d in prayer and action and sentiment and lifestyle is when it is the "Orthodox" way of doing things.

So when I was talking to a friend last night, I was explaining that the mechitzah -- to me -- is so necessary and important in Jewish prayer. My only beef with mechitzot is when they are too tall and you can't see the rabbi, but even then, I'm comfortable enough in my prayer that I don't need to see the rabbi. After all, the rabbi isn't meant to be like a priest or pastor, he is meant to guide the services, but he isn't the key to a proper Shabbat service or otherwise. The mechitzah, to me, is marvelous. I go to shul for me, I go to pray in a community setting, but I go for me and it's all about how you view it. When I go to shul and people are all touchy feely (this is at a non-Orthodox shul, that is), it seems unnatural to me. It's just people going through motions but without the ability to focus on the point of being in shul. The mechitzah allows me to focus, it doesn't separate me from the men, it allows me to be myself.

Now, when I go to Chabad on campus, the mechitzah isn't like it was back home (about four-feet-tall), but is rather a folding thing that can be easily put up and taken down. It's tall, and it blocks the view almost entirely. During Simchat Torah, the mechitzah was up. We women -- there were never more than five of us -- were cutting a rug, really dancing, really being joyous and taking part in the holiday, and when we got really raucous, we moved the mechitzah so that the men couldn't see us. We were celebrating, and I wasn't thinking at all how awkward it might have been or how separate we were or the division. During the service, the rabbi even had me read the English portion before we chanted -- I was involved. Back in Chicago at the modern Orthodox synagogue I went to, nearly every week one of the rebbetzins got up and did a d'var Torah in the shul and all listened with poise and respect. It is not impossible for women to play a powerful role in an Orthodox setting, and anyone who tells you otherwise is stuck on the "can't" and not the empowering aspects of the mitzvot. Mitzvot are not there to bind us, they are there to make us more aware of how we live, be we women or men, and our differing roles are unique and purposeful.

I guess, what it comes down to, is what you can personally get from Judaism. In my mind, I am so devoted to my personal experience with G-d and within Judaism, and I get to express that in how involved I can and cannot be in synagogue. I know that when women get married, their role changes and they have children and homes to attend to, but if you are driven and inspired to maintain that experience of personal, ethical Judaism, then it will be done. You just can't get caught up in all the "you can't do this" and look at them as G-d's way of providing each of our souls with our unique needs. We don't always know what is best for us, but I have to believe that G-d does.

And it isn't all women raise the kids, make the food, keep the home and men go to shul, study, read Torah, get called for aliyot, etc. There's so much more to it than that. We just get so caught up in what we don't have or don't get to do that we lose the meaning and the purpose for those special things we DO get to do and what our individual needs and experience are.

Chin up, ladies.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just an FYI ...

My good Twitter pal @KatyComeTrue passed this along and I thought I'd share it with the e-world in case anyone is looking for some good works. I'll be in Israel, but spread the word!


From Dec. 20-25th, [the Religious Action Center is] running a Young Adult Mitzvah Corps trip in New Orleans geared toward Jewish 25-35 year olds. Participants will spend the week volunteering, studying and, of course, having fun in the Big Easy. The trip is heavily subsidized ($250 + transportation to and from NOLA), and even though it's being run by the Reform Movement, it's open to anyone who's interested. The application, FAQs and itinerary are all online at ... It's the first trip of it's kind that we've run, and it's going to be a great opportunity for young Jewish adults to participate in tikkun olam while meeting other Jews and, obviously, having a lot of fun in New Orleans. 


Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Light is Hidden Away for the Righteous Ones"

This week, we begin the cycle of Torah reading all over again with the first parshah: Bereshit. So it says "In the beginning ..." I've blogged in the past I do believe about this portion, and it's one of my favorites. It's not just because there's this freshness about starting the year again, reliving the steps of the words of Torah year after year, but also because of how it begins. The entire Torah starts off with the letter bet, which looks like this:
What's so special about this? The rabbis and sages taught that this beginning letter serves a special purpose, considering one might suspect that TaNaKh would begin with an aleph to follow some type of higher principle. Because Hebrew is written right to left, we are taught (via Midrash Bereshit Rabbah) that just as the bet is closed on the top and at the sides, you are not to investigate what is below, what is above, or what comes before -- rather, you must investigate and seek out what is in front.

Some other suggested takes on the use of bet as the first letter of Torah? One sage thought it was because the letter bet connotes power because of the force of the air (ruach) being spoken forth, and another thought that by starting with a bet rather than an aleph, the almighty was in effect revealing that man did not know the first principles about creation (I kind of like this one). Also, for more on this topic, check out Ilana-Davita's blog post on the same topic!

I won't get into a long discussion about the parshah itself, because I'm offering up this stellar new video series called G-dcast , which throws up a new animated piece of the series every Monday. This week's piece features Rabbi Lawrence Kushner and discusses the purpose of "light" in this week's portion and why we have two creations of light in the first creation story of Genesis 1. It's really a fascinating and cool little animated video. Give it a go, will you?

G-dcast: Parshat Bereshit from g-dcast on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Chag is Over!

The holidays are over -- at last! I don't say this entirely out of excitement, but it will be interesting to get back to the regular humdrum of my academic life. I spent Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah at Chabad, eating in the sukkah with friends and neighbors and playing with the children and then dancing around as the Torah bounced about in the room. It was joyous, by golly, and this being my first year observing these holidays? Well, I feel good about where I am going. The holidays that follow Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are staples in my life now and as an eternal covenant.

What else is new? I got a copy of "Going Kosher in 30 Days" in the mail earlier this week from The Jewish Learning Group. If you'll recall, I blogged about this book earlier this year (in July actually), and they actually sent me a copy! I've only read through the introduction, but I'm already quite excited about the book. I think it might have come in more handy when I wasn't living a kitchen-less college lifestyle, but as I anticipate not getting a meal plan next semester, I'm going to be living a crockpot/microwave/toaster lifestyle that will allow me to do the kosher thing on my own terms. (Okay, I never mentioned it but the vegetarian thing just didn't work out.) Add to this that Evan has decided to go "kosher style," I am finally tagging on no MEAT no DAIRY, period. Before I would rationalize chicken/dairy because it isn't a kid in its mothers milk (as opposed to goat meat in goat milk and beef in cow milk), but, well, I'm going the distance. I know the reasons behind the ruling, and I know that I don't necessarily agree. But the ethical reasons are compelling even if the rabbi's reasons aren't necessarily. Then again, as "Going Kosher" says: "... mitzvot that are observed solely 'on faith' ... are the purest demonstration of our faith and dedication to G-d's Words."

But it's on that note that I offer up a couple little explanatory morsels on things that I've always wondered about and haven't really understood. The challah thing has been something I've wondered about for years and years and have meant to ask about or look up, and yet haven't. The other is something new that I have been exposed to recently that I was curious about. Although I agree with the "Going Kosher" take, I also think it's important for us to understand why we perform the traditions and mitzvot that we do. If there's anything YOU have wondered about, let me know, and I'll fix you up an answer straight away!

+ Why do we say the hamotzi over two loaves of challah on Shabbos and festivals? This has perplexed me for eons, seriously, for years, and I never got around to looking it up, I just understood that that was how things were to be done, and even when I made the blessing myself, I'd make sure I had two challah loaves. This double loaf -- lechem mishneh -- represents the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites were wandering in the desert during the 40 years. The manna did not fall on the Sabbath or holidays, instead a double portion fell before the Sabbath and the holidays.

+ Why during the blessing after the meal -- birkat hamazon -- is there a hand-washing portion? So technically the hand washing is meant to happen before the birkat hamazon, so I'm confused (still) about whether the portion before the birkat hamazon is something different or related. But at any rate, the practice is prevalent in Orthodox communities and is more a tradition than a mitzvah. It was instituted for health reasons (back when people ate with their hands more) and there is even a ritual dispenser (called mayim acharonim) that is used to dispense the water. The practice appears in Talmud, but it's sort of up in the air from group to group as to whether it's really binding.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Quick Ditty.

A quick quip: I walked to the Student Union tonight in 38 degree weather to pick up a few beverages since I was Jonesing for some liquid, and on my way back, while admiring the brisk, cool, clear weather that so defines my happiness, I started singing in my poetic, lyrical way, words of my own: "I'm just trying to live wholly ..." and then stopped myself and thought "wait, did I mean wholly or holy?" And then I realized that both were applicable, and the interesting thing about it was that to live wholly, I need to live holy. Oh the things we say and the wisdom we can impart upon ourselves without even knowing it.

In other news, I'm pretty sure I'm settled on both paper topics for class.

+ For Bible class (an undergrad course in which I'm taking three tests with the rest of 'em, but am required to write a paper on a topic of my choosing about anything at all from Hebrew Bible or Christian Bible): The Golden Calf, was it meant to represent/replace Moses or G-d? An idol or cultic object? And perhaps maybe my topic might evolve if I find out more about this tradition of concealment in 2nd century BCE synagogues in Israel.
Nicolas Poussan's "The Adoration of the Golden Calf" 
+ For Biblical interpretation (the philosophy course that blew my mind in the beginning that I've settled comfortably into): Qohelet as philosophy or theology, how is it read and by whom (I need to zero in on whether I want to do Medieval or maybe modern scholars), and tie this into whether there is even such a thing as Jewish philosophy (thank you Paul Mendes-Flohr and the long ago piece I read "Jewish Philosophy and Theology.").

The holidays have really created an awkward setup with my research and studying though, and it's frustrating. Luckily I have all day tomorrow, and all next weekend to thrust myself into research. I want to be able to create solid theses for both papers so that I feel and look more put together than I am. Then, my plan is to trek to Chicago during the first half (at least) of Thanksgiving Break maybe and devote myself to writing my papers. The idea of filling a suitcase full of books is thrilling. But who knows if that will happen. At some point I have to start writing SOMETHING. I'm a last-minute writer -- someone who sits down at the last minute, composes 15-20 pages in one sitting (no breaks) and then turns it in before reading it. That, folks, is how I roll.

On that note, I still need to compose an email to my undergraduate professor whose class prepared me for all of this (even though I can't bring myself to write an outline) ... Ethnopolitical Conflict. Man alive, that class developed the paper that got me into graduate school (here, Brandeis, U of Michigan), and it also taught me what it meant to write a literature review in the form of a paper. Several ideas on a single topic, how they approach it, and finally my take on their analyses -- a combination of thoughts or a breakdown or a completely independent assumption of the facts. That's probably how my Golden Calf paper will roll, but not my Biblical Interpretation paper. Why? Not sure. Maybe it will. Who knows.

Academia rules. Now if I could just teach myself to focus ... this lack of regiment is difficult for me.

Israel, Prepare to Meet Chavi!

Just before Shabbos, just before turning off my Blackberry to the world and shortly after dealing with bus drama while trying to get to Hartford, I got an email from the Birthright organization I had reapplied to for a winter trip. While sitting on a gigantic stone slab at the bus stop, watching an already over-packed bus drive away, leaving about 20 of us stranded, I smiled.

I am going to Israel! 

(Insert hollers of excitement and elation here.)Yes, after all of the drama from earlier this year , I am set to depart from Newark for Israel on December 17. I'll be in Israel from December 18-28, with the option to extend my trip -- anyone want to keep me for an extra week?

I've never been more excited about anything in my life. I am, however, concerned that once I get there I'll never leave. Look out!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Blog Reply: Oh man, here we go ...

My good (e-) friend Mottel posted an interesting blog post that sort of devolved, in my opinion, as it went along regarding his beliefs about the current political state and Barack Obama and the election and the Left. I had waited two days to read his words, knowing that he was working intently on it. I was originally going to post my comments in his comments, but I think -- to get more people involved and perhaps liven the discussion -- I would post my comments here, in the form of a Reply to his Blog Post over at Letters of Thought . Please, comment here, comment there, let me know what you think. And, we begin.

Mottel, in response to "Four Reasons Why Liberals Scare the hell Out of Me:" 

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, I think where you and I differ intensely is on whether the ENDS justify the MEANS. I'm referring to Iraq here and even though Hussein was a bad, bad man, I don't know that our efforts, ditching Afghanistan (which has become more violent), and the wounding of 30,702 U.S. men and women. And your number is off, the U.S. death toll is at 4,185. This doesn't include the tens of thousands of Iraqis that have died, either, not to mention the forces from other countries -- the U.K. and otherwise. And what do we have to show for it? The country is unstable, not to mention that Afghanistan is equally unstable. Democracy is a facade there. I support the troops -- I know several who have served during the senseless violence. I do not, however, support the government that drove them unnecessarily into harms way to serve a selfish, idealistic purpose of democratizing the world. It was necessary to remove Saddam, but this was not, I repeat NOT, the way to do it.

Secondly, Barack Obama has associated with many of these "questionable" individuals becuase they're his neighbors. Barack lives in an affluent area of South Chicago near the University of Chicago near the Farakahn compound. He also lives just down the street from a professor I formerly worked for who I think is a vile individual and they are friends, this professor even supported publicly Obama's education package, but I'm not judging their friendly association. Why? Because about 90 percent of the time we can't help who we "associate" with -- be it on school boards or public councils (cough, Ayers, cough) or otherwise. I'm sure there are individuals in my past -- and your's -- who you'd like to dissociate with, but unfortunately you can't. If the spotlight were put on you, would there be a questionable friendship? A curious encounter? An uncomfortable association?

You also fail to mention that of all members, John McCain has missed the most votes -- 64.1 percent to be precise -- compared to Barack's 46.3 percent. McCain has missed more votes than Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who, might I add, had a brain hemorrhage. What's McCain's excuse, eh?

Your claim that the "Great Schlep" resembles Nazi propoganda makes me horribly uncomfortable. I'm familiar with Nazi propoganda -- in print, reel, and radio forms and I don't see the connection at all. In fact, I think that's prett outlandish. Please elaborate if you will.

As for global warming? Feh. It's a problem, and it'll affect our children's children more than it will affect us, for sure. I'm doing my part and that's really all I can do at this point. I don't really have an opinion on it, but I think the Democratic party has more of a handle and is pushing more of an effort than the Republicans who essentially don't think anything is wrong at all (and anyone who says there isn't *something* going on is naive).

My comments are too lengthy already, but I just have to say that I can't see how someone -- particularly someone religious -- can be okay with the idea of the Evangelical support of Israel. Sure, they're all excited and throw money at Israeli causes and fight for the state, but their MOTIVES are scary, frightening and unnerving. The point, Mottel, is that they want to get all the Jews to Israel, to protect it, so their Messiah will come and the rest of us will go to hell. Now, you can't tell me that that is sane or okay or remotely worth supporting from our end. If your'e taking "the good where you can find it" from that, then I don't know what to say.

And lastly, your comment "the Left is the biggest group of the most foul and disgusting racists in the world" completely contradicts your "I do not dare to stoop down to name calling" comment in the Obama portion of your thoughts. I find offensive because, well, I am in that lump that you've created called "the Left." Unfortunately for you, I'm not a racist and I know few racists outside of my parent's generation, but they were raised (and are Republicans like yourself) to loathe blacks and Asians because of their role in the 20th century. I think that up until your last point you were doing a pretty good job of maintaining your cool, creating valid and interesting points that elaborated your sentiments about the current political situation and election 2008.

But after that?

Well, this comment proves that you are no better than those yelling "terrorist" and "treason" at Palin and McCain rallies. People who maintain a small-minded approach and define themselves by what they are not, rather than by their convictions and beliefs. You'll note that I'm not name calling here, unlike what you did in your post, but I am rather stating my take on your assessment.

And now, a bit about my perspective: 
Listen, I didn't grow up in L.A. and I don't live in New York -- two places I know you are very familiar with. I grew up in Joplin, Missouri, in the Bible belt where I didn't encounter a black classmate until 5th grade. Everyone was white. Everyone. I then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where I spent my teen years and college years. Once again, very much a Republican state with traditional Christian, hard-working American values. I understand what Middle America is like, and I understand the values that these people cling to (though, how such right-wing, devoutly Christian states produced a Jew like me, we'll never know). I know that Sarah Palin talking in her "regular people" speak is offensive to me -- even being someone who says things like "crick" and "ruf" and whose father says things like "warsher" and "Warshington." These people are simple, but they're not stupid. The videos of people at Palin and McCain rallies who spout things about Obama as a Muslim and how he smokes and is a terrorist and bad man are ignorant, and those aren't my people. When the campaigning first started, my mom sent me an email forward about Barack Obama being a devout Muslim who wanted to declare Jihad on the U.S. I read the entire email, did some research, and sent my mom an email with the facts. Her response? She was shocked at the fallacies floating around.

The problem? These people don't get the facts because they're constantly thrown generalizations and soundbytes and see these people at these rallies shouting obscene and vile things.

I admire John McCain for his efforts, for his risks and his incredible life serving this country. And I admire Sarah Palin for shooting for the stars and for trying to relate to the regular "Joe Sixpack." But that isn't enough.

Listen, these lower-middle-class people are my people. I grew up with kids who wore Carhart jackets to class and steel-toed boots in the blazing humidity of summer. I watched kids go to work on their parents farms on the weekend and people who spent every Sunday in church. I know how these people think, and I know that they're not stupid. I also know that the American they envision is not the American that we have today, it's not the "Old-White-Guy" America. It's something more beautiful and more alive, something very American and traditional, yes. It's about jobs and family and religion and food and friendships and peace and fighting for this countries core values that I just mentioned.

Anyhow, that's my two cents.

The Etrog of My Heart

Today, I did something I have never done before. I took some steps, into a structure, and did something that I have wanted to do for so long, yet, haven't had the chance to go through with.

I was on my way to the cafeteria for some lunch before my 12:30, and it was about 11:45. On my way I passed through the graduate quad and saw a table set up outside the pop-up sukkah, so I decided to pop by and see if I could get my lulav shaking on. Lo and behold, there was the fellow who got the sukkah put up doing some prayers. I stood off to the side, not wanting to intrude, and he came out of the sukkah, gestured for me to go in. He handed me the lulav, and delicately opened the little white box to reveal the etrog cradled gently in foam. He took it out and handed it to me, directing me on how to hold the two objects in my hands, but silently.

He opened his siddur, which, might I add, was all in Hebrew/English and lacking transliterations, and pointed to the prayers as I read them aloud -- in Hebrew -- while holding the objects. He then directed me in the movements of the objects: forward, to the heart, forward, to the heart ... and so on. The rustling of the lulav was accomplished with the most subtle of movements, and as I pulled the lulav and etrog toward me, it was as if the etrog were thrusting itself through to my heart, placing itself in my chest chambers, and moving back out with each movement.

And when I was done, the kindly fellow asked me if I'd said the Shema yet, and I hadn't, so he pointed me in the siddur where to go, and I read the Shema and some other things and then we talked about why I haven't been by the rabbi's for Shabbat, how women aren't bound to the Sukkot requirements, etc. And then? I plodded off, listening to the band Beirut, and got some lunch while reading some documents he'd given me about Sukkot, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah (adorned with the rebbe's likeness and what have you).

When we were talking, and when the ritual was being performed, I couldn't smell or think of anything but the potency of the etrog. Because of it's shape, the etrog (a citron, sorta like a lemon), is said to resemble the heart. It is meant to represent the ideal Jew -- one who has both knowledge of Torah and good deeds, as the etrog is both pleasant in taste and in smell.

And, perhaps, when I felt that thump in my heart as I brought the etrog and lulav toward me, I was longing to be that ideal Jew, the one with a balance of Torah and deeds. The Jew I am in my dreams of Hasidic teachings and the Jew who will daven.

Forward I go, and with that -- Chag Sameach!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

All you have to do is comment!

What's the best way to give in this brand-spanking-new year of 5769?

Go over to the blog to this post and write a little note in the comments section. For every comment posted, PopJudaica is donating $1 to Sharsheret , a breast cancer organization geared toward women affected by breast cancer.

It's awareness month, so do your part for a great cause! And spread the word, darn't! Re-blog it, re-tweet it, get the word out!

Sick and Not in the Sukkah.

Well, I hope your Sukkot is going better than mine. I've been sick essentially since I woke up Sunday in a beautiful house hidden away in the Poconos. By late Sunday and early Monday, I was practically comatose. I didn't go to Hebrew class, and I spent most of Monday and Tuesday in bed, schluffing around in my comfy pants and going through boxes of Kleenex. But now? I'm feeling quite a bit better, as my illin' has been relegated mostly to utter congestion and some minor issues of breathing.

But the days of sickness gave me a lot of time to read, and read I have. About what? The golden calf of course! It's interesting how many random roads I've trekked down thanks to my recently heightened research. For example, there was a period of time where the golden calf episode wasn't mentioned in synagogues in Israel (we're talking way, way back in the day, like 2nd century CE) -- known as a "tradition of concealment." I can't seem to find much on it, though. Then there are three writers who "rewrote" the incident in their own unique ways, the two well-known among them being Philo and Josephus. The former brushed around the incident of idolatry, because to him the purpose of the incident was to emphasize the choosing of the Levites as the auxiliary priesthood. The latter, Josephus, bypassed the entire episode in his writing -- why? Probably because of the anti-Jewish mockery by writers of the time. Josephus likely wanted to keep his gentile readers from getting certain "impressions" about Jews and animal worship. Then there are all these avenues of thought about how the incident wasn't a violation of the first commandment, but rather just of the second since it was creating an image/likeness of what is on "the earth below," but that it was meant either as G-d or Moses, but either way the people weren't replacing G-d, but rather were worshiping ... well ... that's a whole other story.

Anyway, I'm getting excited. I just need to ORGANIZE my thoughts. We'll see how I feel after our grad student meeting tomorrow when we reveal where our research is taking us.

I hope you all are enjoy Sukkos, and I'm stoked for Simchat Torah :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Getting Ready to SHAKE it!

What an interesting weekend I had down in the Poconos with Evan. We saw a bear by the side of the road in the community, not to mention wild turkeys wandering around someone's driveway. We stopped at a most magnificent waterfall (which you see pictured here and which you can see more of over on my Flickr ), and we spent most of one day this weekend at a flea market/craft fair/harvest festival where I procured some delicious jams/spreads from some nice Quaker girls (who had a yummy-looking loaf of challah that I resisted buying).

The weekend was all around beautiful and relaxing, and the services at the shul in the community were, well, interesting. I got nothing spiritually from them, but they were amusing in that the chazzan was funny and had some interesting things to say (he even brought up "Mallrats," which no one seemed to know about except the chazzan, Evan and I). But there was probably a 40-50 year age gap between us and the rest of the people there, though there was a mighty showing, it being an older community. They used the old -- we're talking the ORIGINAL -- Reform siddur, which made me want to cry, but the building was beautiful and the company was nice and the chazzan was plenty friendly. We will probably go back, I just have to figure out a way to do my prayers on my own. I think it's time to suck it up and buy myself that transliterated Artscroll so I can daven solo-style.

At any rate, the sukkah is up in the grad courtyard and we did some l'chaims earlier to celebrate it's construction. It's incredibly tall and was purchased from, but it'll get the job done for what we need. I spent the afternoon mulling about with the Chabad rabbi's youngest boy (age 2-ish) who ... wow ... I want 10 just like him. I can't understand a word he said, but we were looking at water in a drain pipe and watching planes dart across the sky leaving smokey skies behind. I got him to start saying "bye bye! bye bye!" while waving frantically and it was seriously the cutest thing I have ever seen. So tomorrow evening begins Sukkot -- also known as Sukkos or the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths -- and I'll be spending my time probably at the Chabad rabbi's place for dinner and services on Tuesday morning since I'm not sure what Hillel is doing and I can't seem to get enough of the wee one (and the older one calls me Chava and Ahava, which amuses me but I'm down with it cuz he's cool).

So with Sukkot approaching, I implore everyone to quickly get a copy of Ushpizin (one of my most FAVORITE MOVIES) and watch it with joy. It is THE Sukkot movie, and if you haven't seen it, you're really missing out.

This will be my first "observant" Sukkot ... and I'm stoked. I'm ready to get my shake on -- are you? The only thing is, I've never done the shakin' before and I don't know the rules and regulations ... good thing I found this video! (Not!)

Moadim l'simcha!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chavi's Digging on New Voices, You Should Too!

I recently discovered an AWESOME publication -- New Voices , a national Jewish student magazine -- and thanks to some emailing and the wonders of the internet in building connections, I might be hooking up with New Voices in the future to do fun things. The magazine has been publishing since 1991, and that's news to me because I never happ'd upon it during my undergraduate education, but I'm lucky to have come across it now, I think.

The new issue -- available online by clicking here -- is the Lubavitch Issue. I think it's a pretty damn good reading, especially coming from the perspective of a college student on a campus where Hillel and Chabad seem to be not at all working as a whole. Case in point: Chabad throws up posters over at the Kosher dining facility for their events, just steps away from where Hillel meets, even as rumors float around campus that Hillel is "closed" for the year.  The two don't appear to work together well, and I think the issue probably addresses this all-encompassing issue on campuses in an interesting way . I won't give any of the little morsels away, but here's what the magazine says about the issue:
On college campuses across the country, a Shabbat dinner at the Chabad House is as much a ritual of Jewish student life as an ice cream social at the Hillel. As of this fall, emissaries of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement have set up Chabad Houses at nearly 100 colleges and universities. In this issue, we take a long, hard look at these shluchim, and at the ultra-Orthodox movement that has become central to the Jewish lives of thousands of college students.
If you want to check-out a reliable and praiseworthy spiel on New Voices, check out Jew School's very, very recent post on the magazine!

5769: Yom Kippur Reflections

In my life lately, it appears that everything is interestingly coincidental. It leaves me wondering about bigger things at work. What was it this time? The rabbi's sermon at Yom Kippur morning services echoed my recent post on the statements of the Ger Rabbi. When he started speaking it, I grinned hugely, nudged Evan and felt completely proud. I need to email the rabbi to thank him for inviting us to services, not to mention for being so like-minded on one of the biggest sermons of the year.

This year, for some reason, Yom Kippur resonated more deeply, more thoroughly than all of my short years in the tribe. The fast went more smoothly (up until the point where I attempted to nap and didn't so much and woke up grumpy as all get out) than in all past years combined for some reason -- was it the weather? Being in shul more? Where I was mentally and emotionally? For some reason, the moment I stepped into shul for Kol Nidre after the pre-fast stuff-your-face fest at Hillel, I was prepared. I hadn't felt prepared before, but it just hit me the moment the service started that I was in sync with the day. The melodies and words came to me with ease, which is something I always worry about with those once-a-year celebrations in the Jewish calendar. I am a Shabbos maven because I get a dose nearly every week. But the holidays are a point of frustration for me much of the time. But this year, it was if the rabbi's words were zipping through my mind before they came out of his mouth. It probably sounds incredibly zen-like, but that's not what I'm getting at.

I felt a connection. I felt heard. I was atoning, speaking to G-d, seeing my name in the book of life.

So the low-down: Kol Nidre was at Hillel. Then morning services were at the conservative shul in West Hartford. I finished off afternoon/evening services back at Hillel.

Services in West Hartford were absolutely magnificent. Up until when the organ and choir busted out during the Torah service. Up until then, an elderly cantor (not the usual fellow) was moving the service along in a beautiful stream of prayer. I could have listened to him all day. The rabbi greeted us on our way in (and can I just say I LOVE this rabbi?), and the shul slowly filled up throughout the morning. If there's one thing I've learned though, it's to show up early for the prime seating in a big shul like that. I already mentioned the rabbi's sermon, so I won't go there, but we left right before Yizkor. I'm never sure whether to stick around for Yizkor, but my experience tells me that unless I've lost a parent or child, that it's more for mourners than people like me. I did realize, though, shortly after leaving that my grandfather did die this year and that maybe, just maybe, I should have stuck around. It probably would have made the rest of the day easier on my sleep issue, too. Services back at Hillel went fairly quickly (a mere two hours!), and I spent a bit of time up at the ark speaking quietly with G-d right before it was closed and Yom Kippur tied up. The shofar was blown and my heart sang, my lips curled into a smile, and I suddenly lost my light-headed/head-achy feeling.

The words of the prayerbook seemed to do more for me this year. I read the words and they did more than flip around in my mind for a few minutes. They echoed and swirled about throughout the day and continue to resonate in my heard and mind. The melodies enchant me and the entire idea of placing prayer above all else -- above all earthly and physical needs -- through fasting brings me to a beautiful place.

Essentially, I feel like I'm starting the new year with weights off my shoulders, my soul feeling light and as bright as the sun in the day and the moon at night. I know that my blog posts of late have been confused and frustrated, and I still am in that state of mind -- it's part of the Underconstructionist philosophy, you know. But I feel like G-d will be with me no matter how I walk the path, as long as I am walking forward and not backward.

And now? We prepare for Sukkot ! There will be THREE or FOUR sukkahs on campus, so I'm pretty stoked. Mostly because there will be one out here in the graduate quad for my using pleasure. The interesting thing? I've never observed Sukkot in any way shape or form before. I've always wanted to construct a sukkah, and when I was living in DC and saw sukkahs in people's front yards I was so jealous.

Until then, I wish upon you all the connectedness I feel with my Judaism and that you all continue on a forward-moving path.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Revisiting the Ultimate Goal.

Okay, I take it back. Maybe I did figure it out. Roughly a year ago, around Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur I wrote a very simple post, "The Ultimate Goal ." What was it?
"I have set G-d before me at all times." (Psalms 16:8)
Now, the thing about this is that it's a consistent goal. A perpetual necessity for me. For those keeping score at home, the rest of Psalm 16:8 reads: "... surely He is at my right hand, I shall never be shaken."

So then on another note, just last night I had a dream about Hasidic rabbis teaching me (Hasidim being a recurring theme in my dreams over the past several months), though when I awoke I couldn't remember what I had been taught. After sharing this dream on Twitter, a friend kindly replied to me simply with a reference to Psalm: 16:7. What does this verse say?
I bless the Lord who has guided me; my conscience admonishes me at night.
Now, I've been homing in on a lot of coincidences lately. My friend's Rosh Hashanah miracle story truly touched me in a way I cannot describe, and just now, well, let me explain. The note from my friend about Psalms 16:7 this morning I found particularly interesting, but hadn't thought much about it other than that it was a fascinating approach to my recurring dreams. But then, while thinking about Yom Kippur and pulling up old blog posts, and happening upon this one with Psalm 16:8 from almost precisely a year ago (one day off), I was struck.

So perhaps Psalm 16 is my song.
Protect me, O G-d, for I seek refuge in You.
I say to the Lord,
"You are my Lord, my benefactor;
there is none above You."
As to the holy and mighty ones that are in the land,
my whole desire concerning them is that
those who espouse another [god]
may h ave many sorrows!
I will have no part of their bloody libations;
their names will not pass my lips.
The Lord is my allotted share and portion;
You control my fate.
Delightful country has fallen to my lot;
lovely indeed my estate.
I bless the Lord who has guided me;
my conscience (literally kidney) admonishes me at night.
I am ever mindful of the Lord's presence;
He is at my right hand; I shall never be shaken.
So my heart rejoices,
my whole being exults,
and my body rests secure.
For You will not abandon me to Sheol,
or let Your faithful one see the Pit.
You will teach me the path of life.
In Your presence is perfect joy;
delights are ever in Your right hand.
For those wondering, the kidney is supposedly the seat of the conscience. But really, this Psalm is how my heart beckons -- G-d will not abandon me, He will teach me the path of life. And it is with this that 5769 will be a year of rejoicing, security, delight, and joy.

I bid all an easy fast, and may we all be inscribed in the book of life. Gemar chatimah tovah, and good yontiff!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

G-d WILL provide. I have proof!

I think it's interesting that that last post -- about how I know I'm not living how I want to live and know I should be living -- was post No. 613. Yes, that's the assumed number of commandments in Torah. Fascinating stuff, I think. But I have a point to this oh-so-soon-after-the-last-post post.

A friend/colleague/fellow graduate student revealed to me today a Rosh Hashanah miracle. This friend lives about six miles off campus and is a religious Jew. He was debating what to do for the holidays since he usually mopeds in and out of campus, but it being the holidays he was left to either observe at home or to walk in and out, which would be, well, pretty rough. So Tuesday morning, he completed his prayers at home, thinking that on Wednesday he would trek into campus to hear the shofar and then hitch a ride back home after sunset when RH was over. As he completed his prayers, he heard a noise that sounded strangely like a shofar.

Now, I have to point out that this friend lives out essentially in the woods where properties are separated by lots of brush and tall trees -- it isn't often that you see your neighbors, let alone hear them.

So this friend leaves his house, starts trekking through the property toward the sound, and lo and behold, he discovers a boy blowing the shofar on his neighbor's property. As it turns out, this friends neighbors are Jewish and were blowing the shofar for Rosh Hashanah, and thus my friend, lucky he was, heard the shofar -- a mighty, mighty mitzvah -- and didn't have to trek to campus. They also invited him back for Shabbat and what have you, which is such a marvelous thing for my friend who observes alone at home because of the distance to campus.

This, folks, is an example of G-d providing. I have a firm faithfulness in G-d that He will come through in such situations, and my friend's Rosh Hashanah miracle is a textbook case.

Will My Unbalance be Heard?

The Jewish Treats blog shared an important little snippet today that I wish I had been paying more attention to over the past few days: "During the time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, G-d pays special attention to our prayers. Go ahead, talk to G-d; He wants to hear you!"

I then began thinking about the idea of making resolutions, like we do on the Gregorian New Year (that is, January 1 and shortly just before). It doesn't seem to me like a very High Holy Days thing to do, making resolutions. Maybe I'm missing something, but it has never really been about making resolutions. Is the Jewish New Year meant for resolution-making? Maybe I'm wrong to do it, but when I do do it, I make resolutions to start on January 1. It's never really a conscious decision, it just works that way. But this year, it is more of a deliberate decision. And I feel pretty horrible about it.

You see, I'd like to say that I'm starting 5769 out right. Keeping Shabbos completely and going kosher and doing all these things I've been trying to tack on for so long now. But it isn't happening. Yes, I went to services on Friday, but then we went out to dinner and then to New York to see a show. And this week? Driving down to the Poconos, though we are going to shul. And this isn't how I want to carry myself, but I can't seem to figure things out. I seem stuck. I want it all. I want everything! I have a boyfriend, and being Shomer Shabbos would relegate our relationship to Sundays, and he works many Sundays. School, Shabbos, Boyfriend, feh.

I just have to wonder how G-d will review my prayers these few days before Yom Kippur. Will He hear me? Will I be inscribed in the book of life? Is it even worth it? When even I know that I'm not living rightly?

I feel like the delicate balance I am trying to maintain is eating away at my conscious. If I weren't in school or weren't in Storrs or weren't doing this or doing that it'd work out. But conditionals always seem perfect in our minds.

It never fails to amuse me that my zodiac sign is Libra, the scales of justice, and the moment I feel perfectly in balance is when the scales seem to tip, creating unbalance, unsettling the mind and tilting my comfort.

Stained-glass window from Lower Merion Synagogue in Pennsylvania. 

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Round-Up!

So, prepare yourself for a hodge-podge post. Start your engines!

Evan and I are going back to the Conservative shul we went to a few weeks ago in West Hartford. We're hoping that we can talk the rabbi into sneaking us in to Yom Kippur services on Thursday. So cross your magen Davids and hope for the best. It's a nice shul, and I'm guessing more people will be there this Shabbat since it's between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Alternatively, it could have a reverse affect and no one will be there. Either way, I'm stoked for more real-shul time.

I happ'd upon an article over on the Orthodox Union site about Yom Kippur/Kol Nidre, and I thought it was worth sharing: "You DO Have a Prayer. "

Then there is the debate talk. I don't even want to get very far into the Palin-Biden debate, but let's just say that the only reason Palin did "well" is because the bar for her was set so low it would have been impossible for her to have tripped over it. That being said, I'm pretty offended at her constant use of the quip "Never Again" to refer to the Wall Street fiasco -- can someone please let her know that that phrase is relegated to events of, oh, you know, Holocausts? To take such a significant set of words and throw it on a financial crisis that isn't really that big of a deal relative to past financial crises is offensive. And thanks to my friend Heather, this link has provided me with the Sarah Palin debate flow chart!

If you can't wait for Haveil Havalim on Sunday, Ilana-Davita did a good job of rounding up some posts from the week for your viewing pleasure. Just click here .

For those of you out there of the Jewish Mother persuasion, there's a new Blog Carnival on the block. You can head over to the In the Pink blog to check out how to register.

To close up the random round-up, everyone should head over to Mottel's blog for his Rosh Hashanah in Peru. Yes, despite our absolute differences in opinion about the election and politics, Mottel still takes some amazing photographs and has a lot of fascinating things to share about his worldly travels. And he's an all-around great person :)

Oh, and one more thing: I'm so stoked about the paper I'm going to write for my bible class about the Golden Calf incident. Nachmanides is my homeboy for this one, and unfortunately I disagree with Rashi and most other scholars regarding the purpose of the Golden Calf. I'm being crazy radical! Stay tuned for more!

And with that, I bid you all a Shabbat Shalom!

Flowers in Bloom

Originally uploaded by kvetchingeditor
A little bit of beauty for the end of the week. Just one of a bouquet of roses from Evan for my birthday on Tuesday. All I ever wanted from a gentleman was a bouquet of white roses.

It took 25 years, but I finally got them.

Do YOU have five friends?

As I prepare to watch potentially the most amusing presidentially related debate in the history of man (that is, the Palin-Biden debate), I have to share this video. It's called "Five Friends" and it's the uncensored version. So, if you don't like cursing, step away. There isn't much cursing, to be honest, but you have to expect a little when you get some of the comedic geniuses to talk politics/voting. It's a great video at any rate, so spread the word -- everyone should vote. Apathy is contagious and dangerous. And this election is perhaps the most important election in my lifetime (yah, so I'm only 25). But seriously, get out the word: Voting is the cool thing to do.

And if you're super bored, check out this awesome little photo montage of Biden prepping for the big debate :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Many Paths, One Destination

I had mentioned yesterday some words from Martin Buber's "The Way of Man: According to the Teaching of Hasidim ," and I wanted to just highlight a couple of really fascinating things he discussed about, well, the title of the text -- the way of man.

This is Chapter Two of the very, very brief book, and it starts off with Rabbi Baer of Radoshitz approaching his teacher, the "Seer" of Lublin, imploring him to "Show me one general way to the service of G-d." The teacher replied, "It is impossible to tell men what way they should take. For one way to serve G-d is through learning, another through prayer, another through fasting, and still another through eating. Everyone should carefully observe what way his heart draws him to, and then choose this way with all his strength."

Buber comes out of this with a very, very important point (so pay attention!): "The great and holy deeds done by others are examples for us, since they show, in a concrete manner, what greatness and holiness is, but they are not models which we should copy. However small our achievements may be in comparison with those of our forefathers, they have their real value in that we bring them about in our own way and by our own efforts."

The significance of this lesson is the individuality of paths to G-d. Buber goes on essentially to say that it is precisely because we do not resemble our own, unique selves and rather that we strive to be like others that the Messiah is delayed. This, I think, is pretty interesting it its idea. I always tell people a joke I heard that I think emphasizes the essential wrongness of man: What is the difference between a man and a dog? A dog knows how to act like a dog. (*begin laugh track*)

Buber asserts "Every person born into this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique.  ... Every man's foremost task is the actualization of his unique, unprecedented and never-recurring potentialities, and not the repetition of something that another, and be it even the greatest, has already achieved."

A great rabbi, Zusya, once said a short while before his death: "In the world to come I shall not be asked: 'Why were you not Moses?' I shall be asked: 'Why were you not Zusya?'"

The point here is that G-d is served and reached in many ways. As Buber says, "Mankind's great chance lies precisely in the unlikeness of men, in the unlikeness of their qualities and inclinations. G-d's all-inclusiveness manifests itself in the infinite multiplicity of the ways that lead to him, each of which is open to one man." (Emphasis my own!) Even the Great Seer of Lublin had more words to this effect, in response to disciples of a deceased zaddik who were shocked at the Seer's different customs: "What sort of G-d would that be who has only one way in which he can be served!"

This, in my opinion, is G-d. A G-d who, as Buber says, does not say "This way leads to me and that does not," but rather says "Whatever you do may be a way to me, provided you do it in such a manner that it leads you to me."

So those are my thoughts. It was an interesting read, albeit it is a little outdated, but the messages (as I've provided here) are pretty thorough and poignant for these days leading up to Yom Kippur. I think this topic -- the many, individual, unique paths to the one destination -- is particularly significant. We're all trying to find out way, but we're often told that there is only this way or that way, but in truth there is not one way because each of our paths are uniquely different and that, as Buber points out, should be the ADVANTAGE, not the DISADVANTAGE.

Be well, and keep reflecting!

May You, and I, May We Be Inscribed.

Rosh Hashanah reflections? I have few. I'll have to say I was very distracted by the fact that I was born 25 years ago on Rosh Hashanah (making my Hebrew birthday Simchat Torah). I was destined to really let that Jewish soul loose, is what this means.
So for Erev Rosh Hashanah I went to the Chabad dinner since it was so close. It turns out the rabbi is keeping tabs on me, as someone mentioned to him I guess that I'd been in New York. I told him I'd been in Washington Heights, which, I guess, to those from other NY neighborhoods is where the "fancy Jews" are. The food was good, the conversation, too, and I walked away with a bowl full of gefilte fish, which was a stellar parting gift considering I got beat up by the rabbi's middle child (I could really go off on the lack of discipline here, but these are the Days of Awe and I'm really pushing for the book of life). Tuesday, I went to services at Hillel, heard a teenage undergraduate blow the shofar with might while the rabbi's child-size son toyed with the other shofar while oozing with cuteness. A lot of stuff in the service was skipped because there were a couple "break out" sessions of meet your neighbors and to discuss Hannah's song. And after everything? There was no lunch served. But there was Tashlich, and it was my first service as such. It was a little unnerving watching the birds pick up all the things which I had cast off, but I suppose they were carrying it up and above instead of it sinking down below. That night I was a horrible person and ended up going to see a (free) movie screening (of "Religulous") with Evan and then he took me to dinner for my birthday. I also have to mention that he gave me an amazing bouquet of White Roses for the big Two-Five, a gift I haven't gotten from anyone, ever, period. What a prince, no? And today? I was sick. I blame too much gefilte fish and kugel (which I had consumed essentially every day since Friday). So now, Rosh Hashanah is over and we prepare for Yom Kippur. I also realized not so long ago that tomorrow is a fast day (Fast of Gedalia ), but it's a minor fast from dawn until dusk and I'm not so keen on whether this is a hard-core across-the-board type of fast or one of those "you can, you don't have to, but you should, but no hard feelings." Feel free to let me know!


So I sat down tonight with Martin Buber's "The Way of Man: According to the Teaching of Hasidim " because it's 41 pages long and took me about five seconds to plow through. There was a lot of interesting -- and relevant -- stuff in the text which I really want to share with you, my ever-so-lucky readers! In a chapter discussing the tenet of "Not to Be Preoccupied With Oneself," Buber discusses the significance of "turning" or what we know of as teshuvah, which is incredibly appropriate for this period of the Jewish calendar. He tells of a rabbi who married his son to the daughter of Rabbi Eliezer. After the wedding, the rabbi approaches Rabbi Eliezer and tells him that he feels close to him now, that he can tell him what is eating at his heart, he says "My hair and beard have grown white, and I have not yet atoned!" Rabbi Eliezer's response is "Oh my friend, you are thinking only of yourself. How about forgetting yourself and thinking of the world?" Buber, in his wisdom, says that essentially what Rabbi Eliezer is saying is "Do not keep worrying about what you have done wrong, but apply the soul power you are now wasting on self-reproach, to such active relationship to the world as you are destined for. You should not be occupied with yourself but with the world." Buber goes on to iterate a sermon by the Rabbi of Ger on the Day of Atonement, and I think it sums up something pretty worthwhile for considering at this season:
He who has done ill and talks about it and thinks about it all the time does not cast the base thing he did out of his thoughts, and whatever one thinks, therein one is, one's soul is wholly and utterly in what one thinks, and so he dwells in baseness. He will certainly not be able to turn, for his spirit will grow coarse and his heart stubborn, and in addition to this he may be overcome by gloom. What would you? Rake the muck this way, rake the muck that way -- it will always be muck. Have I sinned, or have I not sinned -- what does Heaven get out of it? In the time I am brooding over it I could be stringing pearls for the delight of Heaven. That is why it is written: "Depart from evil and do good" -- turn wholly away from evil, do not dwell upon it, and do good. You have done wrong? Then counteract it by doing right.
Indeed, we're conditioned to dwell. We see the bad in things or in ourselves and it becomes the spotlight's focus. But by dwelling on such things, we're not working in the right way. It must be counteracted, not given validation. That, folks, is your food for thought as we approach Yom Kippur.

Tomorrow I'll put up a piece also from this book by Buber which I think can provide us all a little bit of air when it comes to the many paths to G-d -- anyone who tells you there is one way is truly mistaken. So stay tuned and Shana Tova!