Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Anonymous Blogging: Woe is Me ...

I sure hope I don't get blasted for this post, but here goes. 

Listen, I get why people blog anonymously. At least, I get why some people blog anonymously. Some people are honest in their fearing for the future of their family, their children, shidduchim, etc. It's hard sometimes to be completely "out" in the sense that everyone knows who you are and can link your face and your name to all that drivel you spill out on the internet every day (a joke, folks), but some people do it purely to be able to get a rise out of people. If you have no name and no face and no community, you can say whatever you want, no matter how far on the fringe it might be from your beliefs, and you can watch mostly innocent folks prowling the internet freak the heck out. Good for you. Except not.

There are blogs I respect for maintaining anonymity, like DovBear, who I'm pretty sure lives in a very frum community and I'm pretty sure is a really great guy who just wants to be able to ask questions and talk about things without the fear of someone claiming he's off the derech or on his way there. Although I don't always agree with the anonymous blogging, I get why he's doing it. For me, I think anonymous blogging is sort of a cheat, a way to blast whoever you want, whenever you want, and you won't face any repercussions. At the same time, everyone out there will take what you say with a grain of salt because to be honest people need to know the face behind the curtain. Look at the Wizard of Oz or that episode of Family Guy with the man-eating fish. But DovBear? I'll let him slide. He's making it work, and he's honest about what he does; he isn't a thrill-seeking shock jock (and if he is, boy he has me fooled).

The reason I'm writing this blog post is because there's a new shock-jocking anonymous blogger on the web, and, well, to be honest I'm a little concerned. This new blogger is a rabbi. An Orthodox rabbi. With a congregation for which he is at the helm. His blog? The Orthoprax Rabbi. Okay, fine, what's the big deal? Well, he says, and I quote from his first blog post, "... while my congregants are all Orthodox, to varying degrees, I am not. I don’t believe in any of it. I am an atheist. I personally don’t keep much of any of Jewish law."


He goes on to talk about how his congregants all like him, how he got a contract extension, etc. That his gig is just a gig like any other gig (comparing it to being a plumber, of all things), and that belief is not important for his job.

What? Are you serious?  Why become a rabbi if you're not preparing yourself to lead a congregation, both spiritually or functionally. They don't want someone to answer black and white questions with some textbook answer, they want a spiritual guide in their rabbi. It's why they hire you.

Listen, this guy can believe whatever he wants and do whatever he wants behind and in front of closed doors, but I have a serious -- SERIOUS -- problem with the fact that he's blogging anonymously, dragging his unknowing congregation through the mud with him. Do his congregants (who all like him!) know how flippant he is about his Judaism (or lack there of) and his disregard for his congregants' well-being on a PUBLIC BLOG?!

I'm guessing no. I'm also guessing that this guy doesn't give a rat's you know what about his congregation, their spiritual well-being, or the future of his children (who he mentions) in the big, fat Jewish world. It's depressing.

If you're going to be flippant and disrespectful to a community who you say likes you, but who probably doesn't know that you're an athiest or how openly willing you are to express yourself and how completely unimportant your job is to you, then blog publicly. Have some self-respect. I guarantee that your community wouldn't like you -- the real you -- as much as you think. Especially if any of those congregants are looking for a spiritual guide (which they are).

Rabbi, if you don't like your job, if you don't believe in it, if you're only doing it for a paycheck, then get a new job, don't take your congregation down and don't mislead them. We all have our moments of questioning, but you seem to have made a big decision to just not search, to not care, and to just dish out black and white answers without any feeling, passion, or self-respect. So go become a lawyer, a plumber, just don't taint your congregation because you're having a spiritual drought.

You, sir, are what's wrong with anonymous blogging. Internet: Take note.

(Hat tip to several folks for also blogging on this, including but not limited to, ADDRabbi, The Rebbetzin's Husband, and Adventures in Jewish Thought.)

Smattering of Poetry 'ull Do Ya!

I'm feeling a little hippie dippie over here, sitting outside sipping some coffee and enjoying the cooler version of "summer" in New Jersey. The breeze is spinning around and the sun is peeking through green leaves ... and I'm content. I'm relaxed. I'm enjoying the fresh air and my allergies haven't spiked. Color me happytastic.

On a private forum I sometimes frequent with friends from college, someone brought up the subject of poetry, and I remembered this one poet who I fell in love with eons ago named Daphne Gottlieb. Mind you her work can be a little ... colorful ... but her sentiments and style are just beautiful. I discovered her during my early college years, probably seven years ago, you guessed it right that she's Jewish. One of my favorite poems of hers is simple, poignant, and powerful. May it move you as much as it moves me.

the jewish atheist mother has her say

baby, there is no
god but
they'll kill you
for him.


It kind of smacks you in the face and wakes you up, right? I also found this little treasure from 2008 on my old Livejournal (even when I had this blog, I still kept up the Livejournal for purposes of dreams and poems, so thank cheeses for that!).

This thrift store buy is the inspiration for the poem. 

i hadn't bought the box with this in mind (08-22-08)

the knickknack never used to sing before
the way it does now, with its big red bridges,
and the Bay in the background, but upon the
shelf the box still sits still, ever-so empty.
because memories were meant for the other,
one who said forever wasn't just a metaphor,
but now -- those words are distant and different.

so this little black lacquered vessel,
it is vexing me as i sip slumber slowly.
i could fill it with the words i whisper
between boy and girl normal when i'm wishing,
whisking myself away in fabricated fiction,
stories i dream, vast displays of affection,
figures intertwined in sheets, placing words like
"i love you" upon the earlobes of the other.

words that whip and twist likes wind through waves,
overflowing the little black box, sentiments seeping
into heart chambers, filling up the empty spaces,
making the small glossy bauble worth its weight in gold.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Falling in Love, With Teaneck, New Jersey.

I. Love. Teaneck!

Okay, let me start over. I know, we're new and it's that honeymoon period of newness and awesomeness, and technically we haven't even moved in yet, but we spent last Shabbos in Teaneck and, frankly, I'm in love. The community is young, vibrant, impassioned, and ALIVE. Alive. Yes, I felt alive and active and excited the entire time I was around the other individuals and couples in the apartment community. I mean, we were only there for one Shabbos, and I already feel like I have a new community-family, because they opened us with welcome arms (EDIT: of course I meant "welcomed us with open arms, but I spoonerized that, and it's so funny, I'm leaving it there!), put a roof over our heads, fed and fed and fed us, and took part in conversation and Jewish geography with us. What's more to ask for?

The amazing thing about the community is that the welcoming wagon is a serious one. We're moving in on Thursday/Friday and folks are willing to host us for meals, cook for us for the first week, help us literally move the boxes and furniture, and to help unpack. I mean, wow. I'm not saying other communities aren't so gracious, but it's the proactivity of these folks that astounds and elates me.

I didn't spot a single doily over the weekend, but I did spot some strange and interesting styles of covering ye olde locks, which I may or may not write about depending on how I think the community would react. The interesting thing about moving to Teaneck is that I'm starting to feel an underlying sense of self-censorship, but not actual self-censorship. Like, I shouldn't blog about certain things for fear of people reading them and/or getting their panties in a bunch about my most-of-the-time benign comments, but at the same time knowing that I can't help but blog about them.

So, just to test the waters (like a 3-year-old with a crayon and nice, clean white wall), I have to mention this interesting hair-covering style. I think I'll call it the "Captain Jack Sparrow." It's where you take a scarf and sort of tie it back, pirate-style, but with all your locks still dangling out freely. Like the un-tichel, tichel. What I don't get is how it fits into the whole tefach of hair thing. It's sort of like edging on not covering, while still covering. I did see one woman at a kosher restaurant elsewhere in Jersey recently sporting such a scarf, but she definitely had a fall on underneath. I give mad props to the women who choose to cover like this, I just don't know how the greater Orthodox (modern and otherwise) community approaches that kind of style.

Speaking of, I'd really like to get some knowledgeable source in the arena of the halakot and community standards of hair covering to guest post something for me as far as what is hardcore, what is lenient, and what is necessary and what is not. I want to be a whole heckuva lot more informed than I am right now.

I also am seriously pondering the sheitel or fall, now. I don't know why. I'm very not down with the sheitel, but I'm not sure WHY I am. Some look so chic. But is that the point? I'm also struggling with what to do with my hair -- cut it? Let it grow? It's at this uncomfortable impasse where I can't really leave the back out but it really doesn't want to stay up despite the amount of clippy and rubber things I attempt to keep it in with. It's Hair Wars 2010. Suggestions? I haven't had it long since 2001, so it might be fun to grow it. I wonder how Tuvia feels?

I have a bucketload of posts I'd like to write, many of them based on experiences (all good, by the way) in my new Teaneck community. I got the impression that most of my new friends don't read or keep up with blogs (although they seem to be obsessed with Friends and Seinfeld, so I'm planning on watching EVERY season/episode from start to finish on BOTH of those), so I might just be in the clear. I pride myself on a positive dialogue about any and all of my queries and curiosities when it comes to halakot and community standards, and I don't see that changing. Any baggage brought to this blog by individuals I can't freak out about. After all, it's baggage.

Stay tuned for more exciting and intriguing adventures in the life of Chaviva G. Hrm ... maybe someday kids will call me "Mrs. G." Which, of course, reminds me of one of the greatest shows of all time: The Facts of Life!

She is Wonder Woman. She is @susqhb.

I'm super proud of my very good friend Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse. It isn't just that she was named to The Jewish Week's "36 Under 36," although that's pretty amazingly awesome. She listens, she enjoys coffee, she digs a late-night run to Golan in Washington Heights, is a fan of good movies, and perhaps most importantly, she put up with me on my pre-wedding weekend and my wedding day. Susanne was with me for TWO majorly important moments in my Jewish life, and for that, her neshama is bound to mine for eternity (sorry, toots). She's always been there for me, and for that I love her. I can't say enough about how much Susanne does for the Jewish community, social media, and the general awesomeness of the Jewish community, so I give to you, below, The Jewish Week article.

Mazal tov, Susanne. I offer you hugs, good movies, and delicious BBQ ribs!
Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse, 30
Social media rock star 

Julie Wiener
Associate Editor
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Several numbers structure Susanne Goldstone Rosenhouse’s life. There’s 613, the number of mitzvot that Orthodox Jews like herself observe. And then there’s 140, the character limit on Twitter, where Rosenhouse spends much of her workday.

As founding social media coordinator for the Manhattan-based National Jewish Outreach Project, Rosenhouse, whose handle is JewishTweets, tweets about 12 times per day on myriad Jewish topics. For many of her 8,000-plus followers, Jewish Tweets provides a “sense of community” and is their main link to the Jewish world, she says.

Rosenhouse’s tweets range from trivia and news to questions intended to spark discussions about Judaism (“What was your seder like growing up?”), links to articles and blogs from all over the Web and suggestions of daily Jewish “actions” to take.

Some recent tweets: “It was today, Rosh Chodesh Sivan in Hebrew Year 2448, that the Jews arrived at Mt. Sinai & prepared to receive the Torah!” (May 14, 9:22 a.m.); “Action: If you have a friend or family member in need, find a discreet way to help, such as giving food you ‘over-bought.’” (May 13, 5:32 p.m.)

She answers questions about Judaism (many of which she refers to rabbis), helps connect Shabbat hosts and guests, and reads the posts of the almost 5,000 people she follows. “I don’t want to be followed and not follow back,” she says. “You can’t engage people on Twitter if you just spout, spout, spout.”

She also serves as a program officer at NJOP and was one of the volunteers who helped launch ParnasaFest, a Jewish job-networking event.

Rosenhouse grew up in a Reform but “Chabad-friendly” home in Orange County, Calif. She chose to go to Yeshiva University’s Stern College, where she was one of only a handful of public school grads, because she “loved the idea of a dual curriculum.”

Recently married (she met her husband, also a baal teshuvah and YU alum, through the online site SawYouAtSinai), Rosenhouse lives in Washington Heights and, believe it or not, also has a personal Twitter handle: Susqhb. “It tends to be very Jewy, but I also tweet about things like movies.”

Bet you didn’t know that... Until six months ago, when she got a Droid (“I have Verizon, so the iPhone isn’t in my clutches”), Rosenhouse did not own a smartphone, doing all her Tweeting from computers.
Oy. I'm kvelling :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Balak: Retro-style.

Because I'm too insanely busy schlepping things back and forth from Connecticut to the Poconos and today to New Jersey (where I'll happily be reunited with Husband Tuvia), I don't have much time to review the parshah and put some decent, practical thought to it. So, I've looked back THREE YEARS (good lord, I can't believe I've been sustaining this blog that long) to this post, and I've pasted below a portion of the blog post's thoughts on this week's parshah, Balak. Enjoy!
I don't have much (if anything) to say expressly about Balak, this week's Torah portion. The only sort of thought-invoking bit of commentary in Etz Chayim is in regards to Balak's urging for the curse on the Israelites and Balaams persistent relaying of G-d's message that you cannot curse those who are blessed.

The text cites the Baal Shem Tov, who said "A Jew is never alone. G-d is always with every Jew." Then there is Abraham Joshua Heschel (not cited here, but all the same), who said "The Jew is never alone in the face of G-d; the Torah is always with him." Is G-d with us? Torah with us? Neither? Either? Both? Are they one in the same?

I was watching this episode of "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?" on Style last night, and I was taken by one of the stories. It was a couple who had hastened their wedding vows after they'd started dating. Why? Well, she was diagnosed with an incredibly rare form of leukemia (.5-two people diagnosed each year worldwide) and given three-five years to live. She surpassed the time frame and six years after the diagnosis met the man. His story was that he'd been in a horrible car accident on an exit ramp on the freeway and had walked away. Less than a week later, because of a concussion and emotional trauma from the other accident, he rammed his car into the back of a city truck, completely decimating his vehicle and causing his near death. Then they met, realizing that they both were sort of knocking on heaven's door, fell in love, and got engaged. I don't consider it a miracle or necessarily a gift from G-d that either of them are bright, shining people who are giving back with a cancer scholarship and countless philanthropic activities -- they are the epitome of the perfect romance. However, I have to think that perhaps the everyday presence of G-d maintains some balance, some equilibrium. Then again, I don't even know if these two people were religious -- let alone Jewish (not that that matters).

If you Google "A Jew is never alone" ... you receive (at present) 76 entries (though only about 20 *really* show up). Many are variations on the Baal Shem Tov's famous words. Then there's random expressions of the Jew and his loneliness: "The Yarmulke is a constant reminder that a Jew is never alone. He walks with G-d. It is a feeling of assurance and comfort" (

It would seem that the Jew is never alone -- be it G-d or the yarmulke as a reminder of G-d or the mitzvot and laws of G-d in Torah. I imagine it is whether we accept or deny this as such. Does the denial of the constant presence make those moments in which we pray hard and fast for the protection of a sick relative or lover that much more effective and strong -- in OUR eyes? I often look at the religious Jew, he who is constantly swimming in Torah and wonder if -- when there are moments of desperation -- he feels as effective and firm and hopeful in his prayers as he who perhaps only calls on G-d in moments of crises. The constant presence may dull the effectiveness (in our minds, that is), nu? On the other hand, acknowledging the constant presence might allow us to take G-d for granted, to not appreciate the peace of mind.

Okay, so I lied. I had plenty to say about this tiny little quip of the Baal Shem Tov. I just didn't anticipate it.
For what it's worth, about 200 results come about today. That's quite a few more than three years ago. It's an interesting reflection on who I was three years ago, saying "I often look at the religious Jew ..." and here I am, now, a religious Jew. I think I can answer that question: Yes. Yes she does feel as effective and firm and hopeful in her prayers as those individuals who only call on G-d in moments of crises. That she is me, and I know how it feels.

I will add, however, that I feel quite blessed with all that I have in life. Those who once cursed me for who I am and how I choose to live my life be damned, because you can't curse the person who is blessed!

Here's an early Shabbat Shalom to you all. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on the illustrious Susanne Goldstone-Rosenhouse, recently named one of the awesome 36 Under 36 by The Jewish Week, as well as a blog post on Jewish truckers (yes, you read that right, it's an intrigue that I have after my many days of highway time these few weeks).

Adventures in Covering!

Yes, it's as exciting and thrilling as you think. It's Chaviva, your hair-covering newbie, and her wacky adventures in name changes and hair covering! Today's adventure begins in the Poconos at 5:30 in the morning (yuck) and ends, well, back in the Poconos at 6:30 in the evening (yawn!).

I got up at the you-know-what-of-dawn today in order to make it to Danbury, CT, today for a new driver's license. Yes, I know what you're thinking, we are moving to New Jersey in about a week, but you see, for ease of transition, it's easier to get myself in order in Connecticut first. This meant a visit to the Social Security Administration for a new card (where I discovered that my mother's legal maiden name is spelled differently than she thought ... according to the feds, anyhow), to the DMV, the bank, and to the post office for a new passport!

Whew. There was also some packing up of gigantic notebooks full of notes and papers so I can tackle my graduate exam in a few weeks after we're settled, as well as oodles of other things from the slowly emptying Galatz house in Connecticut.

Passport, Here I Come!
So what's the adventure? Hair covering. At two locations today I was required to have a photo taken -- the DMV and the post office (for the passport). At both locations, I was asked to remove my hat. What!? Remove my hat!? I played it cool, said politely, "I wear this hat for religious reasons." At the DMV it got a blank stare, so I replied with "I'm Jewish." It took the woman about 10 minutes to find the necessary paperwork for me to sign regarding my hat, and the paperwork merely said something along the lines of, "I vow that I must cover my hair for religious reasons, if I'm lying, you can throw me in the clink" followed by my signature (which, of course, is a whole other thing because I never know when to sign A. Edwards and when to sign C. Galatz). So I signed the paper, gave it to the woman, took my picture, and I have to say I was pretty pleased with the photo.

Then, a few hours later at the post office, the postal worker asked me to remove my hat. "Well, I can't," I said, "I've got to keep it on for religious reasons, I'm an Orthodox Jew." Another blank stare. "Um, well, I don't know what to tell you," he said. With my vast experience in this field, I asked him if there was a waiver or something I could sign, and he, once again, stared blankly at me. Inevitably, he pulled out a piece of loose-leaf paper and said, "I guess just write a note or something, to whom it may concern, explaining the hat thing." So I wrote the following:
To whom it may concern:
In my passport photo, I am wearing a hat. This is because I am a religious, Orthodox Jew, and am required by bible and law to cover my hair.
Thank you,
Chaviva Galatz
Hopefully my mention of "law" will play to their heartstrings. If they decline my passport, you can bet I'll raise a ruckus.

Overall I wasn't left with a sour taste in my mouth from either experience, it's just a long, grueling process this name change and getting married is. I'm forever going to be known by the non-Jewish public (and some of the Jewish public, unfortunately) as CHA-viva. As in, the "ch" of cheese. It gives me a nice Latina flare, right? I'm so diverse. Except not.

So my question for the readers is: Do you have a passport in which your hair is covered? A driver's license? Any other legal ID? How did you deal with having to cover your hair (or how did your wife handle it)? Is it a big deal? I almost think it'd be harder for a muslim woman in a full covering to get her driver's license ... how does THAT work?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friends Forever: The Long Road of Memory

Driving down a Nebraska road, circa July 2006.
Six years ago, in the summer of 2004, in an effort to occupy ourselves and keep each other on friendly terms while out of school, I took a roadtrip into the country of Nebraska (okay, so it's mostly country) with my good friends of the time Andrew, John, and Anthony. There was a mix CD involved (think: Bob Dylan), and it was that summer that I roamed around freely with my friends, exploring the city and exploring the state. Those summers, when I was in college for my undergraduate degree, were some of the best years of my life. I'm not that far from them (2002-2006), but I look back on them nostalgically because I had a sort of careless fancy that makes me smile when something reminds me of those days. Pictures of country roads, memories of figure-8 races out at the county fair, and watching some country boys watch some very uncomfortable indie flicks that made them cringe and leave. There was cheap beer, coffee, long drives, silent moments, and complete happiness.

My first two years of college were surrounded by men, as I found myself most comfortable around my male counterparts. Andrew, Anthony, John, Caleb, Jordan, Ryan, Greg. These were the guys who, when I think of college (the early years), I think of. To be honest, I'm only still speaking semi-regularly to two of them (one made it to my wedding and another who couldn't, but I still love him). I check in on the others on Facebook, several of them married and others enjoying bachelorhood for all its worth.

I took a drive today from our place in the Poconos to Hawley, PA, a mere 20 minute or so schlep, in order to track down a little coffee shop called Cocoon Coffee House. I didn't think there'd be an actual "coffee shop" out in the middle of nowhere like this, but amid antique stores and general stores, here I am, at a coffee shop with some darn good iced coffee (purchased, kindly, by a local who felt bad that I'd waited so long for my coffee). The drive was on long, quiet winding roads overgrown with trees and old houses with quirky mailboxes. I often wonder what kind of people live in villages or towns like this, where you have to drive a half-hour for groceries and hours further for a Target (I'm hooked, what can I say).

Those, of course, are the moments I think back to the people who lived in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska, where figure-8 races were the highlight of the year, cheap beer was like champagne, and mentalities are slow, easy, and mostly kind.

Sometimes, as Morgan Freeman quipped in "Shawshank Redemption," I just miss my friends. The people who helped me find myself and who took me on the adventure of a lifetime, even if it was just eating Thanksgiving dinner at the table of a family in small-ville, Nebraska, or walking around an Omaha art gallery, or watching movies over cheap beer. Making mixed drinks in a dorm room, watching "A Clockwork Orange" with a complete stranger who would become a best friend, and watching late-night MTV just for the music videos. Those were moments that many people in my Orthodox Jewish shoes never got to experience, let alone understand. I'm privileged to have come from where I came from.

I just wish those people, those boys who turned into men before my eyes, were still active participants in my life and I in their's. When we're back together -- at least with the two I speak two off and on somewhat regularly -- it's like old times. Like I'm still me and they're still them. And in reality, I think we are. I might have changed my clothes and my religion and my hair style (as in, well, it's under a hat now), but I'm still me. I still enjoy cheap beer and Woody Allen and the simple things in life. My friends, my men, I think they're also the same.

Because people don't really change, we just grow up, grow apart, and remember, nostalgically, those long drives down Nebraska highways.

Note: I could devote about 30 blog posts or more to my female friends. It took me a little while to make good female friends in college, and I think the firsts were probably Beth and Melanie, followed by Heather and Ananda. I miss them all oodles, and I get to see Heather fairly regularly. She's my fashionista, design diva BFF. College was a funny time for me and friends. I lost a lot of my high school friends as I made more college-side friends. Luckily, two of my closest friends from high school -- Christina and Maryl -- are still good friends to this day. In the photo below you'll see Heather on the left side of the photo (with her hubby), then me and my man, followed by Andrew (mentioned above), and Maryl (with her hubby). Seriously though -- all of my close female friends have basically been 10 feet taller than me. What gives!? So, see, friends can be continuity. Maryl was my oldest friend there; we got our friendship rolling circa 1998. Twelve long years later, I was so happy she could come to my wedding!

If it looks like my dress looks weird, it's because the bussel broke and Tuvia is holding it up in the back :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Dry Spell

I'm already ready for next Shabbat. I don't know why, but this Shabbat I just didn't feel rested; my attempts at an afternoon nap just didn't pan out. I spent my afternoon rereading texts for my final graduate exam, mulling over Hebrew flashcards, and being anxious about the upcoming weeks of sitting, doing nothing, and then moving like mad into our apartment in Teaneck.

The Invisible BridgeNext Shabbat, we're taking part in this awesome Mystery Shabbat thing in Teaneck (the aim being to pair people up at a mystery house, so the hosts don't know who is coming and the guests don't know whose house at which they're eating), and I'm eager to get situated in the new 'hood with new people, a new shul, and, essentially, to officially start our married life. I never thought New Jersey would hold the fruits of my future, but here we are.

Because of my current limbo, I really don't have much to post on. I guarantee that when I start working on my grad exam I'll have an abundance of interesting quips to share, and I also just downloaded The Invisible Bridge onto my nook, so that should provide me with some material about which to blog about. It's new, it was featured in The New York Times Book Review, so I'm sold. It will be the first official book I've read on my nook, so I'm stoked.

Until I come up with something interesting to blog about, enjoy some of the other blogs out that update religiously with interesting and fascinating goodies. Like who? Check out the following.

Peace out!

I Can't Believe I Used to Hate Cooking!

You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free!: 500 Delicious, Foolproof Recipes for Healthy LivingAlthough I have blogs wholly devoted to gluten-free and kosher living (the recipe blog and the review blog), I like to share my adventures in cooking on Just Call Me Chaviva because, well, food is what Jews do. Sure, food is the livelihood of all peoples, but there's something special about the flare of Jewish cooking and Shabbat preparation that is incomparable in other cultures.

This week, I decided to do a deliciously spicy Indian menu for Friday night and a light, fish-focused meal for Saturday lunch with leftovers on the menu for seudat shlishi. Tuvia and I are in the Poconos for Shabbat and the weekend, with him heading off to his new job in Newark on Monday and me staying here trying to stay sane, get organized, and get some work done. I'm also going to share with you my plans for Father's Day Brunch tomorrow with the in-laws. So let's get to it.

Friday Night
Dahl (a delicious lentil soup, it was amazing)
Chicken Tikka (I'd probably do this next time sans yogurt, which, by the way, was totally parve)
Saffron Rice (okay, this was store-bought and easily made on the stovetop)
Aloo Phujia (this was crazy spicy, but so delicious!)
Chickpea/Tomato concoction that I sort of rocked on the fly
(That is: chickpeas, olive oil, onions, garlic, tomato paste, salt & pepper)
Gluten-Free Brownies (store-bought, and they were so gooey in the middle!)

Do you ever do "ethnic" food night? I mean, beyond doing the Israeli thing with falafel and hummus. Do you get your Chinese or Greek on? How do you work your menus? Are you successful with guests, or do they prefer the usual suspects?

Saturday Lunch
Roasted Potatoes (the usual, leftover but I knew Tuvia would eat them!)
Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole (sans the nuts, oops; probably the "heaviest" item in the meal)
Gluten-Free Vanilla Rugelach, a la Heaven Mills! (perfect right out of the freezer)

I'm a sucker for cooking lots of food ... someday I'll be a master of hosting 10+ people at my home every week. That is, of course, until I have kids and my head explodes from being overworked. Luckily, this fall I have class Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, with an early-morning class Thursday, and that's it. I'll have Thursday and Friday to get my mad cooking skills on. I intend on using the rest of my time here in the Poconos to try out a boatload of recipes I have up over on Gloriously Gluten Free & Kosher, not to mention some other recipes (for crackers, go figure) that I haven't posted up yet. Until then, here's what I have going for brunch tomorrow for my father-in-law.

Father's Day Brunch

Some delicious OJ, Coffee, and Tea
Gluten-Free Donuts (SO GOOD! I'll have the recipe up later on my other blog)
Fresh Sliced Watermelon and Strawberries
Home Fries
Bagels (sadly, not GF) with cream cheese and/or butter

Mad props to the author of "You Won't Believe It's Gluten Free!" Roben Ryberg. Seriously, she's become my new go-to author when it comes to cooking. Her recipes are absolutely amazing, simple, and will be *excellent* come Passover (she offers her recipes in corn-based, potato-based, and oat-based options!). 

Shavua tov, friends, and happy noshing!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Great Food Dilemma

This is a rather odd post to be posting, but why not?

I've been a gluten-free vegetarian for the past month and a half, and at times it's gone great and at others I've felt like screaming, "what's the point?" The truth is, when I eat meat, I feel sort of heavy and weighed down, and after a schlep to a local farm, I decided to respect the food and my body and go vegetarian. The gluten free adventure started after someone suggested that I consider the diet in order to aid in the healing of a discombobulated stomach that perpetually gives me aches and pains.

So here I am, a month and a half later, and I'm not sure whether to continue forth. The first few weeks of the gluten free diet, I was feeling better and my stomach wasn't as grumpy with me. Then the wedding came, and stress destroyed any progress made. Now, I'm just unsure if it's doing anything. The vegetarianism is something that's a lot easier to carry on with, except for the fact that my husband is a meatatarian and I grow weary of making two main courses for every meal so I have something to eat.

The worst part about being both Gluten Free and Vegetarian, however, is Shabbat. At my own house, I can manage a delicious meal that gives me something to eat with both constraints in mind, but it's the eating out that gets me. At one recent Shabbat meal, I was able to eat the gefilte, the typical salad with some dressing, green beans, and potato kugel. There was a delicious-looking oreo dessert cake, chicken, a kugel with some corn flake topping, and more, but there I was, unable to explore any of them.

The upside to being Gluten Free and Vegetarian is that I probably eat a lot healthier, considering I can't eat a lot of the processed foods out there that contain boatloads of junk that people shouldn't be eating. I just can't figure out whether it's worth it for me to tell people who invite me over that I'm BOTH GF and Veg. Wouldn't it be easier on my future hosts to just throw one restriction at them? I mean, I can offer to bake and bring something that's me-friendly, but some people just aren't comfortable with that, especially when you're new in a neighborhood and people don't know what your kashrut standards are like.

Sigh. Food. I've always had a horrible, incompatible relationship with food. It just seems to get worse as I get older. It would be easier if I were cooking for one, but that's not my life now! So I suppose it's time to buck up and deal with it.

On another note: For those of you interested in Gluten Free food, I'm hosting a giveaway over on my Gluten-Free Kosher Critic blog of Cheddar Cheese Fries (just go look!).

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Meeting of the Minds!

Here's a teaser of our wedding photos, which now are up on Facebook. Unfortunately, you can only see them if you're one of my Facebook friends (sigh), so if you have problems viewing them, just let me know, and I'll hook you up!

Yes, folks, here you see the Twitter fame known as @mrs_Gruven @sebelsky @ravtex @susqhb @gruven_reuven @hsabomilner (and her KoD) @kvetchingeditor @schnit @elianahsharon @chicagoleah @alizahausman @ha_safran and @kosheracademic. I guarantee this photo will make it to the wall of my living room in 8 by 10 fashion :)

The Who's Who of the Jew Crew!

For Posterity's Sake ... Flipbook!

The video is cool, but my HAT is cooler. Mad props to Burlington Hat Coat Factory!

A Day's Travels.

What a day today was. Where do I begin? After the bounty of posts on topics of interest to the masses, I'll tone things down and give you one of those fun "here's what I did today, and here's the loot I gathered" kind of posts. So, if you enjoy those kind of things, read on!

Tuvia and I headed out today to "Celebrate West Hartford," a type of fair, craft-show kind of thing. On the way we stopped in at Burlington Hat Coat Factory, where I picked up FOUR, yes, FOUR beautifully spacious heads for my oversized noggin'. You'll see them via photo throughout the coming years, I'm sure. We parked near the Starbucks in West Hartford Center, which runs up next to Blue Back Square, where the big fair was. Not one booth into the fair and we were ooing and awing at the awesome goods up for sale.

Among five million jewelry vendors and booths with cheesy paintings of still-life objects were a few booths worth mentioning. The first belonged to Stefanie Marco and was this cool booth of lacquered works with kitschy sayings on them, including a line of coffee-bean inspired objects and this really cool mojito drink mix piece (see up top), and if it weren't for the price (ouch), we would have picked up some of the coffee goods. If you're interested in checking out some of these cool pieces, visit

The next booth that rocked our socks belonged to Jim Leach, a wood-working genius. We've seen plenty of our friends with those nifty baskets that lay flat for storage and serve as a trivet, but that with a quick motion swing up and turn all baskety, but we'd never seen anyone selling them. So we were super stoked to pick one of these up! He does take custom orders, and if you're interested, I can pass along his email address to you.

Our most favorite booth belonged to Toby Rosenberg and rara avis designs, distinctive pottery & judaica. We were really taken by the goods offered by this Portland, Maine, artist, including her tzedakah boxes, menorot, and her washing cups.

The tzedakah boxes and menorot have this beautiful village-esque kind of whimsy about them, which I love. The menorot have 360-degree artwork, so no matter what angle you're approaching from, you're getting a village scene. Toby can even place your family name on one of the village houses on the tzedakah box! I was just really taken by Toby's attention to detail and her love of Judaica. Of the village tzedakah box she says, "imagine the community we build when we give tzedakah." That, folks, is a beautiful sentiment.

So if you're looking for something new to add to your collection, I suggest going to her website and looking at what she has to offer. If you're interested, she can probably make you something personal. One-of-a-kind Judaica is rare these days, so take advantage. We're looking into a pomegranate-inspired washing cup!

My thoughts are that if you have the opportunity to buy things from local, independent artists, just do it, folks. Just do it.

After walking around a bit more, Tuvia buying some kosher nosh from Yosi's Catering, and experiencing a bit of rainy drizzle, we headed into Barnes and Noble to take a gander at this new fangled Nook thing people have been talking about. I've been contemplating an e-reader for a while now, mostly because of the upcoming move and its subsequent result of a lengthy commute several days of the week. The backbreaking work of schlepping around books and a laptop, not to mention a few meals, will break me, so the fewer things I can carry, the better. Thus, enter the Nook. I did some online comparisons between the Kindle and the Nook, and in my mind, the Nook was a better deal. So we went in, let the salesman swing his pitch, I spent about a half-hour coveting all the Judaica books, and then, well, we bought one. Here's the little fella getting charged up (yes, that's a caricature of Kurt Vonnegut you see).

And now? Well, we're at home. Chilling. Chillaxing. Watching Toy Story, of all things. There are half-packed boxes, empty boxes, and two exhausted people who aren't really up to packing any of them at this point. We've really got about a week to get them done (less than, really, because Tuvia starts his gig in Newark on the 21st of June!). So, baruch haShem, things will get done.

Happy e-traversing, friends!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Down With Doilies!

The doily: Where did it come from? Why is there a box of them at Orthodox synagogues? And, perhaps most importantly, why has the doily replaced head-covering?

I'm finding that more and more women at my Orthodox shul aren't covering. Now, outside of shul to each their own, but it seems to me that in shul, wearing a hat has always been sort of a sign of modesty and married-ness. Lately, however, women who covered (at least in shul) have stopped. Some have lost their scarves and hats in place of, you guessed it, the doily.

Now, I'm not out to chastise anyone for not covering (some of my closest friends don't cover on a day-to-day basis, but I'm pretty sure they at least go that extra mile for shul!), I'm just trying to figure out if this is a trend Orthodox shul wide, or if it's just something unique to my current, modern Orthodox community.

Can I expect doilies galore in Teaneck, New Jersey when we move there in a few weeks? Or is it more of the traditional, tichel and hat-wearing kind of place? Is a doily okay?

Let's talk halakot on hair covering. Let's get down and dirty. On doilies.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shabbat Shalom a la Mousse!

Sometimes, I'm amazed at how few ingredients can be used to make something absolutely delicious and amazing. I put this together for a little going away shindig over Shabbos, and I have to say that the mousse is ... wow. So good. I'm proud of myself -- it's my first mousse! Not sure what the whole Chocolate Mousse Torte tastes like, but it sure looks good :)

[Note: This is perfect for those who are gluten free, and it also can be used for Passover! It's a perfect summer treat, too.]

A Curious Note on Rahab

A friend pointed out to me an inconsistency in the Rahab narrative, and I'd never noticed it before.

In Joshua 2:13, after Rahab declares her allegiance to HaShem, she asks the spies to save her family.
יג וְהַחֲיִתֶם אֶת-אָבִי וְאֶת-אִמִּי, וְאֶת-אַחַי וְאֶת-אחותי (אַחְיוֹתַי), וְאֵת, כָּל-אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם; וְהִצַּלְתֶּם אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵינוּ, מִמָּוֶת
... and save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.
This is contrasted with what appears in Joshua 6, when the spies come to rescue Rahab.
כג וַיָּבֹאוּ הַנְּעָרִים הַמְרַגְּלִים, וַיֹּצִיאוּ אֶת-רָחָב וְאֶת-אָבִיהָ וְאֶת-אִמָּהּ וְאֶת-אַחֶיהָ וְאֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לָהּ, וְאֵת כָּל-מִשְׁפְּחוֹתֶיהָ, הוֹצִיאוּ; וַיַּנִּיחוּם--מִחוּץ, לְמַחֲנֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל.
And the young men the spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had, all her kindred also they brought out; and they set them without the camp of Israel.
You see the discrepancy here? The sisters! What happens to the sisters? The Hebrew clarifies that her request includes "achoti" or "my sisters" and in Joshua 6, the sisters are not included, unless you include them in teh general "and all that she had." This, too, disagrees with the "and all that THEY have" in Joshua 2, suggesting that Rahab wants the spies to save her father, mother, brothers, sisters and all that is their's. The terms used in Joshua 6 are more general, but the express omission of the sisters is curious.

I suppose between when the spies came to Rahab and when the spies came back, perhaps the sisters had defected to the pagan side and died in the subsequent conflict, or perhaps they were non-redemptive harlots who didn't deserve to be brought out with Rahab and her family? What are your thoughts? Is it a simple omission or an express omission?

A Tale of a Tichel

Note: A tichel is a head scarf, much like the one I'm rocking in this photo from one of my many adventures at Starbucks. 

I'm so glad that my post on shomer negiah elicited so many comments -- both positive and critical of a sweeping understanding as modesty and separation as a cure-all for wedded bliss. I agree: There is no cure-all, not even the observance of ta'arat ha'mishpacha (family purity) can guarantee that a couple will last as many years as Abraham and Sarah or that they'll be blessed with a gaggle of children and happiness.

But those who warn, Beware, you feel this now, but in a few years? ... I ask you to hold that thought. I know a lot of people who have stopped covering seven or ten years into a marriage, women who have opted to wear pants three years in, or couples that have decided that observing the laws of niddah just isn't working for them. I know women who don't go to mikvah, women who cover their hair in-shul, but cherish their flowing locks outside the walls of the beit k'nesset. And yes, I'm aware that at some point, without knowing it, I might become one of those women. I hope, however, that I always feel as I do now.

The funny thing is that covering, for me, is something I was excited about. A friend commented that at some point, I might miss being able to soak my hair in the fresh rain. Truth be told, I hated walking in the rain before I covered. After all, my hair style limited me from just about any kind of poor weather. I hated walking to shul in the rain, I hated rain jackets, I hated wearing hats (they flattened my awesome hair). Now? Well, it's been raining the past few days and I've relished in it. I've walked outside, looked upward, and almost danced to my car with rain drops on my tichel or hat. At last, I feel comfortable in my skin -- and all because of a simple head covering.

I feel more comfortable walking around Monsey, too. I know it's silly, and I don't seek acceptance, but walking around with Tuvia before I felt like people knew we were dating, shopping together, even, but unmarried! What a shonda! I'll admit that little kids still look at me funny when I'm in Monsey (after all, my jean skirt and colorful tichel with bangs a blowin' in the wind don't exactly scream "Monsey), but I felt like the reason the clerk at the health food store spoke so kindly and willing with me was because, well, I clearly was an observant, Jewish woman.

The funny thing is, I almost feel less comfortable walking around in the general Connecticut population. A man with a gigantic cross at Christmas Tree Shops (oh the humor in that one) looked me up and down, watched me standing at the register. Maybe I was paranoid, but I felt a piercing glance. If anything, covering my hair makes me "look the part" a little more than I used to. In the end, I'm okay with that (I dream of someday living in Jerusalem when looking the part just means looking like everyone else).

I know it's crazy to think that a few weeks into being married I'm so sure about how I feel, where I'm going, and how I will observe for the expanse of our happily wedded future, but my neshama hasn't led me astray yet, and the excitement, passion, devotion, and eagerness I feel about all of the things rolled up into the ideas of modesty and family purity has me thinking positive.

For all intents and purposes, I'm a modern girl. I'm liberal (let's not go into how I feel about women and the GLBT community and how people think it doesn't fit into Orthodoxy), I'm a Democrat, I like funky fashion, I think communication with the outside world and within the greater, global Jewish community starts with Social Media and the Internet, and I see Orthodoxy as awesomely modern and beautiful. I may appear to be a contradiction in terms to many, but in truth I see myself as a positive example of the possibilities of Orthodoxy in the 21st century -- what Orthodoxy should be: halakic, positive, modern, fulfilling.

I hope you all stick around for my journey as a married, Jewish, Orthodox woman ... I'm sure I'll have plenty of interesting things to offer you as life moves on (and I mean that literally, as we're moving at the end of the month to Teaneck, New Jersey!), and I only hope that you read with open eyes and ears and that if -- at any time at all -- you have questions or misunderstandings about something I say, that you'll email me and ask. I'm equal opportunity here, and I want to appeal to every person (Jew or not, Orthodox or Reform or Reconstructionist or Humanist or Lubavitch, etc, etc).

Peace and tichels, friends!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Hate Getting Political, but ...

I can't help but post this. A good friend, who currently is spending the summer in Israel, sent this my way. Read on, friends.

Pilar Rahola (above) is a Spanish politician, journalist and activist and member of the far left. Her articles are published in Spain and throughout some of the most important newspapers in Latin America. She writes:

Why don't we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris, Barcelona?

Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship?

Why aren't there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection?

Why aren't there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs where there is conflict with Islam?

Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan?

Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel?

Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism?

Why don't they defend Israel's right to exist?

Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism?

An finally, the million dollar question:Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, which have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn't care.

And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro Palestinian European forum I hear the left yelling with fervor: "We want freedom for the people!"

Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria or Yemen or Iran or Sudan, or other such nations. And they are never preoccupied when Hammas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press.

The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don't inform, they propagandize.

When reporting about Israel the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so, any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel, that there aren't any accusations left to level against her.

At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel; the indoctrination of children and the corruption of the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain.

And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: "Our friends are the people of Iran, Libya and Venezuela, oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel."

In another example, the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nakba Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Or in my native city of Barcelona, the city council decided to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, by having a week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70's and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel.

This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of president Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the lunatic left, and on issues of the Middle East he is unequivocally pro Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East, and the policies of foreign minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it's a symbol.

Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they kill us with cell phones hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages. An yet the Spanish left is the most anti Israeli in the world.

And then it says it is anti Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.


I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not anti Israeli like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel. To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews.

As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles.

Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too.

The struggle of Israel, even if the world doesn't want to accept it, is the struggle of the world.

Modesty, Shomer Negiah, and Me

Photo courtesy of Aunt Patty!

This is a post that could be said even to be outside my comfort zone, and, typically, nothing gets me all "ooo, what will the people say and think!?" So what's the topic that has me a feeling a little squishy?

Shomer negiah. Modesty (tzniut). Not touching your boyfriend, significant other, partner, spouse. Observing ta'arat ha'mishpacha (that's family purity). And all that good, no-touching stuff.

This is probably the most private post I'll ever write, and I'm okay with that because I think that what is known and understood about modesty and shomer negiah is misunderstood. So here I am, hopefully to serve as an example and provide the positive, necessary experience that these aspects of being observant and Jewish can offer for your neshama. Get it? Got it? Good.

I spent my entire teenage and adult life, up until this narrative begins, living as a normal girl with the normal urges and the normal actions. I was a product of secular America and I dated boys, kissed boys, and hugged boys. Then, Tuvia and I met in late August 2008, went on our first date Labor Day 2008, and were knee-deep in a serious relationship shortly thereafter. We were, for all intents and purposes, like every other "normal," American couple out there. We kissed, we hugged, we were in love. We held hands, we gave cozy snuggles. As time went on, however, I started to feel ... uncomfortable. My neshama was not happy with how I was carrying myself as an Orthodox Jewish woman, especially one going through the Orthodox conversion process. Tuvia and I discussed being shomer negiah a dozen times or more, with me spearheading the effort. I needed to be shomer negiah, I needed that modesty.

I needed to not kiss him, or hug him, or touch him.

So we started slow. There was no more physical intimacy and the kisses and hugs grew further and farther apart. Finally, at last, we reached a point where I declared no more. No more kisses, no more hugs, no more hand-holding. Nothing, nada, zilch. The intimacy that would exist, then, was a touch-less, emotional intimacy that had to translate into words. It was difficult at first, but as time wore on, it became life. We understood that it was necessary for our relationship and the success of our relationship in the long-run, to devote ourselves to modesty and thinking forward to family purity via the route of shomer negiah.

Many people assumed that after my official RCA conversion we'd skip out on shomer negiah, that it was just part of an act we put on for the committee of rabbis. It always bothered me that people thought that this aspect of respecting each other and our not being married yet was not who we were, but was just part of an act. It was never an act -- never. In fact, after the conversion, time officially could tick down to the wedding; the countdown made the observance of shomer negiah all the more easy (for me, anyhow).

So the wedding day came, we took pictures, we went to the chuppah, and the we went to the yichud room -- exhausted, tired, sweaty. Everyone assumes that people get down and dirty in the yichud room, but I can't imagine that it's like that for every couple. After all, for many couples, the marriage is quick, they know each other very little, and they've never touched before. If anything, I think the yichud room typically is calm, serene, and romantic.

It's funny how -- even after the several months we spent together kissing and hugging and holding hands -- it was so awkward at first kiss and first hug. It was, without a doubt, like feeling those physical emotions translated into pure emotion for the first time. I often wonder how couples make the wedding day special after having lived and experienced each other in the same way they will as a married couple all along. It seems to me that traditionally, among all cultures, a sense of modesty and separation was the norm for just about forever, up until maybe the past 100-200 years. The way we view and appreciate each other is incredibly key in how we grow to appreciate and view each other in marriage, I think. So why not start in modesty and respect to end in modesty and respect?

The times were tough, they were unbearable at times when my emotions were running rampant in a ridiculous roller coaster ride, and all I wanted was a hug. But I resisted. I knew that my neshama and HaShem were rocking something special, and I was prepared to wait for Tuvia's big arms to be wrapped around me. I can say, firmly, without a doubt that it was all worth it. The stress the months of not touching or kissing or hugging. Because now, I know how to appreciate Tuvia for who he is, how he speaks and thinks and acts, without having to touch him to feel him. It's a powerful feeling to feel so connected to someone without a need for physicality.

Now, I prepare myself for all that will come along with the new steps of modesty and family purity. I cover my hair (which, for me, so far, has been awesome -- I feel a lot more comfortable, I can walk freely in the rain without worrying about messing up my  hair even!), and I will begin going to the mikvah and observing the laws of niddah (you know, those days where Tuvia and I can't touch, again). These days of niddah, in truth, allow a couple to reboot. To relearn to love each other without touch. To talk, to listen, to laugh, and to have no expectation from the other. In my eyes, it's a beautiful, serene thing, issued by HaShem for the sake of shalom bayit (literally, peace in the house!).

Each day, a hat or scarf. Each moment, anew. Each second, my neshama is growing and thriving because of it.

Without these observances of modesty, without creating these lines of peace, I'm not sure how some couples persist. We all need to reboot, we all need to respect and fall in love all over again with our spouses. It's a roadmap to shalom, if you ask me.

How do you do it if you don't have these observances? How does the relationship stay fresh? How do couples not drown under the weight of one another? <--- Those are serious questions, by the way, if any of you want to answer!

I never thought I'd be this person; I never thought I would have been able to go so long without the touch of a man I love, but I did. And I will. Because love is more than touch, it's more than the sensation of feeling -- it's love, emotion, the feelings traversing time and space to create an impression. HaShem has a roadmap for us, and it makes sense to me. Despite never thinking I'd be this person, I am, and I'm so proud to say that without shomer negiah, without modesty, without family purity, I'd be wandering.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dreaming of Calmer Nights.

Sometimes I wonder if my wiring is off. I've blogged about my vivid dreams before, these narratives that roll around in my head at night, waking me up sometimes in a sweat, other times in tears or a cry, a yelp. Sometimes the vivid nature of my dreams is awesome, it's like a movie reel spinning rapidly. But recently, my dreams have been haunting and horrifying. It makes me wonder what's wrong; is my subconscious trying to tell me something?

Last week I had a few horrifying dreams. One I won't share the details of, but let's just say it involved death and my parents. The other dream was weird in that it was repetitive, as in Groundhog Day (the movie) style. The dream played out once, with horrifying results. So my mind replayed the dream over and over, trying to fix the situation, trying to lessen the damage and the casualties. But when I woke up, it was still death and damages. You see, the dream involved me walking into a big stone building on some college campus, and in the hallway I spotted this gigantic electrical cable sitting in a pile of water in the hallway. It was sparking a little, but I assumed someone was taking care of it. So I walked down the hallway, in my socks, and there was a spark. Suddenly, a fire broke out and I took off running, flames flying down the hallway, ready to consume me. I yelled for people to get out, I ran into classrooms, I screamed, and people ignored me. The dream ended -- the first time around -- with me outside, watching the building burn and people running out all ablaze. As the dream went on, I handled the logistics better, got more people out, but there were still casualties. When I woke up, I felt defeated. After five re-tries, I still couldn't save everyone.

This week, as in last night, I woke up almost crying. Tuvia had to wake me up, actually, because I was breathing funny and started to yelp out cries. I was in China, driving down a road, looking for something with Evan and someone else, and I finally found it. I dove out of the car, and ran into this building, and there was a gigantic pool-like space with milky green and yellow water, bodies just floating in it. There were women there giving birth into the water, willing their children to die rather than be born into China and a downtrodden life. I tried to stop them, made women go in the water to rescue the babies, but women were also diving in, drowning. I was frantic, trying to save them. Again, I couldn't save them; they wouldn't listen.

Any dream interpreters out there? It's probably stress, but I get an overwhelming sense of helplessness with these dreams. But let's just say, I'm tired of having such rotten, depressing, vivid dreams, because the horrific images stay with me, appearing at the most random times -- like when I'm driving down the highway.

Here's to more restful nights, less vivid dreams, or at least the kind that don't have me feeling miswired.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shabbos + Flotilla + Sigh ...

The sun in the sky in Caesaria, November 2009

I don't have much to say ... as I'm still exhausted from the pre-wedding weekend, the wedding, and three "official" sheva brachot celebrations. What I do have to say, is that I'm thoroughly disgusted at how the Flotilla incident has been going down in the news. There's a viral video that's pretty amusing (a nice play on "we are the world," but that also has some of the horrifying video of IDF soldiers being beaten and stabbed), but other than that all I can offer is the following. Good Shabbos, and may the world figure out its messes before history repeats and we're writing more history books about our mistakes.

Pray for Injured IDF Navy Commando Soldiers this Sabbath

The names of the rest of those injured in the recent “flotilla” incident , June 2010, are listed below. It is customary, in Jewish practice, to pray for an individual using his given name and the name of his mother. IDF commandos are not identified by first and last names for security reasons.

Dean Ben Svetlana
Roee Ben Shulamit
Yotam Ben Dorit
Ido Ben Ilana
Boris Ben Eelaina

Below is the prayer for the welfare of IDF soldiers, as brought in translation by the Council of Young Israel who also publicized the list of wounded.

He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – may He
bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Force, who stand guard over
our land and the cities of our G-d from the border of the Lebanon to
the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the
Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.

May the Almight cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down
before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our
fighting men from every trouble and distress and from every plague
and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every

May He lead our enemies under their sway and may He grant them
salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for
them the verse: For it is the Lord, your G-d, Who goes with you to
battle your enemies for you in order to save you.

Now let us respond: Amen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where's the Hair?

I've been married for just under 36 hours, and let me tell you what ... it's nice. It's nice to finally be able to touch the groom (that's Tuvia) and to be able to see each other again (the ridiculous choreography over the past week was, well, ridiculous). I'll need to sit down and write a good, long post about the wedding itself and what can be described only as an "out of body" experience for much of it, but for now?

Let's talk hair-covering.

I've been stocking up on tichels, and I went to Urban Outfitters (yes, you read that right) last week to pick up a few hats. I've always been planning on covering, I've even blogged about it. The things I've gotten since I started covering, well, this morning when I woke up, have been entertaining.

Did you shave your head?
Is your hair still under there?
I really liked your hair, why are you covering?

My answers?

Yes ...
Because I chose to! Don't you like my hat?! I got it at Urban Outfitters!

It's a cute little knit number with a big bow on the side. This picture of me is horrible and doesn't do the knit-number justice, but you get the point. Day One of covering: Good, awesome, easy. I didn't miss doing my hair at all. B'ezrat HaShem, this will be an easy, breezy transition.

Oh, and here's a picture of us, since I'm sure you guys are dying for wedded-bliss photos! There are a ton on Facebook, so go there, look at my profile, and enjoy! (Thanks to everyone who masterfully threw them up there within moments of the wedding, lol.)