Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Keep Calm and Be Jewish

Someone had to do it, and that someone was me, evidently. I think I used the wrong font after the Keep Calm and Cholent On ... I should fix that!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Greek Esther: It's What's for Purim!

I'm recycling this from 2010, but, well, I thought y'all should know about Greek Esther. Read on!

For those of you looking for a little something more in your Purim, I highly recommend looking up or checking out a copy of Greek Esther. The version we read and know now is Hebrew Esther. There are three main versions of Esther that float around -- Hebrew, Greek, and the Alpha text. The latter is a Greek text that pretty much resembles the Hebrew version we have today (a translation). However, "Greek Esther" is a version of the Esther story that is about 170 lines longer, includes tons and tons of HaShem, and has many inclusions in it that make the modern reader question why the rabbis chose to canonize Hebrew Esther, not Greek Esther. After all, Hebrew Esther doesn't mention HaShem, not once. In Greek Esther, Mordechai and Esther pray to HaShem, Mordechai has a vision about HaShem's plan, and more.

The simplest answer, of course, is that the longer version was written in Greek and Greek = bad. Another theory is that there originally was a longer Hebrew Esther that the Greek Esther was based on, but because it was lost by the time the rabbis got to it, they still believed that Greek = bad. My question is why they didn't translate the longer version into Hebrew and go with it (heck, burn the Greek copy!). Of course, the rabbis would probably say that the whole point of Esther is that HaShem, while implicit, must be hidden for the story to be truly impactful as it takes place in the Diaspora. The funny thing is that the Rabbis, in the Midrash, essentially DO what Greek Esther does in that it elaborates and sort of embellishes the Hebrew Esther and the result is that if you read Hebrew Esther with the Midrash you sort of get the same feel as Greek Esther.

Anyhow, I could talk about this for hours, but what I'm saying is this: Go read Greek Esther. It'll BLOW your mind. Chag Purim Sameach!! Chaviva out!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Parshat Terumah: Giving & Taking

This week's parshah begins with something very near and dear to the heart of the Jewish community: contribution. HaShem says to the Israelites, “Take for Me (vayikchu-li) an offering from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity" in preparation for the construction of the mishkan, the tabernacle that will be carried throughout the desert and eventually will lead to the building of the Beit haMikdash, the holy Temple.

It's a particular word spin, and I hope it makes you pause. The Big Man speaks, saying we should take from ourselves -- but only if we're inspired! The verb that's used does not mean give, it means quite literally to take, which also is peculiar because how does one take of himself or from himself? How does one provide a contribution on command and guarantee that it's genuinely inspired?

Very little of giving today happens on demand. HaShem doesn't call us on Super Sunday and say we have to give to our local federations or that the local Jewish retirement facility needs funds so we must give. And even if that did happen, would we? What compels us to give? Is it the action of taking of ourselves rather than giving of ourselves? It becomes a two-way street when you take something from your own life, from your own lot, and provide it for others. When you give, it's less so.

I want to start using more folktales on the blog (and really, who doesn't), so let's start with this one, a Yiddish one, that offers perspective on the difference between "giving" and "taking."

"Yankel the Cheapskate" would not give money to anyone, for any reason. It didn't matter how important the cause. No one could crack him. He just wouldn't contribute. One day, Yankel was crossing the river in a small boat. Suddenly, a huge storm breaks out, and his boat capsizes. Luckily, another boat approached. The sailor calls out to him: "Give me your hand. Give me your hand."

Yankel can barely hear him over the strong winds and the roaring waves. He hears only one word, over and over: "Give, Give..."

And good old Yankel can't help himself. He yells back: "No. I don't give. I don't give."

Again: "Yankel, give me your hand! Give me your hand." And again Yankel screams: "Never. I don't give."

Finally, in desperation, the rescuer yells: "Yankel, take my hand." And Yankel says: "Oh, take? Sure."

I think that this week's parshah offers a spin on what we considering taking. To take something from someone else benefits the self, so perhaps HaShem knew that asking the Israelites to take of themselves would give them a chance to feel a part of the building of the mishkan. No matter how poor or rich, old or young, everyone provided for the construction. Everyone took of themselves to put into the construction of a dwelling place for the shechinah (the divine presence of HaShem). 

An old adage says that "A fool gives, a wise person takes." Be the wise person and whenever you offer a contribution or gift, make sure that you're taking of yourself and not just giving. Okay? Okay. 

That's your public service announcement for Shabbat. If you want more on the awesome goodness that is tzedakah, I suggest you check out Maimonides Eight Levels of Charity, which is fascinating. 

The Second-Time Single Trend

I didn't know there was a name or a category for what I am, but someone sent over a Tablet article today that gives me one of those fancy ways to describe myself: "Second-Time Single."

Now, I know that I'm not technically single because I'm currently in a very happy relationship with Taylor, but for the greater Jewish and Orthodox world, what I'm doing isn't dating, it isn't serious, it isn't real in a sense. "She'll come around!" they say. "She's divorced and acting out!" they say. "Let us know when you're ready to date a Jew again!" they say.

At any rate, the article is quite interesting. I don't know that if any of these kinds of Second-Time Singles events would have "saved" me from my current situation as I don't think I was ready to date when I met Taylor. Sometimes, life just happens. I am glad, I will say, that the Jewish community is attempting to do something for the demographic of 20s, 30s, and 40s who are divorced or widowed -- it's a lonely, confusing road.

Statistics about the number of Orthodox second-time singles are hard to come by. Dr. David Pelcovitz, professor of psychology and education at Yeshiva University, said that while there is no “reliable, solid, empirical source” for such information, “there’s a sense that there are more divorces. It’s incredibly unscientific but, for example, when I give talks at rabbinical conferences, I ask, ‘How many of you have experienced a divorce in your community in the past few years?’ You get more people raising their hands. When I ask the people who are doing work in Jewish divorce courts, they tell me that they seem to be busier.”
I think a lot of people fall into bad relationships after divorces just to continue fitting the mold of their community. It's as if there's a conveyor belt of spouses ready to go just so everyone can fit that perfect get married, move to a newly marrieds community, have a baby, buy a house, move to a family community kind of plan. I worry about a lot of people I know who get back into it too quickly.

Also, I have to say -- not unpredictably I might add -- that (in the article) the shadchanim (matchmakers) that set up Second-Time Singles often set them up with other Second-Time Singles, and that grates my cheese. I think it's one thing that will never fade in the Orthodox community: Once you get divorced, you're damaged goods so you get married off to another divorced individual or an older individual. It's the same with converts, as matchmakers often try to pair them with other converts. I understand the sentiment -- oh, we've been through something similar, right? -- but no two people go through an experience and come out on the other side the same, so why try making that connection?

Maybe I'm just grumpy today. Anyway, let me know what you think about the article.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Quick Favor

Hello friends. It's me, your overly busy and completely unpredictable and lacking in sleep blog host, Chaviva! I'm here, briefly, ever so briefly, because I'm working to the point of brain-explosion and not eating and ... well, you get it.

Anyway, I have a huge favor to ask.

I'm trying to help collect money to get our Hebrew High Denver and Boulder Hebrew High students to New Orleans for a service-learning trip. 

Got $18 to spare? Please oh please help them out! These are our future leaders doing good in NoLA! 

Just go to and make sure to mark it down for Hebrew High and for the Service Learning & Leadership Trip. 

I'll love you forever. And maybe I'll bake you something, too. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Observance, Ethics, and Being a Good Jew

I want very much to thank Stella for passing this along to me. I'm surprised I missed this back when it printed in 2010, but, well, life was in a funny place at the time.

The article -- Joining the Covenant -- was posted on Jewish Ideas Daily more than two years ago, and it was written by Rabbi Irving Greenberg (aka Rabbi Yitz Greenberg), a modern-Orthodox Jew, and details his thoughts about synthesizing "traditional requirements of the law with a principled openness to converts who will not become fully Orthodox."

The article is beautifully written, and I want to highlight a few thing that he says that gives me peace in my perpetual state of flux as an underconstructionist Jew.
Furthermore: I believe with perfect faith that God loves and honors good, serious Jews-whether or not they keep all the mitzvot. I believe that the merit of the mitzvot they do keep, including in the form of good deeds and self-sacrifice, outweighs all the punishments that can be incurred by non-observance, and that God will treat them accordingly.
As a concluding note I add this: when it comes to defining a good Jew, stressing the "particularist" ritual mitzvot over against the "universalist" mitzvot of ethical behavior is itself a gross distortion.
I think Rabbi Greenberg has hit the nail on the head. So often, we forget what it means to be a Jew. We also forget that our actions are our own in the end and only HaShem has a right to say, think, or act on our individual neshamot

It's an old article, but it's worth a read and a consideration, if not more -- action.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It Seems I'm Influential in Certain Circles

Yowzers! I haven't posted much lately, and I thought -- silly me! -- that once the full-time gig started that there would be some consistency and calm in my day, perhaps a lunch break where I could sit down and write a blog post! Alas, life is unpredictable and I often forget to get up and go to the bathroom or eat lunch. Truth is, I haven't led this life of a "normal" working girl since 2008. It was a long time coming.

That said, I've got some book reviews and goodies and questions in the queue, so hold your horses.

I did want to mention that the National Jewish Outreach Project announced their first list of Top 10 Jewish Influencers.

Finalists were selected by an expert panel of judges and evaluated based on creative and strategic use of social media to positively impact the Jewish community.  Winners will be listed on the NJOP website, featured on @JewishTweets and invited to participate in 2012 NJOP social media programming. 
“We launched @JewishTweets in March 2008 and from the outset, embraced it for the way it allows us to connect with people everywhere. It has allowed us not only to be heard, but to listen and be inspired by others every day,” said Ephraim Z. Buchwald, founder and director of the National Jewish Outreach Program.  “In particular, we wanted to take time to recognize some of those who are leveraging the power of social media to raise Jewish social consciousness and shine a positive light on Jewish life.

The press release can be read here.

I have to say I'm mad proud of this achievement, mostly because way back when Jewish Tweets was founded, I won their FIRST giveaway of a Jewish Tweets mug! That's some long-term relationship status stuff, right?

Congrats to all the other influencers! (Also: I'm now @TheChaviva, so be sure to update your lists.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"I was more Hasidic Jew than I knew!"

This is a really amazing interview by the very special @mottiseligson. I would have plotzed at the chance to interview Oprah!

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sh*t Jews Say to Converts

This video is hilarious. Hilarious. And yes, the woman featured in the video is a convert!

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Work, New Food!

This was Taylor's farewell meal. He's off to Carmel, CA, for a week.
If you're curious, it's an African Peanut Stew with Pineapple and Kale.
I hope to post the recipe ... if y'all are interested!
What a week, folks! What a week ... and I've been mute for the whole of it. I was driving home yesterday from a meeting and realized that I hadn't written a single thing on the blog this week and began to wonder -- have I reached the ceiling? Am I done blogging? Then I thought, well, with some new changes, my schedule is becoming more regimented and I should have more time for things like blogging because, thanks to this blog, I've achieved great things and I want to continue on that road of blogomania.

So, first off I want to announce some news on the work front. After living in Denver for four months, and doing consulting work for three of those months, I'm happy to say that I'm now a full-time employee at the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education as a the Social Media and Website Manager. This means I get to do oodles of fun things like run amok on the website, come up with cool socially innovative projects, and more. It's seriously a dream job. I work in Jewish Education and Social Media -- for me, this is the best of both worlds. Also, I'm working as a part-time intern for Blogmutt, a startup based in Boulder, as their social media go-to. It's been oodles of fun, and I get to be just as creative and innovative as a girl could dream of being.

So much snow in Denver!
Basically, I'm on Cloud Nine as far as work goes! Patience is all it took for things to land on their feet.

Speaking of my work at CAJE, there was a most excellent d'var on Beshalah given at our weekly meeting that discussed the significance and importance of the items that the Israelites took out of Egypt -- the timbrels, matzo, and Joseph's bones. The discussion involved a question: If you had to pick up and leave, what one item would you take with you? After all, when it came time to take Joseph's bones out of Egypt, Moses searched and persisted for Joseph's bones. So, if you had to search and persist for a single item, what would it be?

At first, I thought, Nothing! There is Nothing! And then I realized, there is something. One thing, in fact. This thing is a photo of my Grandpa and Grandma Edwards standing with my father and uncle, a few years before my grandmother died. (I've written before about them. My grandmother and grandfather both died before my dad was 12 years old.) It's one of the only things that attaches me to a past and to people I never knew.

For what would you search high and far?

On that note, I want to wish you all a Shabbat Shalom from snowy, snowy Denver. Here, I offer you an image of my new attempt at gluten-free, vegan challah! I promise to let you know how it tastes.