Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When You Feel Like a Hippo

Yes, I also sleep with an eye mask. That is, when I sleep. 

The weirdest thing about being pregnant is that you feel huge -- like hippopotamus huge -- even though you don't always look it in the first half or so of the process. I'm in that awkward phase of the pregnancy (20 weeks, about halfway through the pregnancy) where my weight has shifted and the clothing I've been getting by in just isn't necessarily working. Everything feels snug, and the things that I have that are naturally oversized make me look more huge (I think, anyway). 

I'm blessed with an amazing husband who -- on the first date -- told me that he thinks pregnant women are beautiful (it means they work, come on, how is that not attractive?) and that a woman's body changes more rapidly and frequently than a man's body and that he's cool with that. 

I've spent the past few months in anticipation of going to the U.S. and doing a crazy shopping adventure at Old Navy and Target to pick up maternity maxi dresses and skirts and sleeveless tops that I can modest-up with the the shells I own in abundance. When I canceled my U.S. trip, I thought, well, I'll just keep wearing what I'm wearing and if it stretches out, it stretches out and I'll figure out what to do when our finances are more in a mode of being able to afford things that fit. 

Alas, I don't think that's going to work. Or maybe I just need to come to grips with my size. 

As someone who has never been skinny or thin or even average, I can tell you that being pregnant is tough on the ego and self-image. There's a reason I haven't been taking the typical pregnancy photos. I'm struggling with feeling like my overall image hasn't changed much, even though it has, and I can feel it. It's a huge mind-mess. 

Looking at maternity bras and clothing and scanning discussion groups, it seems to me that there's something huge missing from the conversation: what it means and what it's like to be a curvy girl that's pregnant. 

When I was living in New Jersey and Colorado, I had a fairly regular gym regimen. In Colorado, I was going almost every day, spending a half-hour on the elliptical and then a half-hour on weights and working on balancing exercises. Burdened with misaligned patella on both legs, there are not many exercises I can do that aren't going to worsen an already bad knee problem (swimming and elliptical were the two okays I got from the last three physical therapists I had). Unfortunately, there isn't a pool super close, and there's no gym in sight. 

Right before I found out I was pregnant (which we found out while we were in England over Pesach, by the way), I was game to start a workout regimen again. I wanted to track down a Wii Fit and get moving, but the moment you find out you're pregnant, all the books and advice sound bytes tell you not to start up anything new. 

Stick to walking! they say. 

I've always found walking to be like ... the most boring thing on the planet when you don't have someplace to go. It's why I always hated running during volleyball in high school. When your'e running in circles, it's just pointless. Give me a destination!

So I'm doing what I can. My diet is still largely vegetarian (although with the pregnancy I've been craving meat and feeding that craving once a week or so), so I'm not gaining weight very rapidly according to my checkups. At my size, you're encouraged to not gain more than 15 or 20 pounds during the pregnancy, and I'm on a good pace for that. I try to walk up to the grocery store, even on the hottest of days, and every Shabbat we take a hard schlep around the neighborhood, which is crazy hilly and hard on me, but it's something. 

Anyone out there struggled with the "I'm already curvy" and "I'm getting much curvier" transition? How did you handle it? Did you just layer more? Wear more loose-fitting clothes? Or is it a non-starter when it comes to dealing?

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Big Reveal: It's Better, I Promise

The last time I wrote a "Big Reveal" post all hell broke loose. We'll see if that happens this time around, although I don't think it will be the same kind of hell breaking loose.

What do you think?

I'm due mid-December (that ultrasound is several weeks old, and I'm now in my 20th week), for those of you still stuck on the shotgun wedding bandwagon of conspiracy theory. Yes, we got pregnant pretty quickly and unexpectedly, but sometimes, when things work, they work in the most amazing way.

Six months in Israel, and I was engaged, married, and pregnant (and lost two jobs and was broke, but whose keeping score?).


It was really hard writing that three-months later post about me and Mr. T and not saying anything, believe you me, and it's part of the reason I haven't had much to blog about these days. But I also was trying to get hired and really needed to keep the pregnancy quiet. Why? Israelis don't like hiring pregnant women, unfortunately.

Starting August 1, b'ezrat HaShem, I'll be gainfully employed doing social media, content writing, brand management, and all that good stuff that I like to think I'm pretty darn stellar at.

It's been unbelievably hard not writing about the past several months of the pregnancy, especially when it comes to asking questions and sharing the weird and bizarre moments of being a first-time mom married to someone who already has a child (who just turned 10, by the way), not to mention why my financial stress has been compounded beyond the norm.

I'm lamenting that I can't pop over to Target or Old Navy for pregnancy attire, that the comfort foods that I so crave (Mexican, Mexican, and more Mexican) are practically unavailable in this country, and that I always feel like it's about 110 degrees. The pluses about being pregnant so far in Israel? I know that I'm going to have a ton of help finding all the bobbles and necessities for a baby thanks to a huge network of moms who share, lend, and swap everything from cribs to baby clothes. Oh, and my awesome mom is making sure things from the U.S. come over, too!

But here I am, ready to share and regale y'all with yet another interesting chapter in my life. It's going to be a wild and interesting ride folks!

Note: For those of you uninitiated, that cartoon is done in the style of BitStrips a la Facebook. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Israeli Driver's License: Only Me

Oh hello there. You're going to save the day?
And then you're going to make me battered and bruised?

Today was a big day -- I took a driving lesson and test in order to switch my driver's license over to Israel so that I can legally drive here. Technically, you you can drive legally on your U.S.-based (or other international) license for one year after making aliyah, and then you have another two years to convert or transfer your international license before you're stuck with starting from zero.

So, me, being a bit yekke, I opted to get it done (with a bit of nudging from Mr. T). I found an awesome English-speaking driving instructor, and after going through the paperwork process of the conversion, I met up with the instructor this morning around 10:20.

We drove around, he gave me lots of tips, explained how to best enter and understand a roundabout (seriously helpful), and we went back to the starting point after about 40 minutes, with the instructor telling me that my driving is very relaxing (aww thanks). After all, I've been driving for nearly 15-16 years, folks!

Now, because I was told that converting/transferring your license is a pretty painless and quick process (one lesson, one test), I assumed that it would all just happen magically very quickly, so when we got back to the starting point, I thought we were done. Alas, that was just the lesson, and I spent the next hour in the back seat of the car fearing for my life while a Haredi driver with a New York license took the road. Tip to drivers: Stopping in the middle of an intersection -- any intersection -- is a bad idea!

After a while, we picked up another person, drove for a bit, and then ended up at the testing facility around noon. This is when things get a little wacky, folks.

When the testing guy got in the car with the three of us (our instructor was going to stay behind and wait for us), he looked at the Haredi guy's paperwork and it was fine. Then he moved on to mine and -- oh! What? What's that? Problem? Oh right! Awesome!

What happened next is one of those "only me, only in Jerusalem" kind of moments.

The driving instructor didn't want me to miss out on getting my test done, so he ran over to the area where they were doing motorbike and scooter testing and lessons, asked to borrow a scooter, zipped over to me, handed me a helmet, told me to get on and to hold on if I want and we zoomed a few miles away.

Now, I'm wearing a skirt, which didn't go well with the expediency with which I needed to mount this scooter (and then unmount and remount a few minutes later). I've never been on a motorbike or scooter. And with someone who was fairly a stranger, the entire experience was petrifying. He's not a small guy, and I'm not exactly a twig, and on a little scooter? This thing was super small, not the typical Israeli scooters you see flying around. It had one side-view mirror, and barely fit the two of us.

Note: Motorbike helmets don't really fit onto my style of head covering. Had I fallen off ... who knows.

I basically sat on the metal bar on the back of the scooter and every time we turned or went uphill, I was pretty sure I was going to die. As the bike tipped on a turn and scraped the ground, I knew we were in for ... but no worries. The driving instructor knew it was my first time, and my clutching to him for dear life I think he found amusing.

So the instructor got me to the optometrist so they could check off three boxes that the other folks had forgotten. I paid my 15 shekels, and we hopped back on the scooter.

The drive back was incredibly painful, mostly because I was more on the metal bar than before and we hit a huge pothole (I thought I was flying off the thing). I'm feeling it in my bum and in my back, and I'm not looking forward to how I'm going to be feeling tomorrow, but the funniest thing?

We get back to the testing center just in time for me to do the test, which consisted of ... get this ... something along the lines of four turns. I was in the car for roughly five minutes! Five minutes! Pull out of the testing facility, make a right, then another right, then another right, and then a left and you're done!

Shoot me now.

Luckily, I got a call from my amazing instructor, and I passed, so I won't have to go through that insanity again. Will the bruises and pain I know I'm going to feel tomorrow be worth it? Meh. It gives me a story to tell. I'm sure I'll laugh about it later, but I feel like my insides are trying to crawl outside.

Time to recover. D'oh.

Note: If you want the name/phone number of this most amazing instructor, send me an email, and I'll pass along his details!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

At Last: Blog Merging

I waited a long time to do it, and it's not perfect, but I merged the old blog (where there's lots of scandalous posts and hateful comments) with the new blog, so you can now find all posts from 2006 to the present in one place.

However! You'll notice that comments are missing from a lot of the earlier posts, and some of you might have even posted comments on recent posts and you're not seeing them. (Blessing in disguise?!)

Let me explain.

I use Disqus commenting on the blog, which unfortunately isn't compatible with mobile, meaning that if you're posting a comment from the mobile site that it doesn't show up except on the back end. So I see them, but the rest of the world doesn't. It's really mind-boggling, honestly, that in 2013 that Disqus hasn't figured out how to make commenting available for mobile.

I installed Disqus a few years back, so you'll see all of those on the blog, but from the early years you won't see any comments unless they're new. You'll probably be a bit confused becuase it will say that there are comments, and when you click, you won't see any. That's because they live in the backend and not in the public world.

For this, I apologize.

As soon as I find a solution, I'll get it fixed up quickly. If you want to comment, please try and wait until you're in front of a computer.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

At last! Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Um, it smells really good in here.

I can't tell you how long I've been craving cinnamon rolls. When I was living back in the U.S. I did the best I could to consume the closest thing I could find to classic cinnamon rolls, but unfortunately Udi's take on the gooey classic just didn't compare to anything I knew.

Living in Israel, you can't go anywhere without the smell of freshly baked pastries wafting every which way, which makes it tough for a gluten-free foodie. The benefit of being me is that I'm not constantly noshing the crap people buy at bakeries (once in a while is fine, but some people feed their kids this stuff daily). The downside is that it means I have to seriously muss up the kitchen to make something delicious to satisfy that fleeting desire.

So cinnamon rolls. I found this recipe over at Sarah Bakes Gluten Free and got a few recommendations for her recipes being very stand up, and it turned out to be a pretty easy recipe to follow and put together. I had to do some modifications because I didn't have any dairy-free milk on hand, just lactose-free milk, and it's tough to find honest vegan butter in this country (if I could import Earth Balance, I would). I also used her lighter version of the flour blend as she suggested, which seemed to be the best option available.

I'll was really surprised at how easy these were to roll, because my past attempts at cinnamon rolls using recipes from You Won't Believe it's Gluten Free! ended up in a mushy mess that was more like a coffee cake than cinnamon rolls. I'm super pleased with this recipe and can't wait to make them again.

These rolls proved perfect, absolutely perfect! Crisp on the top, and with that gooey center, they hit the spot in a way that no factory-produced gluten-free cinnamon rolls ever will.

The question is: Will these last until Shabbat ...?

Make Me Modest: Tips for Your Wardrobe

I realized something funny recently while interviewing for jobs. I dress the way I think that the interviewee will perceive me. Getting all up in my head much?

I interviewed with a few individuals in a more "frum" atmosphere and made sure to wear a longer skirt and more reserved colors while when going to more startup-style offices I dabbled in more bold color combinations and varied fabric choices. I made sure my mitpacha (head scarf) was a bit more wild in color at the startups and a bit more tame at the other offices. I wore my high-wedge sandals to the startup offices, but flats to the other interviews. Without a doubt, I was almost always the most "dressed up" person in all of the startup offices because, well, much to my husband's dismay, this isn't a suit-and-tie culture in the workplace. It's a quirky shirt, jeans, and sandals that come off the moment you sit down in your work chair kind of place. (Which I just squeeeee at!)

On a daily basis, I don't dwell much on what I'm wearing, mostly because it's Israel and there are as many different ways to dress here as there are Jews. I'm never really concerned about looking too religious or not religious enough; I just wear what I wear. In that way, then, Israel is a bit more freeing when it comes to clothing and tzniut (modesty).

On that note, I recently got a question from a reader that I thought might be perfect for answering in this post. She asks,
My question is if you have advice on how to "tzniusify" a normal, secular wardrobe. Any tips and tricks for people who are transitioning to a more modest style of clothing? I'd appreciate any advice, especially for cold climates as well (sorry to remind of cold in this heat). Oh, and I'd also love to get some tips on head covering. What are your favourites? What accessories and helpers do you use?
The amazing thing about making your normal wardrobe more modest is that it's easier than ever since the kosher clothing community has made some pretty cool advances in making it easier to shop in the "real world" and still be modest as we understand the term.

In short, in the religious Jewish world, tzniut is considering how you dress, carry yourself, and the words you use as if HaShem were always with you (and, really, HaShem is always with you): 
Do justly, love mercy, and walk modestly with your God (Micah 6:8)
Most religious Jews accomplish this by covering the knees, the elbows, and the collarbone --  not in a stifling way, but in a "hey, the stuff I'm covering is special and between me, HaShem, and my partner (if I have one)!" I will mention that there are lots of variations here in Israel, including some women who wear "Hammer" or Harem pants and short-sleeve shirts. The pants, to me, seem less airy and more diaper-like than wearing a skirt. There are also women who won't wear open-toed shoes, always wearing stockings or hose, and don't show a lick of skin besides from that on the hands and face. Call me crazy, but in Israel, that's a huge no-go for me. 

The nice thing about colder climates is that layering is always in, meaning it's actually easier to be modestly dressed. Using cardigans and layering really give you endless opportunities for modest attire. But to transition some of your non-modest clothing over, there are plenty of options.

This is a tank top I purchased at TJ Maxx
with a black 3/4-length shell.

Plenty of companies sell shells, which allow you to turn tank tops, short-sleeve shirts, v-necks and beautiful summer dresses into something more modest. My favorites are Kosher Casual and Halftees, the latter which makes its shells in a more forgiving fabric that is cooler in the summer, not to mention that they are versatile in that they're reversible for different depths in the front. I find Kosher Casual's fabric to be a little stifling in the summertime, but in the winter the higher neck keeps me warm! Kosher Casual also sells a cool bolero-style shell that is nice underneath T-shirts. Halftees offers quite a few different options, including 3/4-length, "boyfriend"-style, tank top-style and cap-sleeve halftees, and Kosher Casual offers up 3/4 length and tank-style. (Note: I exclusively buy the "crop" style, simply because I find the extra fabric of regular shells overwhelming.)

On that note, if you're not quite as svelte as me, there are lots of options for skirt extenders and other nifty and sneaky modesty helpers, like the Layering Dress and Skirt Extenders. There's also the SuperSlip Skirt Extender by Shell Sheli, which Redefining Rebbetzin reviewed last year. If you're tall, sometimes these things are just convenient, rather than exclusively made for modesty. I'll admit that I don't usually need the skirt extenders, mostly because even the average skirt tends to be long on me because I'm not that tall (around 5'4.5"). I like to stock my wardrobe with lots of cotton foldover skirts, mostly because they're comfortable, airy, and go with just about anything. 

This is a sleeveless shirt I purchased at Target.
It would be quite 
revealing without a shell underneath. 

The only difficult thing to transition from not-modest to modest these days is the swimsuit. Unfortunately, there just isn't a way to make that super cute bikini fit the modest model. That being said, there are a half-dozen companies that have come out with some pretty amazing alternatives that, I'll be completely honest, I'd probably rather wear even if I weren't a religious Jew. They're stylish and cover up all the areas that make us ladies a bit skittish about going to the pool. I own a suit by HydroChic that I recently wore to a very chiloni (secular) pool and shockingly, I didn't get too many wacky looks, despite being the only woman over several days wearing such a getup. 
It's like I'm glowing!!

As for head covering, that's a whole other post on its own! Let me work something up and maybe make a quick video with a few different ways I wear mine. Stay tuned (and keep me honest by nudging me if I don't post anything soon). 

If you have questions, Ask Chaviva Anything! is dead, but you can still email your questions in to kvetching dot editor at gmail dot com. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Emunah: The Ultimate Loyalty

Old faithful!

Some days I really miss being in school, because I feel like when I was in school, I asked a lot more questions, sought out answers, and really delved into the things that kept me awake at night. Then again, when you're in graduate school, you're constantly surrounded by fascinating texts and trying to figure them out in the context of some obscure topic.

So over Shabbat, while discussing a bit of this week's parshah and how it has the tools for emunah, Mr. T and I got into a brief discussion about what emunah even means. I knew I'd written something on it way back when, but I couldn't remember the context. Lucky for me, I found it -- way back in June 2008, actually. This is pretty  lengthy, but I think it makes some fascinating points about faith and belief.

At a point where I'm struggling to understand why I am battling the struggles I am, this gave me some peace of mind.

I want to start simply, and this week's parshah [June 2008] is pretty apropos for this conversation about faith. In the wilderness we have Moses conversing with G-d about the Israelites. Moses knows G-d exists, for he chats regularly with G-d. Moses needs not have faith in G-d because he knows G-d. Thus, G-d exists to Moses. And thereafter, with the knowledge of G-d, Moses has emunah (commonly translated as "faith"). Finally, Moses is faithful to G-d, whom he knows. The people, on the other hand, even knowing G-d fail in this last step of faithfulness. Is it because knowing results in no need for effort to be faithful? To know is the final frontier? This, unfortunately, is a discussion for a d'var Torah. But let's take a few steps back now that we have the premise of knowledge and emunah.

Tonight I sat down with several blog entries from A Simple Jew, as well as some text from Letters to a Buddhist Jew at the advice of a friend, David Gottlieb, who co-wrote the book with Rabbi Akiva Tatz. I'll admit reading through the four-part blog entry on ASJ was overwhelming. The comments in and of themselves were filled with a dozen or more Hebrew words and concepts of Judaism that I am unfamiliar with. But there were many gleanings from great sages that caught my eye, which I will include. It was within Letters to a Buddhist Jew, though, that I began to really understand what emunah means. Throughout this entry, I will purposely use the word emunah instead of faith, because I have come to realize that faith is a poor translation of what emunah means in and to Judaism.

From Letters to a Buddhist Jew, we read,
"In Western usage, belief and faith relate essentially to the unknowable, they are necessarily blind ('blind faith'). You do not believe something you see or experience, you know it. Relating to that which you cannot know is called belief..."
This was my "aha!" moment. I began this adventure in exploring the topic because two friends at separate times in GChat conversations had expressed some form of "where's your faith?" or "you gotta have faith." My auto-response was that faith is a Christian concept, not a Jewish one. The reality is that I think many Jews would agree with me in this respect precisely because of the aforementioned text -- belief and faith are relegated to the unknown, the unseen, the might-be-there-but-not-sure-if-it-is. The culture of faith/belief circles around the idea that there is a group of people who want to end up in heaven and in order to do so, belief/faith is all that is necessary. It is a simple, easy out to a very complex issue.

Oftentimes when we say "you gotta have faith" I think that we mean hope. Hope being to expect something with confidence. When we say that we have faith that things will turn out alright, yes there is the unknowable of the outcome, but what we mean is that we are confident that things will come out as we expect them to. But, as my father has said, when we use words, we pretty much choose what we want them to mean, and perhaps that's the problem. As a copy editor, I prefer the black and white when it comes to specific words. Concepts can be multifaceted without question, but a word must be precise in its meaning. One well-known Jewish blogger recently posed the question as to whether the word "goy" was offensive and a lengthy conversation ensued and it drudged up, once again, the meanings of words and their colloquial versus dictionary versus historical versus accepted meanings. To the common person perhaps words are just words, but to me, well, they pack a very large punch.

Back in Letters to a Buddhist Jew, we read,
"... if you have no evidence for a thing, why should you believe it?" and "If you can demonstrate or experience the existence of G-d, then we should talk only of the process of coming to know that existence. Belief would be the wrong direction here."
This took me to a comment that someone on one of the many posts on A Simple Jew, where the writer said that it is enough that his father and grandfather told him of G-d, that their fathers did the same, and so on back to Sinai, that this was his proof, the demonstration (as it were) of the existence of G-d. From Letters:
What we mean by emuna is not belief. We do not commit ourselves to something that is the product of imagination. We have not committed ourselves to G-d throughout history because we decided subjectively and personally that such commitment was a good idea. Our commitment is based on knowledge. We assert that the object of our 'faith' can be established and known.
This takes us back to Moses. Moses' commitment to G-d was based on the knowledge that G-d exists and performed the miracles that took the Jews out of Egypt, parted the sea, etc. This was the first step -- knowledge -- that led to emunah.

I had to really look at this and compare it to what I was reading in the comments from the blogs on A Simple Jew, because the expression of emunah and knowledge is quite the opposite. On ASJ it is asserted that we must have faith in order to know. Someone in the comments suggests that "... one must accept premises before one can then use logic," and that "... one asserts his faith first, which allows him to then apply reason/logic." Thus it is belief/faith that comes first and knowledge is only an outcome of accepting unknown or unproven ideas. Unfortunately, I do not agree. This is simply blind faith -- in this you believe something merely to reap the benefits of having the knowledge. It simply cannot work in that manner. However, if you start with the knowledge that something is right, then you can deconstruct it from there and thus you are faithful to the knowledge in your deconstructing ... but I am getting ahead of myself.

Back to Letters, we read that
"... clarity of knowledge is exactly what we are seeking." 
So this takes us back to what I was just talking about. We have the knowledge that G-d exists (think: the commenter whose father told him and his father before him, as well as other "proof" as a basic, central tenet of Judaism), and thus we are faithful to this knowledge and so what is the point of the faithfulness if we simply know? This is what the people in the wilderness didn't get that the text of Letters to a Buddhist Jew so simply puts forth: our effort, our souls are poured into seeking clarity of this knowledge. We seek to grow closer to G-d and to understand, and thus we have emunah. But we know very well that just because we understand how something is supposed to be -- the truth is known -- does not mean that we hold to it. Look at the laws we have which are broken day in and day out. People know what is right and what is wrong, but remaining faithful to what we know is right and true is difficult.

Here is the key: The correct translation of emuna is not faith but faithfulness, loyalty. The concept is this: when you have acquired spiritual knowledge, when you know clearly that what meets the eye is not all there is, the question then is will you be loyal to that knowledge? Will you live up to it? The problem of emuna is not how to gain knowledge of the spiritual world, it is the challenge of being faithful to that knowledge.

The way that Letters to a Buddhist Jew is written is such that the concept is laid out and then we are given the definition, which follows.
Emuna derives from the same root as ne'eman, meaning faithful or loyal. Even the most superficial examination of the word in Torah will show that it cannot be translated as faith in the sense of belief. [The author gives examples, which I will not add here for the sake of brevity.]
The author more or less concluded the argument with that which I have said, but perhaps is more eloquently detailed here:
Understanding a thing and all its consequences clearly does not guarantee that you will live in accord with your understanding, that you will be loyal to it. Not at all. It takes work to live up to the truth. That work is emuna.
At this point, I want to back track for a few moments to some things I read on the ASJ blogs. In Genesis 15:6 we read
"Our father Abraham did not earn both This World and the World to Come except in the merit of faith; as it is written, 'And he believed in G-d ...' " 
The truth of it is that we are not a religion or people or community where simply believing flies. ASJ asserts that simple faith does have a place in Judaism, and while I do not disagree, there is more to this. Abraham did not merely believe, but he lived a life faithful to G-d. It was not pure faith and belief, it was an existence devoted to loyalty to the one G-d, right?

On ASJ's blog, in a guest post by Rabbi Dovid Sears, he says
"As Reb Noson says in explaining one of Rabbi Nachman's teachings, 'Faith only applies when something can't be understood. Where one can understand something rationally, faith is not relevant.' (Likkutei Eitzos, 'Emes ve-Emunah,' 4)." 
I think that this is accurate, but perhaps misconstrued because of the Western meaning of faith. Indeed, faith -- a belief in the unknown, blind belief -- is applied in such instances, and indeed when we understand (as rationally as is possible) that G-d exists, such belief in an unknown is both unnecessary and irrelevant. But I don't know that this is what Rabbi Sears, Reb Noson or Rabbi Nachman are saying.

I do have to say that I did read something absolutely brilliant on the ASJ blogs that highlights Rabbi Nachman quoting from Sefer Bechinas Olam:
The ultimate knowledge is 'not-knowing' (Likkutei Moharan I, 24:8 and elsewhere).
Yes, this might seem contradictory to everything I've laid out so far as my understanding of emunah, but in reality it is perfectly in line. How? Well, I acknowledge that G-d exists. I have this knowledge, and I am faithful to this knowledge and pursue the understanding of this. However, I do not know all there is to know, and it is difficult even in a lifetime to absorb everything and to come to a complete and full understanding. And in truth, is this not only achieved after death or -- if you're inclined to believe -- at the coming of the Messiah?

Often, when people ask me if I think that my beliefs system, if my way, Judaism, is the one true and right way, I respond similarly: "For me, yes. For you, who is to say? Not me." Perhaps this is where the whole muddled Western idea of faith comes in. I know that G-d exists, even with the occasional doubting and questions, but that's part of the process. But the at the most basic level, this I know. But it's just me, right? I can't speak for the masses or the thousands of questioning Jews. I know what I know from my heart and mind and understanding, and thus I am faithful.

Am I making sense here? The essence of emunah, in a nutshell, is that emunah truly means faithfulness and/or loyalty, or as Merriam-Webster (my old pal) says, "true to the facts." We believe, therefore we cleave to the knowledge, thus we are faithful to the knowledge, thus we pursue understanding of the knowledge. To know something is only half the battle. I know that G-d exists, thus I have emunah. I can stray, indeed, for it is difficult to stay true. But it is the pursuit of understanding that keeps me on this path. If only those in the wilderness had kept their emunah intact, eh? But the lesson in that is that even with the truth, the knowledge of something, it is completely feasible to walk astray. Staying faithful is the difficult part, perhaps the true test.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Congrats Haters!

Oh hater mail, oh hater mail!
How silly are your queries!

Seriously. I try really hard not to go all grumpfest with the haters on my anonymous question-asking series, Ask Chaviva Anything, but essentially since I revealed Mr. T to the world, someone has decided to make it their #1 priority to devote a bunch of unnecessary time and energy to making me feel like a fat, whiny, ugly, horrible person who has surely ruined Mr. T's life.

I have to wonder what kind of people are so miserable that they have to devote even an ounce of energy to making someone else who is having a rough time of it feel this bad.

So bravo!

Mission accomplished, haters of the world!

Yeah, I'm fat -- man, I'm HUGE (shamu, as one hater has called me) -- and yes, I whine, because I'm a horrible, miserable person with nothing better to do but come online and kvetch.

And yes, it appears that Mr. T's life has gotten a whole lot more miserable since I joined the party. No need to poll innocent bystandards on this one.

It would appear that I am the source of all of the misery of the world, so let me remove myself as hastily as possible. How would you like me to go exactly? Please feel free to reply anonymously, of course.

Your wish is my desire, haters. You win.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nu? What's Doin?

The view from a coffee shop in Tel Aviv. 

This has been probably one of the longest blogging breaks in recent history, and I have a good excuse, but not necessarily one I'm willing to divulge -- yet. I know, I know. It's killing me, too. Patience, friends!

I've spent the past two weeks traveling between job interviews at some of Israel's largest internet companies, and every day I'm praying that they call me back and I land the job. In the meantime, I've picked up some decent freelance work doing content writing (aka ghost writing, because gosh knows my name isn't attached to 99 percent of when it hits the web) and a bit of editing here and there, as well as some very part-time social media work. It's amazing how busy it keeps me, and yet it's amazing how it doesn't manage to pay the bills. (See my recent post on Contently about writer wages.)

I'm also discovering through job interviews at smaller firms that the ethics that are so clutch in Judaism don't always translate into the working world. I'm not into sleazy, black-hat practices where fake Twitter and Facebook accounts and personas are the tools for building brand awareness. I've never been on board with buying followers and likes, and companies that have all-or-nothing policies that are damaging to their clients are a huge turnoff.

The more time I spend freelancing, the more it makes sense to consider building my own business up if these jobs with big Israeli brands don't pan out. I've avoided it for years, partially out of fear of not making enough money and partially out of a fear of failure. There's also, of course, the fear of developing that god complex where you think that everything you do is gold-plated, just because simple, small brands don't seem to know how to create and maintain a Facebook page. For people like me, it isn't rocket science, but when it comes to clients, they always come first, no matter how much or little they know about what goes on when they're not knee-deep in their brand's own tweets.

I've also spent the past few weeks living in a five-star hotel in Ramat Gan while my in-laws are in town. Glamorous as it may seem, close quarters, repetitive food, and gobs of noise from Team USA here for the Maccabiah Games 2013 has made it quite the challenge. It's nice to get away and sleep on a big squishy bed, but after a few days I missed my kitchen, my jars of quinoa and millet, my full-bean coffee and French press, my comfy purple couch, the cool breeze of Neve Daniel.

Oh, and the ability to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without getting fully dressed and putting on a head covering? Priceless! I miss that, too.

The benefits have been that I've been close enough to the Mercaz (center) of Israel where all of the tech jobs are to properly hit up interviews, I've gotten to spend some quality time here and there with iBoy and my in-laws, and I've even enjoyed some time poolside, gaining a bit of color in my otherwise pale skin (unfortunately, computer screens don't make good tans). A major difficulty has been being in a small space with people who have different approaches to raising iBoy -- all people working out of love, but man alive if it hasn't been tough -- and constant conversations about work and money.

Nine months ago I hopped a plane for Israel, anticipating a pretty amazing and life changing experience. The truth is that it's been more than that, and different than that, in so many ways. Seven months ago I got engaged and nearly five months ago I got married. I've lost two jobs, gained freelance work, applied for well over 200 jobs, and canceled a much-needed trip to the U.S. because of a lack of finances. Who knows where I'll be at the 12-month mark -- hopefully, I'll have a full-time job or have worked out how to be a rockstar business owner.

Nobody said aliyah was easy. My dad always said life wasn't easy. But it's all for a purpose, right? It's all for an end. I have the most amazing husband in the world, the most supportive friends a girl could ask for, and the future is bright, gall darn't.

What have YOU been up to? How's your summer going so far (if you get one, that is)? Don't forget to Ask Chaviva Anything!