Friday, July 29, 2011

You don't know me--I don't know you, but I like you...

Sooner or later, I had to post about shidduchim.
Like many others, I dislike being set up mostly because of the way it is done: the wasted energy of going out with someone who is totally wrong for you, someone whom your not attracted to at all, someone who took you out on your worse date ever, someone whom you forgot about the next day.
Yet, we agree to it, we do it because it is how it's done these days. Enough of all your blogs cover the pros and cons, the downsides and the flip-sides, the " what we love and what we hate"... so I will not go into it (yet...)

Hmmm so here is my dilemma:
 I "know" (thank g-d for Facebook) this guy whom I would like to go out with. I am not only attracted to his profile on Facebook, I was told about him and he sounds like a potential match. At least, a potential date. What's my next step?
-Convincing my superficial common friends on Facebook that they should set us up?
-Pretend I do not care?
-Chase down the people who might be able to set us up?

When do I start sounding too desperate?

Because I am not. I dislike dating for dating but now that I am interested in this guy, how do I go about chasing him down without sounding like a lunatic??

Monday, July 25, 2011

Take it Slow

If you see an Orthodox looking Jew driving his little blue Honda at 45 mph on a residential street, and if you then notices three young African Americans riding their bikes in circles, you might want to anticipate trouble.

Where I live, we get nervous when we see these kind of youngsters hanging out in our neighborhood. Before you call me racist, you need to understand that it is based on statistics of events and no racial discrimination. As it so happens, the community has daily patrols to prevent the elevated African American crime rate among the Jewish neighborhood. This arrangements works for all and every so often you will hear about this and this man who saved this and this person from a mugging or a sketchy trespassing.

Back to my story.
 I was curious to see how was this all going to end. Since I was cooling off from a satisfying 4 mile jog, I had plenty of time to observed. As predicted, the teenagers on the bikes started cursing at the speeding car. Mind you, it was a dead end street and the driver wasn't about to run off that fast. The man, obviously upset for being the target of their curse, got out of the car, threatening to call the police if they didn't immediately leave the street. Soon enough, he realized how risky and idiotic it was for him to start up with those three unfriendly strangers. He got back into his car, turned around, and drove off.
I wonder why he had pulled up into that street to begin with....

There could have been a fight, there could have been serious trouble. To be fair, he was speeding and might have even scared them. Heck, he scared me. But they were inappropriately verbal about it, and the man must knew he was in his wrong otherwise it wouldn't have phased him.  Thank G-d things didn't get out of hand although I was blessed enough to hear a whole dictionary of new words I, hopefully, will never use. The boys went from cursing this one guy to threatening the whole community.

What a shame. What a perfect example of small ways we can help with the constant animosity between our communities and people who simply hate us. At least be an exemplary model of conduct; at least not give them reasons to hate us. Why can't the people who seem so entranced with Torah life, why can't they teach the world?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"What men prizes most is a privilege, even if it be that of chief mourner at a funeral." (James Russell Lowell)

I was reminded of that quote when one of the students in my summer class described her mother's funeral. Being that she is a Christian, I was curious to hear how her religious tendencies affected her ritual of mourning and grieving. She explained how her father did not attend the ceremony which takes place right after they put the coffin in the ground. He preferred erring around in the nearby woods to seek comfort and solace on his own. Meanwhile, my friend was "stuck" (in her words) having to handle all the visitors that had come to present their condolences. She felt like it should have been the role of her father to nod and accept the gentle pads on the shoulder from the commiserating people. She wanted him to be the recipient of all this tragic attention. However she says, the next day, the house was quiet again and life went on. 

There she got me thinking about our own rules of Shiva, Shloshim and the Year of mourning. 
I can not say I am ashamed, but on my journey to discover the proper way of observing the Mitsvot- and by proper, I mean an equal balance between love fear and respect for The one above- I used to think that the rules of Aveilus (mourning) are over the top, and that our sages were exaggerating by imposing on us the ways we are to feel and to mourn. (They don't exactly, but in the mind of a teenager, they did.) Of course I've had friends who tried convincing me of how wonderful it is to have such a system in place, for they know the human nature, the need for comfort and the source of joy (hence no music for a year...). Yet I remained stubborn and convinced that I must be different for wanting to grieve with music, for wanting to forget through forbidden means. 

So I addressed  my secular class and briefly explained how it works in our communities. Because now I don't simply understand it as a law, I appreciate it for what it is worth. And yes, our sages tend to know better than the little me. I guess part of growing up is discovering it for yourself. 

Thank G-d I have been blessed with a healthy family and I haven't been in a situation where I ever had to follow the Halachos of mourning, but I've witnessed it enough through my parents and through close friends. I saw how it helped those who followed the rules to confront their pain and emotions versus those who chose to mourn their own way, transgressing fundamental Halachos. The latter are the one's who today, are still struggling to adjust with the loss and suffering they've experienced. In now way do I mean to judge them for I can only begin to imagine their pain. I can simply notice and speculate about the benefits of our Halachos. 

 If only we were taught how to appreciate all these laws instead of focusing on their restrictive aspect, schools would have a much higher rate of success in forming real sincere G-d fearing and loving Jews. 

But that's a whole other topic for a different post :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Never Judge A book By it's Cover

I would assume judging a book by it's title sounds like a much more reasonable option. 
You wouldn't want to read about something that does not sound interesting to you, no matter how good the material. Publishers and Marketers are very well aware of that and therefore will often mislead you by an attractive title that may promise more than it provides to your interest.
All this to say that when I myself was thinking of a title for my blog, I too desired to be one of the kind, interesting to all, unique and different. I wanted to attract my readers through a title and I wasted all in all ten minutes during which i could have been coming up with more interesting theories than the one of identity. The truth is, we who believe ourselves to be different than the norm, we thereby create our own norms and a new category of "the out of the box people". Ha, which box? I think a  better term to generally describe us is: "able to think for themselves". Yes those still exist, yes maybe it is what makes us different. After all, we might reach the same conclusion as the public opinion, but by discovering it ourselves, we turn a conviction into our reality. 

So why Lovesick Soul for a blog?
Perhaps you know the song Yedid Nefesh in which we chant:
 "My soul is lovesick for You. I beg of you O G-d, please heal her by showing her the pleasantness of your radiance. Then she will be strengthen and healed...."
You can only speak of lovesick in the absence of the loved person. Here we ask Him to help us reach that love that we should be able to reciprocate the love He has for us. We have means; we have the Torah and the  Halachos but sometimes true appreciation of it comes through our own learning and not by the preaching of the many Jewish teachers I've had. 
My box is the Yeshivish world i grew up in. Being out of the box for me refers to my search of the true way of being a G-d fearing Jew. A way that isn't dictated by community nor by false believe to be preserving our souls. The way of Halacha, Emuna and verity.  

The Evil Tongue

"That's why Hashem gave us two lips to keep our mouth shut tight 
and two lobes to keep our ears from hearing things not right
.. no loshon hora..."

I was taught at a very young age about the moral restrictions of Loshon Hora. As a child, I knew it wasn't a nice thing to speak badly of others. I thought I understood why it was bad and to my innocent eyes, it seemed like a nice idea for there wasn't much bad to say about others anyways. If I ever was surprised to hear Big People saying mean things about someone else, my teachers had an answer--educational purposes excused it all. It was that simple. And if I ever heard something that didn't seem to be for educational purposes, I would make it my duty to let the sinner know he just said Loshon Hora. But as I grew up, i realized there was a lot that could be said about people and that most people in my surroundings didn't care not to hold it back.

So as a teenager, I rebelled against the Halachos that pertained to speaking to Loshon Hora.
Why did the Torah need to tell us EVERYTHING we are supposed to do? Yes in the role of a perfect teenager, I considered myself intelligent for thinking against my teachers that most of the Halachos were just superfluous way to ensure we didn't enjoy our lives. Even during seminary, I refrained from accepting laws about something that simply was unrealistic and not respected.

It took me a few years to understand exactly what Loshon hora was truly about.

 First, my mother was brave enough to try explaining to me that people aren't perfect and that I simply cannot reject what I was being taught because of what I might have witnessed. I realized that some Halachos come up when relevant but Loshon Hora is one of those that never leaves. It is a constant effort. Even if incorporated in our behaviors at a very young age, it takes lots of grandeur to always adhere to the rules of Loshon Hora. And frankly, today I cannot say it has gotten easier. The more independent my thoughts and ideas get, the more I am prone to criticize my opponents. But having being taught Loshon Hora all my life, I can at least admit that my awareness in the matter is consequential.

I also came to realize how much speaking Loshon Hora hurts you, perhaps even more than the person you are speaking about. You allow yourself to express negativity. Refraining from thinking bad about people is hard enough, but once you get used to speaking it out loud, you might get trapped in the ugliness of belittling. It's interesting, but when my close friend and I discuss topics that involve people, I am less keen on calling it Loshon Hora because i know them well enough to translate their emotion into their experience. Their point in sharing isn't simply for the conversation and perhaps to build me up against a person. It is to share their feeling/grief or whatever it might be, so they can work it out. And true, often an outside opinion helps in viewing people more favorably.

But when someone I know less is speaking Loshon Hora, I struggle to remain objective for information gets lost in translation. That's Loshon Hara. The harm it does, the negative vibes it brings up such as having to make a conscious effort to not let what I hear effect my respect for a person; having to re-frame certain opinions and re-think certain considerations.

I have never ceased to be disappointed in hearing people I respect speaking Loshon Hora and I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself they are only human. I can only hope many more will come to realize the true nature of belittling and not simply the Halachos associated with it.