Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Over the Years

Today I met up with my longest-standing girl friend. We've been "best friends" since we were 14 back in Canada. She comes to New York annually to visit the museums (she's an Art Historian), so we met up this evening in Manhattan.

You'll often hear me saying that with a true friend, you can be out of touch for years but when you do finally meet up, it's as if you saw each other last week. There's just a continuum to the relationship that causes the gap to fade away. B'H', I have such friends. Especially at this point in our lives, it is, bli ayin hara, difficult to keep in touch as frequently as we would like. To have that sense of being grounded through our relationship over the course of decades offers much comfort, to say the least.

As scary as it may be to all you men out there, I can vouch from personal experience on several occasions that when girlfriends interact constantly, their physical cycles synchronize. My friend and I seem to take this synchronisation a step further: we may have only seen each other 3 times in the last 12 years (twice being in the last year!), but our lives are forever in synch; whatever she is going through at a given juncture, is what I am also experiencing.

I mention all this for a simple reason: we generally take these connections for granted. By take for granted, I mean we often do not stop to fully appreciate the beracha of such friendships. Instead, it is only in the absence of these connections that we come to recognize what an important role such relationships serve. When you have someone who is going through the same thing as you, you have a kindred spirit who can truly relate to your life. By extension, you also gain by obtaining satisfaction from fulfilling the same role for your friend.

Perhaps most importantly though, we take for granted the fact that in Hashem' s world, He creates billions of such connections and maintains them constantly for our benefit. I may give lip service to Hashem, thanking Him for His Kindness in granting me such friends, my husband, etc., but how much time do I devote to really thinking about what those connections mean on a grand scale, beyond my little universe?

So, B'H', and Todah Hashem for granting me these connections. And Todah Hashem for creating such a fantastic, awesome world, a world wherein we can learn from the plentiful connections you bring into our lives, and grow.

Monday, April 28, 2008

De temps en temps, on doit ĂȘtre autoritaire

After weeks of not hearing from my lawyer and the deposition for the lawsuit related to my car accident fast-approaching, I got a phone call this afternoon from the associate working my case.

Since the accident, I have had nothing but headaches as a result of the lawsuit, which for the record was not my idea. Basically, because the injuries I sustained are uncommon for a car accident, I have found it impossible to find a provider who accepts no fault insurance. So, on top of the aggravation caused by continuously having to devote time and energy to all the emergency room/hospital bills that keep arriving in the post, I have had the added joy of wasting what literally amounts to months of my life creating lists of gastro doctors and calling them, in the hope that they take no fault. As a result, I am basically without a post-accident medical history, as the associate pointed out today.

Yet, while I have always found the associate to be very pleasant to deal with, today I took a different angle in my conversation with her. Indeed, when she commented about the lack of post-accident medical history, I made the point that if the medical follow up was so critical to my case, why could their law firm not locate a provider for me? No fault will not provide a list of providers, I did my due diligence and, to be honest I told her, with my new job I no longer have the luxury of free time to make phone calls to find a provider. I did my part, I followed through on every avenue open to me, and I informed the lawyers of my constant frustration with finding a provider. They want to ensure the best possible outcome for the lawsuit? Then please find me a provider, I said. I am done trying to locate one myself.

I think she was quite taken aback at first; I had never been hard-line with her before. But then, she said that she had been unaware that I had gone beyond making calls to a few local providers here in Brooklyn, and so yes, she would do her best to find someone who could see me prior to the deposition.

I do enjoy keeping things pleasant, as you all should gather by now. I am, after all, Canadian, and while it is a stereotype, we Canadians do very much take pride in our reputation of being nice, polite people. But you know, sometimes you just have to put your foot down. I did today, and now I almost wish I had done so earlier...maybe I could have gotten the care I have so desperately needed by now. Of course, the reality is that I only now possess the physical/mental strength to act as I did today.

Anyhow, while I never want to cross the line into the zone of what is considered New York rudeness, B'H', I was very satisfied with the turn of events. Hashem should help that the lawyers find me a provider and that everything works out in my favour in terms of future medical care.

As my grandfather, olev hashalom, used to say: You did it the old-fashioned way. You earned it! Amen, selah.

Happy Birthday Mummy!

Ok, so now it's past midnight and it is no longer my Mom's birthday (Yes, the same week as my father's. My grandparents even had their birthdays the same week. Freaky, no?). But, B'H', I managed to catch her post-chag before she went to bed, and sing her Happy Birthday. And, while I ended up being disappointed with how the last days played out, partially due to the fact that I wished that I could celebrate my mother's birthday with her, my poor Ma had an awful day Sunday. So when she said that I made her evening, I quipped that she had made my day. A true statement indeed.

I was further disappointed when I spoke to her this evening though. Last week she had mentioned a book that she wanted to get, and so I was planning to ask her when we spoke erev Shabbos if I could get it for her. But wouldn't you know, she went out the day after we spoke earlier in the week and bought it herself- not that I need a reminder of where I get my independent streak from. Anyhow, when I mentioned that I had wanted to order the book for her, she said it was easier to get it herself. To which I responded: why, am I not allowed to do something nice for you? Thankfully she said "Of course"; there's nothing worse than when someone won't let you do something for them! In true motherly fashion, she was thrilled enough that I sang her Happy Birthday so many times (I sang it to her on Friday in case things ran too late tonight to call). So I guess I will have to think up another excuse to get her a present!

Hope everyone had a good end to the chag. While every day may not be a winner, at least it's another day that Hashem has given us, no? When I have "crummy days", they do make me appreciate the "good days" more. Then again, I have work quite hard to remind myself of that sometimes, LOL.

I'll let everyone get back to their pizza. As for me, it's going to be a hectic day for me back at the office later this morning, so I'm looking forward to getting some shut-eye. 'Night!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bonne Anniversaire Daddy

Today would have been my father's secular birthday.

Some might find it morbid that I still mentally celebrate his birthday, as bittersweet a celebration as it is. My dear husband and his father may be anti-Pesach cakes, since they look identical to year-round cakes, but somehow he managed to bring home some Pesadik cookies that passed muster, as well as my favourite chocolate (dark, pareve). So I made a little imaginary salute to my Dad as I consumed the goodies.

What else can I say? It is still very hard to accept that my father is only here in spirit, although I find comfort in the fact that I look like him. The similarity in our features reminds me that I carry him with me. Sometimes though, Hashem throws me a bone, and I could swear that I can sense his physical presence. This past Sunday, I almost smelled him, if you can believe it. As crazy as it sounds, it is such moments that help me recognize that one day I will see my father again, along with my grandparents and other relatives who have passed on, when Mosiach comes.

I left the sedorim early this past weekend, leaving my father-in-law and husband behind after I said L'Shana HaBa, because I could not stand the thought of hearing the songs any way other than the way my Dad sang them. It was hard enough trying to retain the memory of how he conducted our sedorim in the midst of being at different families. So while not having the sedorim at home certainly helped me cope, since we were not making sedorim ourselves without him, it hurt regardless. Hopefully in the coming years I will be confident enough that the sedorim with my father are embedded sufficiently in my memory to survive the influence of new sedorim. Then, I will be able to turn them into a real celebration of his memory. In the meantime, I suppose I will just have to do the best that I can.

So Happy Birthday, Daddy. I miss you, and hope that my davening will be good enough to merit my seeing you again, in this world, really soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chol HaMoed

First off, I hope everyone had a great start to the chag. I personally loved the sedorim we attended (especially the second one, since it was yekkish, LOL). And, the family we went to for both lunches are just too sweet and down-to-earth as can be, i.e. very special people. Who could complain about such company? Especially when Malkie, our hostess, makes everything pretty, tasty, yet understated. A rare combination to match a rare family.

Unfortunately, I have to work during Chol HaMoed, which dampens the whole Pesach experience for me a bit. B'H' though, despite my having worked a full day today (my usual 10 hours), my boss allowed me to work from home. That change was enough to signal to me that it is Chol HaMoed, so I cannot complain. Actually, let's be honest: to not have to go through the ordeal of taking NY MTA during rush hour is a mechaya. Enough said.

If I do not get around to writing anything else this week, let me close with this: a happy, healthy, kosher, safe Pesach for everyone. May we use this Pesach to focus on the lessons of both the sedorim and the omer, and by doing so, may we transform ourselves sufficiently to merit the ultimate geulah, and find ourselves in Yerushalayim.

A Guten Moed!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


You know, it would seem that exhaustion and epiphany go hand-in-hand. And in a way that makes sense: when you are so tired that you can no longer remember what you did one second earlier, you become much more aware of Hashem and your reliance on Him.

On that note, during the wee hours of the morning Monday, already experiencing that exhaustion level that only the ultimate week before Pesach can produce, I had a flash of insight about this week's parsha (Acharei). We begin with the commandment issued to Aaron after the demise of Nadav and Avihu that the Kohen Gadol should refrain from entering the Kadosh Kadoshim except on Yom Kippur. Interestingly enough, the Vilna Gaon contests this timing, and states that the Kohen Gadol can in fact enter at other times of the year if the proper sacrifices are offered prior to entering. Even more interesting though is the fact that Hashem singles out Moishe: You, Hashem states, can enter before Me at any time.

Both the machloket and the singling out of Moishe allude to the same point, namely that different relationships have different parameters. How so? In the case of the machloket, what is underscored is that the Kohen Gadol's closeness to/familiarity with Hashem is mitigated by certain parametres; in the case of the Vilna Gaon, the parametre is drawn by the need to offer sacrifices prior to entry, and in the case of the other commentators, by the inability to enter anytime except on Yom Kippur. Both consequently stress varying degrees of familiarity while simultaneously stressing that distance is maintained. Similiarly, the singling out of Moishe emphasizes the differing nature of his relationship to Hashem: there was no boundary, no parametre, as denoted by his ability to approach Hashem whenever necessary without any prerequisite activity.

Is this not the same issue we find with the forbidden relationships itemized later in the parsha? In each instance, we find a relationship wherein one may feel that the other is distanced enough away from him enough that the familiarity common to the existing relationship can take the course of sanctioned relationships. In other words, this woman is my half-sister or my step-sister, I have grown familiar towards her and love her since she is part of my "family". However, she is not my full blood relation and therefore I can treat her like any other woman. It is consequently this dance of familiarity and distance that clouds the mind and causes him to lose respect for the woman- a respect that he would remember if he maintained the proper mental distance. If he instead remembered that she is in fact both his sister and not his sister, he would in turn remember that she is the product of his non-blood relative (i.e. stepmother or stepfather). By extension, he would remember that taking their relationship along the course of "normal married" relations would be disrespectful not only to his "sister" but also their parents; by disrespecting his "sister", he is also disrespecting his step-parent and even his blood parent (since the step-parent is his blood parent's spouse).

We can therefore see the common ground between how the parsha opens and closes. In both cases, we see Hashem reminding us that while we can be close in certain relationships, such as our relationship with Him, we must also remain distanced and remember that respect is due.

At a time of year when stress levels run high, and tempers easily flare, the parsha acts as a helpful reminder that we should all retain the appropriate level of respect for all of those around us.

May everyone have a kosher and simcha-filled Pesach.

Friday, April 11, 2008


A funny thing happened early in the week as I walked down the exterior hallway at work. We are located up on the 13th floor, and birds often fly up to our floor to take a little repose. That afternoon, I saw something I had never witnessed before: a pigeon sleeping. There she was, perched on the narrow window ledge, all snuggled up into a perfect circle, her feathers slightly wafting in the spring wind. The scene was remarkably peaceful, which made me think of...doves.

And then it hit me! A common thread between Parsha Tazria and Parsha Metzora (not surprising given that these parshot are read together most years) is the korban offered by the woman after childbirth and by the metzora at the end of their purification period. These birds (dove or pigeon) could substitute for the regular offerings if one's financial situation required it. And what a fitting offering, since these birds are peaceful birds (their diet consists almost exclusively of fruit and seeds) , birds who are monogamous, mate for life, and build a family together (the nesting site is reused annually, with the male bird responsible for bringing the building materials and the female bird for building the nest) . A bird that represents Shalom and Shalom Bayis can indeed purify for any tumah acquired by transgressing Shalom and Shalom Bayis, as in the case of the woman in childbirth and the metzora:

  • The woman during childbirth swears that she will never be with her husband again, which transgresses both Shalom Bayis and Shalom; these words are tantamount to blaming her husband for her condition and consequently equivalent to Lashon Hora
  • The metzora spoke Lashon Hora, which transgresses Shalom and Shalom Bayis; Lashon Hora causes strife between one's fellow yid, and disrupts Shalom Bayis since Klal Yisroel is wedded to Hashem
So, B'H' I saw this pretty, peaceful bird. Not only did it brighten my afternoon, but shed some light on the parsha as well...

Good Shabbos.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pre-Pesach Panic

It has arrived.

I already have knots in my stomach anticipating Pesach. To be honest, my current source of worry is the Shabbos meals Erev Pesach, i.e. CHALLAH in the house?! Given that the water pressure in our washroom is pitiful to say the least, I know full well that at the method prescribed by the OU ( for disposing of challah would not work as expected in our apartment. And my husband's minhag, G-d bless him, is to not eat egg matzah under such circumstances. If it's Shabbos, he's eating challah. Hence the potential return of my ulcers.

So I will instead distract myself, and divulge an idea that came to me for Parsha Metzora. It occurred to me, as I was reading, that the description of the purification process for the metzora is the same as for a Kohen during the induction ceremony:
  • blood/oil placed on the right earlobe, right thumb, and right toe
  • oil poured over the metzora's head
As we know, oil is likened both to the Jewish people and to Torah. A metzora is someone who contracts tzaaraas due to speaking Lashon Hora. When one speaks Lashon Hora, chasve shalom, he is in effect rejecting all of Torah, since the essence of Torah is to be kind to one's fellow yid. Obviously, speaking Lashon Hora also harms a fellow yid, since the harmed parties include the person who is the subject of the gossip, the listener, and the gossiper himself (the last two are harmed emotionally and spiritually by participating in Lashon Hora).

The Kohen is "reborn" prior to commencing service in the Beit Hamigdash. The induction ceremony removes all traces of impurity and elevates the Kohen to a level of utter purity so that he is fit to serve in the holiest place on Earth, Beit Hashem. This ceremony involves the earlobe, thumb, and toe to remind the Kohen to beware of his thoughts because they inspire his actions. How appropriate then that the metzora, who has been misled by his thoughts to commit a horrible action- the speaking of Lashon Hora- is purified in the same manner so that his thoughts and actions will henceforth be similarly elevated. Moreover, the pouring of a log of oil (a tremendous volume) on the metzora's head underscores that he is having all of the Torah and correct attitude towards the Jewish people that he previously rejected restored to him.

Thus, just as the Kohen is inducted into service after being reborn, so too is the metzora reborn as yid and starts fresh.

May everyone's Pesach preparations go smoothly. I hope to get a few more posts in before the chag, bli neder...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Second Chance

A Guten Rosh Chodesh Nissan! :=)

A couple of quick notes on Parshah Tazria before my husband and I start tackling the kitchen this afternoon, as per our Pesach cleaning schedule...
  1. Why is there mention of bris milah having to be performed on the eighth day, in the middle of the description of how many days a woman counts post-childbirth?
  2. Why do we have these whole drawn-out process of determining whether or not someone is afflicted with tzaaraas?
With regards to the first question, the reason for the mention is to highlight the correlation between gender and tumah by stressing the differing innate spiritual levels of each gender. A woman will carry less tumah for giving birth to a boy than a girl, because by giving birth to the girl the woman has lost more purity; that is why she must wait longer, to restore the additional purity that she lost by releasing the girl into the world- additional in comparison to a boy. Indeed, until bris milah is performed on the boy, he is not spiritually "pure'; the milah is the final step in his spiritual introduction to this world and into Klal Yisroel. Finally, it is interesting to note that the mention of bris includes bris is an element in the immediate post-natal period for the mother. In other words, this entire pasuk is dealing with the woman, and with her spiritual post-delivery, of which bris plays a part. By performing bris milah on her son, which is bittersweet emotionally for most mothers (what mother likes to see her baby cry out from surgery?), the mother is able to "do teshuvah" for the spiritual "impurity" that rests upon the boy until milah is performed.

Similarly, the process of proclaiming a person as afflicted with tzaaraas carries a similar message. Why not just view the affliction and deem the person contaminated? Why the first week and then second week? In the case of an old affliction that has not healed, yes, the determination is immediate. For a new affliction however, the process is certainly drawn out.

When someone is afflicted with tzaaraas, it is a horrible embarrassment. Everyone knows that you have performed the given aveirah, and you are essentially excommunicated until you go through the necessary purification process, which is itself lengthy and humiliating. The purpose therefore is to provide the person ample time to do teshuvah and avoid having to endure this most public of punishments. You must go before the Kohen repeatedly, because Hashem hopes that in doing so, in having to face the Kohen who is the embodiment of purity and service to Hashem, you be humbled enough privately to do teshuvah and circumvent having to travel down the path to punishment.

We consequently find in both aspects of the parshah tremendous compassion on the part of Hashem, in His providing us the appropriate amount of time to return to our "normal" state of purity.

May everyone have a great Rosh Chodesh, and have an easy time with their Pesach preparations.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Simple Stuff

I once overheard a Rabbi who had just recovered from a terrible bout of the flu that even such a small thing as the flu can remind you how fragile we are and how reliant we are for everything on Hashem.

I have been fighting a head cold all week, which I happily came down with only post-bar mitzvah last Shabbos. Of course, given my druthers, I would take a head cold over a virus any day. Sure, head colds are painful and annoying, and yes, I get CRANKY either way, but colds are more bearable somehow for me.

Anyhow, while doing some shopping for Shabbos last night as I cleaned the house, my husband made a new discovery, which he presented to me when he returned. And boy, did my face light up when I saw it!...Puff Tissues with Vicks scent.

Now, I will admit that I hated Vicks as a child. Too slimy. Too strong a scent. Too... overpowering in every way for the child me. But let me tell you, these tissues are a find. They cuddle my peeling, Rudolph nose and that gentle waft of Vicks does impart comfort in a kind of "almost 5 years old again and your mother is taking care of you" way. And, while it can almost certainly be attributed to the placebo effect, I will attest to feeling- despite all claims by Puffs that their product only imparts a Vicks scent and should not be confused with using the actual Vicks product - my sinuses clear out a bit.

My husband did not present me the tissues with any fanfare. In fact, he simply dropped off the packages and went out to do a bit more scrounging around. In other words, he got the tissues solely to provide some comfort, without any need for fanfare, etc.

I will acknowledge that my husband and I can drive each other batty. Indeed, we do so not just frequently but constantly. In many ways, men and women are programmed to do exactly that; you can love your spouse but because they are a man or a woman and you are not, there is a lot of a room for that "what the heck was that" reaction? Would so many stories, tv shows, and movies have been devoted to that same topic if this reaction was not commonplace?

But when I saw those tissues, let me tell you, I felt loved. We all have needs, and the key in marriage seems to be finding a way to meeting the needs of your spouse. So step 1 is identify what your spouse needs and step 2 is attempt to fulfill that need, especially if you can fulfill it in the way that your spouse wants. For example, maybe your husband gives you some sewing to do or maybe your wife asks you to take out the garbage. Do you give a look or a mutter and do it begrudgingly, or do you smile, say Thank You (because this is an opportunity to do something for him/her), and do it without a second thought? Now this latter attitude is very hard to maintain, no question about it. But I think the key is exactly that: recognizing that our spouse is asking for our help, and thereby giving us an unspoken compliment, namely that s/he trusts us enough to do the given request in a satisfactory way.

Maybe a box of tissues is a "duh" need when your wife has a cold. But when I saw that he had devoted time and effort to picking out just the right box of tissues, without the usual phone calls being placed with questions to aid selection- now that was not just meeting my need, but meeting my need in the way I needed it to be met.

A simple communication in a box of tissues. How sweet is that?

Good Shabbos!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Oh Matzah!

Recently my husband mentioned that the G'Ra only ate matzah on Pesach. In my house growing up we followed this minhag, which seems to be uncommon. Anyhow, it occurred to me that perhaps one of the reason for our adherence to this minhag was that matzah is notoriously difficult to digest; basically, the vast majority of us have at least some digestive reaction to this most important food.

With that in mind, I figured I would share a few of the avenues that have helped me survive the gastric reactions that can coincide with Pesach. These avenues were discovered through research online and combing through many a holistic health book. As I am not a medical professional however, please remember I am not endorsing the following, nor in any way claiming them to be catch-all, universal cures. Indeed, the following will not work for everyone, and may even have adverse effects if someone has a medical condition. Rather, since I have suffered tremendously over the years when eating matzah, I am posting these as personal experience testimony. Please digest this information, if you will, and proceed with caution. It is always best to consult with a medical professional, when possible.

The A Problem
If you are unable to digest wheat products due to food allergies, speak to your Rav about eating either oat shmura matzah or spelt matzah instead.

The C Problem

If you find that matzah sits undigested in your stomach for most of Pesach:
  • Eat almost ripe bananas
  • Eat raw pears, grapes, oranges, or apples
  • Drink a strong, black cup of coffee (no sugar!) first thing in the morning
  • Eat a tablespoon of olive oil once in the morning and in the evening
  • Avoid excessive consumption of dairy products, eggs, meat, caffeine, or sugar
  • Consume 3 tablespoons of honey through out the day
  • Drink licorice tea

The D Problem

If you have the opposite reaction, and matzah passes undigested through your system:
  • Eat ripe to very ripe bananas
  • Eat cheese
  • Eat baked/cooked apples
  • Drink pomegranate juice

General Tonics
The following drinks can support proper functioning of the digestive tract.
  • Mint herbal tea
  • Ginger/ginger tea*
  • Lemon water**
  • Garlic water (crushed raw garlic in water)
*To make ginger tea, boil peeled, fresh ginger in water for several minutes and strain.
** Add fresh lemon juice to taste (1/2 to 1 lemon) to a cup of water and drink first thing in the morning.

  • Drink chamomile tea
  • Drink warm water
  • Drink tea with cardamom
  • Drink a mixture of lemon juice, honey and ginger in warm water
  • Eat/drink ginger (See ** above)

Hopefully some out there tries one of these and finds some relief. I know I am going to have to resort to a few of these in the coming weeks, and will be adding the necessary ingredients to my Pesach shopping list. More on Pesach preparations to come, bli neder.